The Husky Football Team Finished 2022 In The Top 10

The College Football Championships have come and gone, and now we’re left with the final rankings of the 2022 season. The Washington Huskies finished at 11-2 and ranked 8th in both the AP and Coaches polls. That’s pretty incredible, considering where we came from: a total disaster of a 4-win program who needed a complete coaching overhaul.

I would also argue it’s incredible based on where we were just six weeks into the season. At 4-2 – following back-to-back road losses to UCLA and the lowly Sun Devils – it looked like this season was going absolutely nowhere. Well, maybe not nowhere, but certainly more middle-of-the-pack in the Pac-12 than a top 10 program nationally. Then, we ripped off seven wins in a row to close out the year, including a hard-fought Alamo Bowl victory over Texas. Color me wildly impressed!

I should also point out that the Huskies were the highest-ranked Pac-12 school at the conclusion of the bowl season. That’s thanks to both USC and Utah losing their respective matchups to Tulane and Penn State, respectively. Hence why we sit sandwiched between those two schools in the rankings.

Are we better than Penn State? I’d like to think so, especially at this point in the season. The only non-playoff teams ranked ahead of us are Alabama (5), Tennessee (6) and the aforementioned Nittany Lions (7). I don’t know if we’d beat Bama, but I’d give us a fighting chance against all those schools.

I’ll plan to revisit this discussion later on, when the opening rankings come out. For now, ESPN has their own “way-too-early” rankings, which seem to be constucted for the sole purpose of infuriating me. I’m not going to bother running through all the schools, because who has the time? I’m just saying it’s idiotic that they automatically bump USC and Oregon ahead of us, leaving us outside the top 10 at number 11.

I don’t know what tea leaves they’re reading, or how this bodes for our prospects heading into the AP’s initial poll (whenever they get around to releasing it), but I’m going to be upset if we’re left outside the top 10, considering the talent we have – talent, by and large, that could’ve gone pro, but is all coming back – and the talent we’re bringing in. Along with a full offseason of continuity between coaching staff, quarterback, and hopefully all our receivers (here’s to Rome Odunze sticking around one more year).

But, then again, that kind of snubbing might just put the chip on our shoulder we need to get ahead in this world. In spite of all that, the nation is still going to disrespect us and not believe in us?! Bring it on! And let’s go kick some ass!

As for the rest of the Pac-12 in those way-too-early rankings, they have USC 7th, Oregon 9th, Utah 13th, Oregon State 17th, and UCLA just missing the cut. For the record, I think they have the Beavers too low. I’m also never surprised when the Cougs over-achieve. But, that’s still pretty cool that the Pac-12 figures to have so much representation in the Top 25. It looks like things are starting to turn around. It’s too bad – after 2023 – we won’t have USC or UCLA here to enjoy the fruits of all our hard work.

As far as realignment goes, I really hope we get SMU, or some other comparable Texas school to join the Pac-12. I’m ambivalent about San Diego State or whatever other California school joins our ranks. But, for recruiting alone, we need a footprint in Texas if we’re going to hope to stay relevant.

The Huskies Handled The Longhorns In The Alamo Bowl

Nothing felt right about the 8-4 Texas Longhorns being favored by 3 points over the 10-2 Washington Huskies. At best, you could call this a de facto home game for the Austin-based school – a mere 75 minutes away from the San Antonio-based bowl – but I would argue there was a significant talent discrepancy which was only overwhelmed by the gargantuan Want To discrepancy.

I couldn’t possibly keep track of all the perfectly healthy Texas players who opted to NOT play in this game, because they’re certain to be drafted into the NFL next year and would rather save their bodies than play in this meaningless game. We’re talking about really impactful players! I want to say not one but two of their best running backs sat out, and I think the broadcast mentioned a good pass rushing linebacker to boot? That would prove pivotal in this particular game; who knows, it might’ve actually meant the difference between the loss they ended up suffering, and a win they can only dream about.

I can count on zero hands the number of Huskies who opted out of this game, because that number is zero. I wouldn’t have faulted someone like Michael Penix from sitting this one out, but that was before he announced he was coming back for the 2023 season. The Dawgs were indeed as close to full strength as we’ve ever been, less a Cameron Davis injury late in bowl week practice that was only major enough to sit him in this game, but isn’t supposed to cost him next year. Losing our second-best running back isn’t really all that impactful in the grand scheme of things.

I believe a lot of money came in late on the Huskies, as the moneyline payout went down ever-so-slightly. A lot of east coast fucks probably took a bath on this one; that’s what you get for ignoring the Pac-12 this year!

Probably best not to throw stones, for those of us who hammered the over REALLY got snookered!

My big question heading into this one was: how good is Texas’ defense? That was probably my biggest concern. I figured they’d be good-enough moving the ball, and the Huskies are going to be in any game so long as Michael Penix is behind the center. But, if their defense gave us fits, how would we respond? I don’t know if the Huskies had played a truly great defense this year. Probably Oregon State was the best, and you saw how we barely eked out that one.

