The Huskies Remain Undefeated Thanks To A Lethal Offense

There’s always at least a modicum of reason for concern when it comes to a college football matchup. So, when I say I was a little worried about this Stanford game, just know that I’m going to be at least a little worried about all the games the rest of the way. College football is wonky as hell! Strange shit can happen at any time.

But, it tends to happen more often in those 7:30pm starts. Pac-12 After Dark or whatever. It’s a thing. Usually, it’s more of a thing in October and November, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a thing in the last weekend in September.

Turns out, my concern was unnecessary. We jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead, bolstered that to a 30-7 lead heading into the final quarter, before easing off the gas a little bit with our 40-22 final score.

Michael “Big Penix Energy” Penix was on his game once again (22/37 for 309 and 2 TDs), but we really got the running game going in this one. Wayne Taulapapa … is a name I just typed out for the first time in my life. Anyway, Taulapapa carried it 13 times for 120 yards and a TD. I know we pride ourselves on our running backs around these parts, but it feels like we haven’t had anyone with any sort of juice since Myles Gaskin. It’s been pretty fallow at this position for a few years now, which I think fully explains our dramatic downturn (and our dramatic revival this year).

Every week, it seems like a new receiver steps up and has a HUGE game. This week, the merry-go-round went with Rome Odunze (8 for 161 and a TD).

What’s crazy is that this game could’ve been so much more of a blowout. We settled for four field goals, and managed to hit them all. I haven’t talked in glowing terms about a Husky kicker in I don’t know how long (maybe ever?), but Peyton Henry (Jinx Alert!) has been perfect on the season. Granted, only one of them has been beyond 40 yards, but you take what you can get from field goal kickers in college. This is his fifth year here and I don’t know how many more he has left in him (what with COVID eligibility and everything), but if he can keep it up, it would be huge.

It’s a shame it’s taken me this long to get to the defense, because they were on point (especially through three quarters). They had 8 sacks, and were absolutely swarming Stanford’s quarterback! It ultimately translated into a couple of fumbles lost as well as a pick. That’s a significant improvement for that side of the ball, that we’ve been longing to see.

This week, we have a Friday night matchup down in UCLA. Our first road game of the season. Not to be the boy who cried wolf or anything, but I’m concerned!

Is that concern justified? We’ll see. The Bruins are also 4-0. But, they played three cupcakes and then Colorado last week (so, four cupcakes then). And they were very nearly upset by one of them, barely eking by South Alabama.

But, clearly, they have a lot of talent. And, even though it’ll still be September when this game is played, it’s another 7:30pm start. Ours is the first game of a murderer’s row for them, as they go on to face the Utes at home and the Ducks on the road. This might be their best chance for a victory.

It also, not for nothing, might be the game they lose the hardest.

I’ll tell you this much: I wouldn’t want to go up against the Huskies right now. This offense looks fucking dynamite! I’ve talked about how lucky we are that we avoided Utah and USC this year, but maybe they’re lucky they avoided us!

The thing is, I don’t know what a Husky loss is going to look like. Is it an abnormal struggle on offense to score points? Does Penix put the ball in harm’s way one too many times? Do we have random bad fumble luck? Are we settling for too many field goals when we should be punching them in for touchdowns?

Or, is our defense a true Achilles’ heel, and we’ve papered over a lot of their deficiencies by getting out to these huge leads every week? What happens when we can’t score early and often? I think that’s it. I think that’ll be our big bug-a-boo. At that point, it’ll be a matter of the offense being down by a single score late and needing to do some things in a hostile environment. Is this that week?

We’re favored by 3. I think that line has considerably moved in Washington’s direction over the last day (didn’t it start at UCLA being favored by 1?). I dunno. There’s a reason why Vegas saw this game as one where UCLA should be ahead of us. The only reason it’s moving so much is because the public is overwhelmingly betting on the Huskies. That REALLY scares me. How much can you trust the public, really? I trust Vegas. I mean, I don’t trust them, but I think they’re generally smarter about these things.

I would stay away from the Huskies. As a Husky fan? Just sit back and enjoy the ride. You don’t want to be caught up in a tense game and also have money at stake. That’s not a great way to head into the weekend.

The Huskies Defeated 11th-Ranked Michigan State!

To be fair, the Spartans are no longer ranked – while the Huskies made the leap to #18 in the A.P. Poll – but who cares? We beat a team many considered to be good-to-great, and when was the last time you could say that?

The line started out more or less with the Huskies favored by 2.5. It moved by gametime to the Huskies being favored by 3.5. As I discussed last week, that’s fishy as hell. That led me to believe something was up. That Vegas had cracked the code and figured out we were better than the world realized (predictably, the bulk of the money was placed on Michigan State, which means – yet again – Vegas crushed the public).

It was pretty quickly made clear that they were right, as the Huskies marched right down the field on the Spartans, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. We took the next drive all the way down to the 1 yard line before being stuffed on downs, but that just led to our defense getting a safety, followed by another touchdown drive (this time successfully getting it in from the 1). After another punt by the Spartans, the Huskies scored again to make it 22-0 (missing the extra point). It looked like the rout was on from there, though Michigan State finally orchestrated a TD drive to make it 22-8. If you were worried, fret not, because with less than 2 minutes to go, we put up another TD before halftime to head into the break up 29-8, an insurmountable lead.

We traded touchdowns immediately after halftime to make it 36-14, but then things started to get sloppy for the Huskies. They chipped into our lead and got it to 39-28 – with the ball – late in the game. Another cheap touchdown and they might’ve executed the back-door cover! But, thankfully, the Huskies ended things on downs and were able to run out the final three minutes.

Michael Penix once again looked like a stud, completing 24/40 for 397 yards and 4 TDs to 0 INTs. The running game took a backseat once again, but Cameron Davis did carry it 17 times for 69 yards and a TD.

Ja’Lynn Polk had the biggest receiving day (6 for 153 and 3 TDs), but Jalen McMillan had another very nice game (7 for 94).

