The Huskies Have Kind Of Been Playing Like Shit, But Still Winning

When the Huskies beat the Beavers 22-20 on the road, I was knee deep in a Broadway musical in New York called & Juliet. My wife loved it; it might be her new favorite. I thought it was very good, but I’m admittedly not the biggest musical guy in the world, and I still think the Moulin Rouge musical is my favorite. That’s neither here nor there; as this was the first full day of our honeymoon, there was just no way I was going to be able to see this game. And, by all accounts, it seemed like an aggravating, frustrating win that we barely clung to. Zero points in the entire second half! We just couldn’t put ’em away, even though we had ’em dead to rights all game.

The following Saturday, when the Huskies beat the Cougars 24-21 at home, we were on the home stretch of our 7-day cruise. We’d done pretty much everything we wanted to do both on and off the boat, and this was a day dedicated to nothing but relaxation. I read a lot of The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub. And, by the time 4pm rolled around, it was wet and freezing outside where the giant poolside television lived. On Thanksgiving, they had been showing ample football games, so hypothetically I could’ve asked them to put on the Apple Cup. But, luckily, one of the cable channels had it in our room, so I was able to watch it from the warmth and comfort of my bed.

This was another one of those games, man, I don’t know what to tell you. Just so annoying! I was particularly pissed off right before half, when we could do nothing with our 2-minute offense, and the Cougs immediately rammed it down our throats to tie it at 14-all at the break. We managed exactly one impressive drive in the second half to go up 21-14, but then it took basically a miracle 4th & 1 call where Penix tossed it back to Odunze on the end-around – rather than hand it off to Dillon Johnson for a second consecutive run stuff up the middle – for a 23 yard gain to help set us up for the game-winning field goal.

The Huskies are 12-0, but damn, it doesn’t feel like an undefeated season. It feels HARD. Overly complicated. We haven’t had an easy, runaway victory by over 10 points since Week 4 vs. Cal. They haven’t all been world-beaters! I keep seeing ASU and Stanford and Wazzu getting DESTROYED, yet here are the Huskies barely scraping by. THIS is a team that’s supposed to beat the Ducks a second time? THIS is a team that’s supposed to contend for a national championship?

It makes me wonder how we beat the Ducks in the first damn place. What have they done since their only loss of the season? They’ve proceeded to win by an AVERAGE of 26 points per game the last six weeks. Other than their loss to us, they have just two games decided by single digits (the closest being 8 points). It almost blows my mind at this point that we were even able to hang with them, let alone prevail. Every team we’re eking out victories against, they’re rolling over like a fucking monster truck.

I just don’t get it. You can’t even really blame it on the game being in Seattle, because we also beat them last year down in Eugene, and these are pretty much the same teams year over year. It makes me wonder: did the Ducks get some infusion of talent after their only loss of the year, that helped them go on this run? Was it a fluke that we beat them in the first place? Are we poised to go down to Las Vegas and get destroyed?

It sure feels like it. It’s a real shame, because we’ve managed to claw our way up to #3 in the AP Poll, passing Florida State (#4), Oregon (#5), and Ohio State (#6) who lost to #2 Michigan last weekend. The only other viable playoff candidates at this point are Texas at #7 and Alabama at #8 (ranked as such – even though both have one loss – because the Longhorns defeated the Crimson Tide).

Given the way we’ve played the majority of this season, it feels like this week is a Must Win. We can’t afford to be a 1-loss team, because we’ll almost certainly be leaped over by any number of teams. It’s kind of interesting – for a moment – to see what it would take. Georgia over Bama, Louisville over Florida State, Oklahoma State over Texas, and maybe even Iowa over Michigan! That’s a lot. But, because I’m always going to believe that the Buckeyes would make it over us (both teams having 1 loss), it might be necessary, and even then, they could always side with Michigan over us as well and have two teams from the Big 10 in the playoffs.

I’ll be honest, I know every Husky fan is out there touting this line (Oregon -9.5) as the ultimate disrespect, which we’ll hopefully parlay into the extra motivation we need to truly crush them, but I dunno. I think we’re gonna lose. And I don’t even think it’s going to be particularly close.

There’s something that just isn’t quite right with this Husky team, and I can’t put my finger on it. The offense has looked legitimately terrible for long stretches of some of these games. Then, they do what they did against USC and Stanford, and you think everything’s okay again. The defense looked abysmal in those games, and the first half of Utah, making you wonder if that’s going to be our undoing. Then, they come out and shut teams down for long stretches.

But, when was our last Complete Game? It’s been two straight months of being the cardiac kids, and it’s starting to drain my confidence.

I should also point out that me and my friends are planning on watching the game together, which rarely – if ever – goes well for us. In the big games, that is. In the games that truly matter. But, I know that’s all in my head. We’ve been together for big wins in the past. And we’ve been apart for plenty of devastating losses. I’m no weak-willed motherfucker! I’m not going to let that stand in the way of a good time!

It’s also kind of a shame that Michael Penix’s Heisman Trophy chances have dwindled to almost nothing. He’d need to win this game and put up a monster performance in doing so, but I just don’t see it. Dillon Johnson has become too important to our chances, and part of me feels like Penix is hiding some sort of nagging injury that is sapping his usefulness.

You know what’s a bad sign heading into the Pac-12 Championship this Friday? When you try to point out Oregon’s weaknesses and you say, “Well, I guess their kicker is shaky”. That’s all you got? Granted, he missed a pretty important kick in the first game, but if he’s the only weakness, I got news for you: this game won’t come down to a field goal.

I just think, you know, we can’t have nice things. We can run the table in the regular season and that’s all well and good, but we can’t beat a team like Oregon twice in the same year. That’s asking too much. We know each other too well by this point, they’re our most hated of all-time rivals, so of course they’re going to kick our asses when it matters most. We’ll have to settle for some other New Years Power Six bowl and maybe get our 13th victory that way.

But, it won’t come this week. I’m resigning myself to it now; I suggest you do the same.

The Huskies Won In Extremely Exciting Fashion To Stay Perfect Against The Utes

That was quite the fun and thrilling game we were treated to on Saturday! I was busy all afternoon, so I had my dad and brother record the game for us to watch that evening. We managed to avoid all spoilers – going so far as to mute a group text thread I’m in – to get to watch this game fresh, and boy did it deliver!

