So, that game against Eastern Washington, amirite?
I had a really odd feeling throughout that game. For starters, I was in a bar having lunch as the game kicked off and Washington raced out to a 21-0 lead. The Eagles fumbled on a kickoff with their first possession, and contrary to popular belief, the Huskies actually DID manage to force them to punt – one time – on their second possession. Nevertheless, even with a 21-point lead, I couldn’t help feeling like it wasn’t safe. That NOTHING would be safe.
Indeed, as the first quarter drew to a close – with Washington up 24-14 in one of the highest-scoring quarters of football I’ve ever seen – we were in a dogfight for the ages.
I watched the rest of the game from home. And, you know, I saw what you saw: a defense that couldn’t get out of its own way. Giving up bombs as well as intermediate & short routes. Not being able to get off the field on third down (Eastern converted 6 of 12 third downs and 4 of 4 fourth downs). We gave up 573 yards to one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision. To be fair, they’re a well-coached and well-recruited college football program. Also to be fair, the Washington Huskies should be in a completely different class.
But, this wasn’t us playing down to the level of our competition. Nor was it a lesser school rising to the occasion. This was simply a matchup nightmare, and I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done from a scheme standpoint or a player personnel standpoint to make the outcome of this game any different.
In spite of all of that, though, I never felt like we were going to lose this one. For as great as their offense was, ours was just a little bit better. John Ross is a fucking maniac and I love him to death. If he manages to stay healthy, he might go down as the greatest wide receiver the Huskies have ever produced. The numbers might not be there – as we somehow only managed to get him three touches in this game of non-stop scoring – but when all is said and done and he’s making lives miserable in the NFL, we’ll look back and remember with fondness his all-too-brief tenure with the Washington Huskies.
The running game was the real star of the show. After being shut down for long stretches in the Hawaii game, the Huskies rampaged to the tune of 356 yards on 57 carries for a 6.2 yard average and 7 touchdowns. Lavon Coleman once again took over, with 17 carries & 118 yards; Dwayne Washington was next on the list with 10 carries and only 35 yards, but he seemed to get a lot of work in the red zone and goalline, as he plowed through for 2 scores. It’s unfortunate that this great rushing game is completely forgotten thanks to the ineptitude of the defense, but then again, it’s Eastern: you’re SUPPOSED to run for 356 yards against a smaller school like Eastern.
Cyler Miles, as I hoped, did indeed get the start at quarterback. He looked as rusty as you’d expect, but he also flashed leadership and ability that we weren’t getting from Lindquist in Hawaii. Miles ended up throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown (and no turnovers), but he also ran for 58 yards on 12 carries, for three more touchdowns on the ground.
This was the perfect game for him, to be honest. We needed everything he had on Saturday, and he delivered. It was a nothing defense, so he was able to work out his kinks and eventually find a rhythm. But, the game was always close, so he got a full game’s worth of reps that he also desperately needed. It’s a nice little warmup for him as we take on Illinois this week. They should be somewhat better defensively, but they shouldn’t be so good that he’s having a hard time doing what we need him to do to win.
In the end, it came down to turnovers, as so many games do. The Eagles overcame that early-game kickoff return fumble to eventually take a lead in the third quarter, 38-37, and then going into the fourth quarter, 45-44. But, to kick off the final frame, the Huskies pushed through another TD and a 2-point conversion to take the lead for good. On the subsequent drive, the Eagles were moving the ball with ease once again, but as they got it into Washington territory, a defender popped out a completed pass for a fumble that we recovered. The Huskies drove the ball right back down the field and got that 2-score lead to seal the deal. Obviously, the Eagles scored again to bring it back to 1-score, but the Dawgs were able to run out the last 3+ minutes for the win.
I know everyone’s down on this defense – even though they single-handedly preserved that victory against Hawaii in the second half – but I’m not. The Eagles were a fucking matchup nightmare as I said before, with a mature quarterback who’s capable of throwing it all over the field. With the way we’re trying to break in almost an all-new secondary this year, the passing game was always going to be our Achilles heel. The Eagles just so happen to do it better than most. I shudder to imagine what our defense is going to do against the likes of the Wildcats, Ducks, Cougars, Beavers, and Bears, but lets hope the kids grow up fast.
I fully expect the Huskies to come out this week against Illinois and put up that complete game they’ve been looking for all season. Then, we follow that up the following week with another cream puff of a game with Georgia State. At this point, the Huskies WILL be 4-0 as we all anticipated coming into this season. I’m more sure of this now than ever before, even after the shitpile of a start we’ve had to this season. Everyone’s just getting back into the flow of football being back, combined with getting used to the new coaching staff and playbook. You’re going to have some kinks, because contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t Alabama or Ohio State. Not yet, anyway. We’re still working our way back to elite, and this is just another blip on the journey. By the time we finish our 4-game non-conference schedule, we should be well primed to take on the best of what the Pac-12 has to offer.
- Miles will have three full games under his belt by then
- The kinks should be worked out of our pass defense
- The running back rotation should coalesce into a two-headed monster of Coleman and Washington
- The offensive coordinator should figure out how to get the ball into the hands of John Ross more than a paltry few times per game
- The offensive line will have had four full games together and should improve accordingly
All while knowing that our stable of offensive skill positions is stacked. On top of Ross, I thought Kasen Williams looked solid, especially on that nifty 2-point conversion. He could be the jump-ball machine we all expected, and it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.
And finally, let’s not forget that this defensive line is doing the lord’s work. Danny Shelton looks like he’s a first round talent at defensive tackle. We should be able to keep running games in check while still being able to generate pressure without necessarily sending more than four guys at the quarterback.