Defensively, when the game mattered most, we were able to get stops when we needed to. I’m going to chock up the second half surge by the Spartans to us taking the foot off the gas while holding a considerable lead. They really only had one easy scoring drive, every other one required lots of plays and time off the clock. I can’t ask for much more than that.

That’s a statement victory for a team that hasn’t had one since the Chris Petersen era. I would argue we haven’t had a win that huge since 2016. Now, we’re on the map, and I think it’s only fair for expectations to take a jump.

More importantly, we’re a fun team to watch. God bless ’em, I just don’t know what to do with myself! Penix is the best quarterback we’ve had since … I dunno? Marques Tuiasosopo? I’m not joking. I know we won a lot of games with Jake Browning, but has he ever performed at this kind of clip? Through three games, he has 1,079 yards and 10 TDs to 1 INT. I know it’s early, and we haven’t had a clunker yet, but I’m just so impressed with how well he’s been playing. It’s some kind of magic that he’s so good in this very particular offensive system, under this particular head coach.

We’ll see what this means going forward, but we have back-to-back late night games (at home vs. Stanford and on the road – on a Friday night – against UCLA). Either one could be a loss (I’m obviously more worried about the Bruins, but this Stanford game could be a trap as everyone looks ahead), but then things start to open up. ASU just fired their coach, Arizona just barely beat North Dakota State, Cal and Oregon State are middling, Oregon doesn’t look as good as their ranking might suggest, Colorado might be one of the worst teams in college football, and the Cougs are the Cougs.

I dunno. I think it’s safe to get a little excited for this year. I think we have more than a fighting chance in all of these games. We needed the offense to make a huge leap forward, and so far they’ve done just that. Now, I think we can compete, especially with the likes of some of these other high-scoring teams in our conference.

What a pleasant surprise!

The Huskies Took Down Kent State In A Refreshing Change Of Pace (From All The Losing, To Teams Both Good & Bad)

When I set my schedule of things to write about over the next couple weeks, I didn’t plan on saying anything about the first Husky football game of the season, for a few reasons. For starters, I have a lot of other things I want to write about this week, as the baseball season remains exciting and the NFL and Fantasy Football seasons get underway. Also, I was out of state and didn’t expect I’d have a chance to watch any of the Husky game. As it turns out, rather than being on the Pac-12 Network as I anticipated, it was on Fox Sports, and I was in a hotel lobby that happened to have that channel available.

But, really, it seemed like a no-win proposition. Either the Huskies lose – and kick off yet another season by fucking up against a lower-tier foe – or they win, but whatever, because that’s what was supposed to happen. I went into that game kind of expecting to be annoyed. Indeed, when I saw the line (Huskies by 22 or 23 points, with an over/under of 60 for the game), and I fully expected both unders to hit.

The taste in my mouth from last season was all-encompassing. Ultimately, my thought process was: what if it wasn’t the coaching staff? What if the players themselves just aren’t up to snuff? What if the O-Line is disappointing again? What if the quarterback play is going to forever be sub-par? What if the receivers stink and we can’t get any sort of running game going? What if the defense is trash and takes a huge step back?

I was ready for all of that. So, I was really fucking excited to see us get off to such a hot start. We took a 21-7 lead after one quarter, and continued to build upon it the rest of the way, en route to a 45-20 victory (yes, we covered, and yes, so did the over).

Look, I know it’s the Kent State Hot Golden Flashes, and that’s an outcome we’re supposed to expect. But, again, after last year, it’s just nice and refreshing to see a fucking competent offense for once. I was pulled between the TV and a game of Mahjong I was playing with my girlfriend and friends, but every time I looked over, the Huskies were doing something great. Hitting passes on time and down field, busting wide-open holes for the running backs, going for it on 4th down and succeeding. Scoring touchdowns instead of field goals! With a quarterback who knows what the fuck he’s doing, who also wasn’t under constant duress! What a fucking breath of fresh air!

I had my doubts about Michael Penix Jr., but he was clearly the way to go, at least in this first game. I know Dylan Morris had a tough go of it with an inept offensive coaching staff, but his decision-making was erratic at best and confounding at worst. Penix, on the other hand, was decisive and accurate and dynamic. 26/39 for 345 yards, 4 TDs, and most importantly, 0 INTs. He also ran for 27 yards; it would appear he can do it all. Again, the level of opposition and all that, but we saw Morris against the same type of teams doing much worse.

I honestly don’t know what to make of the running game. I didn’t feel like they got off to that great of a start, but I also think this was a statement game, where the team wanted to assert its new passing attack and let everyone know things are going to be different (for the better). It was nice to see the receivers you’d expect to be at the top of the stat sheet doing their things. I love our tight ends and all that, but it was getting to be God damned ridiculous that they were the only weapons in our passing game the last few years. We need receivers to be receivers, not just effective blockers on the outside.

I also don’t know a whole lot about the defense. I think Kent State brings a high-powered offensive attack with quick throws, so sacks were obviously at a premium. The secondary is largely new, and had some growing pains in this one, but acquitted themselves well in the end. It’s not going to be a perfect unit overnight. But, this was a great first game to build off of.

We were perfect on field goals, and didn’t punt often, so that’s nice. But, the coverage units were probably our biggest weakness. Gotta clean that up before we get to the meaty part of our schedule.

Overall, I’m happy. Great first game. Let’s see how we do these next couple weeks before trying to assess what the non-conference results mean for the Pac-12 games.

I’m Intrigued By The 2022 Husky Football Season

I can’t call this a proper season preview, because I really know next-to-nothing about this team as it stands right now.

I also can’t really say why I’m intrigued by the upcoming football season, other than the usual excitement that comes with a new year. We’re all on the same level and there’s limitless possibilities. Once the games start, obviously we’ll have a better idea; my excitement or intrigue or whatever could dissipate as early as week 1. But, there are reasons for optimism that leave me thinking this team should be better than it was in 2021. So, you know, maybe I won’t be let down until week 3 or 4.

