Reminiscent of their Apple Cup victory, the Huskies completely bottled up the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl. Nearly everything went right for the Dawgs.
Running Backs Galore
Both Richard Newton and Salvon Ahmed enjoyed big performances in the Las Vegas Bowl. While Newton took the majority of the carries, Ahmed managed to score two touchdowns on just six rushes. For any running back, scoring two touchdowns in a bowl game is huge. However, Newton went and one-upped Ahmed with a highlight to remember.
As a redshirt-freshman, Richard Newton had an impressive season. This season, he displayed his upside. He scored touchdowns on his first rush, first reception, and first pass. 2020 better be filled with Newton touches.
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Jacob Eason played well, but the glory went to the running backs
Whenever a team scores three rushing touchdowns, it takes away the glory from the quarterback. Additionally, remember that Richard Newton threw a touchdown pass. So although Jacob Eason only threw for one touchdown in the Las Vegas Bowl, he led the Huskies to five touchdowns and a field goal.
But, the Las Vegas Bowl wasn’t about the offense
Yes, the Huskies rolled up 38 points on the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl. However, they somehow took a powerful offense and completely thwarted them. In the first half, Boise State didn’t score a single point. The last time the Broncos were held scoreless in a half was in 2006 against BYU. This was not their game.
His play was exceptional. Nine tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception. He was the clear winner and set the stage for Jimmy Lake’s Defense.
Jimmy Lake earns respect in Las Vegas Bowl performance
This game was the message Jimmy Lake needed to send. Because he’s taking over as head coach next season, he needed to flex his strength. And the defense is definitely his strength.
In their last four games, the Huskies held Oregon State, Colorado, Washington State and Boise State to a combined 47 points. The Apple Cup and the Las Vegas Bowl capped an impressive, defensive run for UW Football. These are the types of defensive wins that keep the recruits coming in. Well done Jimmy Lake. Well done.
Players and Jimmy Lake aside, the narrative was all on Chris Petersen
Elijah Molden won the MVP. Richard Newton threw a touchdown pass. Jimmy Lake put together a defense that held the Broncos to seven points. And yet, all eyes were on Chris Petersen.
And how could they not be? Chris Petersen completely took over UW Football. He brought success and changed the culture. Everyone loved (loves) him. Like Barry Sanders, Petersen is the coach retiring in his prime. When everyone adores him, respects him and holds him high.
He rides off into the sunset a hero to everyone. College football fans respected him. Coaches feared him. Players loved him. Boise State and UW football fans will worship and regard him.
Chris Petersen faces off against former team in Las Vegas Bowl
Call it bittersweet, but Chris Petersen says goodbye to both of his collegiate teams in the Las Vegas Bowl. In his fourteen years as a head coach, Petersen split it between Boise State and Washington. Eight years for the Broncos. Six years for the Huskies. With both, he significantly raised their success and ceiling.
To say the least, Petersen had an illustrious career with both programs. In his time with them, he’s responsible for the Broncos and Huskies best seasons of recent history. To each, he’s a coaching titan.
But now, after stepping down due to anxiety and quality of life, Petersen’s final game is match-up between the two teams he holds most dear. And the two programs that hold him most dear.
So, a question remains: Can coach Petersen shrug off his familial ties with the Broncos and lead the Huskies to a Las Vegas Bowl victory?
First off, it’s important to remember that Boise State nearly went undefeated heading into bowl season. They narrowly lost to BYU 25-28 in October. If not for that loss, the Broncos could be vying for a third undefeated season this century.
Keep in mind, Boise State’s road to the Las Vegas Bowl wasn’t simple. They started three different quarterbacks this season due to injuries. Yet, even with the bad luck, they still went 12-1 with 36.8 (No. 14 in FBS) points-per-game. Coach Bryan Harsin created an excellent offensive system with interchangeable pieces. Each and every year, Boise State proves that they can win on offense no matter what playmakers they have. It’s an outstanding program.
Because of this high-powered scoring, they are always a threat to score over 30 points and keep games competitive. The Huskies need to respect this offense and Jimmy Lake has his work cut out for him.
Washington’s has advantages in the Las Vegas Bowl
Strength of Schedule
Although Boise State’s 12-1 record is far above Washington’s 7-5 record, context must be added. According to Sports Reference, Boise State’s negative-3.19 Strength of Schedule ranks 95th in the FBS, while Washington’s negative-2.6 ranks 45th. Because of this, the Huskies 11.10 Simple Rating System ranks 22nd, just ahead of the Broncos’ 10.74 SRS (24th). Yes, Boise State almost went undefeated. But, opponents matter.
Explosive Offensive Plays
Opponents are the first advantage of Washington. Washington has been tested. Granted, they lost five games this season. But, going up against top Pac-12 defenses and still churning out 31.5 points-per-game is impressive. Now, instead of going against a Utah or Oregon defense, the Dawgs get Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. As shown in the Apple Cup, Washington is comfortable letting quarterback Jacob Eason let it fly.
Downfield throws are a large part of the Huskies offense. If the Huskies can execute a similar scheme to the Apple Cup victory, they should do well. In that game, they:
Let Eason take deep shots
Utilized young talent
Mixed up pass-to-rush ratio
Went for it on fourth downs
They were aggressive and came to play. In order to beat Boise State, they’ll have to do the same. Thankfully, Boise State’s defense is nothing compared to some of the Pac-12 opponents Washington already faced this season. Yes, missing Hunter Bryant will hurt. He’s the team’s leading receiver. However, with rising play-makers like Terrell Bynum and Cade Otton, Eason should have a capable receiving corps to throw to.
