The Huskies Remain Undefeated Heading In Their BYE Week

Last Saturday’s 31-24 victory in Arizona wasn’t the prettiest, but we got the job done and it wasn’t even as close as the final score, thanks to a late TD by the Wildcats, followed by a Husky recovery of the onside kick that ended it.

But, it also wasn’t what we’ve seen thus far this season. It wasn’t an easy, breezy, 20+ point victory over an inferior opponent where we were rolling with backups to close it out. We had to work for it a little bit. We had to overcome a fumble and an inordinate amount of penalties. We had to make due with settling for shorter passes (or, at least, didn’t get to enjoy our usual bomb-it-downfield sort of attack) and taking what the defense gave us. We got by without a single touchdown from Michael Penix and without a single 100-yard receiving day.

I find that part particularly interesting. All of our TDs came on the ground. Dillon Johnson was 16 for 91 and 2 TDs, Will Nixon ran 2 for 8 with a TD, Germie Bernard was the player of the game at receiver with 8 for 98 and 5 rushes for 12 yards and a TD. Rome Odunze was limited to 5 for 64, Ja’Lynn Polk only had 5 for 41, Jalen McMillan once again sat out, giving him an extra week with the BYE to recover from his injury.

Yet, Penix was still efficient, 30 of 40 passing, for 363 yards and 0 INTs. He was sacked a couple times, but he didn’t make mistakes, and still managed to throw for an incredible amount of yards.

This team has proven it can win any way you slice it. Take away the deep threat? We’ll beat you underneath. Take away the pass, we’ll still run it down your throats. Frustrate our top two receivers, we’ve got more where they came from. Germie Bernard is yet another weapon we know we can count on when the chips are down. We just keep coming after you in waves, and it’s thrilling to behold.

The defense wasn’t wildly spectacular, but we still limited their QB to 5.9 yards per attempt. They had one completion over 20 yards. They ran it a lot (31 times) but were limited to 3.5 yards per carry. 5/13 isn’t terrible on 3rd down, but you’d like to be better on 4th than giving up 3/4.

All that being said, it sounded like a classic Pac-12 Refs sort of game as far as penalties went. I didn’t get a chance to watch it, but the text thread was blowing up while I was at a comedy show.

Bottom line, this was a classic Trap Game, for all the reasons. Perfect record heading into it, with a Top 10 ranking. On the road, down in Arizona, late start time, just before the BYE week, which itself is just before our all-important showdown against Oregon in two weeks. The target was and is on our backs, and we got the best shot from a team that had nothing to lose, who were down a running back and their starting quarterback. The Wildcats seem like a team that’s better than their record or their perception would indicate. That’s a game we might’ve lost in prior years, but the Huskies – very businesslike – went down there, got the W they needed, and now get to enjoy a week off with a 5-0 record, still the 7th team in the nation.

I’m less concerned with BYE placement in college when it comes to the specific week, but I like that we have it right before the Oregon game. I’m less thrilled that they also get to enjoy their BYE week with us, but there’s no excuses after this one. Can’t say anyone got jobbed; we both have the full two weeks to prepare. It’s our turn to host, so you can’t get mad about that. Now, we just have to go out there and get the job done.

I can’t look at the respective schedules and make a determination as to who is better. Neither team has had a particularly impressive slate of games thus far. We beat Cal and Arizona; they beat a VASTLY overrated Colorado team, and a very appropriately-rated (terrible) Stanford team. This is the toughest matchup either team will have had to date. And then we both go on from there to start the rigorous portion of our schedules (we each have to play – over the final weeks – Oregon State, Utah, USC, and Washington State). All of those are good-to-great teams, but they also have very real flaws. It wouldn’t shock me if both Washington AND Oregon were to run the table in that slate. At which point, it comes down to this one game.

This MIGHT actually decide our season!

All these games throughout my lifetime tend to bleed together, so I don’t remember a ton about beating Oregon last year. I seem to recall Bo Nix was a little banged up, and may have been a little hampered. He, nevertheless, didn’t look great as a passer; he wasn’t terrible. But, they made their hay on the ground, as a team (312 yards on a whopping 51 carries). It was back and forth the entire game – no one leading by more than one score – and it came down to late-game execution, where we stopped them on downs on their side of the 40-yard line, before hitting the go-ahead field goal and then stopping them before time expired. It might very well be that kind of game again; in fact, I would bet on it.

I do like that we’ve finally been tested a little bit. I like that we’ve had to find other ways to win, and it hasn’t JUST been the Michael Penix Show. We can draw from that. Oregon’s had it relatively easy for a while now; other than coming back at Texas Tech from down 9 points in the fourth quarter (to win relatively comfortably), the Ducks have steamrolled their last three weeks. They also had their big emotional release in taking the Buffaloes down a peg in front of a nationally televised audience. They haven’t played anyone like us yet. Not since last year, and I would argue we’re better NOW than we were then, which has to be scary.

After a week off – and a week where we were buried on the Pac-12 Network – we’ll be rewarded with the 12:30pm slot on ABC. EVERYONE is going to be interested in this game. We might even have Gameday visit us (the only possible matchup they’d pick is 17 Miami at 14 North Carolina, but that seems silly compared to 8 Oregon at 7 Washington). It’s certainly a game that’s going to be on the NFL’s radar.

Which leads us to Heisman Watch. Penix still has the passing yards lead with 1,999 after five games. He’s almost at 75% completions. He’s tied for second in TD passes with 16. And he’s still among the least-sacked players in the game. Maybe he took a little hit with zero TD passes at Arizona, but I would expect that to change pretty quickly into our game with Oregon.

It’s going to boil down to limiting mistakes, limiting turnovers, and who can get the big stop on defense. Tough game to break in a first-year kicker, but hopefully he can rise to the occasion.

I think we’ve got as good a chance as any to prevail in this one, but I’d like to get off to a fast start to make things a little more comfortable for us, and a LOT more UNcomfortable for them. Let the fans get into it. Let the pass rush make some noise. Hopefully force Nix into some turnovers, and let’s get out of there with an impressive win to catapult us to bigger and better things.

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