For starters, it doesn’t appear that this coaching staff is out of its league when it comes to recruiting. There have been a number of impressive “gets” – from faraway lands like Louisiana, for instance – that show me we could be in good hands.

But, even in the short term, I fundamentally believe this coaching staff will do more with Jimmy Lake’s players than Jimmy Lake & Co. ever could. This is a proper head coach, with a legitimate background in offensive production. And the players who remain left over from the previous regime were drastically underperforming their potential. There’s no doubt in my mind that Kalen DeBoer and his staff will right the ship in a hurry.

I’m also greatly encouraged by the number of high-rated defensive recruits we’re bringing in. Part of that may be residual Jimmy Lake positivity, because say what you will about him as a head coach, but he could coach up the DB room like nobody’s business. With our recent history of high profile success in getting our secondary players into the NFL – as high draft picks, no less – the University of Washington has taken the mantel of DB-U. But, obviously, Lake isn’t here anymore, so the defensive coaches we have now must be worth their weight in salt, at least from a recruiting perspective. If that carries over into coaching on the field – and we manage to see little-to-no drop-off in defensive production in the actual games – then I think that bodes very well for a dramatic turnaround in our overall fortunes from a win/loss standpoint.

One of the biggest areas with room for improvement is the quarterback position, and I think there’s a lot to like with the Huskies, even if they may not compare super-favorably on a national stage, or even among conference foes. Michael Penix Jr. seems to have the inside track as the starter, since he transferred over here from Indiana, where he has experience in the DeBoer scheme. Then, there’s the incumbent starter, Dylan Morris, who’s had a couple of up-and-down seasons, but nevertheless has a lot of potential to be harnessed by a coaching staff who knows what the fuck they’re doing offensively (I really can’t say enough shitty things about Jimmy Lake & Co. when it comes to the Husky offense shitting the fucking bed). If Kalen DeBoer can turn Jake Haener into a top-tier college quarterback, then there’s no reason why he couldn’t do the same with Morris. And, to top it all off, those two guys have a 5-star Sam Huard breathing down their necks. It appears there’s a legit 3-way quarterback competition going on, and the winner of that should be all the better for what he’ll have to go through in winning the job.

I’ll also say that the schedule is pretty damned reasonable. No USC or Utah makes our road in the Pac-12 (for now) that much easier. All of our non-conference games are at home (including the first leg of a home-and-home series with Michigan State). The rest of the home games are all very winnable, with Stanford being the toughest (the others being Arizona, Oregon State, and Colorado).

Obviously, the toughest game on our slate is at Oregon; that’s always a nightmare. Though, we get that game in mid-November, which will hopefully give our team time to gel (I kinda doubt it’ll matter though). There are also back-to-back games at UCLA and ASU that will really test our resolve. The other road games are at Cal and Wazzu for the Apple Cup (on a Saturday this year, for the first time in what feels like forever).

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. There are lots of holdovers on the O-Line, but that was a unit that largely underperformed last year (and I believe we kept the offensive line coach, who ends up being one of the few – if only – holdovers on the coaching staff). Maybe the scheme will help clean things up in protection; I guess that’s gotta be our hope.

I would say the wide receiver group is largely unproven at this level; they kinda scare me, if I’m being honest. I have no doubt the talent potential is there, but will they produce when the games start? Can we count on them in big moments to come up with big catches? There’s been so much turnover, the only names I remember are Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Taj Davis (vaguely), and Giles Jackson & Ja’Lynn Polk (who are both transfers who haven’t done much of anything in a Husky uniform). For a team who hasn’t had a true standout receiver since the John Ross/Dante Pettis days, I’d like to see some of these highly-rated guys start panning out.

Then, there’s the front seven on defense, which is hopefully going to be the ZTF Show. But, who’s going to ascend around our stud pass rusher? Especially when you figure this is probably our last year with ZTF, and there’s an outside chance that any sort of significant-ish injury might lead him to leave prematurely to get ready for the NFL Draft.

There aren’t many other front seven guys who are ringing any bells with me. Edefuan Ulofoshio is returning from injury and won’t play until midseason or later. We all hope Sav’ell Smalls takes a big step in his development. That’s kind of it as far as the front seven is concerned; I look forward to learning who’s good and who’s not. But, if they play collectively as bad as they were last year – getting gashed on the reg in the run game, while getting nothing done with the pass rush – then it won’t matter how much better we are offensively. If we can’t stop the likes of Oregon, UCLA, and the like, we’re gonna be screwed.

Finally, there were A LOT of Husky defensive backs who went to the NFL last year. Who steps up behind those guys? If we’re going to hold onto the title of DB-U, we need to spot those guys in a hurry and put them in positions to succeed.

Of course, the huge overarching caveat to everything is the fact that – as always – we need to temper our expectations. There’s a reason why the Huskies are largely expected to finish anywhere from the middle of the pack, all the way to the very bottom of the conference. Sure, there are surprise teams every year, but how often do those teams make the leap from middle of the pack to the very top? Seems unlikely. But, that’s why there’s intrigue! We don’t know yet how these players are going to respond to the new regime. A quality coaching staff can make all the difference, especially in the college game.

But, we’ve seen it go the other way all too often. Growing pains in learning a new system. And, in this case, there’s a new system on both sides of the ball. You almost have to bank on there being extra losses built in just for that reason alone. Maybe the new regime is stuck with guys they wouldn’t have normally recruited, because you literally can’t turn over the entire roster from scratch in one offseason.

There’s also some fear built in, because we’ve seen what happens when this team picks wrong in a quarterback battle. Jake Haener is a prime example. We opted to go with one year of Jacob Eason because we believed at the time he gave us the biggest upside to getting back to the college football playoffs. That turned out to be a miserable mistake (one that I was certainly wrong about at the time, as were a lot of Husky fans). What if we go with Penix and lose one or both of Morris and/or Huard (who go on to success elsewhere)? What if we go with Morris and he continues to make terrible decisions with the football? What if we go with Huard, but he’s just not the 5-star guy we all thought he was? There’s a lot riding on this! The repercussions could be massive, and there’s no guarantee that this coaching staff will be able to get the most out of who they choose. Nor is there a guarantee they’ll be able to restock the QB room next year if we have multiple defections.