As shown in their deafening win against Washington State, Lake’s defense can make plays. Players like Joe Tryon are stepping up for the Huskies. His 8 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss display the Dawgs strength. If UW football wants to win the Las Vegas Bowl, they’ll have to make life difficult for the Broncos’ high-powered offense. Tryon needs to get to the quarterback and UW’s secondary needs to cover. They made it look easy against Washington State.
But, as said above, Boise State’s offense is their success. The Broncos will come to play. However, if Lake’s defense can keep Boise State under 25 points, the Huskies should win. That, based on their stats against Pac-12 competition, is completely doable.
Reigning Purple and Gold in Vegas
Although Chris Petersen’s UW tenure shows a struggle at the finish line, he now has his big moment. In his six seasons with the Huskies, he’s brought them to six consecutive bowls. However, so far, he’s lost four of five. This is his time to finish his coaching career on a brilliant note. Beat his former team, end his Washington career as a hero and ride off into the sunset.
Now that the dust has settled with Chris Petersen’s surprise step-down
It’s been almost two weeks since Chris Petersen announced his intention to step down. Washington Huskies football fans are still spinning in confusion and remorse. But, after reflecting, Petersen’s impact on UW football is massive and it will still reign purple and gold.
Chris Petersen’s brought championships to UW
From 2004 to 2008, the Huskies were in awful form. Their season records were as follows:
2004: 1 and 10
2005: 2 and 9
2006: 5 and 7
2007: 4 and 9
2008: 0 and 12
After that, the Dawgs got Steve Sarkisian as a head coach and he led them back to being a good, not great team. Sarkisian ended the seven-year bowl-drought for UW and that was a huge accomplishment. While his 34 and 29 record wasn’t amazing, it was a step in the right direction.
Then, in 2014, the UW football program lucked out and stole Chris Petersen away from Boise State. He kept what Sarkisian started and added to it.
From 2016 to 2018, the Huskies were on another level.
Three straight seasons with at least ten wins
Two Pac-12 Championships
Three straight NY6 Bowls
One College Football Playoff berth
Additionally, he set a record for the most games won by UW football in a four-year stretch. From 2015-2018, they totaled 39 wins. However, if Chris Petersen’s Huskies get a Las Vegas Bowl victory, he will set the record again with 40 wins from 2016-2019.
With Petersen at the helm, the Huskies were Pac-12 Champions, routinely top-25 ranked and demanded respect. He rejuvenated the UW program and brought success. His leadership and coaching were instrumental to the purple and gold.
Perfect in Apple Cups
For true Dawgs, the Apple Cup is a huge priority. Friends, colleagues and even family are torn apart each year because of the UW-WSU rivalry. It’s serious business.
Conquering Washington State is always both a delight and a must. But, Chris Petersen did it with perfection. In his six Apple Cups, UW:
Won six out of six times
Scored 221 points (36.83-per-game)
Held WSU to 82 points (13.67-per-game)
Although Washington State might be glad that he’s stepping down, they unfortunately still have to face Jimmy Lake.
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Passes the Huskies torch to highly sought-after Jimmy Lake
After the Huskies lost the Rose Bowl last year to the Ohio State Buckeyes, it was a shock that Washington retained Jimmy Lake. Lake was a sought-after defensive coordinator for a head-coaching job. He certainly garnered attention.
However, with the news of Chris Petersen stepping down, it makes more sense. This step-down was a surprise to everyone outside of the UW program. But, it remains a mystery whether Peterson, Lake or other staff knew. Nonetheless, this is excellent news for Washington football. Lake’s defensive coaching is a large part of UW’s success in recent years. Though he’ll create his own culture at UW with the absence of Petersen, promoting Lake was a calculated move. It keeps the successful environment intact.
Washington Huskies Top Recruiter
As of today, Washington’s 2020’s recruiting class ranks 1st in the Pac-12 and 15th nationally.
With the staff and culture Chris Petersen built, it set them up for top-recruiting. From 2018 to 2020, Washington’s ranked 16th, 15th and 15th nationally.
It’s no surprise either. Remember that the University of Washington is a historic program. Since 1889, they’ve won seventeen conference championships, seven Rose Bowls and two NCCA recognized national championships. Combining that history with Chris Petersen’s leadership and success is the perfect base for recruiting.
But, with Petersen stepping down, there’s a large fear that his recruiting success leaves with him. However, recent signs show otherwise. As of this Wednesday, zero of their 21 commits de-committed. Additionally, it’s been Jimmy Lake’s already been involved in the recruiting process with Petersen. As a proper head coach does, they delegate. So, positional coaches and Jimmy Lake already have practice in the recruiting process.
Moreover, Jimmy Lake’s defensive brilliance will aid his recruiting of defensive talent. The “Jimmy Lake Defense” is a known quantity in Montlake and well-respected. Currently, there are eight defensive backs in the NFL that had Jimmy Lake as a coach. Also, the Huskies defense, in an off-year, still rank 24th-best in scoring. If Washington hires a promising offensive coordinator, their recruiting will continue their reign.
Wishing you the best of luck and healing Chris Petersen
Say what you want about stepping down during your prime, but Chris Petersen made a choice for his quality of life. His decision was praised by Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll. Carroll, who can empathize with coaching an elite, college program.