The Husky defense got the job done on the first couple Utes drives, leading me to wonder if we’d fixed some things after two straight weeks of giving up points like they were going out of style. The Huskies subsequently marched right down the field to take a 7-0 lead, and then the points bonanza was on.

Utah answered to tie it, the Huskies had to settle for a field goal to go up 10-7, then there were five consecutive touchdowns scored to make it 28-24 Utes going into halftime, and this looked like the USC game all over again.

When the Huskies had to settle for a punt coming out of the break, I thought that was an extremely ominous sign. At that point, I was hoping that there would be somehow, someway, we could at some point hold them to just a field goal. As it turned out, the Utes never scored again!

We got the ball back, drove for a field goal to give us a 1-point deficit. We got the ball back again and drove for the go-ahead TD (missing on the 2-point conversion), and for the next drive it looked like the offenses might take over the game again. Utah brought it back into our territory and looked like they may re-take the lead, before The Interception happened.

Usually, when you name a play like that, it’s a good thing. But, that’s probably a pick Alphonzo Tuputala would like to forget. He brought it back 76 yards, but unfortunately he needed to bring it back 77 yards, suffering from a nasty bout of Premature Celebration in dropping it on the ground at the Utah 1 yard line. A heads-up Ute lineman landed on it, giving the ball back to Utah, and taking away what would’ve been potentially a 40-28 lead (in a game where UW was favored by 9.5 points, that was a significant swing for bettors).

I’ll admit, I was cheering and going crazy with my family and our excitable border collie, so I didn’t actually see the fumble. I just heard the announcers say something to the effect of “Oh no!” and immediately was confronted with the worst possible outcome. The good news, however, was that they were backed up at their own 1. That had the potential to be a major talking point this week; instead, the Huskies stuffed their run for a safety on the very next play to make the game 35-28. We didn’t do anything with it, and punted soon thereafter, but the Utes punted again, giving us one more chance to cover the spread.

Instead, predictably, our normally sure-footed kicker – Grady Gross – shanked a 32 yarder that was easily blocked. It didn’t have a prayer. The day was windy, and quite frankly it seemed like we were lucky to have made ANY kicks, but I don’t know what happened here. It should’ve been the easiest of the bunch. Maybe he slipped? Maybe he tried to compensate so much for the wind that he just whiffed? I dunno, but it was predictable because nothing can come easy in a situation like this.

The defense, to their credit, stood strong one more time, giving up 0 yards on the final drive, before picking it off on fourth down to seal it.

Michael Penix was great again, though he was relatively off-target, especially early on, throwing lots of balls high and wide. He finished with 332 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs (while adding another rushing TD), but only 24/42 in completions. Again, it’s not a game where he cost himself the Heisman, but he also has yet to really take hold of the award and wrench it away from all comers. It’s a tight race! He’s still undefeated, which is a big feather in the cap, and he’s undefeated in a premium conference (after 3-4 big wins, depending on your opinion of USC or Arizona, who I feel are pretty equal at this point); but it’s still Washington, it’s still the west coast, and there are a couple of other undefeated quarterbacks who are playing on more highly-regarded teams. He needs to assert himself in these last few games, which might mean it will come all the way down to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Dillon Johnson followed up his smashing USC game with another great one: 104 rushing yards on 23 carries with a TD (and another 28 yards receiving on 2 receptions). Odunze had a monster game in this one, catching only 3 balls, but for 111 yards and 2 TDs; Jack Westover had 7 bigtime catches for 64 yards. And Germie Bernard had 6 for 63 as well; Penix didn’t spread the ball around quite as much this week, but they got the job done.

I wish I had the breakdowns handy between the first and second halves, because the defense really impressed me with how they adjusted. It just looked like Utah could do no wrong! And then all of a sudden, nothing. No sacks or anything, but there was some pretty good pressure at times. It’s looking unlikely that this D-Line is ever going to take over a game, but it seems like they’re just plucky enough to force teams into bad plays at the most opportune times.

The win brings us to 10-0, still fifth in the nation. Ohio State throttled MSU, Georgia laid the woodchipper on #9 Ole Miss, Michigan had very little trouble with #10 Penn State, and Florida State won a 1-score game over Miami to all stay perfect ahead of us.

In the Pac-12, #6 Oregon had no trouble with USC, Oregon State thumped Stanford, and Arizona got by Colorado to give the Buffaloes their sixth loss of the season (after they were such hot shit the first month). Cali knocked WSU down a peg (both teams have six losses and are both on the brink of missing out on any bowl action), and ASU made ugly work over UCLA in a 10-point victory.

As it stands now, USC and Utah both have three conference losses, and are all but eliminated from the championship game. Utah only fell to 16th in the AP Poll, and Arizona climbed to 19th. Both Arizona, and #10 Oregon State, are sitting at two conference losses, hypothetically still in the hunt. The Wildcats host Utah this weekend, which I would assume means the end of the road for them (they close against ASU, who is no gimme).

Oregon State has the hardest road remaining, as they host the Huskies this week, then finish at Oregon. And, of course, Oregon – with the one loss – goes on the road at ASU before hosting the Beaves.

Oregon State’s season is on the line these last two weeks. They can’t afford to lose this week, or else it’s the end for them. The only way they can make it is by winning out – which would give them the tiebreaker over the Ducks – and having the Wildcats lose one more. The caveat being: I don’t know what the tiebreaker scenarios are if the Huskies, Ducks, Beavers and/or Wildcats all have two conference losses. Seems like a nightmare I’d simply rather not have to think about.

So, here’s where my mind is at.

I am, of course, rooting for the Huskies to win this weekend at OSU. That being said, there’s a small part of me that’s worried. I’m a worrier! That’s why my friends call me Whiskers. The weak-willed motherfucker in me thinks that if the Huskies go undefeated in the regular season and head into the Pac-12 Championship Game at 12-0, against what will presumably be either a 1-loss or 2-loss Oregon Ducks team, fresh off of back-to-back years beating the Ducks in the regular season, that will mean the Ducks get the better of us when it matters most: when it means a spot in the college football playoffs.

If there’s a way to break my heart in the most agonizing way possible, that would be it. They’d give us our first loss, knock us into some lesser New Years Six bowl, and we’d watch them probably play for the championship.