It never occurred to me that the Husky defense might step up in a big way! Granted, their top receiver Xavier Worthy was KILLING them with drops – including what would’ve been a breakaway touchdown in the second half – but I saw some improved coverage, I saw a drastic decrease in yards after contact/yards after reception with stout tackling, and I saw a good amount of quarterback pressure to keep him off-the-mark on just enough throws to limit them to 6/15 on third downs (2/3 on fourth downs).

That added up to a ragged-as-hell first half. The Huskies finished the game 11/20 on third downs (2/3 on fourth downs), but a lot of that came in the second half. We were limited to a 13-3 lead at the break, with a number of poor throws, costly drops, and baffling referee decisions sprinkled in. There was one long third down would-be conversion we should’ve had – where their guy CLEAR AS FUCKING DAY grabbed our receiver’s jersey in a blatant pass interference move to prevent a huge gain, only to get a no-call from these blind as bats fucking refs. And the Rome Odunze butter fingers moment in the endzone sure looked like it might loom large just before the break, costing us 4 points in the process.

What really saved us and kept us afloat was the production of running back Wayne Taulapapa, who had the only touchdown of the first half on a 42-yard scamper down the left sideline. He ended the game with 108 yards on only 14 carries, and was really gashing them throughout. Richard Newton took on backup duties and had a workmanlike 44 yards on 11 carries.

Both teams came out to play some offense in the second half. The Longhorns marched right down the field to make it 13-10, but the Huskies finally woke up as well. Things were looking dicey as it appeared we might go 3 & Out and shift momentum completely, but we converted a 4th & 1 on our own 34 yard line with a Penix sneak (where it looked like we might just take the delay of game penalty and punt, after not getting them to jump offsides). That propelled us to convert that drive into a nifty touchdown pass to Taj Davis, and we were off to the races from there.

After forcing them to punt, we marched right down the field again to make it 27-10, thanks to an incredible shoe-string catch by Jalen McMillan. Those two touchdown drives were 13 plays and 14 plays, respectively. 75 yards and 90 yards, respectively. 5:47 and 6:57, respectively. Just taking the absolute wind out of their sails. Sure, the Longhorns followed up that second touchdown with one of their own – to make it 27-17 – but by then we were in the meaty part of the fourth quarter, and content to sit on the ball and convert third downs, move the chains, and drain clock. Our subsequent drive ended on downs, but it was still another 13 plays and 5:29 off the clock. Texas got the ball back with just over 4 minutes remaining and needed over half of that just to go 55 yards on 10 plays to convert a field goal to make it 27-20. With 1:40 remaining, we bled their final two time outs, and ran it down to 25 seconds, where they took over on their own 16 yard line, unable to do anything.

That’s precision. That’s execution. That’s a methodical, veteran victory over a marquee football team in the NCAA landscape, against our former head coach (Sark) and our former defensive coordinator (Pete Kwiatkowski). When you think of Kalen DeBoer, you think of awesome passing attack and high-flying offense. But, what you also get is a complete head coach who pushes the right buttons, is aggressive when this team needs him to be, and is smart and conservative when it means our victory is all but certain.

That last drive is a perfect example. How many coaches out there would’ve thrown on one of those downs – especially after we were stuffed on the first play – in order to salt the game away and make a name for himself? Or, take the drive(s) before that. How many up-tempo offenses would’ve caved? Would have given the ball back to Texas with too much time left on the clock? The drive where we gave it up on downs was quietly one of the most critical of the entire game! We took five and a half minutes from them! That’s what great teams do: amass a double-digit lead, then you fucking sit on them and bleed them dry! Don’t give them any opportunity to weasel their way back in the game. FINISH THEM.

We’ve seen the Huskies win a lot of different ways this year, en route to an 11-2 finish. We’ve seen huge blowouts, we’ve seen back-and-forth scoring festivals, we’ve seen tough and gritty low-scoring nailbiters. I think that’s what impresses me most about this team: its adaptability. If we just got a LITTLE bit more out of our defense, we could really do something with this squad.

Without taking anything away – because an 11-win season in the Pac-12 is always impressive – I will say there’s a lot of unknown, but also a lot to look forward to. We beat the Oregon schools, which was impressive, but we lost to UCLA (I refuse to even bring up the other shit school we lost to) and we didn’t even play the Utes or Trojans (our Pac-12 Championship Game representatives). It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t slide into a New Year’s Six bowl, because I’d REALLY like to see what this team could do against the best of the best. I would not put the Texas Longhorns in that tier, for many reasons.

Next year, we don’t have that luxury. Next year, we do play the Utes and Trojans (USC on the road). We avoid Colorado (in full-on rebuild mode with Deion Sanders at the helm) and UCLA (unclear if their quarterback is returning, or if they’ll be worth a damn at all). When you factor in a non-conference road game against Michigan State, there will be every opportunity to prove ourselves.

What we haven’t seen in a while is a Husky team with sky-high expectations. We’ll be major players in the non-conference rankings! We might be as high as the Top 10, we might be snubbed with a slot in the teens, but we’ll be in there somewhere. I think 2017 was the last time we headed into the season in the Top 10; we made it as high as #5 (with our 6-0 start) before losing to the fucking team that shall not be fucking named.