“The college thing is really, really demanding in terms of the constant recruiting pressure and strain,’’ Carroll said. “It’s really the strain of it. It just doesn’t go away. You’re on the next year always anyway. It’s just an ongoing process. That’s one part of it.”
With the way college football programs are set up now, it’s easy to see burnout in coaches. Petersen said it himself that he didn’t enjoy the Rose Bowl like he should have.
“You work your whole life to get to (the Rose Bowl),” he said, “and I didn’t really appreciate the week. I didn’t appreciate the game like I need to, you know, as a kid growing up looking at that game. I think that was one of the things that really hit me loud and clear. So, you know, you start to pay attention to that. Then you go and you put your heart and soul into what you’re doing.”
So, with all that Chris Petersen has given the Huskies, let’s wish him the best. Football was his life. But, football also was the cause of constant stress, anxiety, missed expectations, demands, pressure, and exhaustion. It’s time for Petersen to take a break and recovery. Whether or not he ever coaches a football team again, he’s done enough with UW football to earn his status as a lifetime Husky.
Even though the Apple Cup was in Seattle, the Washington State Cougars began with a bang. They took the ball 81 yards down the field on a patient, 13-play drive. Capping the drive off with a Max Borghi one-yard touchdown, WSU looked great.
Then, the Cougars defense sacked Jacob Eason on his first offensive play. They held strong and forced the Huskies to a three-and-out on their first possession. Ball goes back to the Cougs and they’re already leading 7-0.
The stage was set for a WSU upset in the Apple Cup. Anthony Gordon looked comfortable, patient and was willing to take what the defense gave him. Mike Leach schemed up open looks and it was perfect weather for the Air Raid offense. 41 degrees, sunny and no wind.
But, everything changed after that.
Anthony Gordon’s Dreadful Apple Cup Performance
Although Gordon’s 103.0 Passing Efficiency Rating against Utah in Week 5 was poor, that was at least against an elite defense and the Pac-12’s best team. But, even though the Washington Huskies played exceptionally well, they are no Utah. Somehow, the Huskies held Gordon to 308 yards and zero touchdowns on 62 attempts, while intercepting two of his passes. So why did Gordon struggle so much in this Apple Cup?
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Offensive Line Issues
Up until the Apple Cup, Washington State ranked first in the FBS in Sack Rate, per footballoutsiders. Their 2.1-percent Sack Rate was phenomenal. Keeping Anthony Gordon upright was standard procedure. Just 13 sacks on 585 attempts. Their line was top-notch.
However, against the Huskies, they fell apart. Washington consistently pressured Gordon and sacked him five times. In just one game, they accounted for 28-percent of all sacks against WSU this season. Joe Tryon, Edeguan Ulofoshio and Ryan Bowman took Gordon down for negative-45 yards and a forced fumble on their five sacks.
Even more impressive, they delivered back-to-back sacks on the Cougars fourth drive. After starting out leading 7-0 and playing with a lead, Gordon’s fourth drive was a nightmare. Down 10-14, sacked twice in a row and throwing from his own end zone on 3rd-and-27. The Huskies manhandled WSU’s line time and time again.
Even after a poor Apple Cup showing, Anthony Gordon still leads the FBS in passing yards (5,228) and touchdowns (45). In fact, his 5,228 passing yards is almost 1,000 yards better than Joe Burrow’s second-ranked 4,366 yards. Yet, against UW, he couldn’t get anything going after their opening drive.
Call it preparation, home-field advantage or the Chris Petersen edge. Whatever it is, the Cougars consistently fail in the Apple Cup. In Peterson’s own words. the Cougars “run the same offense every week.” Because of this, preparation was simple and all the Huskies needed to do was execute their game-plan.
In their game plan, they often dropped eight into coverage and only rushed three. UW’s secondary gave up nothing deep and forced Gordon to check passes down. It was a rare occasion to see even an attempt, let alone a reception downfield. Instead, Max Borghi led the team with 12 receptions. Then, when Gordon actually tried to make something happen, he threw into a sea of defenders.
Offensively, the Cougars came into the Apple Cup with all the counting stats. But, UW matched up in perfection. They covered downfield, gave their defensive line time to get to Gordon, forced everything short and kept Gordon fearful of taking shots.
Jacob Eason Let’s it Fly in the Apple Cup
Unlike Anthony Gordon, Jacob Eason and the Huskies were willing to take chances downfield. And it paid off in spectacular fashion.
Though Jacob Eason started off the game with a sack, a deep incompletion and a three-and-out, he kept his gunslinger attitude. He took advantage of Terrell Bynum’s speed and hit him for 57-yards on their first touchdown drive.
More importantly, Eason and the Huskies maintained their confidence, even with more issues. Remember that Eason started off the game with a three-and-out, missing on a deep shot. Then, in the second quarter, he overthrew a wide-open Hunter Bryant and was then bailed out on a deep overthrow because of a penalty. Aside from his earlier 57-yard connection with Bynum, it appeared that Eason’s inaccuracy was hurting the Huskies. But, they continued to put faith in Eason and their receivers.
Again and again, it paid dividends. While the Cougars lacked downfield threats or ability, the Huskies took advantage of their Apple Cup matchup. Not only that, but UW finally utilized their talent properly. Hunter Bryant led the team in receptions and yards, which completely makes sense given his talent.
