The Huskies Won The Apple Cup, Await Their Bowl Fate

I’ll be the first to admit that I had the wrong read on this game.  I thought the Cougs would do a better job stacking up against the run (especially after Dante Pettis was lost for the game so early on) and force Jake Browning to beat them with a bunch of scrubs through the air.  And, quite frankly, I thought they’d be able to move the ball better than they have the last four times they’ve played in this game.

What I underestimated was that Husky front, and their ability to get pressure with just three guys, time and time and time again.  What I OVER-estimated was the Cougars’ coaching staff’s ability to make adjustments, or shit, just learn from prior mistakes!

You see a three-man front coming after your quarterback, and it doesn’t occur to you to run the ball?  Not counting quarterback scrambles, the Cougs ran it 6 times in that game.  Are you JOKING me?  Why not more screen passes?  I get all the dump-offs, I get that the Huskies would give you everything underneath, so why are you holding onto the ball for so long, looking or the deep pass?  RUN THE BALL!  Run the ball to keep the Huskies off the field.  Run the ball to force the defense to come up towards the line of scrimmage.  Run the ball to get the play-action working.  Run the ball until they stop you, and THEN do what you came here to do in the passing game!

If I was a Cougars fan, I’d be furious.  Thankfully, I ended up at the right school.

As I said up top, and last week, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in this one.  I thought if the Huskies were ever primed for a let-down, it would’ve been right here.  The Cougs had everything to play for and the Huskies had their pride.  Then, almost immediately, Pettis and Lavon Coleman – both playing in their final games in Husky Stadium – were lost to injury, and my confidence in a Husky victory fell even further.  But, it turns out, that Husky talent will win the day more often than not.  Two of your top three offensive weapons go down (on top of all the other offensive weapons that went down earlier this season)?  Next man up gets the job done.

In this case, the Huskies rode Myles Gaskin.  Hard.  25 carries, 192 yards, and 4 TDs.  That puts him at 208 carries, 1,282 yards and 19 TDs on the season with a game left to play.  When you tack on his 18 receptions for 228 yards and 3 TDs in the passing game, you’re talking about one of the finest seasons from a skill position player in Husky football history!  Where would this team be without Myles Gaskin?  He’s a Junior, but will almost certainly go to the NFL next year, and boy has he earned it!

He made up for another pointless day for Jake Browning, who was 11/17 for 93 yards, while adding a goalline TD run.  It’s yet another one of those games where you can’t really judge the quarterback because he wasn’t asked to do anything other than hand the ball off.  I guess kudos to him for not audibling out of those called runs.

No receiver really stepped up, as what few passes he threw, he spread them around pretty good.  The belief is Pettis will be back for the bowl game, so fingers crossed.

Really, though, you have to give equal time to the defense.  They forced Falk into 3 interceptions and a fumble, as he managed 369 yards through the air, but it took him 55 attempts to do it.  I would never kill the Cougs for not making a quarterback change in this game; Falk has been one of the best QBs in school history, if not THE best.  I hang this loss on the coaching staff, all things considered.

Vita Vea and Co. were all over the place.  Vea is an absolute destroyer of worlds, he’s been amazing to watch this season, and throughout his Husky career.  It’s crazy that he ended up with only 2 tackles and half a sack on the stat sheet, but he was ALL over the place, in Falk’s face with consistent bull rushes on nearly every play, often allowing other Huskies around him to clean the play up.

Props to Senior cornerback Ezekiel Turner, JoJo McIntosh, and Ben Burr-Kirven for their interceptions.  I also wanted to shout out Byron Murphy for his lockdown presence in the defensive backfield, with 3 credited passes defended and 5 tackles, including a nifty tackle for loss.  The guys who end up coming back next year will be fun to watch.

And thus wraps up the regular season.  The Huskies finished 10-2, and thanks to the loss to Stanford, the Cardinal gets to play USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  I don’t know how much this season will be remembered, in the grand scheme of the Husky football program, but if it is, it’s going to be remembered for that fucking loss to ASU.  I will never come close to understanding how we let that one get away from us, preventing us from another crack at a conference title and probably a Final Four bid.

One forgotten tidbit is this:  maybe the non-conference schedule WASN’T such a cupcake festival!  If you look at the Top 25 College Football Playoff Rankings, Fresno State is down there at #25, having just knocked off Boise State in their regular season finale.  They turn right back around – this time on the road – to play Boise State in the Mountain West Championship Game, so they could very well fall right back out of the Top 25, but just knowing that they’re right there!  That’s not nothing!  One would have to think, had the Huskies beaten ASU, then beaten USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, we’d be talking about a 1-loss Husky team that’s beaten three Top 25 teams.  Is that enough to get you into the Final Four?  I guess we’ll never know.