While we all loved those Coach Pete teams – we got to play in our first-ever playoff game, which I attended in Atlanta against Alabama! – there were faults with that offense in big games. So far, I’ve seen none of those issues under Kalen DeBoer and Michael Penix’s leadership. This offense is ready to play with everyone, and I can’t wait to see what we look like next year. Full season AND full offseason under our belts? Watch out, college football!

Michael Penix Is Staying With The Huskies Through 2023!

Last Friday didn’t shake out the way we all hoped. USC lost to Utah once again, costing them a sure slot in the college football playoffs and costing us a slot in the Rose Bowl. I’ll always believe that and no one will convince me otherwise.

I’ll also always believe we could’ve handled USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but that’s neither here nor there.

With Utah playing Penn State in the Rose Bowl, and USC playing Tulane in the Cotton Bowl, that dropped the Huskies to the Alamo Bowl on Thursday, December 29th. Interestingly enough, it’s a matchup with the Texas Longhorns, and our former head coach Steve Sarkisian.

At the moment, the Longhorns are favorites (-6) and heavily predicted to win this game. I’m guessing that’s because the public doesn’t know any better and is putting their money on the more recognizable school. It’s going to be an interesting clash of styles – with Texas favoring a run-heavy approach, over our high-flying passing attack – but I’m expecting this one to be high scoring and very fun to watch.

We did get some phenomenal news over the weekend though, with the announcement that Michael Penix is coming back for one more year!

He was expected to be one of the more talked-about under-the-radar quarterback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. You know what I mean, there are those guys at the very tippy-top – C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, etc. – and then there’s that next wave. I think many projected Penix to be a Day 2 guy, someone who – after meeting with him and working him out – would certainly propel himself into a second round pick (or even a bottom-of-the-first round pick, if the right team fell in love with him). That’s not nothing! Lots of second round picks have gone on to great NFL careers. He potentially left a great opportunity on the table to come back to school.

And, not for nothing, but he probably eliminated himself as a potential Seahawks target.

I’m trying to be a Live In The Now kind of guy, so I just want to take this as the great news that it is. But, I know as soon as I start getting too high on this move – as soon as I start crowing about how the Huskies are going to be Pac-12 Champions in 2023 – that’s when disaster is going to strike. This is the number one thing I wanted for the Huskies – to the point that I didn’t believe it was even a possibility – and those have always come back to bite me in the ass. I remember when “all I ever wanted” was for Jacob Eason to transfer back here and take us to the promised land in 2019. We finished 8-5 that year, before it all got blown up.

I know there are financial ramifications behind the scenes I’ll probably never be privy to. I’m sure there are NIL deals and insurance policies in place that will make him a wealthy individual. And I’m sure there’s potential for greatness in this decision. He gets to head into 2023 as a Heisman Trophy favorite (not THE favorite, but certainly in the discussion from the onset). Maybe he doubles down on this great season and his draft stock soars into the upper first round. If he makes it through unscathed – right now, the biggest concern is his injury history – that’s two straight years of elite, unmolested play.

But, my mind gravitates towards the risks. Obviously, you hate to think about Penix getting hurt next year. That’s a risk in any situation, though. It would be heartbreaking for him to suffer a severe injury and fall in the draft accordingly. But, let’s assume he’ll be fine. He just had far and away the best year of his career. Indeed, this was the best year any Husky quarterback has ever had! Full stop. He played in all the games, he played at an extremely high level in all the games.

What are the odds he’s able to replicate that? I think the odds are low that he surpasses these numbers; I think he’s hit his ceiling. What more do you want out of Penix? He’s thrown for well over 4,000 yards. He’s completed 66% of his passes. He took 5 sacks! Sure, if we really wanted to, we could get his touchdown numbers improved (he threw 29, against 7 picks), but there was never a lull. There was never really a bad game in the bunch. His worst game was probably at UCLA where he threw two picks and we lost 40-32, but he still threw for 4 TDs and 345 yards on almost 69% completions.

It’s a tall order. The odds of him slipping up in 2023 are a lot better. I feel like this only helps NFL evaluators, but does very little to help Penix in his future endeavors. Sure, if he holds up – under the weight of heightened expectations – then maybe he plays himself into a top 5 pick. But, the deck is really stacked against him. I’ll be watching with my hands over my eyes, just hoping that everything works out okay.

I know this sounds like I’m down on him, but I promise you I’m not! I’ve just seen this play out before. Jake Locker returned for one more year and went from the consensus #1 overall pick (under the previous CBA, where he would’ve made CONSIDERABLY more money as a draft pick, before they erected the slotted pay system) to #8 overall in 2011. While it worked out fairly well for the Huskies – he continues to be a legend, if for no other reason than removing the stink of that 2008 season by getting us back into a bowl game under Sark – I wouldn’t say it was the best decision for Locker. Maybe he’d disagree! I hope he does. I hope he has no regrets about how his career in football went.

