Sunday, September 4, 2011

Huskies survive Eagles 30-27

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies after being torched all day by Bo Levi Mitchell finally stepped up when the game is on the line. Mitchell, with his Eastern Washington Eagles trailing 30-27 and the ball on the Huskies 25 yard line threw an interception to the Huskies Desmond Trufant to deny the Eagles a chance at the stunning upset at Huskies stadium. The Huskies held on to win 30-27 to begin their season 1-0 for the first time in the Steve Sarkisian era and dating back to last year have won five games in a row. The Huskies won despite Mitchell throwing for 473 yards on 69 pass attempts against them. The Huskies were also helped out by Chris Polk who was questionable to play as he ran for 122 yards. The Huskies won this game mainly because of turnovers as the Eagles turned the ball over four times.

After the Eagles forced a three an out on the Huskies offense Kiel Rasp punted the ball but Trufant caused the fumble as Gregory Ducre recovered. The Huskies offense then took advantage of their second chance. First they ran Polk for a gain of six yards to the Eagles 17 yard line. Price then hit a quick receiver screen to true freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a gain of 10 yards. Then first and goal from the Eagles seven yard line Price hit fullback Jonathan Amosa for a touchdown to give the Huskies a quick 7-0 lead. For those thinking the Huskies were going to blow the Eagles out they were in for a rude wake up call. The Eagles would respond with a nine play 58 yard touchdown drive capped by Mitchell hitting Ashton Clark on 4th and 12 for a 32 yard touchdown pass to tie the score up at 7-7. After a Huskies punt, the Eagles would drive down for a 28 yard field goal to take a 10-7 road lead at the end of the first quarter.

With the Huskies trailing 10-7 that is when Sarkisian started to pound Polk down the Eagles throats. Polk ran up the middle for a gain of three, ran to the right for a gain of five, ran a toss sweep to the right for a gain of one. Facing a fourth and one from the Eagles 44 due to a 38 yard kickoff return by Jesse Callier, Polk ran for a gain of two for the first down. As the second quarter began facing a second and 10, Callier ran for a gain of 13 to the Eagles 29 yard line. Then Callier ran again for a gain of three, then Price took over. Price facing a second and seven took off for a gain of 10 for the first down on the 16 yard line. Price then hit Kevin Smith for a gain of eight yards to the Eagles eight yard, then after a one yard loss pass to Smith facing a third and three Price avoided the sack and hit James Johnson who was wide open in the end zone for a nine yard touchdown to give the Huskies a 14-10 lead.

The Huskies defense finally made a big play on defense. As the Eagles were driving to the Huskies 33 yard line they were finally stopped when Mitchell threw three straight incomplete passes following a three yard run. The Huskies took over from their own 33 yard line immediately went back to Polk. Polk busted a 26 yard run to the Eagles 41 yard line. Then the Huskies called a play action pass as Price hit Smith for a 41 yard touchdown but Smith dropped the pass. On a receiver screen Price hit heralded recruit Kasen Williams for his first career catch which went for zero yards. Then facing a third and 10 the Huskies finally called on Polk once again as he ran for five yards. The Huskies called on senior field goal kicker Erick Folk who made 53 yard field goal to give the Huskies a 17-10 lead. On the second play of the series for the Eagles Mitchell made his first mistake of the day throwing an interception to Garrett Gilliland who returned the interception seven yards to the Eagles 25 yard line. Sarkisian like last series neglected to feature Polk as Price was sacked on first down. Facing a third and 21 from the Eagles 36 yard line Price hit Callier for a seven yard gain which set up another Folk field goal. Folk drilled the 47 yard field goal to give the Huskies a 20-10 lead.

The Eagles would respond by going on a 12 play 68 yard drive ending with a 28 yard field goal with no time left at halftime to cut the Huskies lead to 20-13 at halftime. The Eagles dominated that first half by outgaining the Huskies 253-135 in yards. The Eagles also had 15 first downs to the Huskies 7 while converting 5-8 on third downs and 1-2 fourth downs. While the Huskies were just 2-7 on third downs and 1-1 on fourth downs. The Huskies did have 10 points off Eagles turnovers which is why they led by seven. The Eagles were led by their quarterback Mitchell who was 19-36 passing for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His main target was Brandon Kaufman who caught six passes for 99 yards. While Nicholas Edwards had five catches for 33 yards and Ashton Clark had two catches for 46 yards with a touchdown. The Eagles couldn't run the ball as they had just 24 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile the Huskies were led by Chris Polk who had 59 yards on just nine carries with Callier have 16 yards rushing on two carries. Price was 10-16 passing for 59 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies were outplayed in the first half and the Eagles proved in the second half that wasn't a fluke.