So, I’m not going into this season with sky-high hopes. I’m just waiting to be pleasantly surprised. I’m open and receptive to winning football, but I need the team to cooperate. Considering the shitshow we’re likely to see out of the Seahawks, it would be nice if we had ONE good football team in the Seattle area.

The Pac-12 Is In Shambles

This is old news, duh, but I was in Texas when it all went down and blissfully didn’t have access to a computer. Then, I got back, and in the whirlwind I ended up getting COVID, which isn’t an especially fun experience. Now here we are.

The bombshell: USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 in 2024 to join the Big10.

Honestly, it’s a real gut punch. There are so many things going through my mind at that news. I’m angry – at SO MANY people/entities – I’m sad, I’m afraid, and I’m a little giddy.

I wish they’d spoken up. Larry Scott is the obvious villain in this scenario; he burned the fucking conference to the ground and isn’t even around anymore to deal with the fallout (thank Christ, because whatever move he’d opt for would be the absolute worst one). The school presidents enabled Larry Scott’s utter incompetence and dereliction when it came to football and basketball, but were they all on the same page? Did the USC/UCLA presidents try to oust him sooner and were rebuffed? In which case, I’m outraged at the rest of the league more than I am those two schools.

In all honesty, I can’t blame the L.A. schools. They not only have every right to make a move like this, it’s unquestionably in their best interests. If you want to be serious about winning a college football championship, residing in the Pac-12 was never going to get you there. Not without being absolutely perfect, which is so extremely difficult to do, even in a mediocre conference like ours. But, all you have to do is win a division in either the Big10 or SEC and you’re granted a slot in their respective championship games. From there, you win and you’re in the playoffs. And, even if you’re not so good, you could lose and still make it! The margin for error is easier in those two conferences, and I wouldn’t even necessarily say you’re trading for a more difficult strength of schedule.

Is Ohio State any better than Oregon? Are Michigan or Penn State that much tougher than Washington or Utah? Both the Big10 and Pac-12 have very strong opponents, as well as the pushovers. For every elite program the Big10 has to offer, there are the Rutgers and Marylands of the world, just as the Pac-12 has perennial bottom-dwellers like Oregon State, Arizona, and Wazzu (give or take a Cal).

But, it’s the perception. When people think of SEC football, they don’t automatically gravitate towards Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, or Mississippi State. But, what have those programs won in our lifetime? Same thing goes for the Big10. Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska, Minnesota, Northwestern … I mean, there’s a lot of mediocre there! It’s Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and to a lesser extent Michigan State and Wisconsin who have propped this conference up. You could argue – in the perception battle – they needed USC and UCLA more than they needed the Big10. Either way, it seems like a perfect match of want and need, even if it’s ridiculous to see how spread out all the schools are. That Los Angeles to New Jersey trip is going to be a doozy.

Where I think the L.A. schools were a little shortsighted is in their ability to recruit. Unless they’re truly going for a National Recruitment model (I think the bloom is off the rose for both schools, given their performances over the last decade), what markets did they get into that are hotbeds for football recruitment? Ohio? Pennsylvania? Are they really going to out-recruit established Big10 schools in those markets? Theoretically, if you can convince players to move out to California for the weather and exposure, but that was always on the table, even before the change in conferences. At least if you get into the SEC, you have the fertile Texas and Florida markets to poach players on a regular basis. I dunno; maybe they tried and the SEC said, “No thanks.” I don’t know why the SEC would reject the L.A. schools, a year after absorbing Texas and Oklahoma; seems like the perfect kill shot to the rest of college football.

What we’re ultimately grinding towards is a breakup of the college football system as we know it. But, how long is that going to take? And I’m not even sure that’s an accurate projection. These conferences still wield a lot of power. Why would they so willingly dissolve? Especially when you consider all of these separate TV deals end at wildly different times.

Whatever we end up with, it seems plain to me that it won’t be fan friendly in the slightest. What do I want? Give me a small number of super-conferences or divisions or whatever. Cut it down to a 40-team league, eliminate the chaff, and run a legitimate playoff system where every worthy team has a chance. Split those divisions by region – so we get our natural rivalries back – and save a small number of games per year for cupcake opponents in the lower level (so Washington can still have its Apple Cup, even if it’s not necessarily played at a time of year we usually see it).

It seems so easy, but I don’t think we’ll ever get it. At least, not in my lifetime. We’re stuck with whatever the powers that be dictate, and they don’t give a FUCK about us. So it is, with every facet of life since the dawn of time.

So, that’s a bummer. I’m sad for what the Pac-12 has become. I’m sad it got to this lowly state. While USC and UCLA aren’t our biggest rivals, they were still pretty reviled! It was always a big deal when you beat USC. I’ll miss my F-U-CLA chants. It was always hilarious how the Bruins would implode after everyone talked them up heading into a season.

It’s also a real nervous time for Washington, and to a lesser extent Oregon. I feel like the Ducks have a massive amount of leverage, and could hypothetically do whatever they want, and we’re just riding their coattails as the next-biggest combination of football power and media market left. It sounds like maybe we’d like to join in moving to the Big10, but they’re not ready to take on two more schools. So, do we merge with the Big-12? Do we do this absurd quasi-relationship with the ACC? Or do we stick it out and try to make it work in a dying Pac-12?

Also, what’s a Pac-12 with 10 schools? Our TV deal expires soon and we’ll be looking to sign a new one heading into 2024. Are we adding two more markets to try to sweeten things? Whoever’s available seems pretty fucking mid. Fresno State? Boise State? A Whale’s Vagina? UNLV? Utah and/or Colorado State? Whoopie-fucking-doo. I’m as hard as a Silly Putty snake.

