The Huskies Got Right (In The Second Half) Against Arizona

You could say I was looking forward to the Oregon game. With the Huskies on the road these last two weeks, I’ve been hard at work trying to improve my beer pong game in advance of this Saturday’s early-morning tailgate session. In an attempt to better close games out, I refrained from re-racking my cups until my opponent got down to their final one. I did pretty well for myself, but as a result I don’t really remember much of the game. Ahh, the sacrifices we make to pursue our passions.

Somehow, the Husky offense came out flat AGAIN in the first half, trailing the Wildcats by four heading into halftime. Then, we figured it the fuck out, dropping 38 on ’em to win it in a rout, 51-27. I really don’t have anything to say about this one, because that’s a game we’re supposed to win. The fact that it took us so long to get going is obviously concerning, but what are you gonna do? It’s not easy for us, apparently, to win down in the state of Arizona.

I’m very much looking forward to this week’s matchup against Oregon. I know they still have some speedbumps ahead (@ USC, @ ASU, and for some reason they always struggle against the Cougs), but this has the feel of a Must Win for the Huskies. Not just to (maybe) get back into the hunt for a Rose Bowl, but to prevent the Ducks from playing in the college football playoffs. Not that I wouldn’t relish the opportunity for the Ducks to be embarrassed by Bama on a national stage, but if we could give them their second defeat and essentially be the reason for them not making it to the final four is a badge I’d wear with honor.

Of course, it’s always important to beat them, because Fuck The Ducks. Even if it meant great things for the Pac-12 as a whole – and the Huskies by association – I always find myself rooting against the Ducks. So, this is no different.

The Ducks are narrow favorites this week, which feels right. I don’t know if their schedule has been all that tough, but they’ve beaten both the teams we lost to, so it’s actually a little surprising they’re not favored by more. Last year’s defeat down in Eugene was as bitter a pill to swallow as anything, so it’s crucial to come back this year and defend our house. Hopefully that’ll kickstart a downward spiral for our hated rivals that utterly ruins any chance of the Ducks playing on New Year’s Day.

People Are Saying The Huskies Suffered The Worst Loss Of The Chris Petersen Era

My beer pong game had been struggling considerably the last couple tailgates, so I invited my brother over for a marathon binge sesh. From around 4-7pm on Saturday, we went back and forth, and by the time the Husky game started, I feel like I finally started getting my groove back. We’ll see about maybe running it back next week before tailgating season resumes.

That has nothing to do with the game on Saturday, it’s just an explanation for why I don’t really remember a whole lot about what happened.

I remember feeling invincible early, I remember mistakes just killing us throughout, and I remember feeling totally helpless by the end. That, no matter what we did, we just couldn’t get out of our own way. We made a mediocre team look like world beaters, but I can’t use that old excuse again. I can’t say “the better team lost” because the better team actually won. Stanford took it to us, and we had no way to stop them.

This was certainly one of the poorer coaching jobs we’ve seen from this regime, and that’s more of a Getting The Kids Prepared sort of angle. WHY DO THE HUSKIES CONTINUE TO PLAY LIKE SHIT IN GAMES THAT START AFTER 7PM??? It makes no sense, and I’m starting to get the feeling that since the coaches hate starting late, it’s bleeding into the players, and we’re all using it as an excuse to not play like we usually do. It’s like how the Seahawks used to lose all the time on the road in 10am starts; it’s mind over matter, and right now these late starts are IN OUR HEADS.

But, was it the worst Husky loss in Chris Petersen’s tenure here?

Well, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. With the turnover in personnel, I’m hard pressed to care too much about the first couple seasons (though, that loss to ASU in 2015 – where we had a 17-0 lead in the first half before blowing it 27-17 – certainly still sticks in my craw).

I’d have to start with 2017, again a game at ASU. The Sun Devils were 2-3 heading into that one (much like Stanford was this past weekend), whereas the Huskies were undefeated. At that point in the year, nothing was pointing to ASU being anywhere NEAR our league – especially since we were #5 in the nation at that point, coming off of a 2016 season where we made the playoffs – but if memory serves, it was another late start. We weren’t great on defense, but still held them to 13 points. Once again, it was the offense that faltered, where we only scored the lone touchdown in losing 13-7. Considering the expectations heading into that season – a repeat trip to the playoffs, with the hope we’d maybe make it to the championship game – I still believe that’s the worst loss of the Petersen era (regardless of the fact that we would go on to lose in Stanford four weeks later).

