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The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown: Oregon Edition

The tight ends. The leading receiver in terms of both yards and catches for the Huskies in the Oregon game was none other than senior tight end Drew Sample. He finished the day with four receptions for 79 yards, including this 33 yard catch:

Redshirt freshman Cade Otton also had two receptions for 36 yards, making him the third leading receiver on the Huskies during the Oregon game.

Ben Burr-Kirven had another great game. Just three weeks after his 20 tackle game against Arizona State, B.B.K. managed to stack up another 19 tackles against Oregon. I know it’s tough to find positives in the loss, but this kid is having a monster season. It’s nothing official, but B.B.K. did make ESPN’s midseason All-America team. The more he plays, the stronger case he makes to be given a shot to play at the next level.

Also, just a quick shout out to the defense as a whole. While the final play of the game was pretty ugly for the Husky defense, they were able to keep a team that was averaging 47 points per game to 24 points during regulation. This defense may not be quite as elite as it was the past few seasons, but it is still very, very good.

Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant stepped up when needed. We’ve seen both McGrew and Pleasant get increased playing time this season, but due to injuries to Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, both played meaningful minutes during the game. McGrew had eight carries to Pleasant’s four, but both ran for 30 yards a piece. The two young RB’s also got involved in the passing game, including two huge passes to McGrew. The first was an early fourth quarter pass that somehow magically found its way between two Oregon defenders (credit Browning on the pass) and into the hands of McGrew, who took it for a 30 yard gain into Oregon territory. The second was this HUGE 4th down conversion late in the 4th quarter:

The offensive line continued to play well. The unit gave up one sack and two QB hurries during the game, but mostly kept the pocket clean for Browning. They also did a good job of opening up running lanes to the tune of 194 yards on the ground.

An outside linebacker had a sack! This positive point is both genuine excitement… and a little tongue in cheek. Kudos to Tevis Barlett for getting home and bringing down Justin Herbert. Jaylen Johnson just about had a sack too, until it was erased by a targeting call against him.

The special teams are struggling. The missed field goal was gut wrenching. To his credit, Peyton Henry came back in OT and nailed his field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the one he missed mattered more and his OT field goal wasn’t enough to seal the win.

Joel Whitford had a rough night. He only averaged 33 yards between his two punts, the first of which was really bad. Race Porter came in for the only other punt during the game and delivered a nice 56 yarder.

Also of note, Tony Brooks-James had three returns for 96 yards, including a long of 56 yards. This has been discussed before, but the Dawgs need to shore up their kick and punt coverage.

Jake Browning’s pick and fumbled snap. The quarterback position is easy to critique and for the most part Browning played a solid game. Statistically speaking, he actually outplayed Justin Herbert. However, the interception he threw on the opening drive was a pretty difficult way to start the game, and especially on the road against a high scoring offense. That handed the Ducks the ball in Washington territory and was an early momentum swing. The defense did their job in a tough situation and held Oregon to a field goal, but those three points helped Oregon keep pace with the Huskies until the end of the game.

The fumbled snap on 4th and one at the Oregon 26 in the 4th quarter was also a killer. Coach Pete has talked about how after they weren’t able to convert a 4th and one during the North Dakota game, they ran this play repeatedly in practice for several weeks to ensure that they could convert it every time. Up until this play, the Huskies had been having great success with QB sneaks. Unfortunately, Browning fumbled the snap and gave the ball back to Oregon. Converting would have meant a fresh set of downs within potential field goal range. As proven by the missed kick at the end of regulation, nothing is certain as far as the kicking game goes, but this fumble really killed a great shot the Dawgs had at taking the lead late in the game.

The wide receivers disappeared. Yes, the wide receivers have been a pleasant surprise this season in terms of their play making ability and productivity. But on Saturday they were surprisingly absent with only three wide receivers recording a combined total of five catches for 84 yards. As previously noted, the leading receiver for the Huskies was a tight end, but running backs had nearly as many receptions as the WRs with four total. For the most part, it looks like the WRs really struggled to get separation during this game, as Browning was often given a decent pocket to throw from but couldn’t always find an open man.

Not to say that some of the passing game issues shouldn’t be placed on the shoulders of Browning himself, who has shown to be timid when it comes to throwing the ball into tight windows. Some degree of poor execution was also at play, as evidenced on the 3rd down fade from Browning to Ty Jones in OT. Jake slightly overthrew his receiver, while Jones simultaneously tried to sell a non-existent pass interference penalty before the play was even over. Mistakes like this from Jones will lessen with more playing time and experience.

To keep things positive, here’s a great pitch and catch moment between Browning and Jones:

The loss. There are always multiple things that go into losing a game. Some of those things are covered above, some of them are more complicated. It’s easy to second guess things like play calls, situational awareness and clock management, but hindsight always has a heavy hand in those debates. That said, it has been hard for many Husky fans to understand why Coach Pete let the clock wind down from 38 seconds to 3 seconds when he was facing a 3rd and one with two timeouts and a shaky kicker. That was a VERY conservative call, to say the least.

Health issues. Gaskin is clearly trending from hurt to injured. Ahmed hyper extended his knee while attempting to pass block. Per Coach Pete, both players are week to week right now, so be ready for a steady diet of McGrew and Pleasant going forward.

The season’s outlook. No doubt the first seven games of this season did not go as Husky fans would have liked. With two losses on the schedule, it’s fairly safe to assume that any chance the Huskies might have had at making the playoff is now gone. The goals now narrow in on winning the Pac-12 championship, then making it to the Rose Bowl. If the Huskies can take care of business and win out, they have a legitimate shot at making those worthy goals a reality. In a scenario where the Huskies are able to win over Colorado, Cal, Stanford and Oregon State, all games in which the Huskies will be favored, it could set up for an epic Apple Cup in Pullman. A WSU victory over Oregon next week will go a long way in helping the Huskies achieve those goals.

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