And I hope the same for Michael Penix.

The Washington Huskies Could Very Well Make The Rose Bowl

Saturday was as enjoyable a day of football as I’ve seen in quite some time. Everything sort of opened up for me and I had an opportunity to sit down and watch almost nonstop from about 3pm until 11pm (while taking a brief intermission to go out and buy a Christmas tree with my dad).

Now, obviously, it wasn’t perfect. But, Friday’s mini-slate of games had a lot to do with that, thanks to Cal blowing it against UCLA. The Huskies were iced out of the Pac-12 Championship Game when the Utes blew out the Buffaloes, but that game was over before it started. Colorado is one of the worst teams in all of football. They’re an embarrassment to the Power 5 conferences, and deserve to be relegated to a lower level until further notice.

It’s unfortunate, because the biggie improbably worked out, as Oregon State defeated Oregon in a thrilling matchup, where the Beaves overcame a 31-10 deficit late in the third quarter to prevail 38-34. In really dominating fashion, by just running all over the Ducks to the tune of 268 yards on 43 carries (that’s a 6.2 average for those following along at home), while their quarterback only completed 6 passes for 60 yards all game. I don’t know how you come back from being down 21 points by only running the ball, but this was straight out of the 1920’s. The Ducks didn’t do themselves any favors by making a lot of mistakes, and coaching their way out of any shot at the Rose Bowl by going for it deep in their own territory with a quarterback run that was doomed to fail.

There were other great outcomes throughout the day. 5th ranked LSU lost to a Texas A&M team that didn’t even qualify for a bowl game this year. USC handled a 15th ranked Notre Dame team by double digits. Michigan absolutely destroyed Ohio State on the road to lock in their spot in the playoffs (as probably a 2-seed).

It all led up to the Apple Cup at 7:30pm in Pullman. If the Huskies won, they would create a 3-way tie for second place in the Pac-12, with Utah and Oregon. With the tiebreaker system set in place, that gave Utah the nod to play USC in the conference championship. If the Huskies lost, it would’ve been a 2-way tie for second with just Utah and Oregon, with the Ducks having the head-to-head victory over the Utes. So, this was an opportunity for the Ducks to lose twice in the same day, which is why it was so great!

The Apple Cup was an intense scoring festival through the first half. The offenses sputtered a tiny bit through the first three possessions, with the Cougs improbably doinking in a 50-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But, once the quarterbacks got used to the cold, they were gripping it and ripping it like nobody’s business. After those first three drives, there were a whopping SEVEN consecutive touchdown drives before the Cougs had to settle for a field goal just before halftime to only be down 28-27. If the clock wasn’t a factor, they’d still be out there trading TDs!

Somehow, the defense stepped up in the second half, limiting the Cougars to only 6 points (should have been 8 points, but quarterback Cameron Ward had the ball in the wrong hand as he ran for the front left pylon on the 2-point conversion – the first of two such instances where he failed to simply reach the football over the line to gain while running out of bounds – in one of the most baffling displays of low football IQ I’ve seen in a while), which was pretty necessary since the Huskies had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers to keep things interesting. But, we got things on track after a brutal pick in the endzone, pulling away from a 35-33 lead to a 51-33 end result.

Interception aside, Michael Penix was a wizard out there, throwing for 485 yards and 3 TDs (on 25/43 passing), while adding 34 rushing yards and 2 TDs on the ground. His regular season with the Huskies looks like this:

  • 330/500 for 4,354 yards, 29 TDs, 7 INTs, and only 5 sacks in 12 games. He added 86 rushing yards and 4 TDs on the ground

This is, without question, the greatest season I’ve ever seen from a Husky quarterback. It might literally be the best season ever by a Husky quarterback; I’ll defer to the experts on that one. But, this is legitimate pro-level talent we’re watching! I can only imagine what it would’ve looked like to have Kalen DeBoer, Ryan Grubb, and Michael Penix together for four years. Penix still technically has a year of eligibility left, but I would be absolutely shocked if he opted to stick around for another season, especially given his injury history.

Our top three receivers also, by consequence, had huge games. Rome Odunze led the way with 5 for 157 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 6 for 150 and a TD. And Ja’Lynn Polk had 4 for 82 and a TD. On the year, here’s how they shake out:

  • Odunze – 70 for 1,088 and 7 TDs
  • McMillan – 71 for 1,040 and 8 TDs
  • Polk – 38 for 649 and 6 TDs

The Huskies haven’t stopped recruiting receivers at a high level since the likes of John Ross and Dante Pettis went pro, but they simply haven’t had a quarterback capable of getting the ball to their most talented weapons. Instead, we’ve been Tight End University in the interim, which is fine, but unless you’re cultivating the next Travis Kelce, your tight end shouldn’t be your best weapon on offense. It’s long overdue that we’re seeing our wideouts getting this kind of attention. As you can see, it opens things up tremendously for everyone else.

