Huskies 34, Illinois 24, Big 10 Network Negative Fifty

If your cable package has the Big 10 Network, then right off the bat you’re a better man than I, because I don’t even have cable!  Then again, I think this is a “Living Envying The Dead” scenario, because from what I saw of the Big 10 Network yesterday, it was the worst.  I’m talking Root Sports levels of bad.

My day started off with a moderately long run, followed by a shopping trip to the U Village.  If you’ve never been to the U Village, picture the worst place you’ve ever been to in your entire life and you’re on the right track.  Jam packed full of families and couples and yuppies, everything is over-priced, and there is zero open parking spots anywhere.  I seriously think 3/4 of the cars parked in U Village are just abandoned until the end of time.  And talk about your shitty locations!  A convergence of Montlake and NE 45th … I want to kill myself just thinking about it!

Anyway, once I got my crap, I came straight back to my neck of the woods and stopped off at the Hurricane Cafe for an omelette.  Gotta have fuel if you’re gonna engage in day drinking.

Yesterday’s game started at 3pm, so I walked over to the Yard House at around 2:30.  They were indeed going to show the Husky game, so I saddled up to the bar and started ordering Captain & Cokes.  By game’s end, I would have downed my 8th glass, and the Huskies would leave the game victorious.

But first, getting back to the Big 10 Network, seriously, what the fuck?  I don’t know how bad their announcers were, but the producers were pretty piss-poor!  It seemed like only about half of the time you’d get a replay of a play you actually wanted to see again.  And, in instances like early in the game where that Illini receiver dropped that wide open pass for a would-be touchdown, they didn’t even replay how he got open!  They just showed him dropping the ball over and over again!  Also, how many cameras did they have?  Like two?  Because you couldn’t get ANY alternate angles on close plays!  And what was with all the technical difficulties?  And WHAT is with their roundtable show that they kept advertising for?  Three guys sitting at a table with radio-style microphones?  This is TELEVISION you knuckleheads!  Get some real mics!

Ugh.  Pity the poor Big 10 fans.  Because their network sucks donkey balls.  And their conference logo is so off-the-charts stupid that I refuse to replicate it in print because it MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE!  Of course, considering their conference actually has 12 teams, why should “making sense” enter into the equation?

OK, I’m done ragging on the Big 10.  Except, wait, one more thing:  yesterday, the Pac-12 (see, we’re called the Pac-12 because there are TWELVE teams … you wouldn’t understand) went a whopping 3-1 against the Big 10.  Oh, that’s right, you don’t FUCK with the west-side!  Washington, of course, beat Illinois by ten points.  Arizona State narrowly edged out 20th-ranked Wisconsin 32-30, UCLA went into Nebraska and brought out the whoopin’ stick, winning 41-21.  The only game of the four that went the Big 10’s way was Ohio State defeating the lowly Cal Bears.  I think there should be a great shift in the polls after this week.

As for the Husky game, we should’ve been up by more early, but mistakes kept keeping us down.  It was 10-3 at half, but that’s after a couple of very costly Dwayne Washington fumbles (seriously, he ONLY carried the ball twice, and both times he fumbled) and a bunch of costly (and sometimes questionable) penalties.  Still, for all I was hearing all week about the high-powered Illini offense, that first half was a dreadful showing for them.  I thought they were supposed to be this fast, quick-snapping type of team, but they looked slow and their plays long-developing.

The Huskies got the ball out of the second half and marched right down the field for a quick touchdown and a 14-point lead.  That’s when Illinois finally came out of their shell and did some of those quick-snapping things I was anticipating in the first half.  I don’t know what they saw in that first half, but the adjustments they made at halftime were out of this world.  They were gashing us up the middle on runs, they were hitting us for long pass plays, and they brought out seemingly every bag of tricks they could find.  Flea-flickers, reverses, half-back and wide receiver passes.  This was a legitimately fun game to watch in the second half, because both offenses came alive.  Fortunately, the Huskies managed (for the most part) to keep it a two-score game, so we didn’t have to get too uncomfortable.

I will point out that this is probably a game we would have lost last year.  In a way, this had Apple Cup written all over it, in that once their offense came alive, there was nothing our defense could do to stop them.  I don’t know what it was yesterday, but it didn’t seem like we had anything we could do to counter-punch once they got rolling downhill on us.  The difference is, last year we would have tried to slow the game down in a futile attempt to run out the clock.  This year, we kept up the quick pace and kept putting points on the board.  The strategy was better yesterday, and frankly the play-calling was better.  Get the ball to open receivers in space and let them make plays.  And, to their credit, just about everyone on that offense went above and beyond to get that extra yard and keep those drives alive.

Bishop Sankey continued his domination of college football and it’s looking more and more every day that he has what it takes to be great in the NFL.  208 yards on the ground, another 63 in the air, two total touchdowns; he is our MVP, our rock.  With Washington fumbling everything in sight, I kept calling for Cooper to back Sankey up, but I totally forgot about Callier.  Glad he’s still on the team.  He rushed for 66 yards in a backup capacity and should be second on the depth chart going forward.  He looked much faster than he did in the game against Boise State as he returns from last year’s injury.

Keith Price had another efficient game, going 28 of 35 for 342 yards and 2 TDs.  There were a number of drops sprinkled in there which could have increased his completion percentage, but either way, he made smart decisions all day.  What he didn’t complete (or nearly complete), he smartly threw out of bounds instead of taking a sack or throwing a pick.  You can’t say enough good things about the kid after a legitiimately bad season like he had last year.  He has taken to this style of offense and he’s running with it.

On the receiving side of things, I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I’m glad to have Kevin Smith back” yesterday at the bar.  He and Price seem to be on the same wavelength and it’s fun to watch.  Jaydon Mickens led the team in receptions, but he wasn’t able to break anything for a huge gain like he was in the first game.  Kasen Williams had a relatively quiet game, though he made the best of his opportunities, especially on his 43-yard catch.  The offense struggled to get ASJ into the mix.  I don’t know if that has to do with the way they defended him, or if he’s just sluggish from missing so much time in the off-season to being suspended.  I would expect his output to improve in the coming weeks as Sark makes more of a concerted effort to get him the ball.

I thought the defense looked amazing in the first half, sacking their QB four times and only giving up the three points (on two field goal tries).  The second half was a different story entirely:  0 sacks and 21 points scored.  Their first drive in the second half saw them go right down the field in under four minutes, chewing through the heart of our defense.  We forced a punt on their next drive, but on the one after that, it was one play, 72 yards and a touchdown to make it a two-score game again.  After yet another 3 & Out, the next time the Illini touched the ball they went right down the field AGAIN for an easy touchdown in under four minutes.  That brought the game to within 7 points.  The Huskies made it a 10-point cushion and on their final drive, Illinois threw a pick.  Thanks to our offense, they didn’t see the ball again.

All in all, considering it was a road game against a fairly decent offense that could make some moves in that Big 10 (I’m not saying they’ll be ranked or anything, but they should be good enough to make a bowl game), this was a quality win for the Huskies.  If nothing else, it’s a good test – and a test they needed, entering Pac-12 play two weeks from now.

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