With that line of thinking, I have a couple of off-shoots. First, losing to the Beavers will give them something to play for in the erstwhile Civil War. If there’s a scenario where we can knock the Ducks out of the Pac-12 Championship Game, I would gladly take it. Now, for starters, I know the Beavers will be motivated to win that game no matter what. But, I would also like for that game to have some meaning in the standings. If the Beavers are heading into that game with 3 losses, then it won’t matter if the Ducks lose the Civil War, because they would presumably have the edge over Arizona even though they didn’t play one another this year.

My other thought is that a loss to the Beavers might sap away any of that bad juju. The pressure would be off a little bit; we would cease to be perfect, and therefore know what it’s like to lose, and that might give us some sort of psychological advantage in our rematch with the Ducks. Quite frankly, it feels like the Huskies have been inordinately lucky this season. The Ducks were terrible on 4th down in our game with them; ASU had that back-breaking pick-six they gave up to us; Stanford literally dropped a 4th down conversion that could have propelled them to a game-winning score; and we literally overcame a dropped pick-six at the 1-yard line against the Utes to find a way to hold on. That’s not even factoring in how we somehow managed to hold USC scoreless in the fourth quarter in a shootout to end all shootouts. It’s felt shaky in the second half of this season!

Of course, the concern with dropping this game against Oregon State is that we somehow suffer a hangover the following week in the Apple Cup. The Cougs sure seem broken, having lost six in a row after what now looks like an improbable victory over the Beavers to start the season 4-0 and ranked in the Top 25. If they blow it to Colorado this weekend, the only thing the Cuogs will be playing for is to knock us out of the playoffs. Which I’m sure they’d be all too happy to oblige.

I won’t be blogging next week – as I’ll be on my honeymoon – and I don’t even know if I’ll get a chance to watch either of these games live. Do cruises have sports bars? My wife seems to think so. Even so, would they televise the Pac-12 game du jour? We’ll see, but I don’t know if I’d even be interested, if I’m being honest.

If the worst happens, I’ll be glad that I’m on my honeymoon in a Caribbean paradise. Either way, I’ll be home for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Here’s to hoping it all works out perfectly from here, and I’ll have no complaints this time next month!

The Huskies Outlasted The Trojans In An Epic Offensive Showdown

Saturday was a day I’ll never forget; it was the day I got married to my beautiful bride at the Silverdale Beach Hotel. Everything went off without a hitch and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves the entire night. And I have to say, the cherry on top certainly ended up being the Huskies taking down USC 52-42, in one of the more thrilling games in recent memory.

Of course, I went to the University of Washington, and a lot of my friends did the same. So, it goes without question that I highly encouraged the use of people’s phones to televise the games at their respective tables, allowing me opportunities to sneak away every so often to check on updates. I didn’t end up seeing anything of note when I did tune in – it was hard to want to pull myself away from the rest of the festivities – but I got mostly happy updates throughout the early part of the evening. And, when it was all said and done, my friends had the DJ play the Washington fight song, to – I’m assuming – the exclusive enjoyment of only a small yet vocal minority.

In this game, you have to start with Dillon Johnson. 26 carried, 256 yards, 4 TDs. It was a running back game for the ages, for a school that’s had more than its fair share of top notch running backs. Once again, he carried almost the entire load on the ground, though it’s safe to wonder – with how well we were blocking, and how poor the Trojans are on defense – if just about anyone would’ve excelled in this contest. I will say that no one on this team runs the way Johnson runs. He’s special! He runs hard, he runs fast, he bowls over and through guys, it’s fun to watch. I know he gets overshadowed a lot by Penix and the receivers, but the more we see from him, the more it’s clear that he’s going to be key for us the rest of the way. I don’t want to short shrift some of the other amazing backs we’ve seen in this program, but Johnson is putting his name up there, and it’s well-deserved.

There’s certainly cause for concern about the Husky defense coming out of this game, but I’m willing to let it slide for a couple reasons. First and foremost, we did get the stops we needed to get at the most important times. ZTF – fresh from losing his father last week – stepped up in a big way with 1.5 sacks, including a huge one before halftime to force a fumble that led to the Huskies taking a 7-point lead at the break. And, say what you will about the D, but they held the Trojans scoreless in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided.

The other reason I’m willing to let it slide is because Caleb Williams is the best quarterback we’ve seen all year. He’s an NFL superstar still in college, and between him and all the weapons they have on offense, it’s almost like we were playing against a professional opponent. Williams was as advertised, pulling huge plays out of his ass, refusing to go down when you think you’ve got him wrapped up, and carving us up and down the field with regularity. He finished with 312 yards passing (27/35) and 3 TDs, and added another rushing TD to boot. But, he had that fumble, and most importantly, his team lost the game (the Trojans fell to 7-3 on the year and were effectively knocked out of the Pac-12 race).

Michael Penix had a bounce-back game of sorts, finishing with 256 yards (22/30), 2 TDs, and an INT in the red zone (he also added a rushing TD to his ledger). You can’t really say he out-duelled Williams, but when your running back has the monster game Johnson had, what do you expect? Penix is still up there in the Heisman race – by virtue of the Huskies being undefeated – but I think he’s still got some work to do if he wants to reclaim the favorite status.

We had some solid, if unspectacular, games from Odunze and Polk (5 for 82 and 5 for 52 and a TD, respectively), but I was glad to see Penix spread it around more in this one. Ten guys caught at least one pass, with the supporting cast making some HUGE plays. Devin Culp had an insane TD catch and Josh Cuevas had a big grab to move the chains.

So, here’s where we stand right now: the Huskies are 9-0, and they remain fifth in the AP Poll. They were also fifth in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season, which were announced last week. Every team ahead of us won (Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State), and either our win or Georgia’s was the most impressive. Either way, I don’t expect we will move up in those rankings.

Oregon won and maintained their 1-loss status. Oregon State and Utah both won to stay at two conference losses with USC. Also, interestingly, Arizona beat UCLA to knock them back out of the Top 25, and are also at two losses (we beat them, though, so they don’t pose a threat to us).

This week, we host the Utes. If we can just win this one, we can pretty much punch our ticket to the conference title game, because the Cougs are falling apart at the seams (they just got dumped 10-7 at home to Stanford). What’s interesting here is that our victory over USC knocked them out of the Top 25. If we beat Utah, that could very well knock them out of the Top 25. Arizona suddenly finds themselves ranked for the time being, but obviously if they were to lose again, that won’t last long. Oregon State is holding strong, but if we beat them and Oregon beats them, that does them in. Suddenly, a conference that was looking like the best in college football is in danger of having exactly two ranked teams: Washington & Oregon. If this goes where I think it’s going – with these two teams in the title game – it’s fair to wonder about our chances of making the playoffs. College football can’t wait to dismiss the Pac-12 like they’ve always done, forgetting the fact that the Pac-12 is doing what IT always does: eats itself up.