But, you know, it’s also a little bit exciting. What’s to come? We have no idea! No one expected USC/UCLA to leave for the Big10. What batshit scenario is next to hit our Twitter feeds? Nothing means anything anymore, so absolutely nothing would surprise me.

My Two Cents On The Transfer Portal & NIL

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I understand the ins and outs of these two huge, significant issues in college athletics (presumably just college football and basketball), but I don’t know if a lot of people really take the time to research these topics before spouting off about them either. So, why not me?!

I think one thing is pretty clear: college athletics is broken. It’s always been broken, though. Put me in the camp of the kids have been exploited for generations, earning billions upon billions of dollars for schools and the NCAA, while the benefits of a college scholarship don’t outweigh how these kids have been chewed up and churned through over the years.

So, at the very least, the NIL has been a long time coming. Let a kid make money off of his name, image, and likeness; what the fuck does the NCAA care? I don’t have the problem with it that a lot of people do.

I know one of the arguments against it has to do with certain schools – and certain conferences – having an unfair advantage, by having boosters who are willing to over-spend to bring in the best talent. But, those unfair advantages have been around since the beginning. Now, instead of money being slid under tables, it’s out in the open (to a bigger degree; I don’t think it’ll ever be truly transparent). The NIL thing isn’t a perfect system, and I can’t even say with any certainty that it’s better than what we had before, but it’s arguably on the right track.

My concern is that we’ll never get college athletics to the point where it should be, where it’s just a semipro league for football and basketball, with contracts and salary caps and actual fucking oversight into where all the money is coming from and where it’s going. College athletics before was the wild west, and instead of becoming more civilized, NIL has made things more out of control than ever.

What bums me out is the transfer portal. I’m not against it in theory, but in practice it just sucks the joy out of being a fan.

It’s one thing to sign with a school, then that coach moves on, and you decide to opt out because you never agreed to play for whoever is coming in. And I get the frustration from a kid who’s riding the pine and wants to go somewhere where he can actually see some action. But, now it’s morphed into this yearly excuse for players to leave on a whim. And worse, it’s morphed into coaches needing to not only recruit newcomers, but to recruit their own guys (while coaches also recruit other school’s players to get them to flip).

There was too hard a line before: where, if you left a school, you had to sit out a full year. But, now it’s too soft, and literally everyone is up for grabs.

As a Husky basketball fan, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of this new system. In the 2020/2021 season, the Huskies were as bad as I’ve ever seen them. Following that lost year, a bunch of players departed, and it was absolutely for the best: they all stunk. This was addition by subtraction to the perfect degree. Mike Hopkins was able to bring in a bunch of players through the transfer portal, and the 2021/2022 season was far more enjoyable as a result. I mean, granted, it’s not like we made any sort of post-season tournament. But, we were far more competitive and fun during the regular season, and sometimes that’s enough.

What’s more, it sort of felt like we were on the right track. Maybe, with a few key additions, we COULD parlay that into a return to the Big Dance. Sure, it was always going to be something of a longshot, but it wasn’t crazy to dream that dream.

Then, recently, word came down that Emmitt Matthews was departing. He was one of those transfer portal guys we brought back home last season; after the one year, he’s returning to West Virginia, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. He was a starter and a key player for the Huskies. He was set to continue being a starter, as we really didn’t bring in anyone to vie for his minutes. He was great in our system and had room to grow.

Probably, from his perspective, if his goal is to win – and to get more eyeballs on his game – he has a better chance on the Mountaineers. I guess I get that. But, this isn’t a fucking Baskin Robbins where you stand there tasting all of the 31 flavors! Fucking pick a school and stick with it! Clearly there was a reason why you left West Virginia in the first place; what makes you think it’s going to be good now?

I’m just sad and pissed off. The difference between an NCAA Tourney berth or not isn’t Emmitt Matthews; he’s a role player. But, he was one of my favorite Huskies to root for last year, and I’m annoyed that he opted to leave. If the NCAA had proper contracts for players, you wouldn’t see this as often, and you wouldn’t see other schools sniffing around trying to poach your guys.

I’m not mad at anyone in particular. The players have the right, the coaches are only doing their jobs by enabling boosters or whoever to go and recruit players from other teams; this is the system that’s in place and everyone who can take advantage WILL take advantage. I’m just mad at the system, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And, the thing is, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t think I’ll ever see a day where the Washington Huskies are national champions in football or men’s basketball. That’s kind of a bummer. That’s not just because of the transfer portal or NIL, but those things certainly play a part. It’s just hard to adjust your expectations. You look at the professional sports leagues and can see a reasonable path to a championship one day. Hell, if the Cincinnati Bengals can make a Super Bowl, then ANYONE in ANY pro league can do it. Even the lousy, fakakta Mariners.

But, not the Huskies. The best we can possibly hope for is a conference championship. Yet, who’s confident we’re going to get there with Mike Hopkins, or this new coaching staff for the football team? You mean the guy from Fresno, and before that some Dakota school? Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s the next Nick Saban just waiting to happen.

Husky Football Is Making More Coaching Hires

I figured it was probably important to talk about the new offensive coordinator, since the last couple were so horrible. Ryan Grubb is taking over for John Donovan, also coming over from Fresno State, to keep things going with head coach Kalen DeBoer.

This was something we all saw coming, since they’ve coached together for much of their respective careers. What’s not to like? Grubb runs DeBoer’s scheme, and together they should work in tandem to get this offense humming again. That is, assuming DeBoer’s scheme is worth a damn. That, of course, remains to be seen.

Naturally, the Fresno State offense with Grubb calling plays was wildly successful this past season. I don’t think we would’ve gone poaching in that general direction if that wasn’t the case. Again, it’s comforting – at the very least – to be hiring someone who is coming off of a successful tenure. You’d think that would just go without saying, but as I’ve lambasted the Huskies for time and time again, neither John Donovan nor Bush Hamdan have ever had success as an offensive coordinator or a play-caller.