The running game gets overlooked in all this, but Wayne Taulapapa had another wildly efficient game, running it 13 times for 126 yards and a TD. Cameron Davis also had a fine day, rushing it 6 times for 55 yards. On the year, they weren’t ever the headline stars, but they accounted for a lot of our scoring:

  • Taulapapa – 126 carries for 779 yards and 10 TDs
  • Davis – 107 carries for 522 yards and 13 TDs

It’s definitely a pass-heavy attack, but the offensive scheme takes advantage of that by gashing teams in the run. I think it’s exactly the right kind of balance for today’s game, and I couldn’t be happier with how the offense performed this year. I guess it’s all downhill from here!

So, here’s where everything stands. On Friday at 5pm, USC plays 14th ranked Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. At the moment USC is ranked 4th in the AP Poll (the official college football playoff rankings come out later today, I believe). The Top 4 in the AP Poll are Georgia, Michigan, undefeated TCU, and USC. TCU will play the 12th ranked Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday morning in the Big-12 Championship Game. Also in play we have a 1-loss Ohio State team playing for jack shit since they lost to Michigan. How this week’s rankings shake out will speak volumes. If USC is also ranked 4th in the college football playoffs, then I think it’s a foregone conclusion: win and they’re in. If Ohio State is still the 4th team, then all bets are off (though, in all likelihood, they’ll be in with a win, but you never know). I don’t think anyone believes that a 3-loss LSU team would make it, even if they beat Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but let’s hope the Bulldogs take care of business just to be safe.

Anyway, if USC makes the college football playoffs, then that sets up the Huskies for a Rose Bowl berth. That would make the Utes a 3-loss team in conference (with 4 losses overall). Meanwhile, the Huskies and Ducks would both have 2 losses in conference (with Oregon having 3 losses overall), and the Huskies BEAT the Ducks. So, that should give us the edge.

Even if things go wonky on us, and USC has to “settle” for the Rose Bowl, there’s still an outside chance – as a 10-win team – that we might qualify for the Cotton Bowl, and be part of the big New Year’s 6. That’s fun! I’d be happy with that!

I’d be less happy if we are iced out completely, but that’s always a possibility as well. I would think – given our offensive firepower – that we’d be an attractive team to put into ANY bowl game.

Of course, a Rose Bowl showdown would be a rematch with Ohio State from the 2018 season, which was a tough-luck 28-23 defeat. Ohio State is always a scary team to play, but I’d still love the opportunity.

We’ll see what happens! Regardless, this season has surpassed my wildest expectations for the Huskies. I’m just tickled pink with how it all has gone so far.

Fun Husky Football Scenarios Heading Into The Apple Cup

The chances are remote, but the possibilities are endless for the Washington Huskies, heading into our regular season finale.

At 9-2, the Huskies have alread surpassed our wildest dreams for what this season could be. After a COVID-shortened 2020, and a disastrous 2021 that saw the university clean house, I think most of us had tempered expectations heading into 2022. I wouldn’t have predicted we’d be at the bottom – though I did see that bandied about in some circles – but it felt like a middle-of-the-road kind of year where maybe we’d get to 6-6 and play in a crappy bowl.

So, to have a remote possibility of actually making the Pac-12 Championship Game, and/or somehow making the Rose Bowl, is pretty thrilling!

To get here, I should mention the Huskies just throttled the Buffaloes last week, 54-7. That was after we shocked the world – winning in Oregon – to make all this possible. We’re officially 6-2 in conference, tied with Utah for third. USC is first, at 8-1, and have already clinched their spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. They also sit at 6th in the nation, with an outside chance of cracking the college football playoffs (more on that in a bit).

Here are the scenarios, as they stand:

Oregon plays at Oregon State tomorrow at 12:30pm. If the Ducks win, they advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon State is 21st overall, so they’re no pushovers. But, the odds are pretty heavily in favor of the Ducks taking care of business.

Should the Ducks lose, that opens up a cavalcade of possibilities! Most importantly, Washington would advance if they beat Wazzu and UCLA loses at Cal this afternoon. Should the Bruins prevail, the Huskies can still make it with a win and a Utah loss at the hapless Buffaloes. So, that’s why it’s a remote possibility. The Ducks are favored, the Bruins are heavily favored, and the Utes are a shoo-in. My hunch is all three of those teams win and it’s USC at Oregon in the title game.

The Utes could still make it with a victory if the Beavers beat the Ducks, the Huskies beat the Cougars, and the Bruins beat the Golden Bears, which actually isn’t crazy, and is the second-likeliest scenario.

I, as a Husky fan, expect to be bummed out when all is said and done, but not making the Pac-12 Championship Game isn’t the end of the world. Assuming Oregon makes it, and if USC defeats the Ducks to take the conference, there’s a very good chance that the Trojans make the top four and advance to the college football playoffs. At which point, the Huskies – by virtue of having beaten the Ducks – could be selected to represent the Rose Bowl as the second-best team in the Pac-12. That’s a helluva consolation prize! And, arguably, would be an easier path to the Rose Bowl (since there’s no chance whatsoever – even if we beat USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game – that we’d make the college football playoffs).