There’s no way a 1-loss Washington team – with that loss coming to Oregon in the title game – makes it into a 4-team playoff. That’s a given; we’re going to have to win the title while losing no more than once. But, if we slip up against either the Utes or Beaves the next two weeks, do we still have a shot if we beat the Ducks again? Considering – by season’s end – that would mean the Pac-12 has only one ranked team on our resume, I wonder.

That’s getting ahead of ourselves, though. The Utes for now. They’re certainly very good, and people are burying them for reasons I still don’t comprehend. Their only two defeats are to the Ducks and Beavers. Now, granted, they didn’t look very competitive on offense in those matchups – especially against the Ducks, who absolutely trucked the Utes – but there’s still a lot of talent in Utah. That’s still a quality coaching staff. The defense will come to play. And, as the Huskies have shown the last two weeks, even a middling offense can still move the ball on us.

We can’t afford any hangover. Thankfully, the game starts at 12:30pm. Thankfully, it’s at home. The fans will be rowdy as hell, and I think everyone on this team is well aware of what’s ahead of us. We need to keep taking care of business. We can beat the Utes. Now, let’s go out there and do it.

The Huskies Barely Remained Undefeated As We Head Into The November Gauntlet

I’m able to tolerate a close loss at home against an aggressive defensive team, after coming off of an emotional nail-biting victory against the Ducks. But, I have a hard time with the Huskies almost blowing a road game against a hapless, giving-up Stanford team in front of a crowd of 30 people doing their best church mouse impressions. You don’t get to have a two-week hangover after the Oregon victory, I’m sorry. You’ve gotta get your shit together starting right fucking now, because this is when the schedule gets real. This is when we find out if the Huskies are For Real, or if they’re just going to be Very Good.

For the record, I don’t have any problem rooting for a Very Good Husky football team. The 2022 Huskies were Very Good. They finished 11-2, they also beat Oregon, and they won a hard-fought bowl game. But, that team also dropped two winnable games against flawed-to-bad teams in ASU and UCLA, and that ultimately decided our fate. It kept us out of the Pac-12 Championship Game, and eliminated any opportunity of playing in a Big 6 Bowl Game, let alone the actual playoffs. I remember that team fondly, but it’s just not the same. It’s not what the Huskies were able to do in 2016.

It sounds like I’m being harsh about a 42-33 victory; what am I complaining about? Well, I’m not necessarily complaining about us not covering the spread; I wouldn’t have been foolish enough to put money on the Huskies to cover 27+ points. But, we were in real danger of losing that game, and if we play this way in the next four weeks, we’re GOING to stumble, and that could very well knock us out of playoff contention.

The offense isn’t right at the moment. Sure, we scored 21 points in the first half, but we also had three 3 & Outs, the last one directly leading to Stanford scoring another three points before the half, on a 41-second drive. We put up another 21 points in the second half, but we started that half with a couple punts, we lost a fumble, and we threw a miserable interception, giving them the ball back – down two – with five minutes to go in the game. If it weren’t for an outright drop on fourth down, with the way they were moving the ball and finishing drives with TDs, I have no doubt they would’ve gone down for the game-winning field goal at least.

This game was all kinds of ugly. Penix threw for 369 yards and 4 TDs, but I wouldn’t say he was sharp. He was a little off in his accuracy, and I thought he tried to force it to Polk and Odunze a wee bit too much. There were other guys open, and it looked like the offense ran a little more smoothly when he was hitting other guys too. Let’s open up the defense a little bit! Let’s get them focused on not just the two main guys!

The receivers, for their part, also were a little off. Drops here and there, and that Odunze fumble was a killer. It was one of those fumbles you could see coming in slow motion; the guy coming from behind, him holding it a little too carelessly in one arm, and a massive overhead chop to punch it loose.

The running game was fine, if a little underutilized. Dillon Johnson chipped in with 18 carries for 84 yards and a TD; no one else carried it more than twice. He better not get hurt.

The defense was truly abysmal in this one, in a way we haven’t seen since last year when we lost those two games. We let a mediocre quarterback throw it for 367 yards, and run it for another 81 yards (he accounted for 3 TDs). As a team, they ran it for 128 yards. They converted a third of their third/fourth downs, won TOP 34:40 to 25:20, and gashed us repeatedly for big plays. There wasn’t a single thing we did well on that side of the ball.

I guess they said Michael Penix had the flu or something, but wasn’t that the excuse for the ASU game as well? How long is this bug going to linger?

The plus side, again, is that we won. Special teams like we hope this one is, they have games they win like this. They get lucky on some nailbiters. You need luck sometimes. The object of the game is to get the win, to win as many games as possible, to put yourselves in line for the conference championship game, and to get to the playoffs. It’s all still right there for us.

The Huskies are still ranked 5th. It sounds like the first college football playoff rankings will come out later today. I expect us to still be 5th, though I could see an argument to be made that our victory over Oregon – currently 6th in the AP, and 7th in the coaches poll – is the most impressive victory of any team currently in the top 5. Of any team period. I mean, Oregon IS the best 1-loss team in America right now.

That’s because the Ducks went to Utah and smashed ’em. That knocked Utah down to 18th, with their second conference loss. Oregon State, for what it’s worth, also lost (to Arizona), giving them two defeats as well. That leaves Washington undefeated, and Oregon and USC with one conference loss (the Trojans also have a loss to Notre Dame keeping them down). The Beavers are 16th, the Bruins are quietly 20th, and the Trojans held steady at 24 (with probably the worst defense of any ranked team).

So, that makes this Saturday’s game at USC pretty vital. I think the last thing we want to do is drop this one, and be in a three-way tie with them and the Ducks for the conference. If we end up dropping two of our next four, I shudder to imagine the tie-breaker possibilities between the two-loss teams (especially if the Ducks win out, but even if they manage to lose to the Beavers somehow). God, did you know Oregon is at home for three of their final four, with the only road game at ASU?

For the record, I’m getting married this Saturday. The game starts at 4:30pm, which is also when our ceremony starts. I will see next-to-nothing from this game, and will be relying on the brief moments I can connect with one of my friends, who I hope will be streaming it on his phone.

