This is not a Jacob Eason appreciation post.
Though, to be clear, it could be. Washington’s surging junior signal caller produced his most impressive performance yet Saturday, completing 24 of 28 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and a late interception. Through a third of the season, the former Lake Stevens standout has completed 73.1% of his passes, throwing for 1,063 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He ranks 13th nationally in completion percentage and 18th in pass efficiency rating (172.52).
So, yes, Eason was legitimately spectacular in UW’s resounding 45-19 road win over Brigham Young.
But he wasn’t the only one worth watching.
Here are three other things we learned from Washington’s first road win of the season.
The Husky offensive line continues to lead the way.
Even without starting running back Salvon Ahmed, who missed the game with a leg injury, Washington plowed ahead for 187 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry. A pair of UW running backs — junior Sean McGrew and redshirt freshman Richard Newton — compiled at least 80 rushing yards while averaging 5 yards per carry or better. And Eason, who operates best out of a clean pocket, was sacked a grand total of zero times.
The common thread, of course, is the UW offensive line.
“Our last two games I think our o-line has played well,” UW coach Chris Petersen said after the game. “When your o-line plays well, there’s a lot of other people that can have a chance to play well. The backs have been stepping up and Eason has been doing a great job.”
Up front, at least, this is not a BYU-specific revelation. UW’s experienced offensive line has cleared the way for at least 186 rushing yards and 4 yards per carry in all four games this season — and, yes, that includes the 20-19 loss to Cal.
When Eason excels, and the running backs roll, it inevitably starts up front.
UW’s defensive players are keeping everything in front of them.
It’s not that BYU didn’t enjoy a measure of success in the passing game. Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson completed 26 of 42 passes (61.9%) for 277 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Eight BYU receivers registered receptions. Wilson completed passes of 28, 23, 23, 22, 19, 18 and 16 yards.
And yet, the Cougars scored just 19 points.
That has something to do with UW’s three forced turnovers, of course. But Jimmy Lake’s crew has also been determined to keep the ball in front of them — to some degree — and prevent the back-breaking, momentum-shifting touchdowns.
In Washington’s first four games, its defense has allowed a total of one — one — completed pass of 30 yards or more. That ranks tied for fourth in the country. (The next-best team in the Pac-12, Oregon, has allowed two.)
Meanwhile, USC — which Washington hosts this weekend — piled up touchdown passes of 77, 31 and 29 yards against Utah’s supposedly stout secondary Friday. Despite playing three different quarterbacks, the Trojans have registered 11 receptions of 30 yards or more this season (seventh nationally). First-year offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s air raid offense is delivering early results.
Something’s got to give Saturday.
Washington’s special teams have officially improved.
In the win over BYU, sophomore kicker Peyton Henry connected on six extra points and a 30-yard field goal. Joel Whitford dropped his only punt of the day inside the 20. Freshman Tim Horn drilled seven of eight kickoffs for touchbacks, and senior wide receiver Aaron Fuller returned a punt 88 yards for a score.
Even despite allowing a 48-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, the Huskies’ special-teams units had an encouraging day.
But don’t consider this a hasty conclusion.
UW’s special teams have been better in just about every category through four games, when compared to the units that consistently underperformed throughout the 2018 season. For proof, scan the direct statistical comparisons below.
2019: 16.29 yards (21st nationally)
2018: 5.30 yards (109th)
2019: 23.67 yards (36th)
2018: 17.81 yards (112th)
2019: 100% (7 for 7, long of 49)
2018: 72.7% (16 for 22, long of 41)
2019: 58.06% (51st)
2018: 32.43% (90th)
2019: 63.26 yards (40th)
2018: 60.11 yards (94th)
2019: 43.56 yards (46th)
2018: 40.52 yards (74th)
Opponent punt-return average
2019: 4.0 yards (38th)
2018: 10.20 yards (97th)
Opponent kick-return average
2019: 21.75 yards (76th)
2018: 21.05 yards (76th)
Through one-third of the regular season, Washington is only worse — and ever so slightly worse — in one of those eight categories. As always, there’s room for further improvement.
But we can safely conclude that Saturday was not a fluke.