So, that’s something! If all else fails, though, we’re still a Husky football team looking to get to 10 wins in the regular season, which hasn’t happened since 2016-2018 of the Chris Petersen era. Which is why Kalen DeBoer earned himself a contract extension. He gets two extra years added to his deal – now through the 2028 season – with a $1 million raise added immediately (escalating $100K every year).

The money and everything is pretty meaningless, given that if he keeps doing well, he’ll keep getting extensions and raises. If he does poorly, he’ll be fired. And, if another team wants to buy him out and poach him away, they’ll pay whatever it takes if he proves he’s worth it. But, it’s cool for him to have this happen, and it’s cool for us as fans because that means the Huskies are playing well.

I’m excited – regardless of the post-season outcome – for the Apple Cup this weekend. The Cougs have been hot of late – winners of three in a row – after losing 4 of 5. All of their losses so far have come to ranked teams (Oregon, USC, Oregon State, Utah). The Cougs beat a ranked Wisconsin team early in the year, but at 6-5 the Badgers have sorely disappointed. Nevertheless, I think the Cougs are better than we expected, and could surprise us if we’re not careful. They’ve played most everyone tough – even in their losses – so I would expect this one to be close to the bitter end. I’ve got the Huskies by 3.

The Huskies Ruined The Ducks’ Playoff Chances!

I think I’m the Bad Luck Guy. There’s generally a common denominator with regards to the outcomes of important Husky football games. My friends and I like to gather together for the big ones. Huge opponents from another power five conference, bowl games, and the annual Oregon game. I can’t say that every time I miss one of these gatherings, the Huskies win, because that’s not true. But, what I can say is that the Huskies have ONLY won when I’ve had some serious FOMO, because I was doing other things. I’m sure my friends were gathered around the TV, screaming their heads off. Meanwhile, I was following along on the ESPN Gamecast while sitting in my seats at the Jane’s Addiction/Smashing Pumpkins concert at Climate Pledge Arena.

So, I don’t know what happened, exactly. I know this game didn’t look anything like my vision!

The only way the Huskies were ever going to prevail was to win in a shootout. I’d say a score of 37-34 qualifies, even if it didn’t look that way through the first half. The Huskies somehow nursed a 13-10 advantage at the break, which seems flukey as all get-out. We settled for two field goals that prevented us from really blowing things wide open. But, we also forced a timely turnover and lucked into a missed Oregon field goal.

The third quarter was nonstop touchdowns, five in all between the two teams. At this point, defense was non-existent, and it looked like that would be the case for the rest of the game. Which is what made Penix’s goalline interception so dire. It was 1st & Goal from the 1, you just can’t have a pick there. Oregon took the ball at that spot and almost put the game away. 20 plays, 91 yards, and over 10 minutes of 4th quarter game clock transpired. But, thankfully, we were able to hold them to a field goal, limiting our deficit to 7 points (34-27).

We got the ball back with just under 4 minutes left, with fans thinking about a potential Husky touchdown and Go For Two situation. It didn’t come to that, as on our third play of the drive – 3rd & 7 – Penix dialed up a 62 yard touchdown to Taj Davis to tie it back up.

Somehow, holding Oregon to a field goal on that 20-play drive woke up the defense, as we held the Ducks to a 4 & Out (going for it on their own 34 yard line on 4th & 1, and losing a yard on the play). It was unfortunate we weren’t able to ice the game right there, but we did net the go-ahead field goal from Peyton Henry with 51 seconds left.

I don’t know WHAT the fuck happened on the final drive of the game. All I saw was we had them on a 4th & 14 play, which they converted for 19 yards. Then, they threw another pass to get to midfield with 6 seconds left. Then, there was some “illegal touch-pass” that happened on a play that would have put them in field goal range, causing the play to be waived off and leaving them with an untimed down. Presumably, there was a hail mary that fell incomplete to seal it.

What a whale of a game! What an incredible ending!

There’s been a lot of chatter about what needs to happen for the Huskies to make the Pac-12 championship game. What’s unfortunate is that in years past, all we’d need is for the Ducks to lose one more. Then, we’d have the tie-breaker edge and go on to play the winner of the Pac-12 South. But, with this Top Two Teams/No Divisions nonsense, there’s officially A LOT that needs to go right for the Huskies to make it.

I keep thinking back to how many years where the Pac-12 North would’ve had the top two records, but it feels like this was implemented to help the Pac-12 South teams take control, and I don’t understand why I think this way.

Anyway, I think our shot ended when we blew it down in the desert against ASU. It was true then, and it pretty much remains true today.

In all likelihood, this won’t even prevent the Ducks from making the Pac-12 Championship Game. But, we eliminated them as a contender for the national title, and that’s something at least. Furthermore, we beat the fucking Ducks! What more do you need?!

That was our Super Bowl, and we came through victorious. I wish I could’ve been there to see it.