But, unlike prior games where Aaron Fuller and Chico McClatcher took up targets and space, sophomores Terrell Bynum and Cade Otton got involved. Their combined 6 receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown were huge. They made play after play, getting first downs, yards after the catch, or making difficult catches.
The Huskies Won the Apple Cup by Sticking with Their Gunslinger
It took Anthony Gordon 62 attempts to reach 308 passing yards. On the opposite sideline, Eason threw just 22 times, but compiled 244 yards and led his team to four touchdowns. The Huskies leaned into Eason’s gunslinging style and schemed up ways to get his receivers one-on-one matchups downfield. Even though Eason missed some throws and Bryant and Bynum dropped passes, they stuck with it.
Unlike this, the Cougars collapsed and failed to adjust. Gordon was afraid to throw it deep and continued to dump it off to his safety valves. His passes routinely traveled to the short-middle or the flats.
If Mike Leach ever wants to win an Apple Cup, he needs to make adjustments and have a backup plan. It was clear that he didn’t have that on Friday.
Vita Vea displayed versatility to headline Pac-12 NFL standouts
This week in football, Pac-12 NFL fans were treated to a rare gem: a 347-pound player scoring an offensive touchdown. Everyone loves it when defensive players catch touchdown passes. Who else joined Vita Vea with top Pac-12 NFL Week 12 performances?
The Big List of Pac-12 NFL Performers, College by College
Nick Foles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Honestly, it’s a tough year for Arizona. Each and every week, it’s a difficult school to find Pac-12 NFL talent. This week, Foles was alright. Not great. But not horrible. He completed 66.7-percent of his passes for 272 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s weeks like this that make fans wish the Jags would have stuck with Gardner Minshew.
However, there aren’t any significant Arizona options in the NFL right now. Therefore, it’s Nick Foles beating a low bell-curve.
N’Keal Harry – New England Patriots
Now, we’re not going to try and paint N’Keal Harry a Pro-Bowler. But, he reached a big milestone this Sunday. In the first quarter, N’Keal Harry caught the game’s lone touchdown. It was his very first touchdown and hopefully there will be many more.
In college, N’Keal Harry’s 43.9-percent (89th-percentile) College Dominator and 18.7 (95th-percentile) Breakout Age were collegiate elite. Combine that with a 134.5 (98th-percentile) SPARK-x Score and first-round draft pedigree. All to go along with playing snaps for the New England Patriots dynasty. N’Keal Harry’s stock will only go up from here.
Mychal Kendricks – Seattle Seahawks
11 solo tackles. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mychal Kendricks was a sure-tackler. He locked up the middle of the field and helped keep the Eagles to just 9 points.
Kendricks also made one tackle for a loss. It wasn’t a pretty win for the Seahawks. But, it was a win nonetheless. And, the defense held up well to a receiver-less Eagles offense. Kendricks double-digit tackle total was a large part of that win.
Jimmy Smith – Baltimore Ravens
Earlier this season, the Baltimore Ravens secondary was exploitable. Now, with the addition of Marcus Peters and a healthy Jimmy Smith, the Ravens are once again difficult to face. On Monday night, the Ravens dominated the Rams.
In their easy win, Jimmy Smith made big plays. Not only did he sack quarterback Jared Goff, but he intercepted the ball to seal the game. Jimmy Smith is a great Pac-12 NFL representative.
Arik Armstead – San Francisco 49ers
Oh my. All quarterbacks should fear Arik Armstead. Incredibly, Armstead hit quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times and sacked him twice. His defensive pressure is a great asset for the San Francisco 49ers.
It’s a great year for him. Against 42 targets, he’s allowed just 20 receptions. He’s an underrated corner climbing to the top of his game. Sitting at six and five, the Steelers are on the hunt for a playoff spot. They need Nelson to keep churning out solid games.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
It’s just not fair. No one can tackle Christian McCaffrey one-on-one. Even against a stout defense with a backup quarterback, McCaffrey finds a way to score. Although the Saints held him to just 64 yards on 22 carries, he still added 9 receptions for 69 yards a touchdown.
Up until this game, Fabian Moreau played mostly slot-corner in the NFL. However, moved to outside cornerback against the Lions, he was finally able to show off his skillset. On the day, Moreau racked up six tackles and two pass break-ups.
But, his biggest plays came on his two interceptions. Moreau displayed an ability to jump routes and track the deep-ball. Moreover, he did what many corners can’t. He held onto the ball and earned his team possession. Well done Mr. Moreau.
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
It’s been an up and down season for the Jets. But, just like last season, Sam Darnold is closing out the season well. This time, he torched the Oakland Raiders and didn’t let off the gas.
315 Passing Yards
2 Passing Touchdowns
16 Rushing Yards
One Rushing Touchdown
His 83.5 QBR and 127.8 Passer Rating were both season highs. Darnold and the Jets are now on a three-game win streak. Also, keep in mind that Darnold is still only 22 years old. We still have years to go with this young, Pac-12 NFL quarterback. Provided he doesn’t get Mono again next season, New York has it’s quarterback.
Star Lotulelei – Buffalo Bills
Although his stat line from Week 11 was more impressive, Star Lotulelei had another impactful game in Week 12. Against the Denver Broncos, Lotulelei recorded another solo sack. Back-to-back weeks with a full sack. In his seven-year career, Lotulelei’s career-best is four sacks in 2016.