In the third quarter the Huskies caught yet another break like they did in the first quarter. After the Eagles forced the Huskies to punt the Eagles once again fumbled the punt as the ball hit one of their players jerseys. With once again new life the Huskies took over with the ball on the Eagles 27 yard line pounded Polk once again. Polk for a seven yard gain to the 20 yard line, Polk ran again for 13 yards to the Eagles seven yard line. Facing a second and goal from the six Price scrambled to his left and found freshman sensation Williams for a six yard touchdown pass. That was the first of many touchdown receptions for Williams in his Huskies career. The Huskies looked to finally put the Eagles away as they led 27-13. As ESPN Analyst Lee Corso would say not so fast.

The Eagles began their drive from their own 27 yard line. That is when Mitchell once again started to shred the Huskies secondary like he had done the whole first half. Mitchell hit Edwards for a gain of 16 yards. Mitchell then hit Kaufman for 17 yards and again for 13 yards to the Huskies 27 yard line. After a 15 yard penalty the Eagles were facing a 3rd and 26 from the Huskies 43 yard line. Mitchell facing no pass rush scrambled to his left then threw a bomb to Greg Herd for a 43 yard touchdown pass to cut the Huskies lead to 27-20. On that play Greg Ducre who had been picked on all game was turned around as the Eagles had shocked the Huskies crowd. The Eagles with under a minute to go in the third quarter had cut the lead to 27-20 making sure this game wasn't going to be a blow out. Instead the Huskies had just one quarter left to avoid being one of the lead stories on sportscenter. The Huskies would respond on their next series to avoid the stunning upset. The Eagles had proven they were not going to go away on this Saturday afternoon.

The Huskies would start the fourth quarter on their own 29 yard line. When the fourth quarter had began the Huskies were facing a critical 3rd and 4 from the Eagles 35 yard line. Price would hit Johnson for a big nine yard pass to move the chains. Polk would rush for eight yards then again for five yards to the Eagles 40 yard line. Callier would run for five yards setting up a third and two from the Eagles 35 yard line. Price would again hit another crucial third down pass to Devin Aguilar for a gain of eight yards to the Eagles 27 yard line. On second and 14 Callier would rush for 11 yards setting up a crucial third and three. That is when Price's roll out pass to Michael Hartvigson which was sniffed out for a loss of two yards. Folk would then make the 40 yard field goal give the Huskies a 30-20 lead with under 10 minutes to go. The Eagles would respond by going on a 16 play 70 yard drive for the touchdown. On that drive facing a fourth and six from the Huskies 35 Mitchell would hit Edwards for a gain of seven yards to move the chains. Facing a third and two from the Huskies 20 Mitchell would hit a four yard pass to move the chains. Then on third and 19 from the Huskies 25 Mitchell would hit a 20 yard pass to the Huskies five yard line. Mitchell would cap the drive by hitting Edwards with a five yard touchdown pass to pull within 30-27 with a little under four minutes left to be played.

The Eagles would kick the ball off instead of onside kicking it trusting their defense. With 2:17 left in the game and the Eagles having all three timeouts the Huskies were facing a critical third and two on their own 38 yard line. The Huskies fed Polk the ball for a four yard gain. If the Huskies find a way to just get another first down the game is over. Well the Eagles stuffed Polk on back to back plays setting up a third and nine from the Huskies 43 yard line with 1:31 left as the Eagles had one timeout left. Sarkisian who is normally agressive trusted his defense as he ran Polk again forcing the Eagles to call their final timeout. After Rasp punted the ball 55 yards to the Eagles five yard line Mitchell took over needing a field goal for the tie and touchdown for the shocking upset with 1:17 left in the game.

The Eagles despite having no timeouts had the Huskies crowd nervous. Mitchell started the drive by hitting a pass for 15 yards to their own 20 yard line. Then Mitchell hit Edwards two plays later for 32 yards to the Huskies 48 yard line. Mitchell then hit Clark for a gain of 23 to the Huskies 25 yard line. With 35 seconds left in the game Mitchell threw a pass to the endzone to Kaufman who had burned Trufant all game long but this time Trufant did a great job shielding Kaufman for the game saving interception. The Huskies fans let out a loud sigh of relief while the Eagles walked off the field wondering what could have been? The Eagles outplayed the Huskies that day. The Huskies were fortunate to grab the win but at the end of the season this is just one more win closer to a bowl game.

