Husky Defense & Return Game Impress In Opening Night Loss To Boise State

A lot of people are going to lay you a line of bullshit about the quarterback today.  I’m here to say it like it is.  Some will go out on a limb and tell you – based on one performance – that Jake Browning is going to be great one day.  I can’t confirm that based on what I saw last night, but I also can’t deny it.  Be hopeful if you want, but what I saw was a kid making his first start, being coached like it was his first start.  Lots of screen passes, lots of check downs, lots of rollouts followed by throwing the ball away.

I’ll admit, he had a pretty tough landing.  Catching that Boise State defense is a difficult way to start your college career, made all the more difficult by the fact that the Huskies couldn’t run the ball for shit.  And, with the vast majority of the quick passes targeting receivers at or near the line of scrimmage – in an attempt to eliminate hits & sacks – the Broncos’ secondary was able to crowd the line and shut down any YAC we were hoping to get.

All in all, it was pretty typical of a team trying to protect a very young prodigy.  Will he be great?  I have no idea.  His college career could go any number of ways from here.  We won’t know how good Browning will be until they decide to open up the playbook for him.  And, they won’t open up the playbook for him until they know he’s ready to handle it.  And by that, I mean when the offensive line gets its shit together and starts helping out the rest of the offense.

Look, we all knew this season was going to be a difficult road.  There’s so much turnover along both lines.  But, this offense is going to go nowhere fast if it doesn’t figure out how to generate a run game.

What impressed me most of all about last night’s game was how the defense really clamped down.  Boise State was able to seemingly move the ball at will in the first half, but the defense found a way to hold them to only 16 points.  Given the way our offense played, you had to go into halftime expecting a blowout (or, at the very least a comfortable victory for the home team, as there was no way our offense was going to be able to match or pass 16 points).  I was ready for a miserable final two quarters, but the defense held firm.

Boise State’s second half looked like this:  Punt, Punt, Punt (returned for a touchdown), Fumble, Punt, Punt, Punt, Kneel Down.  Not counting the kneel down, Boise State generated 100 yards of offense in the entire second half.  The run defense was particularly stout, and once our tackling started to improve, there wasn’t much the Broncos could do (they were breaking in a relatively inexperienced quarterback in their own right).

Dante Pettis was the man once again, he with the punt return for TD, to go along with a couple catches for 24 yards on offense.  I don’t know what those announcers were talking about last night, not including Pettis as one of our stars on offense along with Mickens, because THIS kid is the real deal.

In the end, it came down to a final drive, Huskies down 16-13 with two minutes left.  Had you told me that going into the game, I would’ve been really fucking impressed.  Granted, I would’ve predicted yet another disappointing finish – because come on, what are the odds that a true freshman quarterback is going to lead his team to victory in a 2-minute drill in his very first game? – but knowing that Boise State was favored by double digits certainly lends credence to this being a “moral victory”.

Washington took over on its own 35 yard line and immediately got into Boise State territory on the first pass for 19 yards.  Nice little catch and run for Dwayne Washington.  Two more incompletes followed, but on 3rd & 10, Browning connected with a receiver to get the first down and inch us into field goal range.  There was a sack, followed by another completion to the 19 yard line, followed by a pretty bogus penalty to push us back to the edge of field goal range.  That was followed by a sack pushing us all the way out and forcing us into using our final time out.  In the end, that’s probably the play that killed us.  On 2nd & 28, Browning connected on an 8-yard pass to get us back to the 29 yard line; and on 3rd & 20, with 21 seconds left (and the clock running), Browning spiked it.  That may or may not be the coach’s decision, but either way I don’t agree with it.  That’s PLENTY of time to run a quick out, or even a bubble screen at the sideline.  I guess, in that instance, you might leave yourself open for a holding penalty, but this is college football:  you HAVE to get as close as possible, because these kickers aren’t trustworthy at all.

In the end, our kicker pushed it barely right of the upright and that was that.  At that point, it’s hard not to feel gypped.  After ALL of that, I think the Huskies deserved to get the chance to play some extra football.  Hell, we might have lost either way, but I liked our chances the way our defense was holding up.

Oh well.  Another game next week.  Much softer landing with Sacramento State coming to town.

P.S.  Our punter needs to step his FUCKING GAME UP.  God damn it anyways.

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