There’s a lot riding on this game, though. This is an opportunity for our offense to start looking right again. There’s no reason why we couldn’t put up 50+ in this one, and we very well may need to. I’d like to see some opportunistic plays from our defense. I’d like to see our pass rushers finally start to get home with more regularity. I’d like to see us force a few turnovers. And I’d REALLY like to see Penix out-duel Caleb Williams and really grab hold of that Heisman Trophy race.

More than anything, I’d like to cut the Trojans off at the knees. One by one, we can start knocking teams out of the conference title race, by adding to their loss column, and buying us a head-to-head tiebreaker. If we can win these next two games, it almost won’t matter what we do against the Beavers. I’ve been saying all along that the team I’m most afraid of is Utah, but after last weekend, I think I need to give more credit to the Beaves. They seem to be the more complete team of the two, and that game will be on the road.

I’ve gotten a lot of really cool wedding presents in the lead-up to this Saturday. But, a Husky victory over the Trojans might be sweetest of them all.

The Huskies Found A Way To Win The World’s Ugliest Game

What is it about the Arizona State Sun Devils? It seems like no matter how good we are, no matter how terrible they are, they always play us tough. I’ve never been happier to be done with the state of Arizona.

I’ll say this, for starters: that’s a game we absolutely would’ve lost before this year. It really felt like every single Jimmy Lake game, and damn near every loss of the last few years of the Chris Petersen era. The defense was on it, but the offense couldn’t get out of its own way. The saving grace this time was the interception returned for a touchdown; without that, I don’t know if we would’ve won.

Two interceptions, two fumbles, three punts, three field goals. That’s not the offense we’re used to seeing around here. That’s the kind of offense we saw under Jimmy Lake on a regular basis. Couldn’t run the ball (13 yards on 13 carries), couldn’t protect Penix (zero sacks, but he had guys in his face all game long), couldn’t hit a deep ball to save our lives (3 receptions of 21 yards to 3 different receivers were the long), just all sorts of out of sync. At no point did it feel like we could move our offense into scoring position.

Frankly, I believe the only reason we won this game at all is because the ASU kicker couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. He missed a 31-yarder midway through the first quarter, then had a 43-yarder blocked. They had one drive that concluded early in the fourth quarter – after those two missed kicks – where they could’ve attempted one from the 30 yard line; instead, they opted to go for it on 4th & 3 and whiffed. If they had a reliable kicker, they win that game, even with the pick-six.

The defense really saved our asses, even though they gave up 145 yards rushing on 31 attempts. The pass defense did its job beautifully (with an assist from the refs, who were letting pretty much all down-field contact go without flags), holding their QB to 4.2 yards per attempt. As a result, the Sun Devils dominated time of possession 37 minutes to 23 minutes, but we got them where it matters most: they were 5/17 on third down and 2/6 on fourth down.

There’s an interesting argument to be made for when to be aggressive and continuously go for it on fourth down, vs. when to be conservative and play to your strengths. Obviously, coming on the heels of last week’s Oregon game, this is top of mind. If Oregon kicks a field goal instead of playing for a TD even just one time, they might win that game. With ASU, though, it’s a different animal. The Sun Devils are terrible. They’re on the road. They’re playing the #5 team in the nation. On the one hand, maybe you should pull out all the stops and play hyper-aggressively. Your kicker isn’t worth a damn, and against that Husky offense, you have to feel like you need to score touchdowns to win. But, on the other hand, your defense is coming up with big stop after big stop. They’re forcing turnovers, they’re getting in Penix’s face. The Huskies haven’t been able to push the ball down-field like they like to do. Maybe, at that point, you play the field position game.

On the pick-six to Mishael Powell, it’s a perfect example. They got it down to the 12 yard line, with a 7-6 advantage. Sure, the Huskies were able to cut it to one point on the previous drive, but even then, we stalled out at the 30, and a significant chunk of those yards came on a pass interference penalty (where they really had to mug our guy to get a flag thrown). Instead of kicking what should’ve been a chip-shot field goal to go up 10-6, they went for it and got smoked. I mean, what are the odds that we’re going to block two kicks in a game? What are the odds he’s going to miss a second gimme?

Interesting game from a defensive perspective. Once again, we were shutout from any sacks. We didn’t really pass the eye test as far as getting pressure is concerned. Too many missed tackles for my own personal sanity. Yet, we knocked down 9 balls, and had 4 tackles for loss. Ultimately, it comes down to that miraculous pick-six, but overall I’m pretty happy with the effort.

I would say Penix’s Heisman chances took a hit (275 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 fumble, 64% completions), but I don’t know if anyone else really stepped up either. Caleb Williams lost again – this time at home to Utah, throwing for 256, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, but with a rushing TD – and I don’t recall any huge games anywhere else to put someone OVER Penix. If anything, I’d say Penix came down to Earth after taking the lead the previous week. Now, it’s anybody’s race.

The good news is: we’re 7-0. We’re 4-0 in conference, with USC, Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State all with one loss. We go on the road to play a 2-win Stanford team at 4pm on Saturday, fresh from this wake-up call. Frankly, I think the Cardinal are even worse than the Sun Devils, so we should be primed for a beatdown. There’s no overlooking Stanford this week, even though the following game is at USC.

We managed to hold onto our #5 ranking, but gained no ground on any of the teams above us. Florida State had a hard-fought win over Duke (who really blew it once their quarterback was knocked out). Ohio State got a bigtime win over Penn State to knock them down a peg. Michigan dominated Michigan State, and Georgia was on a BYE. Oklahoma sits there at #6 as the last remaining undefeated big time program; everyone else has one loss or more. Oregon is at #8, Oregon State is at #11, and Utah – in spite of the road victory over the Trojans – could only climb to #13.

The big game this week – other than Huskies at Cardinal – is Oregon at Utah. That could very well knock the loser out of Pac-12 contention. I will, of course, be rooting for Utah. What’s interesting about this one is that if Utah wins, the only difficult remaining game on their schedule is at Washington. I don’t want to get into specific scenarios this early, but if our goal is to avoid playing the Ducks in the championship game, having Utah win this week is pivotal. Because, I don’t know if the Ducks have another loss on their schedule the rest of the way (they get both USC and Oregon State at home).

The Huskies Chomped On Some Roast Duck

If you don’t think that Washington/Oregon game was the Pac-12 championship, then I want you to come back to me in late November and we’ll see who was right, because I think there’s a VERY good chance we see both of those teams match up again.