The Eagles didn't come to Seattle earn respect they came to Seattle trying to make the lead on Sportscenter. The consolation prize for the Eagles is they earned the Huskies respect and with Sacramento State upsetting the Oregon State Beavers 29-28 in overtime I would say the Pac-12's respect as well. The Eagles outplayed a team many experts expect to be playing in a bowl game which should scare the rest of the FCS. The Eagles passing attack gave the Huskies fits all game. The Eagles outgained the Huskies 504-250. The Eagles had 30 first downs to the Huskies 14 and ran 86 plays to the Huskies 63. The Eagles were led by Mitchell who completed 39 of 69 passes(56.5%) of his passes for 473 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions one of which was costly. His main receivers were Brandon Kaufman who had 10 receptions for 140 yards, Nicholas Edwards 12 receptions for 108 yards with a touchdown and Greg Herd had seven receptions for 87 yards with a touchdown. He also hooked up some with Ashton Clark who had four receptions for 73 yards with a touchdown.  The Eagles punted just once the entire game and were 10-16 on third downs and two for four on fourth downs. What did the Eagles in was four turnovers which gave the Huskies 17 points not counting the last turnover the Eagles had the ball on the 25 yard line. The Eagles didn't receive the win but they will have to accept they did earn the Huskies respect.

As for the Huskies this was probably the worst win in program history. The Huskies have won five games in a row now and are 1-0 for the first time since 2007. However, this game didn't feel like a win at all instead it felt like the Huskies avoided a devastating loss to the program. The Huskies won by 17 points off Eagles turnovers otherwise I'd be writing a different recap. Polk did carry the Huskies with 122 yards on 23 carries(5.3 YPC). Callier also ran 10 times for 47 yards(4.7 YPC) to help the Huskies to the win. Price making his first career Husky Stadium start completed 17 of 25(68.0%) passes for 102 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Huskies James Johnson had a solid game with four receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies will take the win and count their blessings, for a program who was just 0-12 three years ago they can't be spoiled on any wins.

All in all, the Eagles showed everyone they can compete with the big boys. The Huskies showed every opposing quarterback the blueprint on how to defeat them. The Huskies playing without senior cornerback Quinton Richardson and losing senior all pac-10 receiver Jermaine Kearse survived an embarassing program loss. The Huskies will hopefully learn from this and are now winning the close games. The Huskies have now won five games in a row and have also won five games in a row decided by seven points or less. The Huskies started the Keith Price era with a win and at the end of the year nobody is going to remember this game. If the Huskies are in a bowl game they'll just remember their record and the Huskies learned a harsh lesson which is to never take an opponent lightly. The Huskies must work on plenty of things on defense especially the secondary or this could be a long season for the Huskies. Sarkisian for the first time in his Huskies career is 1-0. At the end of the day that is all that matters is wins and losses and the Huskies are 1-0.


- Thankfully the Huskies had Chris Polk running healthy today or the outcome could have been different. I feel at times Sarkisian goes away from the basics which is pound Chris Polk down their throats. In the first half Polk ran nine times for 59 yards(6.6 YPC) along with Jesse Callier who ran twice for 16 yards(8.0 YPC) the Huskies should have ran the ball more. I understand Sarkisian wanted to give his young quarterback confidence and he did run the ball quite a bit in the second half. In the second half Polk carried the ball 14 times for 63 yards(4.5 YPC) while Callier ran eight times for 31 yards(3.9 YPC). So Sarkisian did feature the run when he realized he had a ball game on his hands in the second half.

I noticed on the Huskies running plays that to the right side they ran simply power behind Collin Porter and Erik Kohler. While on the left side they did sweeps with fullback Amosa sealing off the defensive end.  The Huskies will be featuring the running game this season and hopefully with Kearse healthy can make teams pass on play action passes. Also by Polk being healthy look for the Huskies to redshirt Bishop Sankey as he didn't play today. With Polk healthier look for him to receive 30 plus carries but Sarkisian in the second half did run the ball 22 times compared to just nine passes.

