After watching the Huskies' offense struggle last week at Hawaii, it would have been hard to believe they could allow 52 points to Eastern Washington and still win.
But with quarterback Cyler Miles at the helm and a rushing attack that gained 356 yards, Washington was able to overcome a poor defensive performance and avoid an embarrassing home loss in this wild, 59-52 victory over the Eagles at Husky Stadium.
Like we always do about this time, let's break it down, capsule-style.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- No doubt about this one, despite the final score. It's EWU quarterback Vernon Adams, who completed 31-of-46 passes for 475 yards and seven -- seven! -- touchdowns. That's a UW opponent record, as well as an EWU school record. Adams was exactly who the Huskies thought he was -- an elusive, accurate playmaker who simply carried the Eagles on his back all day. Two of his touchdown passes came on fourth down, and another came on third down. And the Huskies never really stopped him -- EWU's scored on three of its four possessions in the second half, only failing to put points on the board after Terence Grady fumbled at UW's 15-yard line following a 16-yard completion. UW has plenty of issues to clean up defensively, to be sure. But a lot of that on Saturday had to do with Adams, who looked very much like one of the best quarterbacks in the country at the FCS level. And maybe in all of college football. Dude can play.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- This is also an easy call. It's UW nose tackle Danny Shelton, who was all over the place and finished with 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. That's now 24 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks for Shelton through two games. He's on his way to a monster season, statistically, and on Saturday became just the fifth player in school history to record four or more sacks in a game, and the first to accomplish that feat since 1989.
PLAY OF THE GAME -- Plenty to choose from here, but Grady's fumble sticks out as the turning point. The Eagles were driving in UW territory for what likely would have been yet another touchdown, trailing 52-45 with 12:47 remaining. Adams completed a pass to Grady that gained 16 yards before a John Timu hit knocked the ball loose, and Travis Feeney recovered it and ran it to the Huskies' 35-yard line before stepping out of bounds. Thirteen plays, 65 yards and 5:02 later, the Huskies were in the end zone, extending their lead to 59-45 with 7:45 to play. That fumble was the difference.
STAT OF THE GAME -- Again, plenty to choose from. Adams' numbers were ridiculous. So were Shelton's, as well as UW's rushing total. But just as it did in 2011, when Eastern Washington visited Husky Stadium and lost 30-27 despite outgaining the Huskies 504-250, the turnover battle proved to be of extreme importance. Eastern gave it away twice -- both on fumbles -- and both of those turnovers resulted in UW touchdowns. In a 7-point game where defense is at a premium, that was enormous (and probably worth noting here that EWU again outgained the Huskies, this time 573-536).
QUOTABLE --"He lit it up, man. He lit it up. He played great. His football’s on the money, man. He made some gutsy throws, man. I think two 4th-and-11s on the last drive? Crazy, man. My hat goes off to him. He played a heck of a game.” -- UW quarterback Cyler Miles, asked about EWU quarterback Vernon Adams
WHAT IT MEANS -- Two things: one, the Huskies' defense has a long way to go before it can hope to contain a number of Pac-12 offenses that execute just as well as Eastern Washington, but do it with bigger, faster and stronger athletes. And two: the Huskies' offense really is that much better with Miles at quarterback. He missed a couple of throws and took off with the ball when he had receivers open a couple of times, but mostly did what the Huskies needed him to -- and he rushed for three touchdowns, showing just how much versatility he adds in certain situations. In the big picture, this won't be viewed as a great win for the Huskies, because ... well, they allowed 52 points to an FCS team at home. EWU is no ordinary FCS team and Adams is no ordinary FCS quarterback, but all of those yards and points aren't going to sit well with fans who were already questioning things after last week's close call in Hawaii. So while UW's offense took a big step forward -- particularly in the running game, where Lavon Coleman led with 17 carries for 118 yards -- its defense backtracked. Lots of work to do in the secondary before Pac-12 play starts.
UP NEXT -- Illinois at Washington, 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. Televised on FOX.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple