That, my friends, was one sweet game. From the very beginning, the Husky defense came out and brought the pain! We sacked their quarterback repeatedly, we picked him off twice, we were in his face on almost every pass attempt … it was really quite the show! To be fair, their running game was able to plow through us on the reg – if you take away all the negative yardage from the quarterback, their actual running backs were averaging over 6 yards per rush – but, thankfully, we were facing a Sark-run team, and therefore a team that wouldn’t stay dedicated to what’s working.
There’s plenty of reasons to bash on Sark; I know I, for one, will never trust anyone who comes to Seattle as a new hire and describes this as his “dream job”, because it’s a fucking lie (yeah, I’m looking right at you, Jerry Dipoto; sell that shit somewhere else because I ain’t buying it). But, Sark did a lot of good here. He won some big games with some under-manned squads and really helped us turn things around (aside from the offensive line, but what are you gonna do). Some people on Twitter were killing him, referencing “Same Ol’ Sark” when it comes to his teams not coming prepared to play. I don’t know if I buy that. I think he’s able to get his teams plenty motivated, and plenty prepared for what’s in store. I just think he’s a little too in love with the passing game, and it gets him in trouble sometimes.
I know, he’s not necessarily calling USC’s plays, but he’s still the fucking head coach. When you see your running backs are clearly burning the Huskies at such a fantastic clip, why would you continuously go away from that? Is it because you promised your quarterback a Heisman Trophy? Is it because your stud receivers will endlessly bitch and moan if they don’t get enough targets? Are you so worried about recruiting that you’d rather showcase a passing game that’s clearly faltering, ahead of a running game that could’ve gotten you the win? Honestly, as a Husky fan, I don’t understand what happened last night. I’m grateful! I thank my lucky stars they entrusted that game to an immobile quarterback behind a substandard pass-blocking unit. But, for the life of me, I’ll never understand why he didn’t run those backs on every single down until the Huskies could prove that they could stop it.
For what it’s worth, the Huskies were definitely improved in their own running game. I’m glad Coach Pete stuck to his word as far as riding the hot hand is concerned. Myles Gaskin had his REAL coming out party last night in Southern California, running the ball 22 times for 134 yards. Granted, a lot of that was in the second half, but this game was fairly close throughout, so those are still meaningful rushing yards we’re talking about (and not necessarily a team with a huge lead trying to run the clock out).
The fact of the matter is, the Huskies looked like the more talented team out there. Our secondary was ever the match of their vaunted, 5-star receivers; in fact, I’d say our secondary was BETTER! We were running stride for stride, we were jumping routes, we were in Cody Kessler’s head from the first minute of the game. When you play USC, your first objective needs to be: deny any big plays. It says a lot that we were able to hold their longest play to only 26 yards. Yeah, JuJu Smith-Schuster got his (6 catches for 82 yards), but we kept him and his wide receiver cohorts out of the endzone, and that’s huge!
Going further, I’d say that USC defense was okay, but you’d think with their high school talent base, they’d be able to stockpile more studs. The only reason why the Huskies didn’t score 30-40 points last night was because we were starting a true freshman quarterback who missed countless deep balls. When he wasn’t over-throwing receivers who had at least a full step on their defenders, he was underthrowing jump balls to Joshua Perkins. I know it comes with the territory – we’re going to suffer the growing pains, but it’ll all be worth it a year from now when he’s exponentially better – but it’s still super frustrating to watch in the moment. The Huskies started their first three possessions last night DEEP into USC’s territory, and came away with zero points. But, there were opportunities in the pass game all night, and Browning just couldn’t hit ’em. It seemed like he was really blasting his deep throws to receivers, and putting extra loft to Perkins; anyway you slice it, he couldn’t find the mark. I would hope he’ll have a better feel for those balls as he gains more experience, but then again, I’ve been watching Ryan Tannehill throw the ball a lot this year (since he’s on my fantasy team), and he’s a professional who still can’t get the loft right on a lot of his throws!
Browning wasn’t totally inept, but it’s telling that the only real successful semi-deep ball was thrown by receiver Marvin Hall to tight end Joshua Perkins. Nevertheless, Browning was able to manufacture a number of third down conversions, including the game-clincher in a slant to Jaydon Mickens on the final drive. Speaking of which, Mickens looked like a man possessed last night. It was good to see the fire there.
What we have here is the first “signature win” of Chris Petersen’s Husky career. It’s been a long time coming, but hopefully, it’s the first of many. Now, we get 10 days before playing Oregon at home – an eminently winnable game, as it turns out. 7:30pm start, so you KNOW there’s going to be a full, hard day of tailgating involved. I expect a rabid Husky fanbase to be present for a history-defining achievement. November 1, 2003, was the last time we beat the Ducks. It’s been 12 long years since we’ve tasted the sweet taste of victory over those savages. It’s time.