I also think the game last year at Cal ranks as a worse loss than this one on Saturday. That one was particularly brutal, because he finally benched Jake Browning, only for Jake Haener to come in and throw a pick-six to cost us the game. And, don’t forget the loss to the Ducks last year, where we settled for a long field goal late in the game, with a kicker who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I’d even be tempted to put this year’s Cal game ahead of the Stanford loss, for no other reason than it was a home defeat and we’re ALWAYS supposed to win in Husky Stadium.

The point is, let’s have a little perspective here. Saturday’s defeat wasn’t the worst. Sure, it’s fucking annoying that we can’t go into that mausoleum of a stadium and win a fucking game, but good teams are supposed to be tough to play on the road. The Cardinal are as banged up as can be, but they’re still coached by a really smart guy, and they’re helmed by a 5-star recruit at quarterback. I never expected to go in there and walk all over them – in spite of what my bravado might force me to say in my drunken reverie.

At the same time, all of these terrible losses have a theme, and that theme is the offense letting the team down. I won’t let the defense off the hook entirely; I mean, what the fuck was up with that wide open 42-yard touchdown?! The secondary is supposed to be among the tops in the game, but they’re still battling some frustrating growing pains. It’s clear the defensive line is a real problem, though. Dude ran for 151 yards on 33 carries; that’s not the D-Line of a Top 10 team in the nation; that’s a fucking joke. This staff needs to re-TRIPLE its efforts in beefing up the front seven on defense. You have to love what they’re doing in recruiting secondary, O-Line, quarterbacks, and the skill positions on offense; but they’ve been seriously neglecting the D-Line and the chickens are coming home to roost in 2017. For the longest time, we’ve gotten by with one good guy. Vita Vea, then Greg Gaines, but we don’t even have ONE guy this year. No one we can count on to plug up the middle, or get a huge pressure when the chips are down. That’s not going to cut it if we want to be the class of the Pac-12 and try to bring a championship back to the northwest.

But, I mean, when is this offense going to pick up the slack? We’re always waiting for the defense to make a big play; when is it the offense’s turn? Eason is still getting burned by his receivers dropping balls, but he also doesn’t look like the savior we all hoped he’d be. He’s got all the arm talent in the world and he might be destined for better things in the NFL, but we might be better off if he leaves school after this year so we can start fresh with someone else who we can grow with over a couple years.

These games are always even more disappointing when you see how the running game was abandoned. Whatever the over/under is on rushing yards for next week’s Arizona game, I’m taking the over. No one is better at over-correcting for a neglected rushing attack than Coach Pete.

It sucks, because it feels like we’re overdue for some wacky shenanigans with a few Top 10 teams. The Huskies lost in Week 2; if we could’ve run the table against a relatively weak schedule, we might’ve put enough distance from our lone defeat that could’ve allowed us to sneak into a playoff situation. Not only is that dead, you really have to wonder if our chances at a Pac-12 Championship Game are in jeopardy. We’re now 1-2 in conference; even if we beat Oregon and run the table, we still need a lot of help. At just the midway point in our season, that’s a terrible feeling to have.

I’m glad the Huskies aren’t ranked anymore; we don’t deserve to be in the Top 25. I hope this is a wake-up call to everyone in the program. We can’t just coast through life on our reputation and our high school recruitment rankings. And, for the love of God, we’ve GOT to figure out a way to win these late night games! We’re in the Pac-12, we’re going to be playing this late quite a bit!

A No-Nonsense Victory For The Huskies Over The Trojans

USC sort of threw us off the scent with their impressive victory over Utah. Granted, they were at home, and it’s hard for any team to go undefeated in conference play, but I’m of the belief that the Utes are really good, and for about a week there we all wondered if USC is too.

But, this is still the same Trojans team that lost by 3 on the road to BYU (a place where the Huskies won by 26). These things don’t always translate one-to-one, but there’s one team that struggled against an inferior opponent, and there’s another team that went in and dominated. As such, the Huskies should’ve had no problem handling the Trojans in Montlake, and lo and behold, here we are.

Nothing to be ashamed about to win this one 28-14. The Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 lead and enjoyed a nice country stroll the rest of the way. Similarly to the Seahawks game against the Cardinals, the Huskies didn’t take any chances, put out a very safe product on the field, and took the W any way we could get it.

