I watched the game again, and because I was watching it on the ESPNU replay, they didn't cut away to Rece Davis in the studio, and instead I got to see Terrence Toliver's first touchdown, from the beginning of the play. It was great.
Anyway, on second viewing, some of the things we've talked about already came into somewhat sharper focus. Defensively, we just did not cover the other team well enough in the middle of the field. Usually, if the opponent was on the outside against Peterson, Eugene, or Hawkins, we had pretty solid coverage. Even when Riley had man coverage way on the outside and down the field, the coverage was there. Jake Locker's a really good quarterback, and sometimes he made a perfect throw, and there's nothing that can be done about that other than generate a better pass rush. If the receiver was in the middle of the field in a safety's or linebacker's zone though, he was usually wide open.
In the running game, Washington had a lot of success when they ran misdirection or counters. This tells me that our defensive front seven was playing very aggressively but without much discipline. This is also seen when we would rush the passer and leave big holes for Locker to run through.
You can't really point out any player who didn't perform. Every defender made a play or two, particularly in the linebacker corps. I think you can point to Rahim Alem and say that he should have gotten a better pass rush and you could say that Chad Jones and the three-man rotation at safety (Danny McCray, Brandon Taylor, Karnell Hatcher) was pretty much invisible. And you'd be right.
On second viewing, I saw Josh Downs out there a good bit, and while his play is drawing praise, I can't really say he made any more plays than Charles Alexander or Drake Nevis made (both of whom made plays). He looked like he belonged, but did not look like he stood out. I also say Chancey Aghayere and Lavar Edwards on the ends a fair bit. I never saw Chase Clement or any of members of the Class of 2009 other than Downs.
The linebackers were solid in the running game. Kelvin Sheppard was not a starter, but seemed to get as much time as the other starters other than Harry Coleman, who was in the game for virtually every play as far as I could tell. Other than Cutrera's interception and Riley's nice coverage on a wheel route, the linebackers were pretty much invisible in the passing game.
Offensively, I think I can diagnose the problem with the power running game. It was the offensive line. The holes just weren't there. Charles Scott ran as hard as ever, and when there was a hole he got through it. If the problem was on the center-left guard I would be very concerned, as these are new starters T-Bob Hebert and Josh Dworaczyk. However, it seemed to be the line as a whole, which tells me it may just be a game-specific thing. We get another chance against a defensive front seven we should be able to overmatch next week when we play Vandy. We'll see how that goes.
When we ran option or ran to the outside, we had a lot of success. Jordan Jefferson really runs the option well. He did not make one bad decision in the outside zone or the inside zone when deciding whether to keep the ball or give it up. That's not to say every decision was right. He certainly needs to avoid taking big hits.
The passing game could not have been more basic. At no time did we try to get the ball down the field to an outside receiver, except for Lafell's touchdown. We ran a lot of short passes, passes to running backs, and a couple of throws to the tight end. Early in the game, Jefferson was not particularly accurate, but he settled down and started hitting his targets.
One area I would like to see an athletic, mobile quarterback like Jefferson improve is in his ability to make a play when the protection breaks down. Sometimes, when the protection wasn't there, Jefferson would scramble around but he never made a play. He just bought himself time to get rid of the ball. Maybe the receivers couldn't break open or something else was going wrong, but probably the biggest difference between Locker and Jefferson was that when the play broke down, Locker was able to make something positive happen while Jefferson generally had to just unload the ball out of bounds.
Our special teams play, other than our punting was pretty solid, I thought. Our kickoff coverage was good, and at no time did Washington threaten to break a long one. The kickoff return game took advantage of pooch kicks to get really good field position. We didn't miss a field goal attempt or get a penalty on a return. If we can get better distance on punts, I think special teams will be good.