Michael Penix – aside from that one turnover – was magnificent. 408 yards and 2 TDs. We also managed – as a team – to rush for 114 yards (5.2 average) and a couple more TDs. But, I’ll say this, give me Peyton Henry as the hero of the game. He famously missed a kick in Oregon a few years ago, so this was a nice redemption story. But, more importantly, he’s been fucking nails this year. 15 of 17 (including 4/5 from 40+) and perfect on PATs. I don’t have much faith in college kickers – from ANY distance – so it’s nice to have someone we can rely on in big moments. It took him a while to get there, but Peyton Henry is a very good college kicker. I don’t know what that means for his pro prospects, but good for him either way.

Now, we play the hapless Buffaloes of Colorado before going on the road in the Apple Cup. Two more wins should get us to 10-2 on the regular season, which is pretty fucking amazing for Kalen DeBoer’s first year here. What an under-the-radar hire that might pay legitimate dividends down the line! This isn’t just a guy on a hot streak with someone else’s players. This is a guy who brought in a top tier quarterback, and totally revamped this offense into one of the best in the game!

Now, we just need to tighten the screws on this defense and we’ll be set.

It’s Oregon Week

I mean, if you encompass the entire state of Oregon, we’re on a two-week run here of Oregon schools.

I don’t know if last Friday’s victory at home over the Beavers was “impressve” necessarily, but the Huskies really gutted one out in a weird game. Weird, first of all, that the Beavers were ranked in the Top 25 in the nation; when was the last time we saw that? I don’t care, so don’t answer me.

What are the Beavers nowadays? They used to be kind of interesting and frisky in the Dennis Erickson/Mike Riley eras, where they’d be good-to-mediocre, but every once in a while would spike and be pretty great. They hit a real low point in the mid-2010s, but have since been making slow and steady progress under ex-Chris Petersen OC Jonathan Smith. They went seven bowl-less years until 2021, but now they’re poised to go back-to-back, and heading into this contest, they were slated to make even more noise.

The Huskies managed to shut that down real quick. I’ll be honest, I was annoyed that the Beavers were ranked and we weren’t, even though we had the same overall record. Apparently, there can only be one, so after our 24-21 victory, we took their spot in the low 20’s.

The main reason to come away impressed by this come-from-behind victory is the fact that we 100% would have lost this game under Jimmy Lake. The Beavers never trailed in this one until there were 8 seconds left in the game. They went up 7-0 in the first, we tied it in the second. They took a 14-7 lead just before halftime, we tied it up midway through the third quarter. They went up 21-14 heading into the fourth, we tied it on the very next drive. Then, punts were exchanged until we got the ball back on our own 3 yard line with four and a half minutes left, where we proceeded to drive 92 yards – eating up almost all of the clock – while converting three 3rd downs. This was in a driving wind storm to boot, making even a gimme chip shot field goal no guarantee.

Now, we go to Oregon, the undefeated (in conference) leaders of the Pac-12. They’re in the top 10 in the nation, having only lost on the road to the consensus top team in the world, Georgia Bulldogs.

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, this one looks pretty grim. 2017 was the last time we beat Oregon. 2016 was the last time we won IN Oregon (a delightful 70-21 romp that might have been the best television viewing experience of my life), but I would argue those were down years for Oregon. Certainly 2016 was, when they finished 4-8. Anyway, that appears to be just a blip on their overall record dating back decades now. They’ve owned us, plain and simple. And I can’t see that changing this week.

They’re 11th in rushing yards, 21st in passing yards. We are … exceedingly mediocre on defense overall, and frankly I don’t know what we’re worse at. Our secondary has fallen off a cliff with all the guys going pro last year. And our rush defense hasn’t been worth a damn since Vita Vea and Greg Gaines left us. We don’t get nearly enough of a pass rush to make up the difference against elite offenses, and make no mistake, this is the best offense in the conference we’re going up against. On the road, in one of the most hostile environments to play a football game.

Frankly, the Ducks being favored by 13.5 points feels low. I’d bet that in a heartbeat if I was a money-grubbing swine who had no morals or values.

What the Huskies have going for them is their own offense. If we had a defense that was remotely worth a damn, we could hang with this team. But, I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen, because I’ve seen it a thousand-million times in my life.

The Ducks are going to move through us like a hot knife through warm butter. Well, hang on, because first the Ducks are going to win the opening coin toss and they’re going to defer. The Huskies are going to immediately go 3 & Out and punt it away. Then, before you know it, it’ll be 7-0 Ducks. The Huskies will then proceed to start moving the ball, but they’ll stall in the red zone and have to settle for a field goal. The Ducks will then march right back down the field and take a 14-3 lead before the first quarter is done.

Maybe then, we pull it to within 14-10 and that’ll be the high point of our day. From there, the Ducks will go up 21-10, then they’ll generate a turnover. Maybe Penix forces one into coverage, it gets tipped, and they either bring it back to the house, or get it close. The Ducks will go up 28-10, force another punt, and put up a field goal just before halftime to go up 31-10.

The Ducks will be on cruise control in the second half, so offensive domination will give way to a more measured approach that both adds points to their total, while taking more time off the clock. I think the Ducks get to 48 points in this one, though if they really try, they could put up 60. The Huskies might even win the second half on a late garbage-time touchdown, but I don’t think it gets any closer than 48-31. That feels generous, because I’m picturing something in the range of 48-24, if I’m being honest.