You never like seeing the fumbles, but the team rallied and I thought the defense played their best game of the year. We forced three interceptions and limited their third-string quarterback to 163 yards on 19/32, which is absolutely what you’re supposed to do. Their running game was pretty stout, but they were playing from behind all day, so by that token time was their biggest enemy. Keep the plays in front of you, force them into long clock-chewing drives, and when the game’s on the line, stiffen at the goalline to get the turnover on downs! Bingo, bango, bongo!

Salvon Ahmed really opened up my eyes in this one, running 17 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies were able to handle BYU without him, but he showed why he’s so important to this team, highlighted by an 89-yard run to the house where he just flew past everyone. Other than Aaron Fuller and Hunter Bryant having solid games, there really wasn’t a lot to talk about offensively. Eason was okay, but he didn’t really have to do a whole lot.

I’d been waiting for the defense to assert itself, and this was the coming out party. This side of the ball should continue to get better as the season goes on. The secondary looked great, really for the first time all year, which will be important because getting to the quarterback is still our biggest weakness. You’d hope the front seven would be better at holding down the rushing attack if they’re not going to get many sacks, so we’ll see if that’s cleaned up next week.

It’s off to Stanford for Pac-12 After Dark next week. The Cardinal are truly one of the great disappointments in the conference this season, which should bode well for our chances, as we’ve struggled every time we’ve had to go down there. I know it’s on the road, and all road conference games are tough, but it would be a fucking disaster if we lost this one. They’ve looked pretty bad in road games against USC and UCF, as well as a home loss to Oregon (while their only wins were close ones against Northwestern and Oregon State); you could argue they’ve been bitten by a difficult first-half schedule, but they don’t really move the ball well and they give up a lot of points. Just a bad combo.

Nevertheless, it IS Pac-12 After Dark, and the Huskies seem to REALLY struggle in these games, so I’m taking nothing for granted in this one. I had this game (and this 2-game stretch in general, with another one on the road against the Wildcats next week) as the toughest of our season, and Stanford’s shabby 2-3 record isn’t really going to change my mind. The Huskies need to play like we all know they’re capable of playing and we should walk out of this game satisfied. If not, then I dunno man.

Huskies Close Out A Perfect Non-Conference Schedule

It wasn’t the mightiest of non-conference schedules, but since we don’t really have to worry about playoffs, I’m not gonna read too much into it. We beat Eastern, Hawaii, and BYU by a combined 144-53, which is pretty much what you want to see when your team is great and your opponents are … not.

Yet another quick start for the Huskies, jumping out to a 21-3 lead. From there, it was pretty much cruise control. Once again, Jacob Eason looked fantastic, throwing for 24/28 for 290, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. The pick was pretty bad, but so many of his throws were NFL-calibre. Talk has intensified every week about the likelihood that Eason declares for the League after this season, and I’m inclined to believe that over the alternative. At the very least, I’m not getting my hopes up, and if by the grace of all that is holy he comes back for 2020, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. At this point … maybe a 5% chance he stays?

The running game was rock solid, even with Salvon Ahmed out with an injury. We’re so deep at the position, it really didn’t make much of a difference. Sean McGrew is a serviceable workhorse, and Richard “Big Richard” Newton looks like a real dynamo.

The receivers are as deep as we’ve had in a long time. Where we lack a top-line talent a la John Ross or Dante Pettis, the whole group is pretty great, with Hunter Bryant probably the biggest matchup problem of the bunch. He had just an okay game, but I feel like if you wanted to, you could ramp up his catches whenever you want. Aaron Fuller led the way with 8 for 91 and a TD, who’s probably the closest we’ve got to a true #1; Andre Baccellia is our primary speedster who had a nice game with 4 for 72 and a TD.

The defense didn’t get a ton of pressure on the road, but did force a couple fumbles and brought one back to the house. I feel like this unit is getting better with every game though, and by season’s end we should really be holding other teams down.

This week, conference play gets going again and the Huskies look to even up the record after a disappointing Cal loss. USC comes to town headed by their third string quarterback; they hosted Utah last week and came away with an impressive victory, so this one is no sure thing. Losing to BYU isn’t gonna win them many votes in the polls, but they’re still ranked at 21, so this will either be an impressive win for the Huskies, or they’re continuing to over-rate a mediocre Trojans team. We’ll see, but I still expect the Dawgs to prevail. Maybe somewhere in the 34-20 range.

The Huskies Enjoyed A Comfortable Victory Over Hawaii

I suppose you’d call that a palate-cleanser, huh?

