RECAP: Illinois vs. Washington – Post-game Awards: Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Sidney Jones

Linebacker, Shaq Thompson celebrates his pick six with teammates and fans in Touchdown Terrace.

Linebacker, Shaq Thompson celebrates his pick six with teammates and fans in Touchdown Terrace.

Overall: UW 44 Illinois 19

The Washington Huskies have been searching for their identity as a football team early on this season. With new coaches, new schemes, and new players, the Huskies have struggled to fall into a rhythm and play a complete game. Well, the Dawgs got some answers this week after their most complete game of the season. Quarterback, Cyler Miles has proven he can command the offense and distribute the ball to the Husky playmakers. The running game is improving week to week as the offensive lineman and running backs continue to grind out yards and touchdown runs. The Husky passing game is becoming more consistent as well. John Ross III is without a doubt one of the most electrifying players in the country. His four receiving touchdowns on the season have been explosive plays of 55 yards or more. Defensively the Huskies were expected to give way to an experienced Illinois passing game. The defensive responded well, Shaq Thompson scored two defensive touchdowns, Hau’oli Kikaha sacked Wes Lunt three times, and true freshman cornerback Sidney Jones held his own. The Huskies need to clean up their special teams play going into conference play. Punter Korey Durkee fumbled a snap giving the Fighting Illini a free safety. Also, a costly block in the back penalty negated perhaps the flashiest kick return I have ever seen…courtesy of John Ross III of course. Click Here to watch PAC-12 Network’s game highlights.

MVP – Shaq Thompson (4 Tackles, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Recovery, 2 TDs)

Shaq Thompson finally proved to be the playmaking defensive player he was hyped up to be. He has consistently been the team’s most reliable tackler, but he took his game to another level and made two game-breaking plays. Shaq has a high football IQ and seems to always be around the ball and that surely paid off for the Huskies. On the offensive side of the ball, Shaq nearly turned a 13-yard run into yet another long touchdown run before getting tripped up. Thompson’s versatility on both sides of the ball has been essential to the Huskies success. To add to his great week, Shaq has been named PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

Offensive Player of the Game – Offensive Line Unit

Check these stats out:

  • Five Husky running backs averaged 4+ yards per carry.
  • 245 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • 1 Sack.

The offensive line played a great game. They helped the Husky running backs bulldoze their way to 245 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line established their dominance of the line of scrimmage while controlling the pace of the game. All the while they only gave up one sack, which some may argue was not even their fault. The sound performance of the offensive line allowed the Husky skill position players to shine on Saturday.

Hau'oli Kikaha celebrates one of this three sacks last Saturday against the Fighting Illini.

Hau’oli Kikaha celebrates one of this three sacks last Saturday against the Fighting Illini.

Defensive Player of the Game – Hau’oli Kikaha (6 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery)

Now, the obvious pick here would be Shaq Thompson with his two defensive touchdowns, but he has already been awarded the overall MVP. Trying to spread the love a little, this week’s DPOG goes to the quarterback assassin, Hau’oli Kikaha. With three sacks on Saturday Kikaha now has 22 sacks in his illustrious Husky career. Nothing helps out a young and inexperienced secondary than a potent pass rush. Kikaha sure made things a whole lot easier by relentlessly pursuing the Illinois QB all game. With his standout performance rushing the passer, Hau’oli Kikaha is your Husky Defensive Player of the Game.

Special Teams Player of the Game – Cameron Van Winkle (3 for 3 on field goals)

Van Winkle had his best performance in a Husky uniform on Saturday converting all three of his attempted field goals. He made his two routine attempts from 20 and 25-yards out respectively. However, he nailed a 51-yard field goal which is an excellent kick for any NFL kicker, let alone a college player. Converting from that distance might be the confidence booster he needed to start his breakout season.

Most Improved Player – Sidney Jones (3 Tackles, 0 Receptions Allowed)

The big story going into this game was how the Huskies would replace starting cornerbacks, Marcus Peters (suspension) and Jermaine Kelly (ankle). No player stepped up more than the true freshman cornerback, Sidney Jones. He held his own against a bigger and more experienced Illinois receiving corps. Jones proved that he could stay focused, disciplined, and play sound football for 60 minutes on the big stage. Coaches praised his performance along with his demeanor on and off the field. Being a true freshman, Jones will have his growing pains, but Husky Nation should be excited for what his future holds.

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