What’s left is this:  the Huskies are currently ranked 13th.  Stanford is 12th, and assuming they lose to USC, you have to think the Huskies jump ahead of them.  The other biggie is TCU – currently 11th – has to play Oklahoma.  If TCU loses, that’s a third loss for them, and I would hope the Huskies would also jump ahead of them.  And, I know it’s a longshot, but Ohio State is 8th and they play the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers.  Even though Wisconsin hasn’t played anyone, if they can somehow beat the Buckeyes, that would give them three losses.

The point is, the top four teams will play in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.  After that, there are another four major bowls who will mostly accept at-large teams, or teams otherwise in the Top 12.  Assuming, at the very least, that Stanford loses, that should give the Huskies a shot.  Assuming Stanford and TCU lose, that should give the Huskies a better shot.  And so on and so forth.

Now, it was pointed out that last year Colorado was ranked 10th and ended up in the Alamo Bowl, as opposed to one of the 6 major bowls, but it should also be pointed out that USC was ranked ahead of Colorado, and there’s just no way that three Pac-12 teams were going to make it.

The big trouble-spot for the Huskies is Central Florida.  UCF plays Memphis in the American Athletic Conference.  UCF is undefeated and currently ranked 14th, one spot below the Huskies.  Now, ideally, UCF will lose, and the point will be moot.  But, if they win (Memphis is currently 20th), I have to wonder if they’ll be given a spot in one of the 6 major bowls.  It’s definitely possible, and maybe even likely!

Ultimately, it sucks being in this position.  It sucks to have largely the same team as a year ago, and not even playing for a conference title.  It sucks that that ASU loss is looming so large over the entire season, when they ended up firing their head coach before their bowl game!

At the same time, this is not a championship Husky team.  Ironically, had things gone differently, it’s almost certain that we wouldn’t have had to play Alabama in the playoffs.  But, I mean, do you really want to play the team that BEAT Bama?

There are too many flaws, particularly on offense, for this Husky team to overcome.  Sure, the defense probably could’ve hung in there like they did against Bama last year, but that’s not enough.

Still, it would’ve been nice to go back-to-back.

The Huskies Kicked Off Conference Play With A Resounding Road Victory Over The Buffaloes

There’s a point in every football game where you start to wonder if the slow start your team is experiencing is more than just a slow start.  Panic sets in.  If this thing keeps dragging on the way it’s going, we could fucking lose this thing!

For me, that happened early in the second quarter.  Colorado got the ball first and pulled out a very methodical drive for a touchdown.  The Huskies took their opening possession to around midfield before Browning threw an ill-advised interception.  Then, once again, the Buffaloes were able to march down the field on an 11-play drive, which stalled at the Husky 40-yard line.  Washington took the next possession into the Colorado red zone, but whiffed on the field goal, and I felt like just enough bad shit was happening to make this One Of Those Games.

Colorado was obviously hungry for revenge after falling on their asses in the Pac-12 Championship Game last year, and with the game being on their home field, with the pounding rain, pre-game injury announcements, and everything else, it just felt like the game could get away from us if we weren’t careful.

But, then the defense clamped down, and the tide overwhelmingly shifted to the Huskies’ favor.  We forced a 3 & Out, blocked the punt, punched the ball in over the goalline to tie it up, picked off a couple passes, and were able to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.

The Huskies blew it open in the second half.  A Browning to Quinten Pounds 43-yard touchdown made the game 17-7 on the opening drive.  Colorado would hit a field goal to make it 17-10, and that’s as close as it ever got.  Myles Bryant brought an interception back to the house, Salvon Ahmed got his first in-conference touchdown, Myles Gaskin busted one 57 yards for his second score of the evening, and then it was time for the reserves.  An impressive 37-10 road victory over what I believe will be a very good Colorado team when all is said and done.

Gaskin was the man in this one.  Before the game, it was announced that Lavon Coleman had a concussion and would miss at least this week, so the entire rushing load was put on Gaskin’s shoulders and he rose to the challenge.  27 carries, 202 yards, 2 TDs.  Ahmed, as I noted, got some run with the first unit as well, and finished with 6 carries for 27 yards and a score.  I can see why everyone likes him; he’s got a burst.  It’s only a matter of time before he really makes a big impact.

The other big news of the pre-game was Byron Murphy breaking his foot and being out for six weeks.  He’s our best cornerback, which obviously hurts, but we’re still really deep there (punctuated by the 3 picks in this one, including two by Jordan Miller), so hopefully we can weather the storm.  It’ll be good to have him back for the stretch run, when the games get really tough at the end of the season.

