Since the Pac-12 began awarding Freshman Player of the Week honors in 2019, just one player has been named Defensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week simultaneously.
His name is Carson Bruener.
Bruener also did it in his first career start.
After standout sophomore inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio was lost for the season with an arm injury, Bruener — the son of Husky national champion and longtime NFL tight end Mark Bruener — got the nod Saturday over redshirt freshman Daniel Heimuli against Stanford. And in an impressive 20-13 win, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder was an instant revelation — tallying a team-high 16 tackles with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Though Husky head coach Jimmy Lake insists he saw a preview in practice.
“He showed that he was able to diagnose plays fast and pull a quick trigger,” Lake said of Bruener, who played every snap. “He did the same thing in the game. We always talk about practice execution becomes game reality. He does it in practice; and then, sure enough, he does it in the game. He was able to diagnose it quick and then pull the trigger. It was awesome to watch.”
Husky fans will hope to watch a repeat performance Saturday against an Oregon team that ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (204.9) and third in yards per carry (5.34).
This might be deemed a somewhat surprising move forward for Bruener — considering the former Redmond High School standout didn’t play as a true freshman last fall, then was momentarily moved to outside linebacker in the spring.
But it appears he’s found a home at his original position.
“I’ve progressed a lot as a player (since arriving in summer 2020),” Bruener said Saturday night. “I was on scout team last year. I was even on scout team at outside linebacker. They moved me to outside linebacker, then for fall camp moved me back (inside). I had to work my way up.
“But looking at film from last year to now, I feel like the biggest thing is me just knowing the playbook. Because before I would know it, but there would be a few plays and schemes and techniques here and there that I just didn’t have down. But now I’m starting to figure those things out, and it’s just helping me out on the field.”
Ironically, the last Husky to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors was Ulofoshio — who did so after wrecking Oregon State on Nov. 8, 2019, one week before his first career start.
But Bruener wasn’t the only Husky to take home hardware Monday. Redshirt junior placekicker Peyton Henry was also named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week, after he converted all four field goal tries in the win over Stanford. Henry, who has knocked through nine of 11 field goal tries and 18 extra points this season, has also converted 15 of 17 kickoffs into touchbacks since taking that role from Tim Horn.
Injury updates (and non-updates)
Though The Seattle Times originally reported the news Saturday, Lake confirmed that sixth-year senior Ryan Bowman will miss the remainder of the season with an arm/shoulder injury. He had surgery Monday.
In 49 career games at UW, the former walk-on from Bellevue registered 124 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception — earning All-Pac-12 second-team honors in 2019.
“He’s been a tremendous Dawg,” Lake said of Bowman. “He represents everything we talk about. He came here as a walk-on, climbed the depth chart with his work ethic and his toughness. He represents everything that we try to make our Dawgs be. He became a starter and earned a scholarship and also was a member of our leadership council and is still a huge leadership figure on our team. He’s undergoing surgery today and then after that he’ll be around the team for the rest of the year.”
Elsewhere, second-year freshman wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk — who sustained a chest injury on the first offensive play against Montana and was expected to be out for the remainder of the regular season — dressed for the Stanford game and went through warm-ups but did not play.
On Monday, Lake said Polk — like so many others — is “week to week.”
“If there comes a point where he’s going to be available, I’ll tell you after the game, after he plays,” Lake said with a laugh. “But no status update at this point. With the injury that he sustained, he’s able to use his legs, obviously. It was an upper-body injury. So it’s just nice to get him out there and stay fresh in terms of his technique and his route-running.”
A host of other Huskies who missed the Stanford game — including left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, safety Asa Turner, running back Kamari Pleasant and tight end Quentin Moore — are also week to week.
Reviewing referee decisions
The referees made several questionable decisions Saturday — including an offsides penalty against Zion Tupuola-Fetui when it appeared the play clock had already hit zero, and back-to-back runs by Cameron Davis and Dylan Morris where UW (allegedly) failed to earn a single yard on third and fourth down.
When asked if “ZTF” was correct to jump the snap, thinking delay of game would be called, Lake said: “No. We don’t make any excuses. No explanations. He was offsides and that was a huge penalty, and we will get that corrected. He needs to stay on sides. So we don’t make excuses and explanations about anything, about referees, all this and all that and the other. He was offsides. That’s on us. That’s on me first. And we will get that corrected.”
The penalty, which gave the Cardinal a first down on fourth-and-4, preceded an eventual Stanford touchdown.
As for apparently poor spots on Davis’ run and Morris’ quarterback sneak?
In that case, Lake had more of a public opinion.
“I agree with the (opinion that Davis got enough for a first down on) third down. And I agree on the fourth down (play that Morris’ forward progress should have moved the sticks),” Lake said. “And again, not going to make excuses. Let’s not make it close. If it’s third-and-1, let’s get a 10-yard gain. How about that? And if it’s fourth-and-1, let’s get a 5-yard gain.
“Let’s not make it close. Let’s not leave it up to anybody else. But if you go back to our UCLA game when they had the quarterback sneak on the goal line, it felt like it took 15 seconds to stop the play (allowing forward progress). And then on our fourth-and-1 it took about a second-and-a-half to stop the play. And so, our momentum was going forward. But what we’re going to try to do from now on is, let’s not make it close. Let’s not leave it in the hands of anybody else. If we need 1, let’s get 3.”