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.