For the record, it’s the very LAST thing I want to see, so that means it’s definitely happening.

This 36-33 Husky victory was incredibly tense throughout. It’s so weird how it all played out. We started out with a punt for each team, then neither team punted again the rest of the first half. The Huskies grabbed a 7-0 lead on their second drive, then the Ducks took a lead of their own on the drive after that, 8-7. It went touchdown-touchdown-touchdown before the Dawgs finally stiffened and forced a field goal to make it 22-18. We still had plenty of time to go down and score again, but our drive got fucked up in a hurry before Penix threw a bad pick to give the Ducks a chance before halftime. They, indeed, took it down to the goalline lickety-split, but instead of kicking the field goal to make it a 1-point game, they went for it as time expired, coming up empty on a terrible roll out play to the right side, that cut off half the field and sent a million Huskies into a very small area.

It was especially dumb because Oregon got the ball first after the break. They would’ve had 3 more points and momentum. The head coach said their plan all game was to be aggressive, which portended well for the Huskies in the second half as well.

The Ducks went 3 & Out after halftime, leading to a Husky touchdown to take an 11-point lead, 29-18. The Ducks immediately drove it down inside of Washington’s 10 yard line before turning it over on downs (again, instead of taking the FG and making it a 1-score game). At that point, we had ’em. But, for whatever reason, the Husky offense went ice cold. 3 & Out, 3 & Out, and turnover on downs were our next three drives. Meanwhile, Oregon scored back-to-back TDs to take a 33-29 lead.

If we could’ve kept it up offensively and put the nail in the coffin after getting the ball back that first time, I’m convinced we could’ve routed them. That’s definitely one of my take-aways from this game. The Huskies won in spite of clearly not playing their best. Penix was apparently cramping up, Jalen McMillan re-injured himself early and didn’t factor in whatsoever, the defense wasn’t tackling super great, giving up 204 yards on 40 carries. There are things we can clean up. It’s no guarantee that we would beat them again, next time on a neutral field, but it’ll give me some hope heading into that showdown, knowing we won without giving them our best effort. We could’ve blown them out by multiple scores. I’ll always believe that.

Where the game was very nearly lost was on the very next drive after they took a 4-point lead. We got the ball back with 13 minutes to go and ate up about half of that clock, driving from our 40 yard line to the Ducks’ 8 for first & goal. First down, we run it up the middle for 7 yards with Dillon Johnson, fine. Love it. At that point, we’re actually on the 1/2 yard line, and what do we do? Shotgun, wildcat, Jesus Christ. Gets blown up, we lose a yard and a half. I get, with Penix cramping, you don’t want to run the QB sneak. But, how do you not take one shot with a snap under center, RB dive up the gut? Then, on third down, we don’t even give Penix a shot to throw with it, or roll out and make a run/pass decision. Instead, we sweep it to the left and get back one yard we lost (but very easily could’ve been another lost yardage play). Then, on 4th down, we go for it (might’ve considered the FG, but whatever). Again, shotgun. This is with a 9-man box; both receivers spread wide opposite each other, with single coverage. How do you not throw in this situation?! It looked like a half-hearted zone read (where Penix didn’t even pretend like he was going to pull it back) that got blown up so bad it wouldn’t have mattered who had the ball in the end. Just an awful sequence of play-calling there, in a game and a season where that’s exceedingly rare.

If it was me? Run on first down like they did. Run up the gut (maybe try to leap the defense) on second down. Then, if you’re bound and determined to go for it on fourth down, I’m putting it in the hands of my Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and letting him make a play with the remaining two downs. This is a Must Have game, and you can’t afford to fuck around.

Thankfully, we were able to hold Oregon on downs again, but not before they ate up 51 yards and over 4 minutes of game clock. If we had gone for the field goal, maybe they would’ve been more aggressive in taking shots down the field. But, we could’ve also mitigated any touchdown they might’ve scored by holding it to (at worst) an 8-point deficit. Luckily, though, the Ducks stuck to their guns, went for it on fourth down at midfield (instead of punting it deep and forcing us to go 90 yards), and for the third time in this game, Bo Nix came up short when it mattered most. I don’t want to say that totally ices him out of he Heisman, but in a game where you went up against one of your direct rivals for the award, you were 0 for 3 on fourth down when you could’ve salted the game away.

Meanwhile, Michael Penix did what he does, drove us right down the field: 2 plays, 53 yards, go-ahead touchdown to give the game its final score. The only quibble was that we left them with 1:38. They took it all the way down to the 25 yard line, but thankfully pushed the kick wide right, avoiding overtime in what has to be the game of the year so far in college football. Husky fans rushed the field, and it was a sight to behold even from the comfort of my couch!

Penix is, indeed, the leader for the Heisman, but no one ever won the award after half a season. He was 22/37 for 302 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk both had monster games (8 for 128 and 2 TDs, 6 for 118 and a TD respectively), and Giles Jackson returned to pick up the slack without McMillan (6 for 58 and a TD). Dillon Johnson was also a man possessed, running 20 times for 100 yards and a TD. We really relied on our studs in this one. Not counting Penix, only two other running backs went, each with just one carry. And, after our top three receivers, only two other guys caught 3 combined balls (though one of those was a huge Westover 4th down conversion catch, that was for naught after we threw a pick two plays later).

Defensively, it was tough sledding. Only one sack and 4 tackles for loss, and some really critical penalties to keep drives alive. All in all, when we meet up again, we’re going to have to put more pressure on Nix and play a much cleaner game with our tackling.

I know USC is still undefeated at 4-0 in the conference, but their defense is so bad, I would be blown away if they’re playing for the Pac-12 title. The team I’m probably most afraid of after Oregon is Utah, but thankfully we get them at home. The other team who will certainly make some noise is Oregon State, and we have to find a way to beat them on the road.

For now, we get a couple of easier games, which should put us at 8-0 as we head into our gauntlet stretch. We can’t take them lightly; we certainly don’t want to see any hangover games the next two weeks. But, we get ASU at home this Saturday night, in another Pac-12 After Dark matchup, followed by a mid-afternoon game at Stanford. Just keep taking care of business as we head into a brutal November. And maybe hope one or two of these other schools suffers an extra defeat.

The 2024 Husky (Sort Of) Schedule For Football Was Released

It’s not the full schedule. We don’t have dates, we certainly don’t have times, and it doesn’t look like the nonconference slate has been finalized. But, we know the Big 10 conference games that’ll be played, and whether or not they’re home and away.