- The Huskies two big time five-star recruits didn't factor much in today's game. On the Huskies first scoring drive Price hit a screen pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a gain of 10 which set up the Huskies first score of the season. The Huskies didn't throw a single pass towards Seferian-Jenkins for the rest of the game despite throwing quite a bit of short passes.  The Huskies other big time recruit Kasen Williams had just two receptions for six yards but did score a critical touchdown. Williams also had two drops during the game as well.

Going forward I'm not worried about these two as they'll make plenty of big plays when their Huskies career is over. Seferian-Jenkins on his only catch showed how great of an athlete he is despite his big frame. I was hoping the Huskies would feature him more in the short passing game which hopefully going forward they do. As for Williams once Kearse went out due to injury I figured he would be featured but he wasn't. Williams did run a great drag route when Price was under pressure to score his first of many touchdowns in a Huskies uniform. I remember Reggie Williams dropping his first three passes ever thrown to him then probably didn't drop a single pass ever again after that. I expect both guys to have big bounce back weeks next week as Sarkisian will showcase them more.

- This was a strange game for Keith Price as he did complete 68.0% of his passes and threw three touchdowns to zero interceptions. On the other hand he threw for only 102 yards in 25 pass attempts(4.1 YPA) which going forward isn't going to get the job done. Now you guys should know I'm no apologist but Price had two huge dropped passes. If Kevin Smith hangs onto that 41 yard touchdown pass and DiAndre Campbell hangs onto a 25 plus yard pass then Price is 21-25 with 168 yards passing with four touchdowns and everyone is bragging how he's the next Jake Locker.

The offensive line allowed three sacks but considering the opponent that simply isn't going to get the job done. Price was also pressured quite a bit and once Kearse went down had no receivers who could make the defense pay for eight man boxing the Huskies. Price in his 19 completions completed a pass to 10 different receivers but his longest pass all game long was his 10 yard completion to Seferian-Jenkins on the second series of the game. Price did just enough to get the victory though and now for his career has five career touchdowns to zero interceptions. Price will have to play better if the Huskies are going to be playing in late December or early January.

- I would say this was mixed results for the coaching staff. Sarkisian in year three is having to play a ton of young guys including the most important position on the field at quarterback. I felt in the first half Sarkisian was getting too cute and I'm aware he did run the Huskies main plays. You didn't see nearly enough of Seferian-Jenkins or Williams. You also saw zero fly sweeps to Callier which I hope was to hide that play as I liked that play.  The offense was helped out by the Eagles gift wrapping 17 points to the Huskies in turnovers. I did like that in the second half Sarkisian pounded Polk and Callier more which was nice to see.

I think Nick Holt and the defensive staff really need a re-evaluation. The defense was an embarassment today allowing over 500 yards to an FCS team including 473 yards passing. The Huskies had just one sack on the Eagles in 70 pass attempts which is pathetic. The Huskies did stop the run holding the Eagles to 31 yards on 17 carries(1.7 YPC) but that doesn't matter when they are throwing for almost 500 yards. Now Sarkisian's teams the last two years tend to improve as the season goes on which is nice. He needs to figure out a way to have his team play well in September. As nice as the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska was had the Huskies lost today all that and then some would have been negated. Sarkisian was 35 seconds away from having quite a few fews including myself riding him all week long. Instead the folks at KJR will kiss his ass all week long which is fine as long as everyone realizes the Huskies were not properly prepared for this ball game.

In conclusion, the only thing that matters in sports is the final scoreboard. In the Tyrone Willingham days the Huskies almost won several games. The key word is almost which nobody cares about. Last year the Huskies won the Holiday Bowl which is all anyone remembers but nobody remembers the four wins in the final play. Had Folk missed the kick vs USC, the Beavers held on for that two-point conversation, California having a goaline stand or Locker throwing an incompletion or worst yet a sack/interception against the Cougars away from staying home last year. In sports it's all about the scoreboard and the scoreboard reads the Huskies are 1-0 for the first time since 2007. The Huskies must improve obviously or they are in for a very long season. Every quarterback on the Huskies schedule has to be circling that game in excitement which hopefully the Huskies make some adjustments this week. The Huskies were a little banged up this week hopefully they return to health as they take on Hawaii Warriors who defeated fellow Pac-12 Colorado Buffaloes. The Huskies won the game and at the end of the day as long as there is a scoreboard that is what ultimately matters.

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