Courtney Morgan was also hired, to be Director of Player Personnel, a position I didn’t even know existed in college sports. He’s another guy who worked under DeBoer in 2020, but had the same job with Michigan this past season (his alma mater), so that’s interesting given Michigan’s success making the playoffs this year.

What does the Director of Player Personnel do? Apparently, they just recruit. So, that’s cool, the Huskies certainly need help in that area. It sounds like Morgan is good at what he does; this is being touted as quite the get for Washington, to not only draw him away from his alma mater, but to draw him TO a program that is clearly in rebuilding mode (and, at least from a national perspective, to be a step down as far as a football program is concerned, given the name recognition and recency bias of the Michigan Wolverines’ success in making this year’s final four).

He’s a “west coast guy”, which is how it’s being explained away. But, he was able to step into Michigan’s program and make an immediate impact, so here’s hoping he can do the same here. Recruiting always suffers the most in the immediate aftermath of a major coaching change in a program (we’ve already seen at least one high profile player decommit from the 2022 class), so if Morgan can stop some of the bleeding, that would be huge.

Courtney Morgan has also been with four different programs in the last four years, so it’s fair to wonder what exactly he wants from his college football career. I would say it’s a safe bet he won’t be here long, but we’re getting him at a time when we arguably need him the most, so I’m happy about that. Maybe DeBoer is promising him advancement within his staff? Maybe he’s simply making more money here? Or, maybe it’s just a stepping stone to get him back on the west coast, and back in the Pac-12, where he can eventually jump to Oregon or USC, before making his way to the southeast. Who knows?

I’m fairly encouraged by the coaching hires so far. I’m not blown away, I’m not losing my mind over here. But, so far, I don’t see any setbacks; it all looks like improvement – however incremental – compared to what we had in the 2021 season.

I’m honestly more excited to see Oregon’s coaching world torn asunder with Mario Cristobal going to Miami of all places!

The Huskies Hired Kalen DeBoer To Be Their Next Head Football Coach

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I wasn’t thrilled to have Jimmy Lake be our successor to Chris Petersen. I’ll even admit there were times when he was still here when I had hoped Coach Pete would step aside to allow Lake to take over, rather than risk losing him to another program. So, yeah, I was pretty stoked when it was announced he’d take over after Petersen’s retirement! I figured: what better way to continue the roll of success we’ve seen at Washington, dating back to 2014? Really, dating back to 2013, after Coach Sark helped turn things around after 2008’s winless nadir.

Things, clearly, didn’t go according to plan with Jimmy Lake. Really, it’s hard to see how things could’ve gone any worse. A global pandemic decimated our 2020 season; an outbreak from said pandemic resulted in our missing out on an opportunity to play for the Pac-12 championship, or even a bowl game that season; a number of players transferred out of the program (possibly as a result of the pandemic reducing Lake’s effectiveness as a recruiter); and then the 2021 season happened, where the Huskies were 4-5 under Lake before plummeting to 4-8 after his dismissal. As we all know, the offense severely underperformed – to the point that the offensive coordinator lost his job days before Lake lost his – and Lake himself became embroiled in controversy over getting too physical with one of his own players (a trend that may or may not date back to 2019, when he was still the defensive coordinator).

It’s fair to question where things might’ve gone differently had COVID-19 never happened. We figured we knew two things about Lake prior to his ascension to the head coach job: he’s a helluva defensive backs coach and a helluva recruiter. It’s probably fair to also say he’s a helluva defensive coordinator, but I think a lot of that is predicated on how well our secondary has played since he got here. There were instances of this defense being frustratingly inconsistent in crunch time and against the run when we needed them to step up the most. But, that’s neither here nor there.

What transpired is the simple fact that Lake might not be a good head coach. He’s certainly not a good judge of who should be an offensive coordinator, that much is clear with the hire of John Donovan, and the constant support he gave him. I don’t think Lake is a good judge of what offense should be at the college level. The Huskies were wildly conservative, and clearly didn’t have the personnel to support a run-first, pro-style offense. Bubble screens and Wildcat formations can die a quick and painful death, as far as I’m concerned. It’s also not clear that Lake is a good motivator of men; I get the sense that his schtick can wear thin with some people.

Regardless, his firing boiled down to the Huskies not playing well on the football field. Chris Petersen was able to mold lesser recruits into stars and eventual NFL players; Lake’s players regressed and underperformed, even though by the time he was promoted we were regularly bringing in higher-level recruits in Coach Pete’s final years.

I mean, how do you have the kind of consistency along the offensive line that we were able to bring back for the 2021 season, and not be able to do ANYTHING on offense, neither rushing nor protecting our quarterbacks?

This brings us to Kalen DeBoer, the erstwhile Fresno State head coach.

It’s fair to look at this hire – compared to what USC was able to do in bringing in Lincoln Riley, compared to what LSU was able to do in wooing away Brian Kelly from Notre Dame of all places – and come away underwhelmed. After all, there are reports we tried to hire Matt Campbell away from Iowa State (offering him upwards of $7 million per year) and were rebuffed (which is unfortunate, because what he’s done for the Cyclones is truly remarkable). You never want to hear that. You never want to hear that your school is unable to bring in a big name. If it’s because we didn’t offer him enough money, then that sucks because you don’t want your school to be perceived as tightwads. But, if it’s because he just didn’t want to come to Washington because he didn’t believe in the program and our ability to win it all, then that’s far worse. I tend to believe it’s the latter; I don’t have any faith in Washington winning it all because I don’t believe the Pac-12 as a conference is set up for success in the major college sports of football and men’s basketball (for any number of reasons I won’t bore you with here).