It would be nice to see him beat that total by closing out the year with a streak. Granted, his sacks came against Miami and Denver. So, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to continue this fun. However, in the final quarter of the NFL season, why not root for an underdog?
Vita Vea – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everyone loves it when the big guy scores. And Vita Vea is one large, athletic specimen. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 347lbs, Vea is a monster of a man.
In their win against Atlanta, Vea caught a one-yard pass from Jameis Winston for the touchdown. That puts his career catch percentage at 100-percent. Of course it’s just one target. But, it’s reminiscent of Mike Vrable’s receiving.
Additionally, Vita Vea managed to record two tackles, two pass break-ups and one sack. It was an excellent game for the big guy and a highlight Pac-12 NFL fans will be talking about all season.
Deone Bucannon – New York Giants
Unfortunately, Deone Bucannon injured his ankle in Week 12’s loss to the Chicago Bears. However, before he left the game, Bucannon recorded five tackles. One of which was an impressive defensive stop against Tarik Cohen. If he didn’t make the stop, Cohen would have likely run for more than just a first down.
In 2019, this was Bucannon’s first game with more than one tackle. During weeks 9, 10 and 12, Bucannon played 36 to 39-percent of defensive snaps. His move from special teams to defense for the New York Giants, along with his five tackles, are a bright spot for Cougar fans.
Miss Week 11’s Top Pac-12 NFL Performances? Read them here:
This wee, only one Pac-12 NFL player repeated from Week 10’s Best Pac-12 NFL list. Finally, we get some fresh faces and new players on here. Let’s see who joined the ranks of the best!
Nick Folk – New England Patriots
It’s not often that a place-kicker joins the best of Pac-12 NFL players. Yet here we are. With the New England offense moving slowly, their defense and special teams are picking up the slack.
In a tight, 17-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Folk scored the majority of the Patriots’ points. He went three-for-three with field goals of 35, 22 and 39 yards.
Lawrence Guy – New England Patriots
Although his three tackles don’t seem like much, Lawrency Guy was a key-cog in the Patriots’ defensive win. Against the Eagles, his two biggest were:
Penetrating tackle on Miles Sanders on the one-yard line (shown in above Tweet)
Fumble recovery after the strip-sack by Danny Shelton
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Cameron Jordan – New Orleans Saints
Through 10 games, Cameron Jordan’s racked up:
18 quarterback hits
8 tackles for a loss
One fumble recovery (and one should-be touchdown)
And 10 sacks
On Sunday, he managed to hit quarterback Jameis Winston four times, get 1.5 sacks and add a tackle for a loss. It was another All-Pro game for Cameron Jordan. His stats and 82.0 PFF grade are why he is still among the best Pac-12 NFL players in the league.
Josh Tupou – Cincinnati Bengals
Although the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Oakland Raiders, Josh Tupou played very well. It was by-far his best game of the season. Tupou compiled seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, one stuff and one forced fumble.
Honestly, is there anything better to watch than a special teams touchdown? They are rare, special and should be treated as such.
In the first quarter, up 3-0, Kenjon Barner fielded the punt from Younghoe Koo at the Atlanta 22. He then took it 78 yards to the house. The seventh-year journeyman just earned his first, NFL punt/kick return touchdown. Of course, his highlight-touchdown is worthy of praise.
Jordan Poyer – Buffalo Bills
Yes, their game was against the hapless Miami Dolphins. Nonetheless, the Buffalo Bills won by 17 and Miami finally couldn’t cover the spread.
In this game, Jordan Poyer did his usual damage as a reliable tackler. He totaled six tackles (four solo) and also added a fumble recovery. On the season, Poyer now has 72 tackles, one sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Somehow, even though he compiled nearly 200 yards from scrimmage, the Carolina Panthers only scored three points. How on Earth is that possible? What else does Christian McCaffrey have to do?
In their Week 11 matchup, our Pac-12 NFL superstar turned 14 carries into 70 rushing yards and also caught 11 balls for 121 yards. 191 yards from scrimmage. Yet, only three points for the Panthers. This team needs to get a viable quarterback or send the Stanford star to another team. His play deserves the playoffs.
Eric Kendricks – Minnesota Vikings
Eric Kendricks is elite. Right now, he’s playing the best football of his career. He currently owns a 90.5 PFF grade. Last week, he earned a spot on the top Pac-12 NFL list with his fourth-down heroics.
Because of his stellar form, the Vikings have utilized Kendricks in pass coverage this season. He’s stepped up to the challenge with 12 pass break-ups. Eric Kendricks, with 85 tackles and 12 pass breaks-ups, is playing like a top-three linebacker.
Sam Darnold – New York Jets
Though his 43.7 (No. 25) QBR on the season is uninspiring, Sam Darnold played his best game this week. He displayed an excellent passing ceiling with 293 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yes, he still took two sacks and threw an interception against Washington. But, this was one of the better games for Darnold and his 6-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio since returning from illness is promising.
Also, keep in mind these two things before putting down Darnold:
Heading into Week 11, Marcus Williams already was PFF’s top safety. That’s already praise enough for a Pac-12 NFL player. But then, he went and showed out in Week 11. Games like this show why he is the best of the best. Not only did he record three tackles and two pass break-ups. But, he also took an interception to the house.
There’s nothing like a pick-six for football fans. Especially defense enthusiasts. Marcus Williams is having a career year.