Azeem Victor had a huge game, with 10 tackles, a sack, and a TFL.  The receivers had a relatively quiet game, given how much we pounded it on the ground, and given Browning’s non-descript outing (11/21 for 160 yards, 1 TD & 1 INT).

Things could hardly have gone better for the Huskies this weekend.  I think that will prove to be a big win for us.  Oklahoma State lost, so we reclaimed our #6 ranking in both polls.  We go to Oregon State this Saturday and they look like the worst team in the conference, so that should be another easy victory.  After THAT, five of our final seven games are at home, with a BYE week also tucked in there for good measure.

It’s all setting up as it should, now we just have to go out there and win the games.

The Washington Huskies Looked Sloppy As All Get-Out In Their Win Over Rutgers

Gotta love a little Friday night college football season kickoff!

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know I had a lot of problems with how the Huskies looked yesterday.  I thought our offensive line got their asses WHUPPED, I thought Jake Browning – while brilliant at times – looked a little off, I thought the defense looked just sort of okay in the first half, and I thought no one outside of Dante Pettis, Myles Gaskin, and Drew Sample really stepped up and asserted themselves on offense.

The Huskies, more than anything, looked rusty and unprepared!  In the end, the 30-14 outcome might be the best thing to happen to them this season, as I definitely got the vibe that the Dawgs were maybe drinking a little too much of their own Kool Aid.  Like they could just show up and blow out Rutgers by 50 points or something.  Not so fast.

I thought Rutgers had a good offensive gameplan early.  Pound the ball and follow that up with quick, short passes.  Don’t hold the ball too long to let UW’s D-Line get home, and don’t throw the ball too deep to let UW’s athletic secondary make plays.  The problem for the Scarlet Knights was that while the Huskies made adjustments (and started to tackle better, though our tackling throughout the night was hit-or-miss … literally), they never changed their gameplan, when it was painfully obvious the Huskies were never too concerned about Rutgers stretching the field.  By that point, in the second half, it was a game of attrition and running out the clock.

Not for nothing, but as a huge underdog, Rutgers probably could’ve been a little more aggressive on 4th & short.  But, given the spread was somewhere around 27.5 in favor of Washington, losing by only 16 points was probably a victory for a good chunk of people (gamblers) in the world.

Pettis hauled in 3 passes for 85 yards, and tacked on a punt return for TD late in the first half to give the Huskies their first lead.  Without a second wide-out to take away some of the pressure, it might be tough sledding this season for Pettis, so I REALLY hope someone starts to step up soon.

Drew Sample had 3 catches for 63 yards, as he occasionally found himself wide open with lots of green in front of him.  I thought he looked too quickly to go out of bounds on his first reception, so it was nice to see him barrel through some people later in the game.

Myles Gaskin was the star of the show, though.  He caught 5 balls for 79 yards and a TD, making some brilliant diving/over-the-shoulder catches all over the field, really having the look of a true wide receiver.  He would also rush for 59 yards on only 7 carries (mostly in the second half, when we finally got some running lanes going).  If Gaskin can truly be this type of duel threat player for the Huskies, he’s going to REALLY help out this offense (and REALLY make himself a lot of money in the NFL as a LeVeon Bell-type player).

On defense, the Huskies could only muster the 1 sack (at the end of the game), because Rutgers was so focused on getting the ball out quickly.  That did translate into 2 interceptions for Byron Murphy, redshirt Freshman.  I thought our entire secondary showed up well in this one.  Taylor Rapp was all over the place, cleaning up the front seven’s missed tackles.  That Rutgers TD in the 4th quarter was almost another INT, our guy (don’t remember his name off-hand) just mis-timed his jump, but he had perfect position to make the play.

What’s most important about UW’s defensive play last night was, after a first, disasterous TD drive for Rutgers in the first quarter, they put the clamps down and nearly shut them out the rest of the way.  That’s the UW football I came here to see!

I guess, for my part, I’ll say that it was probably unreasonable to expect the Huskies to fly all the way across the country and put a pounding on a team that would surely look vastly different than they did last year in Husky Stadium.  Lots of transfer students, new coaching staff, new scheme.  Plus, being at home always helps.  I don’t know if Rutgers will be a bowl team like the dopey color guy was talking about, but I do agree that they look a lot better than they did last year.  I think they’ll have more than 2 wins, but I think they’ll fall just short of the necessary 6 wins.

That having been said, I’m going to be rooting like crazy for Rutgers the rest of the way.  If there’s one thing this Husky schedule needs, it’s a quality non-conference victory.  So, if we can squeeze Rutgers into the Baha Men “Who Let The Dogs Out” Bowl come December, I’ll be one happy Dawg fan.

Next Saturday, we get Montana at home.  Let’s do to them what I wanted to do to Rutgers.