The Huskies Very Nearly Lost To The Rainbow Warriors

I mean, it’s like, come on!

That game was a fucking shit-pile from beginning to end, with the exception of John Ross being my sunshine on a cloudy day.  Do you believe in Love At First Sight?  What if it’s been multiple sights, but you never really appreciated what was in front of you until now?  Oh mercy me, I’m rambling …

I don’t even know what to say after a game like that.  The defense was all out of sync for the entire first quarter.  The running game completely disappeared for most of the game.  And our quarterback couldn’t do a God damn thing the entire second half.  We were LUCKY to come out of that with a win.  If Hawaii would’ve ever managed to snag a lead on us after we got to 17 points, we would’ve been screwed.

Thankfully, the defense started to get its shit together once the Rainbow Warriors got a 10-point lead on us early.  Marcus Peters ended up having a pretty good game, but you can’t discount his disaster of a first quarter.  It looked like he was playing about 15 yards off of his receiver all day.  I don’t know if it’s just the style of their offense, or if they somehow game planned something against us, but when they threw the ball, they overwhelmingly threw to the outside.  I’m guessing their quarterback’s weak spot is hitting receivers down the middle of the field, because he didn’t seem to have much success when he tried that.

The defensive line would go long stretches without getting much pressure, and there were a lot of times where we were gashed in the running game pretty good.  But, they stiffened when they had to and incorporated just enough big plays behind the line of scrimmage to keep Hawaii from totally running away with this one.  Danny Shelton looks like the beast we all figured he’d be, which is a comforting sight.  If he’s not double teamed, he’s on the warpath.  And, even when he is double teamed, he’s getting extreme push to disrupt what the offense is trying to do.

The only thing the defense couldn’t do was create a turnover, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  I think, by season’s end, we’ll be pretty happy with our team’s turnover differential, as they were constantly jumping routes and trying to strip balls.

Offense was a completely different story.  We moved the ball pretty damn efficiently in the first half.  That nifty little reverse to John Ross to score from 20 yards out was a thing of beauty!  When you bring in Coach Pete, you’re bringing in a solid head coach for your football program, but you’re also bringing him in for a little razzle dazzle, and he didn’t disappoint in his first game.  These plays aren’t something you want to feature on every drive, but you pick your spots, and even though you’re known as a coach who will take some crazy chances, it’s still nearly impossible to predict when they’ll happen or what they’ll be.

Our running game has potential, even though we were basically manhandled for most of the second half (until that final drive, when we were able to run out the last four minutes or so).  Dwayne Washington was the de facto starter, and I thought he looked pretty dynamic at times, though the numbers don’t bear that out.  Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper had four combined carries.  I still like Cooper, and think he’ll find a few moments to shine this year, but Callier looks like a shell of his former, pre-injury self.

The story for me in the running game was Lavon Coleman, who’s apparently a red shirt Freshman I’d never heard of before this game.  He’s got the kind of power and burst that can be a workhorse for this team.  Indeed, the team trusted him with the game’s final drive – even after he fumbled the ball that we ended up falling on – and he delivered.  If this game is any indication, the Huskies will have a nice two-headed hydra at running back with Coleman and Washington.

The offensive line looked better than it had in years when it comes to pass protection, but that’s not saying a whole helluva lot.  Still, Lindquist had time, he just didn’t know what the fuck he was doing when he had that time.  Also, there’s no excuse for our running game to be shut down for as long as it was in the second half.  Credit Hawaii for simply out-fighting us in the interior.  That will need to be rectified as the season goes on.

Ultimately, this game came down to the play of the quarterback.  Jeff Lindquist was starting for the first time, so it’s reasonable to give him a pass on this one.  It’s unfair to expect perfection right out of the gates.  Nevertheless, for an entire half of football, he was nothing but a detriment to this team.  Usually, when you’ve got quarterbacks with issues throwing the ball, they can make up for it with their legs.  I have a feeling if we’d gone with Troy Williams to start the game, this is something we would’ve enjoyed.  We might not have had that breathtaking 91-yard touchdown pass to John Ross in the second quarter, but I bet it would’ve been a more comfortable victory, with a much improved running game.