Danny Shelton – New England Patriots
Down ten to six with just over two minutes left in the first half, Danny Shelton came up big. His strip-sack of Carson Wentz put the Patriots in excellent field position. Unfortunately, as is the case this year with the Patriots’ offense, they came away with three points. Though they started at the Eagles 22, they couldn’t score a touchdown. It’s a shame.
But, what isn’t a travesty is the New England Patriots’ defense. They look like one of the greatest defenses of all time. If players like Danny Shelton can keep bailing out the offense, they might win yet another Super Bowl.
Jalen Thompson – Arizona Cardinals
As most know, the Arizona Cardinals need help in their secondary. Their pass-defending is among the worst in the league. However, Jalen Thompson got his first interception this week.
Additionally, he also had his first pass break-up. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the rookie out of Washington State.
Obviously, this season is a letdown for UW football fans everywhere. After starting the season with high hopes, the Huskies dropped four games. Even worse, the Dawgs have to watch Oregon rise the ranks each week. Oregon is now 9-1 (7-0 in Pac-12 games) and has a good chance to make the College Football Playoffs. Die-hard Huskies are quickly becoming Utah fans in hopes that Oregon gets knocked out of playoff contention.
Apple Cup Victory
While Oregon’s reign is particularly annoying to UW football fans, the Apple Cup is the ultimate save-face. Yes, the Washington-Oregon rivalry is certainly up there, but it doesn’t hold a candle to UW-WSU hatred.
Since childhood, kids know where they stand. Household banners and decorations let the neighbors know where they stand. Jeers and taunts abound throughout the year. Because, unlike the Washington-Oregon rivalry, Huskies and Cougars see each other all the time. Family, friends and coworkers have to hold back their loathing whenever they see the enemy’s logo.
Ironically, as I write this in a local cafe, another coffee-drinker across from me is wearing a WSU sweater. I, too, must remain calm and keep my detest to myself.
So, regardless of UW Football falling off the playoff rails, a win against Washington State is still pure satisfaction.
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Currently, there are Pac-12 teams that are bowl eligible: Oregon, Utah, USC and Washington. There are also four Pac-12 programs just one win away from eligibility: Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State. Of note, it would be a delight if Washington State lost to Oregon State in Week 13. Then, in the Apple Cup, the Huskies could stomp out any bowl chances for the Cougars.
Back to UW, they look good in bowl eligibility. Last season, seven Pac-12 teams made bowls appearances. If they can get wins against both Colorado and Washington State, they solidify their bowl claim. And though it won’t be another Rose Bowl, fans will still appreciate any bowl victory.
UW Football is the best recruiting program in the Pac-12
Of their hard commits, UW Football nabbed eight 4-Star recruits and one 5-Star Recruit:
Sav’ell Smalls – OLB – 5-Star
Jalen McMillan – WR – 4-Star
Myles Murao – OC – 4-Star
Roger Rosengarten – OT – 4-Star
Sam Adams II – ATH – 4-Star
Geirean Hatchett – OG – 4-Star
Ethan Garbers – PRO – 4-Star
Rome Odunze – WR – 4-Star
Mark Redman – TE – 4-Star
Yes, it’s a off season for the Dawgs. But, their commitment to recruiting is impressive. UW Football’s coaches and staff never stop recruiting. They get young stars to buy-in to their program and it’s a great look for the Huskies. Continual recruiting is how top programs stay top programs.
They aren’t perfect, but the Huskies can end the year on a high note
At 6-and-4, there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy the Huskies. Even though they’ve struggled to finish games, UW Football knows how to finish a season. To fully please the fans, donors and future recruits, the Dawgs need to:
Win the Apple Cup
Claim a Bowl Victory
Recruit additional four and five-star 2020 recruits
After nine games, it’s crystal clear that the Washington Huskies have problems. Their five and four record exemplifies that. Even worse, the Huskies are two and four in Pac-12 conference games. For fans, it feels like a lost season. Expectations were as high as College Football Playoffs but fell to hopes of any bowl appearance.
UW Can’t finish games
Against Cal, Washington led 19-17 with just two minutes and five seconds left. Versus Oregon, the Huskies were up 28-14 in the second half. Most recently, against Utah, UW was up 21-13 in the third quarter.
And yet, Washington lost each of these games. They collapsed. In the first halves, the Huskies look dominant as can be. Eason and company, as well as the defense, make play after play. But then, once the game is on the line, something shifts. 2019 is full of difficult and painful learning opportunities.
Thankfully, because Washington isn’t a dreadful team, they still should make a bowl game. According to experts, Washington will play in the Alamo, Holiday or Redbox Bowl.. Kyle Bonagura from ESPN predicts UW to play in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor. Also from ESPN, Mark Schlabach thinks that the Huskies will land in the Holiday Bowl versus Michigan. Joe Tansey from Bleacher Report has Washington playing against Michigan State in the Holiday Bowl. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports projects UW to face off against Indiana in the Redbox Bowl.
If nothing else, a bowl win is a great way to finish the season.
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Hopes for next season
Pray that Jacob Eason stays
First off, it goes without saying that Washington needs Jacob Eason to stay. He hasn’t been perfect, but my goodness has he had his moments.
Unfortunately, Jacob Eason is a top quarterback prospect in the 2020 NFL draft. Walter Football ranks him fourth among eligible quarterbacks. Additionally, drafttek.com has Eason at 50th overall and their sixth quarterback. He’s a strong, NFL prospect. Considering the turmoil in the NFL right now with quarterbacks and the success of Gardner Minshew, Eason will get drafted early if he enters the 2020 draft.
