If I’m anything, I’m a waffler (but then again, am I really?); I like to look at both sides of an argument, blather on for a thousand words, then in the end not really take a stand or pick a side except to say, “Fuck it, who cares anyway?”
In the case of last week’s narrow Husky victory over Eastern Washington, I have a Gut Reaction and I have the Homer’s Rationalization. My Gut Reaction tells me, “Oh no! The Huskies gave up 50,000 yards passing last week to a lower-division school! Their defensive line didn’t do squat and their offensive line couldn’t protect Price enough when the chips were down! When we just needed 10 measly yards, mano a mano, we failed in our charge and it almost cost us! It took a flukey interception that almost wasn’t even an interception with seconds remaining on the clock to prevent one of the greatest upsets in the history of college football (because whenever a Division II school beats a Division I school – or whatever acronym you want to call these schools by – it IS one of the biggest upsets ever by definition)!”
My Gut Reaction (minus all the “we” stuff and the general sense of impending doom) is pretty much what every other Pac-12 fan is thinking (except for maybe Oregon State; God Bless Oregon State).
My Homer’s Rationalization is just me making excuses for what was a pretty piss-poor effort (in what turned out to be an exceedingly exciting game). It sounds like what follows:
First and foremost, the Huskies didn’t blow it entirely. They held on for the victory. 1-0 is still 1-0 and nobody’s going to remember how we got to be 1-0 this time two years from now (for the record, EVERYONE will remember how we got to be 1-0 this time next year, because I’m assuming we’ll play another D-II school and inevitably this game will come up as a motivating factor/cause for concern).
Secondly, the team we just beat was the very BEST of the D-II schools available. As far as cupcakes go, Eastern Washington is that stale, unfrosted, slightly burned, gluten-free cupcake nobody wants to eat. It’s not like we were playing Aunt Mabel’s Powder Puff Ruff Riders; this is a school that won their level’s championship last year and a school that has returned most of its key players. They’re a stepping stone in our pre-season before Pac-12 play; and as far as stepping stones go, I’d say we’re considerably higher on the stoop than some of our conference foes (Oregon notwithstanding; their stepping stone was like trying to leap a skyscraper in a single bound, then smacking face-first into the side of the 23rd floor).
Third, and probably most importantly, we got to learn a lot about this team. We learned we can’t just show up and handle a team decisively by being Huskies and putting on uniforms. This game is the ultimate motivator! Had we won 66-13, what would we have learned? That we can beat up on the smaller guy. We’d be cocky, overconfident, and poised for a thumping at the hands of Hawaii because we’d be so up-our-own-asses that we would CERTAINLY be looking ahead to Nebraska in week 3. Instead, we’re wounded, unsure of ourselves, and desperate to make this Hawaii game a statement that we’re not the whipping boys Eastern Washington almost made us out to be. There’s no looking ahead to Nebraska; not until we can get everyone else to quit looking back at Eastern.
Also, not for nothin’, but we learned that this might not be the greatest secondary in the world. Maybe the coaches need to change the scheme. Maybe certain players need to be riding more pine. Maybe we don’t need to change the scheme, but the players within that scheme need better coaching to reinforce where they need to be on the field. Whatever the case may be, this game was a learning tool that coaches can use to make sure those mistakes aren’t replicated in the more-important games down the road.
These are all important things; the fact that they were learned in a game we still managed to win says a lot too.
We learned that this team is resilient. They’re not going to necessarily lose their heads when the pressure is on. A last-second thrilling win can do wonders for a team’s confidence when they’re faced in a similar situation later on that season.
On the plus side, we DID force four turnovers. Nothing to sneer at, if you ask me. This defense wasn’t totally worthless. Too many times in the past, it’s been the opposing running game that has trampled us. On Saturday, we did fairly well against the run. If a team is going to choose to throw it 900 times in a game, odds are they’re going to gather up a lot of yards. If we can just tighten up our 3rd & 4th down defense, I think we’ll be ok.
But anyway, who cares? It’s just Hawaii. Beating Hawaii isn’t going to win us any Pac-12 championships. Bring on the regular season!