This game really took a turn for the worse midway through the third quarter.  Hawaii had just kicked a field goal to make it a 17-13 game.  Lindquist passed for 21 yards on the first two plays of the drive, then we ran it down to the 50 yard line to make it 4th & 1.  At this point in the game, the defense had been on point for the last two full quarters, only giving up those three points on the previous drive.  The Time of Possession battle was HEAVILY in Hawaii’s favor, thanks to their 10-play and 18-play scoring drives back in the first quarter.  Say what you will about the announcing team (and the color guy’s bias towards the Rainbow Warriors), but they made a good point about how the effects of those two early drives would more than likely be felt late in the game, with tired legs and hands on hips and so on and so forth.  We could’ve taken CHARGE of this game right then and there.

And, indeed, it looked like we were going to go for it.  But, instead, we wasted a time out, and when we came back from commercial, the punt team was on the field.

This was an unconscionably stupid decision by the coaching staff.  For starters, you HAVE to go for it there!  It’s 4th & 1 (but, more like 4th & inches) at the 50!  You’re going up against the Rainbow Fucking Warriors!  This isn’t the Crimson Tide defense we’re talking about.  If you can’t nut up and get a few inches against Hawaii, then you might as well prepare yourself for a lousy fucking season.

When I saw the time out was called, I figured it was just the coaching staff making sure the offense knew exactly what play should be called.  More than likely (the more I think about it), they were probably just stalling to see if the refs would go back and look at the spot of the ball.  Either way, if you’re not going to go for it there, WHY CALL THE TIME OUT?  You’re at midfield; take the delay of game penalty!

That decision to punt was Playing It Safe to the extreme.  I don’t necessarily need Big Balls (Coach) Pete here to go for it on fourth down every time; but I can’t abide punting at the 50 yard line on 4th & inches when you’ve got the most experienced offensive line in one of the best conferences in college football!

I belabored this point on Twitter, but the fact remains:  there wasn’t an immediate impact to this decision.  The Rainbow Warriors didn’t come back on the very next possession and ram it down our throats.  But, for one thing, it set a tone.  The Huskies were going to be timid for the rest of that game.  And, for another, it cut the legs off of the ONLY decent drive the Huskies managed in that half (until they ran out the clock to close things out).

This put a ton of undue pressure on a defense that had already been worked to death to that point in the game.  Which ultimately gives me even MORE respect for what this defense was able to accomplish in this game.  Holding Hawaii to 16 points in this environment was a sight to behold.  If we go for it there and succeed, we probably end up scoring points on that drive.  Which would’ve taken some of the pressure off of our defense.  At the VERY least, it would’ve used up more time on the clock, which would’ve been nothing but a help to our cause.

And, who knows, maybe Lindquist would’ve had a better game had we gone for it.  He was certainly off on the majority of his throws in the second half.  But, he completed a couple on this drive.  Had it continued, maybe he could’ve gotten into a better rhythm.  A lot of what if’s surrounded that decision to punt.  I just hope it’s not a harbinger of hyper-conservative decisions to come.  Because, looking back, even if we don’t convert there, we still have them at midfield and likely would’ve either forced a punt or held them to a field goal.  Granted, that would’ve meant that we would’ve needed to score at some point in the second half, but you can’t live in fear.  I would’ve rather we took the chance, even if it might have ultimately cost us a game we had no business winning in the first place.

Heading into Game 2 against Eastern, I’m absolutely petrified with fear.  If we play like we played against Hawaii, you can chalk that up to a loss and a bunch of snarky replays on SportsCenter.  Oh, the top 25 team with the great and powerful Chris Peterson can’t beat a team from the Divison I Football Championship Subdivision?  Or, something a little catchier with “boo yah” tacked onto the end.

As Husky fans, we have to hope for a couple of things.  Cyler Miles is eligible to play after his 1-game suspension; we have to hope that he’s adept at running this offense enough to be a viable starter in this game.  Because, if Troy Williams isn’t good enough to replace Jeff Lindquist in that Hawaii game, with how atrocious he was in the second half, then I have no doubt in my mind that Cyler Miles is the best quarterback on this team.  Period.  Cyler Miles with even a partial grasp of the offense would be better than what we got in the first game.

Secondly, we have to hope there’s no stubborn pride at play from the coaching staff.  Yes, Cyler Miles was wrong to get in that offseason brouhaha that ultimately led to his suspension.  But, the coaches have to let that shit go and put the best players out on the field.  Let Cyler Miles start, let him get his feet wet in these next three non-conference games at home, so ultimately he’ll be ready to go once the table is set for Stanford on September 27th.

Because I have some serious doubts that Jeff Lindquist is the man for the job.  He will CERTAINLY kill our chances in the “regular season”, and what’s worse, he might even cost us a chance at a win this weekend.

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