Granted, the Huskies have at least been somewhat competitive in recent years against the Ducks, but that was when we were presenting a stout defense against them. We’ve already given up 40+ on the road to UCLA and ASU, though, so why shouldn’t the Ducks – easily better than both of those teams – do at least that much?

This is a good Ducks team. I hate to admit it, because I so desperately want us to kill them, but I’m not getting my hopes up. In my mind, we’ve already lost, and I’m moving on to the Buffaloes.

Frankly, I’m happy to have the distraction of moving, so I don’t have to watch this waking nightmare. I’m even happier to have the distraction of going to see the Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction at Climate Pledge Arena later that night. No one should be forced to sit and watch the Huskies lose to the Ducks. It’s torture akin to the climax of A Clockwork Orange!

The Huskies Are Bowl Eligible

I’m glad I didn’t watch this game. Following along on the radio was nerve-wracking enough!

Also, I’ll say this: fuck the I Heart app and fuck KJR 93.3. First of all, it’s idiotic that we lost KUBE. Second of all, it’s even more idiotic that there’s a sports radio station on the FM band. Third of all, it’s the most fucking ridiculous thing that I can’t get access over my phone to the fucking Washington Huskies game because it thinks I’m out of the area. I was in Gig Fucking Harbor! If I was a 70 year old man who owned an actual radio, I could’ve easily gotten this game over the airwaves. But, for whatever reason I have to jump through nine hoops to get it on the Internet and lo and behold, no dice. Don’t make me download a stupid fucking app. Just let me go to a website on my phone and push a play button; fuckin’ a.

I had to find a random Port Angeles radio station website that had what I was looking for, but it took a good 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Anyway, I hear the Pac-12 Refs were in rare their usual form with some of their bullshit calls. I can’t handle that anymore. There’s enough in this life to be outraged by, I don’t need it with the stupid fucking refs who can’t do their fucking jobs. Some defensive lineman falls down and it’s automatically a holding penalty; what the fuck has the game of football come to?!

For whatever reason, the Huskies always struggle against the Cal defense. I don’t totally get it, because it’s not like they’re destroying everyone they play. Yet, year-in and year-out, they seem to hold our offense down. Now, part of that in recent seasons has been due to whoever the fuck Jimmy Lake put in charge of calling plays, compounded by mis-management of the quarterback position.

This year, we have a competent head coach, an elite offensive system, and a capable quarterback to run the whole thing. Yet, it still seemed like a struggle to get to 28 points! But, we got there – thanks to 14 points in the fourth quarter, to finally open things up – and managed to hold the Golden Bears to 21.

It’s even more impressive when you factor in how the Huskies were up only 6-0 at halftime. The defense finally came to play! Until it didn’t, giving up three TDs to Cal in their first four drives of the second half. But, we managed to stiffen up on their last two drives to hold the score exactly where it was.

Penix threw for 374 more yards (he’s had 300+ in all 8 games this year, a Husky record) and 2 TDs. That came up big, because the running game didn’t have a whole lot to show for it. Jalen McMillan led the way for the receivers with 8 for 81 and a TD.

I know just being bowl eligible isn’t any great accomplishment in college football, but considering we haven’t played in a bowl since 2019, and we haven’t really been a fun team to watch since 2018, this is noteworthy. It’s something to hang our hat on.

The downside to this season, obviously, is that it feels pretty remote that we’ll manage to claw our way to the top two, which is what we’d need to do if we want to play in the conference championship (since they’ve done away with the divisions). We don’t play USC or Utah (who both have one loss, ahead of our 3-2 Pac-12 record), so we can’t make up ground from them without help. We already lost to UCLA (the other one-loss team), so we’ll need them to really fall apart. And Oregon, of course, sits atop with a 4-0 record. Even if we did manage to go down to Oregon and defeat them (no simple task, even with our offense), we’d need them to lose a second game somewhere, and their only other tough game is at home against the Utes.

But, I guess we’d only need to get to the 2-seed, so maybe asking Oregon to lose a second game isn’t a huge priority.

That, of course, all assumes the Huskies manage to go undefeated the rest of the way. Obviously, the game in Eugene is our toughest hurdle in that respect – the other games seem pretty reasonable-to-easy – but as far as I’m concerned, beating the Ducks would be our Super Bowl. I wouldn’t give a shit about any of the other games, as long as we manage to take them down a peg.

For now, the Huskies get a much-needed BYE week. It’s the perfect time in the season; if I had it my way, all the teams would either have their BYEs after game 7 or game 8 (just split all the teams in half and get them all done in a 2-week stretch). Next up, we get a Friday Night game on November 4th, hosting the Beaves. They share our record and they share our BYE week, so there’s no real advantage for either team. I don’t know what they do well, other than beat up on the bad teams and lose to the good teams.

What I do know is that the Ducks have already had their BYE week, and they face back-to-back road games against a couple of pushovers before hosting the Huskies. We’ll have one extra day to prepare for that one, which I like. Every little bit helps.

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!