As a Washington fan, you kinda have to look at the situation for what it is. Washington is one of the top three or four programs in the Pac-12. But, what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Being top three or four in the Pac-12 probably equates to being in the top 30 or 40 in all of college football; you can’t like those odds when the programs who are truly in the Top 10 are so far and away more advantaged than everyone below them combined. Matt Campbell isn’t the difference between where we are now and a national championship; nothing short of Dabo Swinney or Nick Saban would be able to turn Washington into a national powerhouse.

That means we have to settle for lowered expectations. Being one of the top three or four programs in the Pac-12 means we need to be competing for a conference championship every single year, period. Washington is worthy of that much. And there’s reason for optimism that Kalen DeBoer could be the guy to take us back to those heights.

I’m going to spend a lot of brainpower comparing DeBoer to our previous two offensive coordinators, because he’s an offensive-minded coach. Unlike Bush Hamdan and John Donovan – who were both miserable retreads who’ve never succeeded at the college level – Kalen DeBoer has improved the offenses he’s taken over at every stop on his coaching journey. He was tremendously successful at the lower levels of college football, with Sioux Falls, leading them to multiple national championships. He then became a coordinator with Fresno State and saw immediate improvement there; he did the same thing for Indiana in 2019, in the same capacity; and when he returned to Fresno State as their head coach, he continued their turnaround, leading them to a 9-3 record this past season (with, I might add, Jake Haener at quarterback, who transferred out of Washington after the 2018 season). This all speaks to a head coach on the rise.

It’s also not lost on me that he actually HAS head coaching experience, which is more than we could say for Jimmy Lake when he was hired. We’ll have to wait and see, but my hunch is that DeBoer will have these Huskies playing much better through sheer coaching ability. What’s uncertain is: how many of these Huskies will want to stick around? And, what will future Husky recruiting classes look like?

I don’t know what DeBoer’s reputation is as a recruiter. Considering everything I’ve read about him so far hasn’t featured that as any great asset, I’m assuming he’s just okay. Of course, he’s never had the kind of resources that he’ll have with Washington, so a lot of that is unknown as well. My guess on this point is that he’ll be worse than Jimmy Lake, at least at first. And, he’s going to have to coach his ass off the first few years to lead Washington to the kind of success where he’ll be able to start bringing in the higher-rated recruits.

Which leads me to the age-old question: what’s more important, recruiting or actual coaching? Obviously, you need both; Lake was perceived to be an excellent recruiter, but it turns out he wasn’t much of a coach, and the Huskies cratered accordingly. DeBoer is perceived to be an excellent coach, but if all he can bring in are nobodies, then it won’t matter how good of a coach he is if he doesn’t have the talent to even hang with the teams of the lowly Pac-12. If we’re doomed to repeat another endless string of losses to the Oregon Ducks, his time here won’t be long.

As with anything new, it’s impossible to judge this move without seeing any results. We can speculate all we want, but we can’t say anything with any certainty until we see how the Huskies play on the field next year. Even that might be too soon; a more fair assessment probably couldn’t be rendered for 3-5 years, to give him enough time to build the culture, bring in a few recruiting classes, and see how he does with “his guys”.

All I can really talk about his how I feel, given the knowledge I have at my disposal. I’m cautiously excited. I’m probably less excited than I was a couple years ago, when Lake was tabbed to take over, but that was coming off of a run of success we haven’t seen around these parts in decades. Coming off of a down year, with all the question marks surrounding our current roster and our incoming freshmen next year, I think it’s fair to be underwhelmed with this move. That doesn’t mean I don’t expect immediate improvement. I think the 2022 Huskies should be, at minimum, a bowl-eligible squad. A record of 6-6 isn’t too much to ask. Where we go from there is up to DeBoer, and who he ultimately decides to bring on as his assistant coaches. I’ve read people talking about how he needs to bring in excellent recruiters; I think that’s a great (if obvious) idea. We’ll see how it goes!

The 2021 Husky Football Team Has Found A New Low, Needed To Fire Jimmy Lake

It’s impossible to say the Washington Huskies football team has hit rock bottom, when 2008 is still a thing that existed, but this is about as bad as it gets.

We headed into the game on Saturday against Arizona State with Jimmy Lake suspended for the one game. Earlier in the day, the Seattle Times dropped a bombshell of a story from 2019 – when Lake was still the defensive coordinator – corroborated by multiple players that he attacked then-wide receiver Quinten Pounds, unprovoked, at halftime in the locker room. There’s a bit of he said/she said going on – and Pounds, to my knowledge, hasn’t commented one way or the other – but if the final straw didn’t already break the camel’s back, this looked like a Bane vs. Batman scenario.

What’s more damning from the same article is that only 4 of 17 outgoing Huskies from that 2019 season would recommend players come play for Washington during their exit interviews. That’s appalling! That means the culture was fundamentally rotten, and given all the defectors over the last year-plus, points squarely at Jimmy Lake having lost the team. No doubt about it: he needed to go.

Of course, Lake will almost certainly be hired as a defensive coordinator at Alabama – or some other successful SEC school that doesn’t give two shits if coaches beat up their players – which will completely rehabilitate his image and have him back as a head coach somewhere else within the next five years. But, that’s neither here nor there.

Things looked especially galling for Washington when the Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter against the Sun Devils. The offense looked crisp, efficient, and wildly effective. John Donovan should never be allowed to coach in football ever again.

But, unfortunately, the Huskies got saddled with terrible field position the rest of the first half. The defense kept us in it for a while, leaving us with a 17-7 halftime lead, and a 24-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

We saw extended Sam Huard action FINALLY, but he was not put into a position to succeed. His first couple drives saw us backed up deep into our own end of the field. Then, the only drive he got in the second half was a TD drive comprised entirely of handoffs to running backs.

Meanwhile, after the first quarter, Dylan Morris was atrocious. He threw yet another miserable interception, and was WAY off-target throughout. I refuse to blame the weather for this, because he’s been WAY off-target all season, rain or shine. He stinks. If it wasn’t announced that the team is now planning to redshirt Huard (as long as he doesn’t play in TOO many games, the redshirt is still in play), I would be clamoring harder for Morris to get benched. As it is, whoever the third QB is on this roster can’t be any worse. It’s time to dump Morris and let him transfer away in the offseason.