As for nonconference games, so far we tentatively have Weber State (8/31) and Eastern Michigan (9/7), both at home. Presumably, you’d think we’d like to get the Cougars on there to keep the Apple Cup alive, but we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

As for the conference games, we get Michigan, Northwestern, USC, and UCLA at home. We get Penn State, Iowa, Indiana, Oregon, and Rutgers on the road. Including nonconference games, it’s a 6/5 home/road split (pending that final game yet to be scheduled).

Without knowing anything about what these teams are going to look like next year, the obvious marquee games are Michigan, USC, and UCLA at home, and Penn State and Oregon on the road. And, we’ll just have to wait and see how Iowa looks (I’m assuming Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers will be trash).

It’s interesting to see how it’s all laid out, but what we don’t know is how they’re going to set it up going forward. Do teams get to play their biggest rivals every year? So, maybe we see Oregon, USC, and UCLA perennially, and then the other six teams rotate? Or, does it flip-flop every year, and next year we see the other 8 teams (plus one extra that we already played this year)?

I would, personally, prefer to play Oregon, USC, and UCLA every single year, and just keep that cluster intact going forward. I would also – not for nothing – rather the two California schools be home and away, so we’re not playing both schools at home one year, then on the road the next. For recruiting purposes, an ideal world would have the Huskies visiting the state of California once a season.

So, it’s not a perfect schedule, but there it is. Lotta travel for Washington. Rutgers and Penn State in the same season? Not super fantastic. I guess it beats having to go to Rutgers and Maryland, but not by a whole lot.

Still a lot of teams we likely won’t play (pending the matchup in the conference championship game, if we were to make it that far). The obvious omissions are Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State (I guess, though we’ve played them the last two years, so it’s fine taking a year off). With the others being the aforementioned Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue, and Minnesota.

As far as exposure goes, there’s a lot to like about next year’s slate. Michigan is always appointment viewing, as they’re usually somewhere around the Top 10. Penn State is usually up there in the rankings. Oregon and USC are always able to reload. And UCLA is kind of a wild card.

That’s exciting! Not to look ahead or anything – since we’ve got the 2023 season with all possibilities on the table – but it’s nice to know what’s in store. God Awgs!

UPDATE: Aha! I found a link that sheds some light. And, according to this, we’ve got a protected matchup with Oregon every year, we play every Big 10 school at least twice (home and away) in a 5-year period, and play all non-Oregon conference opponents no more than 3 times in a 5-year period. Very interesting! According to the slate we have before us, we do end up playing Michigan three times, but Ohio State only twice.

Here’s the full breakdown of how many times we play each opponent between 2024-2028:

  • Oregon – 5
  • Michigan – 3
  • Penn State – 3
  • Indiana – 3
  • Rutgers – 3
  • Northwestern – 3
  • UCLA – 3
  • USC – 3
  • Maryland – 3
  • Ohio State – 2
  • Iowa – 2
  • Wisconsin – 2
  • Illinois – 2
  • Purdue – 2
  • Michigan State – 2
  • Nebraska – 2
  • Minnesota – 2

Of course, I’ll be curious what the conference looks like – and what college football looks like – by the time 2028 rolls around. For what it’s worth, the media deal apparently expires at the end of the 2029-2030 athletic year.

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.

The Huskies Thumped The Golden Bears

The Huskies on Saturday continued looking like one of the best teams in college football. It’s a broken record I never want to turn off!

This was decidedly NOT your ordinary Washington vs. Cal game. We hopped out to a 14-0 lead before the offense even hit the field, thanks to an interception and a punt returned for a touchdown. Cal managed a long TD drive (with a missed PAT), but then the Huskies tacked on 10 more points before the first quarter ended, to go up 24-6. We didn’t stop there, winning the second quarter 21-6 to take a 45-12 halftime lead.

I went to bed at that point. This just so happened to be the last night of my bachelor party in New Orleans. So, for starters, the game didn’t even kick off until 9:30pm. I definitely understand why the east coast never sees the Pac-12 games! And we were technically in the central time zone!

Even though I was savagely hung over – after three straight days of drinking and staying up late – this day ranked up there, thanks to the Huskies putting a delightful capper on a fantastic long weekend.

Anyway, Michael Penix tacked on another TD pass in the third quarter, before giving way to the backups. Cal made some useless noise in the second half, but in the end the Huskies prevailed 59-32; so, if you were brave enough to bet on the Huskies to cover (and the total game over, for that matter), you got paid out handsomely.

That’s another 304 yards (on 19/25 passing), with 4 TDs and 1 INT. Through four games, he’s now leading the nation in passing yards (1,636) by over 200 yards; he’s leading in TD passes (16); he’s fifth in completion percentage among QBs with over 100 completions; he leads in average yards per attempt among quarterbacks with over 100 completions; he has the highest passer rating among quarterbacks with over 100 completions; and he’s taken only a single sack (in spite of the fact that the Huskies have already needed to do some O-Line shuffling thanks to injuries). The only blemishes in his game at the moment are two interceptions that he definitely didn’t need to throw. But, otherwise, I don’t see how he’s not leading in the Heisman race a third of the way through the season.

Then, there’s Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk (Jalen McMillan missed this one due to injury, but it shouldn’t keep him out much longer than that game or maybe also the next one). Odunze filled in for McMillan as our punt returner and took it 83 yards to the house in some of the niftiest footwork I’ve seen since Dante Pettis. Odunze also added 125 yards on 5 receptions, two of them for touchdowns. Odunze is second in college football receiving (544) by only 12 yards. He’s fourth in yards per catch among receivers with 20 or more receptions (Polk is third in that category). Polk – who had 127 yards on 8 receptions, 2 for TDs – is technically the third option on this team, yet he’s 13th in college football in total yards. And McMillan is 41st, but that’s in only three games!

Once again, the rushing game by committee worked wonders; the team ran for 140 yards on 30 carries (4.7 average). Dillon Johnson led the way with 66 yards on only 10 carries (with 1 TD), Will Nixon added 39 yards on 5 carries, and Sam Adams II had 22 yards on 4 carries (with 1 TD).

Defensively, somehow we were held without a sack, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t doing some work along the line. The Cal starter was pressured into 3 interceptions and held to 207 yards on 17/32 passing, with 2 TDs. They ended up getting some garbage yards in the second half against our backups, which skews the numbers a bit. But, we held them to 4.0 yards per rush, and I have to imagine our first half defense was even better.

