Washington-Southern Miss grades: True freshmen shine in Huskies' win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Washington’s 44-31 victory over Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl:
– It has simply been a pleasure to view the ongoing development of QB Jake Browning (+7.1) during his true freshman season. The Granite Bay, California, native can absolutely spin a fine football with great accuracy and presents a truly scary scenario should the Huskies lure a vertical complement to take this team to another level. While his QB-counterpart eclipsed the 300-yard plateau and had two targets reach the endzone, Browning’s 29-yard pass to Dante Pettis at the end of the first quarter, and 20-yard pass to Jaydon Mickens in the second quarter, left the on-air commentators speechless. He finished the afternoon with an 81.3 accuracy percentage and 87.5 completion percentage when under pressure (seven-of-eight attempts). Browning also connected on all six attempts between 10–20 yards and averaged 10 yards per scramble when forced from the pocket—including four missed tackles.
– NT Elijah Qualls (+6.6) only required 35 total snaps to record the second-highest mark in the game, and did so without recording a single solo tackle. His presence was more than felt by Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens, with a sack, a pair of gut-wrenching hits, and two hurries. Qualls also controlled the line of scrimmage during 12 snaps in run defense, and made life miserable for the Golden Eagles’ interior offensive linemen.
– The game’s most valuable player, Myles Gaskin (+3.1), saved his most impressive performance of the season to secure HC Chris Peterson his first bowl victory in two seasons at Washington. The true freshman halfback was nearly untouchable, after eluding 13 tacklers during 26 rushing attempts, while manufacturing 181 yards on the ground. Gaskin finished the regular season ninth in the nation with a 112.7 elusive rating, and currently sits atop that list among running backs who’ve participated this bowl season with an impressive 281.5 mark. Despite being held to 11 yards in the first half, Gaskin exploded for 170 yards on 17 carries in the second half, and finished the day with four rushing TDs.
QB Jake Browning (+7.1)
NT Elijah Qualls (+6.6)
ILB Azeem Victor (+5.3)
WR Jaydon Mickens (+3.6)
HB Myles Gaskin (+3.1)
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
– Had Southern Miss secured the victory, WR Michael Thomas (+3.7) would have easily captured the honor of the game’s most valuable player. While Thomas added another dropped pass to bring his season total to seven, he was able to record the sixth-best yards per route run value of bowl season, at 4.42 on 43 snaps in route. His day could have ended with an even greater line, if not for friendly fire from a Golden Eagle teammate that cost him a handful of snaps mid-game. In total, Thomas finished with his team’s highest overall grade, nine receptions, 190 receiving yards, and two TDs, while tormenting Washington’s secondary.
– Southern Mississippi’s defense allowed the Huskies to post 44 points on Saturday, but the defense still featured a few impressive performances. Edge defender Dylan Bradley (+1.7) carried his regular season success over against Washington, securing a sack and three hurries on Jake Browning. Much like the majority of the Golden Eagle defense—38 total team missed tackles—Bradley added a pair of whiffs, but still recorded three stops, four solo tackles, and three assists.
– On most Saturdays, this performance from QB Nick Mullens (+1.3) would have garnered significant attention. Facing Washington’s true freshman duo of future superstars left his line as an unfortunate afterthought. Mullens posted an impressive 80.6 accuracy percentage but, despite solid overall numbers, his receivers let him down with four dropped passes. The true difference between Mullens and Browning can be traced to handling pressure, as Mullens only completed 6-of-14 attempts when forced from the pocket, and three of those dropbacks ended in sacks.
WR Michael Thomas (+3.7)
ED Dylan Bradley (+1.7)
DT Quincy Russell (+1.7)
QB Nick Mullens (+1.3)
HB Ito Smith (+0.4)