As a result of Morris’ jackassery, the Sun Devils were able to take over in the fourth quarter. Certainly, the defense being gassed – thanks in large part to a 20-play, 9-minute drive in the period, followed by no rest from the Husky offense on the subsequent drive – had everything to do with it.

I hate the 2021 Huskies. They stink. They’re 4-6 and will probably have a decent chance to win in Colorado next week, but that’s only the precursor for losing the Apple Cup and watching the Cougs dancing on our field on Black Friday. Yay. I can’t wait.

Who the Huskies hire next will be the big story of the offseason. I fully expect to be underwhelmed.

What A Shitty Year For Seattle Sports!

As we celebrate this Veterans Day as only we can – by sleeping in, going out to breakfast, reading the newspaper, and enjoying a most-unexpected day off of work – let us reflect on the year that was in Seattle sports. It’s been a bloody nightmare!

The absolute best thing you can say about 2021 in Seattle is that the Mariners managed to win 90 games and look poised for greater things in the immediate years to come. But, that’s still a team that failed to make the playoffs, and was clearly playing unsustainably above their talent level.

Wanna take a walk down memory lane? I don’t think you do! But, I’m going to take you anyway, so submit to my emotional kidnapping and try to think happy thoughts.

The 2021 sports year kicked off – more or less – on January 9th, as the 2020 division-winning Seahawks hosted the hated Los Angeles Rams. That was another team you could’ve argued played above its talent level, but as a 12-win team playing at home – against a team intentionally going with its backup quarterback, because its starter (Jared Goff) was so mediocre – I think most of us expected the Seahawks to advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Instead, that backup quarterback got injured early, and the mediocre Goff led the Rams to a 30-20 victory.

2021 also welcomed into the world a Washington Huskies basketball team. Heading into the calendar year, the Dawgs were already a paltry 1-7. The Huskies would go on to finish the year 5-21; no hyperbole: probably the worst Husky basketball team I’ve ever seen. And that’s kinda saying something.

Let’s see, following the Super Bowl, we had that whole kerfuffle with Russell Wilson possibly trying to talk his way out of town with his media campaign to voice his frustrations with A) losing, and B) getting sacked so much. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, but not before a zillion words were spilled onto Internet pages about the Seahawks, Wilson, and the list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to. Boy, did those weeks suck!

Then, we get to the Mariners. I can’t deny that was a fun team to watch, but in the early going it was a little rough. James Paxton got injured in his first start, more arms went down in those first few weeks, we were clinging to an ill-advised 6-man rotation even though we literally didn’t have six viable starters to throw out there (often going with miserable Bullpen Days, which severely taxed the biggest strength on this team, and only once translated to an actual win on the field). Sure, the Mariners won 90 games, but this team was below .500 for much of the first half of the year.

Another kerfuffle popped up at the trade deadline, with the Kendall Graveman deal that was actually a win for the Mariners’ organization, but was portrayed as the biggest catastrophe ever to befall Seattle sports (approx). As the season went on, the Mariners pulled together and impressed the hell out of most everyone, but by the last month or so there were too many games to make up in too short of time. The bottom line was: these Mariners weren’t very good against the teams they needed to beat to legitimately compete in the playoffs; the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox. Time will tell if the 2021 Mariners were a mirage, and we see a huge unintentional step-back in 2022.

If you’re into the Seattle Storm, it appears they largely underachieved, and lost in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. I’ll also add that 2021 was yet ANOTHER year without the Supersonics in Seattle, always adding at least a little bit to our collective sports misery.

Then, football season arrived, and BOY has that been a shitshow!

So much has been written about the under-achieving Washington Huskies. They were expected to contend with Oregon for the Pac-12 North title, which also means they were expected to contend with Oregon for the Pac-12 Conference title (because the South will rise again sucks). We promptly lost to Montana in the first game of the season, dashing those hopes. Then, we got fucking destroyed in Michigan. Yadda yadda yadda, and here we are, with the offensive coordinator FINALLY fired, the head coach suspended for at least the one game (though, looking more and more like he’ll be fired sooner or later), sitting with a 4-5 record and a high likelihood that we fail to qualify for a bowl game. Unbelievable.

The Seahawks have proven to be just as aggravating. We started off with a 2-5 record before blowing out a bad Jags team at home two weeks ago. Our iron man of a quarterback landed on the IR and missed games for the first time in his career. We continued to employ Geno Smith, who led us to a 1-2 record in Wilson’s absence. The offense – which was supposed to be more efficient and improved – has gone in the tank for large stretches of games/this season. And the defense started off as miserable as it was at the beginning of last year, before a turnaround happened (mostly thanks to the schedule easing up). We have no first round draft pick next year – going to the Jets in the Jamal Adams deal – so we can’t even root for the Seahawks to tank! It’s my worst nightmare, manifested. We’ll see if they can turn things around, but I’m not holding my breath.

I was kind of hoping the inaugural season of the Seattle Kraken might be a nice little wintertime distraction, but so far they’re 4-8-1 and look to be pretty punchless both offensively and defensively.

I don’t care enough about soccer to give a shit about what the Sounders are doing.

My last hope was the Washington Husky basketball team, potentially-rejuvenated with a vast influx of transfers. But, they just lost their season-opener to a team they were favored over by 20 points. Feels likely to be more of the same as last season’s team.

Maybe some Hot Stove action in baseball could improve my outlook on life in the weeks ahead, but I know in my gut the Mariners will find a way to make all the wrong moves to continue being among the worst-run organizations in all of professional sports. When you’re hanging all of your hopes on the Mariners … I mean, can it get any worse than that?

2021 has been a sports disaster for Seattle. I’d say it’s time to adopt another city’s teams and move on with my life, but I’m a sickeningly loyal man. This is the laundry I’ve attached myself to. This is the laundry I’ll die with.