Play young talent
It took too long to get Puka Nacua involved. For some reason, Chris Peterson continued to play seniors over more talented receivers. Granted, it’s easy to trust seniority over raw talent. But, according to many beat reporters and scouts, Puka Nacua turned heads in practices. Then, once inserted into games, he displayed playmaking abilities. Improper self-scouting cost Washington points.
Because the Huskies lose Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia, Chico McClatcher and likely Hunter Bryant this season, it will force them to play different receivers on offense. But, Nacua is just one wide receiver highlighting a larger issue. The Huskies need to prioritize talent and upside over age and safety.
Better execution on third down
On third down this season, the Huskies converted 41 of 115 opportunities (35.65-percent). Some of the most painful punts to watch were followed by game-changing drives by Cal, Oregon, and Utah. Better innovation is needed. Which, considering Washington’s two and four record in Pac-12 games, should be an obvious desire. UW knows these opponents. It shouldn’t be this difficult to game-plan against familiar opponents.
Less field goals, more touchdowns for Washington
This season, in the red zone, Washington scored 21 touchdowns and kicked 13 field goals. Against competitive teams, UW settled for safety and squandered their winning chances. Of note, the Huskies are 14 of 21 (66.67-percent) on fourth down this season. Why not go for it more often? They certainly can’t do worse than this season.
After a tight loss against Cal in Week 2 of college football, the Huskies bounced back in a big way against Hawaii. They ousted the Rainbow Warriors 52-20. Similarly, UW’s football team had another dominant performance against Arizona after an upset loss to Stanford. Even though the Wildcats were on a four-game win-streak, the Huskies beat them 51-27.
For Washington fans, the pendulum swung back into favor and joy. But, unfortunately for UW football, the Ducks had a more impressive win against the Colorado Buffaloes. With Oregon coming to town this week, does Washington have a shot?
Post-Game Notes from the Huskies Victory
Defense and Special Teams Carried the Huskies
Yes, the UW offense scored five touchdowns and three field goals. But in the first half, against an Arizona team on a four-game win-streak, the offense didn’t show up. Instead, the Dawgs made numerous big plays on defense and special teams. In the first half, the defense and special teams had:
4 Tackles for a Loss
One blocked punt
Two forced fumbles and recoveries
At the end of the half, the Wildcats still led the Huskies. Despite incredible defensive play, the Huskies were still down 13-17 at half.
The Huskies Offense isn’t Perfect, even with 51 Points
Again, Washington decided to go for field goals. Early in the game, they played it safe. In the first quarter, they opted for two field goals instead of going for it. Fourth and five at the Arizona 10. Kick. Fourth and three at the Arizona 3. Kick. It’s unbelievable how often Chris Peterson and the Huskies exchange field goals for touchdowns. Think about it, if the Huskies converted just 50-percent of those fourth downs, they’d be better off. Yes, they tried to convert a fourth down on their first drive. They failed. But, math and analytics still show that it is optimal to go for it on the opposing half. After all, seven points is more than six.
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Additionally, the Huskies offense was sedentary, out-of-sync, and inconsistent in the first half. In fact, the Husky defense outscored the offense 7-6 in the first half. Their six drives yielded results of:
Turnover on Downs (4 plays, 9 yards AFTER STARTING AT THE ARIZONA 36)
Field Goal (8 plays, 62 yards)
Punt (3 plays, 5 yards)
Field Goal (4 plays, 0 yards AFTER STARTING AT THE ARIZONA 8)
Punt (6 plays, 43 yards)
Punt (3 plays, 4 yards)
Granted, the Huskies offense got rolling in the second half. They scored five touchdowns and a field goal in the second half. Eason and company got rolling. Sean McGrew and Salvon Ahmed showed consistency. Ahmed scored three rushing touchdowns and McGrew showed his efficient and explosive skill-set.
Arizona couldn’t stop them. However, the 2019 UW offense continues to be risk-averse and inconsistent. They need to find rhythm quicker and be willing to go for it on fourth down.
Huskies Finally Involve Puka Nacua
It is about time. In 2019, the Huskies continued to pepper their senior receivers with targets. With Aaron Fuller and Hunter Bryant making plays, that’s understandable. However, with a quality option like Puka Nacua on the bench, it didn’t make sense to keep putting Andre Baccellia on the field.
After getting his chance, Nacua let his name be known. The 6-1, 204-pound freshman caught three passes for 97 yards. Considering Jacob Eason only threw for 243 yards against Arizona, Nacua accounted for 40-percent of the team’s receiving yards. Excellent. It was a breakout performance for the freshman.
Against Oregon, the Huskies will be tested. The Ducks defense is elite. They’ve held opponents to 52 points in 6 games. But, more impressively, the Ducks haven’t let anyone score more than 7 points in their last five games. Because the Huskies offense has been hit-or-miss this season, Eason and company have to be on point.
Additionally, Justin Herbert and the Ducks offense continues to play well. Herbert has a touchdown in his last 34 games and Oregon has a top-5 offensive line in the nation. In Week 7, two Ducks offensive lineman were featured on PFF College’s Week 7 national team. So, it’s not going to be as easy for the defense to make big plays as they did against Arizona.
