This season has been a bit of a bummer in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of talent on this team, but some of it is raw and some of it is leaving after this year. The quarterback position has been hampered by injury, ineffectiveness, suspension, and quite frankly, learning a new offensive system. This was always going to be Cyler Miles’ first year as a starter for the Huskies, but it also coincided with a new coaching staff, along with all the off-season uncertainty regarding his involvement in that post-Super Bowl brouhaha. As such, he has struggled. With that, so has the entire team.
A more-experienced quarterback probably leads us to a victory in that Stanford game. Someone like Keith Price CERTAINLY leads us to victory against Arizona State. As it stands, we’re only 6-3, and only 2-3 in the conference. There’s good and there’s bad; straddling that line betwixt them, we have the 2014 Washington Huskies.
The 2014 Washington Huskies come out flat against the winless (in conference) Colorado Buffaloes. They let arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 hold a 10-point lead deep into the first half, and a 6-point lead in the third quarter. They also find a way to turn it on at the end, scoring 21-unanswered, by sheer force of the discrepancy in talent.
Shaq Thompson has less than half the carries of Lavon Coleman, and yet has only 82 fewer rushing yards on the year. Really, he’s had two starts and some sporadic carries here and there prior, yet he has proven to be far and away the best running back on this team. But, he’s so much more than that! He’s our overarching best playmaker on this team. Defensively, he can play all over. He’s got four touchdowns just on fumble and interception returns! He’s going to go down as the greatest talent that’s ever worn a Husky uniform and it might not even be close. If you’ve ever wondered why recruiting matters in college athletics: it’s 5-star recruits like Shaq that give you your answer. Ever wonder why the same teams are at the top of the heap in College Football every year? Because whereas the Huskies have one 5-star athlete, Alabama has a team FULL of them.
With our running backs starting to get healthy, I find it really interesting that the Huskies are looking to keep Shaq in the mix. Why not? Let’s face it, the offense needs all the help it can get. We’re by no means perfect on the defensive side of the ball, but I think we can manage okay. But, offensively? We’re sort of a trainwreck without Shaq on the field.
Right now, Cyler Miles has no reason to feel comfortable out there. The offensive line has been a decade-long work in progress (with only the names on the backs of the jerseys changing). John Ross has been hampered by injury for most of the season. And, quite frankly, the receivers we’ve got out there just don’t compare to some of the guys we’ve lost to graduation in recent seasons.
Which is why we NEED Shaq on offense, as an outlet if nothing else. Let HIM be the focus of the offense instead of Miles. Let defenses try to game plan around him instead of shutting down our passing game. With some of the pressure off, I think Cyler Miles can be serviceable going forward. He might not be the long term answer, but for right now he’s still the best we’ve got.
Also, I’ll be interested to see the continuing maturation of Dante Pettis, my new favorite Husky. It’s nice to have that punt return game not only on lockdown, but as a legit strength of this team. He was finally able to return one for a touchdown last week, for the first time in over a decade for the Dawgs, and I would expect that to be the first of many. On offense, he also caught his first TD, on a nifty 28-yard reception down the sideline. I’ll certainly look forward to him getting more involved on offense. Whenever John Ross is able to get healthy, with Pettis and Mickens getting some serious minutes, we’ll have the kind of weapons all over the field that could make our offense quite formidable.
This week, we host the Bruins. The Huskies haven’t beaten the Bruins since 2010 (the infamous Jake Locker Broken Ribs game that kickstarted a 4-game winning streak to finish the season, culminating with a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska). Overall, the Huskies have lost 8 of the last 10 games we’ve played against the Bruins (it might extend beyond that, but I only opted to look as far back as 2002). Currently, the Bruins are in the Top 25 and still in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship Game.
I’d be fine if we didn’t do anything else this season, if it meant we beat the Bruins and knock them out of contention. There are precious few teams I hate more than UCLA (indeed, I can probably count them on one finger), so nothing would give me more pleasure.
Also, not for nothing, but the 2014 Huskies don’t have a Signature Win yet. Even the most inept Sark teams always had a signature win!
- 2013 – 69-27 road victory against Oregon State, where we ran the ball for a million yards
- 2012 – 17-13 win at home against a Top 10 Stanford team
- 2011 – 31-14 road victory against a tough Utah team (admittedly, this is stretching it a bit with the definition of “signature win”)
- 2010 – 32-31 road victory against a Top 20 USC team
- 2009 – 16-13 home victory against #3 USC, one season removed from the Huskies finishing 0-12
If we can’t beat UCLA this week, what are we looking at for our Signature Win of 2014? A dominating road victory against a Cal team that MIGHT finish its season at 6-6? I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s not going to make for a very satisfying season.
Looking ahead, the Huskies do go on the road to play a highly-ranked Arizona team, but I’m not so sure we’re going to be very competitive in that one. Following that, we’ve got games against bottom-feeding Oregon State and Washington State.
So, really, if you’re looking at this thing realistically, a home victory against the Bruins is our only shot at a Signature Win. No fucking around this week! I want to shove it right in their faces!