There’s a lot of hype around this team! We leapfrogged USC in the AP Poll (they had an uninspiring victory over ASU on Saturday) to reach 7th. In fact, 7-10 in the AP Poll looks like this: Washington, USC, Oregon, Utah. Wazzu leapt up to 16th thanks to not quite Cuoging it against Oregon State (though they almost gave up an onside kick late to make it interesting), who dropped to 19th. UCLA had a tough loss at Utah (14-7) to drop out of the Top 25, and Colorado had an embarrassing loss at Oregon (42-6) to also drop out of the Top 25. The Huskies remain at 8th in the Coaches Poll, but we also have 1 First Place Vote in each poll, which I can’t even remember the last time that happened.

Now, we go to Arizona to play the Wildcats, also a Pac-12 After Dark game (though, this time we’re buried on the Pac-12 Network, so DEFINITELY no one is seeing our game). I don’t know what to make of the Wildcats. They’re 3-1, they just barely beat Stanford on the road (who has all of 1 win on the season), and their most impressive performance might be a 7-point loss at Mississippi State. But, I’m sure the Wildcats have a lot of speedy talent on offense, and will be looking to give us a game.

Is THIS the one where the Huskies show up flat-footed? I couldn’t tell ya. Like the Cal games of years gone by, road games in the state of Arizona tend to be … unwieldy, to say the least. But, we can’t overlook this one, because a victory here sets us up for a 5-0 start heading into the BYE week, before our major showdown at Husky Stadium against the Ducks (who will almost certainly also be 5-0 after beating the Cardinal on the road this week), who are coming off of their college football-shattering victory over the national darlings that are the Colorado Buffaloes (who are almost certainly the frauds we all expected them to be, now that they’re playing legit teams). We’re favored by 18 points in this one, which I would still be inclined to stay away from, but with the way we’re playing, there’s no way I’m ruling out a cover.

Let’s keep it rolling, Dawgs!

The Huskies Dominated A Hapless Future Big Ten League-Mate

This was some kind of impressive ass-whooping!

It’s hard for me to really tell you who’s got the best offense in college football. I don’t watch all the games; I don’t follow any other team all that closely. If you wanted to argue against the Huskies before this past Saturday, I’d say look no further than their relatively pedestrian rushing stats through the first two games. And while it’s only been one game, I don’t know if you can necessarily hold that against ’em now.

Oh sure, Michael Penix had his usual brilliant game (27/35, 473 yards, 4 TDs), and that’s all while playing only two drives into the second half. To that point, the Huskies put up all 41 of their points in this contest (somehow still punting twice in the process), and it was time to lean on the Spartans and salt this game away largely on the ground. You could argue that even on the two second-half field goal drives, we just settled for them to give our kicker practice, as I would have no confidence in Michigan State whatsoever to stop us on 4th & 6 in the red zone.

That’s all to say that this game could’ve been MUCH more lopsided, and we took pity on our future Big Ten league-mates.

But, we also found some success on the ground, and I think that’s going to be a huge boost for us going forward! Dillon Johnson looked absolutely unstoppable on his only 8 carries, netting 71 yards on an 8.9 yards per carry average. And Tybo Rogers mopped up beautifully, carrying it 15 times for 74 yards, earning himself a bigger role in this offense going forward. All told – including Richard Newton’s 4 carries for 29 yards – the Huskies ran it 33 times for 177 yards, or a 5.4 yards per carry average. Simply outstanding!

Again, though, it was all about the passing game, with Dylan Morris chipping in for 63 yards on 2/4 passing, with a pick. Rome Odunze led all receivers with 8 for 180. Ja’Lynn Polk had 5 for 118 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 4 for 96 before a scary-looking injury that might keep him out for the short term, but shouldn’t keep him out for the long. And, new fan favorite Jack Westover had 4 catches for 37 yards and a whopping 3 TDs! I don’t know how I don’t remember him previously (probably because, as Tight End University, Washington does nothing but churn out elite tight ends), but he’s already got 4 scores on the young season, on only 10 receptions (all he does … catch touchdowns!).

The defense, though, really took a step forward in this one. It’s not easy to hold any team to just one score – which took place on their final possession of the game, after an 11-play, 99-yard drive that took up over 5 minutes of game clock, against presumably nothing but backups – but, to go on the road, against a major Power 5 opponent, and absolutely dismantle them, was better than I could’ve possibly imagined.

We had 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks (both by ZTF), an interception, and two passes defended. We limited them to 53 yards rushing on 27 carries, and we limited them to a combined 208 yards passing on 14/35! They had no answer for us whatsoever.

It’s hard to say if that’s going to be deemed a quality win or not. I just don’t think they’re in the same universe as us. They might go on to be okay in the Big Ten this year, but my hunch is they won’t be any better than 6-6, and that’s probably the best-case scenario, considering word is out that their maligned head coach is about to be fired (if it hasn’t happened already).

The Huskies sit at #8 in the nation, but we’ve definitely closed the gap on Penn State. It feels like we’re one or two more impressive victories away from leapfrogging a team or two, and that’s without the need for anyone ahead of us to actually lose.

On the docket this week is a home night game against Cal. Cal is 2-1, with their only blemish being a late touchdown given up to Auburn at home in a 14-10 defeat. Auburn is currently 3-0, so that should probably be qualified as a “good loss” for them. Nevertheless, Cal’s defense is no joke, so if we were looking for a test, this might be the best one we see all year (at least, until Utah comes to town in November).

It gets real now. I know we’re at home, the game is at night, and for anyone willing to stay up past 10:30pm on the east coast, this will be the marquee matchup of the timeslot, but you’re not looking for style points here. The Huskies are favored by 21 points, but if I were a gambling man, I’d take the Golden Bears to cover. And I’d certainly take the under of 63 points scored in the game. Cal hasn’t had a ton of success against us, but in our last four outings (no game in the COVID year), we’re 2-2, and every game has been decided by one score or less. They’ve never really figured out how to field a competent offense under Justin Wilcox, but his defenses have been underrated and nasty to go up against. I’m not particularly looking forward to this one (it’s a good thing I’ll be at my bachelor party in New Orleans this weekend).

After that, we go to Arizona, and it was announced that will also be a 7pm start time. So, you know, hope you enjoy the night games! Hope nothing too fucked up and weird happens!