Last, it’s important to remember that Oregon’s only loss is against Auburn. In a close game. Since week 1, they’ve won each game handily. The Huskies, on the other hand, have swung back and forth between impressive and unimpressive. In order to win or even compete against the Ducks, the Huskies need to:
Create open looks for Jacob Eason
Give snaps to young talent like Puka Nacua
Make clean tackles and capitalize on turnover-opportunities
Attempt fourth down conversions early and often
If the Pac-12 is anything, it’s a conference of cannibals. So, an upset win is certainly possible for the Huskies.
College football week one was a mixed-bag of results for the Pac-12 Conference. Not counting Arizona’s tough humiliating loss to Hawaii, the Pac-12 went 8-3 in week one. Not bad. The conference did, however, see the Oregon Ducks fall to Auburn, potentially hurting the chances of having a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative.
That said, here are the teams will the best chances of being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative entering week 2.
1. Utah Utes
Utah’s defense looked scary good against BYU. Limiting the Cougars to 300 yards total (208 yards passing, 92 yards on the ground), the Utes were stifling, exciting and showed why they’ll be what carries Utah through the season.
A defensive battle for much of the game, Utah scored twice off interceptions returned for touchdowns. The first came with 10:17 left in the first half, and the other with 12:25 left in the fourth. While both were crucial, the second came moments after the Utes executed a 3-play, 22 yard touchdown drive after recovering a fumble. The back-to-back scored put Utah up 30-6 and the game away for good.
If Utah’s defense is as tenacious as they looked against BYU, their lofty expectations to win the Pac-12 may be justified. And if Zack Moss can carry the offensive load, they may very well be the conference’s best shot at a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team.
2. Washington Huskies
Give credit where credit is due. There were plenty of questions surrounding Washington quarterback Jacob Eason heading into week one. A Georgia transfer who beat out Jake Haener, some questioned Chris Petersen’s decision to roll with Eason at QB. He has the arm talent, but are the other skills there? A 349 yard, four touchdown performance was his answer.
Now, this was against Eastern Washington. They’re a decent program but shouldn’t compete with the best of the Pac-12. Still, Eason’s outstanding debut can’ be ignored. The quarterback was impressive.
More impressive, however, was Washington’s defense. They held the Eagles to just 63 yards on the ground and despite no turnovers they commanded much of the game. The Huskies and Eason now face the tough task of navigating California’s not-so-secret secondary in week two. If they’re able to take care of the Golden Bears, the confidence surrounding this team will improve.
3. Oregon Ducks
Oregon should have won their game against Auburn. For much of the contest they were the better team. Unfortunately for the Ducks and the rest of the Pac-12, almost doesn’t cut it and the Tigers emerged victorious. Despite the loss, however, Oregon showed the nation it can compete with the big boys once again. Their defense was impressive, offensive line powerful, and with a little less conservative play calls the Ducks could have run away with the game.
Yet Oregon will now need nearly flawless performances the rest of the year. Unless Auburn finds itself in the SEC Championship Game, Oregon’s shot at being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff representative rests in their ability to run the table.
After how they played against the Tigers, that’s not impossible. The talent is there and what mistakes were made were more mental than physical.
4. Stanford Cardinal
If Stanford is going to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff, they’re going to need a big win over USC on Saturday night. Dispatching the Northwestern Wildcats in a classic Stanford way, the Cardinal looked impressive on defense but shaky on offense. Quarterback K.J. Costello was precise but unremarkable, and running back Cameron Scarlett was simply serviceable.
Fortunately Stanford flashed an impressive defense, forcing three fumbles (recovering two) and coming away with two INTs. With Costello still questionable for their game against USC, it’s clear Stanford’s defense must lead the way. For the Cardinal to have any shot at the College Football Playoff they’ll need to grind it out and hope a star emerges on offense.
5. Washington State Cougars
The Pac-12 North may eat itself alive this year, and not because there is a lack of talented teams. The problem in the North may be that there are too many quality teams for any to emerge with a record impressive enough to qualify a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team.
That’s exactly what could happen to the Washington State Cougars, who once again showed why Mike Leach’s offense is a godsend for quarterbacks looking to pad their stats. Quarterback Anthony Gordon completed 29-of-35 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns. While this came against New Mexico State, those are still numbers you can’t ignore.
More impressively, Washington State’s defense forced three turnovers and held the Aggies to just seven points. Regardless of opponent that’s an impressive effort. The Cougars now face another low-level opponent before an interesting matchup against Houston that should be a great barometer for just how good Washington State could be. They’re still in consideration for being a Pac-12 College Football Playoff team, but they need to show a little more first.
6. USC Trojans
Most Pac-12 insiders understood the dangers of Fresno State vs. USC. The Bulldogs were a good team in 2018, Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford knows the Pac-12 and there were still plenty of uncertainties surrounding USC. Would they finally be able to live up to the talent on their roster?
For some that begins with a resounding yes. Running back Vavae Malepeai burst onto the scene with a 23 carry, 134 yard performance and was complimented by an explosive effort from Stephen Carr (6 carries for 56 yards, 6 receptions for 43 yards). Wide receiver Tyler Vaughns also impressed, catching 11 balls for 150 yards.
But the bad news for USC is that they lost starting quarterback J.T. Daniels for the season, paving way for true freshman Kedon Slovis to command the offense. A three-star prospect, Slovis will be immediately tested against Stanford’s defense. If USC is to make a College Football Playoff statement early on, this Stanford game is it.