Huskies Insider Blog

Tale of the tape: Washington 44, Illinois 19

With the Huskies' most convincing victory of the season in the books, let's take a look at our weekly capsulated recap.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- It's hard to choose one after the Huskies had three different ballcarriers with double-digit carry totals, no rusher with more than 58 yards and a quarterback who only attempted 20 passes. Illinois receiver Geronimo Allison would be a strong candidate -- he had six catches for 160 yards and both of the Illini's touchdowns -- but his team lost by 25 points, so it's hard to call him the player of the game. Maybe John Ross, whose 75-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter put UW ahead 14-3 and kind of helped open the flood gates a little bit. And Cyler Miles certainly played well, rushing for 55 yards on nine carries -- though he lost a fumble after being a little too careless with the ball, which he admitted -- while completing 15-of-20 through the air for a touchdown.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME -- There are really only two candidates for this one -- Shaq Thompson and Hau'oli Kikaha -- and we'll go with the one who scored two defensive touchdowns. Thompson's 36-yard interception return for a touchdown blew the game open in the first quarter, and his 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown provided even more separation. He finished with four tackles, which was actually only two shy of Kikaha's team-leading six. And Kikaha had a big game himself, getting to Wes Lunt for three sacks to bring his season total to five and his career total to 22 -- which is tied for sixth all-time in UW history.

PLAY OF THE GAME -- Probably one of the plays we already mentioned. But let's go ahead and go with Thompson's interception returned for a touchdown, if only because it put the Huskies ahead 21-3 and really illustrated just how dominant of a day it was going to be for UW.

STAT OF THE GAME -- 80-57. That's how many more offensive plays the Huskies ran than the Illini today (which helps explain how Kikaha was able to lead the team in tackles with six).

QUOTABLE -- "I was just saying on the sidelines to the guys, I thought they responded well. Night and day from last week. I tip my hat to the defense. Obviously, I’m sure they can improve, but I’m very, very impressed with how they responded from last week." -- Miles on UW's defense

WHAT IT MEANS -- It was important for the Huskies' secondary to bounce back from last week's poor showing against Eastern Washington, and for the most part, they did that. Both of Illinois' touchdowns came against Travell Dixon, who made his first career start, along with freshman Sidney Jones, in place of Marcus Peters (suspended) and Jermaine Kelly (injured). But aside from those slip-ups, the defensive backs were mostly sound, allowing Wes Lunt to complete only 16 of his 26 pass attempts for 230 yards. The pass rush certainly helped with that, getting to Lunt for four sacks (and sacking his backup, Reilly O'Toole, another two times). But it's all relative: truthfully, Illinois probably isn't very good this season. Washington clearly had the Illini outclassed in terms of speed and athleticism, and that showed up in the biggest way on Thompson's defensive scores and Ross' touchdown catch. So while it's a nice victory and by far the most complete performance of UW's young season, it doesn't mean much more than, say, next week's almost certain victory over Georgia State. The better the Huskies play, the more interesting that Sept. 27 Pac-12 opener against Stanford becomes. And while the Huskies aren't thinking about the Cardinal yet, that game looms as the real test of where the Huskies stand in their first year under Chris Petersen. In other words: beating Illinois was a necessary step en route to the real schedule. But as Drake would say: there ain't no awards for that.

UP NEXT -- Washington vs. Georgia State, 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 20 at Husky Stadium. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.

Christian Caple can be reached at christian.caple@thenewstribune.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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