It was 38-0 before Hawaii finally got on the board just before halftime, so it’s not like this one was ever in any doubt. You could argue things got a little hairy when the Rainbow Warriors pulled to within 38-20, but the defense stiffened up and the offense got going again to pull away 52-20.

Jacob Eason threw for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Hunter Bryant went off with 5 catches for 115 yards and a TD. Ahmed and McGrew each carried the ball 8 times for a combined 146 yards and a TD. Freshman Richard Newton only ran for 29 yards, but pushed the ball over the goalline 3 times!

Defensively, Myles Bryant led the way with 2 picks (the defense as a whole accounted for 3 picks and 4 passes defensed). There was only 1 sack for the group, but Hawaii seemed pretty concerned with getting the ball out quickly.

A lot like the Eastern game, the Huskies did what they were supposed to do: stick it to a vastly inferior opponent. You could argue this one was more impressive, as Hawaii had already beaten Arizona and Oregon State, but I would argue those are two of the worst Pac-12 teams we’ve got this year. We’ll see. Regardless, I don’t think anyone will be putting this one in the “quality win” bucket.

Next week, however, presents a significant challenge as the Huskies travel to BYU. To date, the Cougars went on the road to beat Tennessee, and are just coming off of a home victory over USC; they lost to Utah, but Utah’s a top 10 program right now, so that’s understandable. I feel pretty secure in saying that BYU will be playing in a bowl game this season, so with it being on the road, this will be no gimme.

Cal Apparently Has Washington’s Number

It’s hard not to be hyperbolic when talking about college football, as each game is seemingly more important than the last. The 2018 Huskies were out of the running for the College Football Playoffs well before our frustrating 12-10 defeat down in Berkeley. You could’ve argued, at the time, that losing to Cal (shortly after losing to Oregon, also on the road) eliminated our chances at a Pac-12 title, but thankfully the Ducks obliged and we were able to win out in conference play.

So, I don’t want to come on here all doom and gloom like. Whenever the Huskies lose, it’s always shocking, it’s always heartbreaking, and when you factor in the relative ease of our schedule, you can make the argument that even a single defeat drastically reduces our chances of making the College Football Playoffs. But, the fact of the matter is, these Huskies were never REALLY going to make the final four. That was always going to be far-fetched. There’s too much turnover on the roster (particularly on defense) and too much uncertainty around our transfer QB making his initial starts since leaving Georgia two years ago.

The win at home against Eastern was nice. It was convincing. But … they’re Eastern. They’re SUPPOSED to lose to Washington 47-14. The real test was always going to be Cal last week, and just like last year, it was a mess from the start. Only, this time was supposed to be different. This time, we were at home, and we were supposed to avenge our 2018 defeat!

I’ll admit, I was drinking at the tailgate all day, then I had a Marc Maron comedy show at The Moore that night, just as the game was getting started. But, I DVR’d the Dawgs, and with the considerable rain/lightning delay, I even managed to catch up to the live broadcast at some point in the third quarter.

I won’t blame the delay for the Huskies losing, but considering the game didn’t end until, what, after 1am local time? All I’ll say about that is I wonder how different the outcome would’ve been had there been no delay. Had it been just rainy without the lightning. Or, had it been comfortably overcast the whole time like it was the entire fucking day! That’ll haunt me as the season goes on, I’m not gonna lie.

The rushing attack for the Huskies was good enough to win. But, the passing game was severely lacking. There are numerous reasons: Colorado’s secondary might be the best in the country (or at least in the top 10), so it was going to be tough sledding regardless. There were also just a completely ridiculous number of drops from the receivers, which I still can’t comprehend. It didn’t look like Eason was throwing it too hard, but even if he was, those are balls that NEED to be caught. You’re playing for a Top 25 football program, you need to catch the ones that are thrown right to you. But, also, Eason wasn’t perfect; he missed a number of throws that could’ve kept the chains moving. And, some slice of the Blame Pie needs to go to the play caller, who had a brilliant game against Eastern, but obviously had his own struggles against Cal’s top tier defense.

Shifting gears, the Husky defense really shit the bed in the second half. Don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic in the first half, as the Huskies went into halftime up 10-3. But, for some reason, we couldn’t get to their quarterback anymore after the break, and we were allowing chunk plays left and right. Cal came right out and dominated from the kick to start the third quarter, tying the game in their opening drive, then taking the lead one drive later (with a Husky field goal wedged in the middle). We FINALLY forced a 3 & Out on Cal’s first drive of the fourth quarter, which gave the Huskies just enough of an opportunity to take a 19-17 lead thanks to a heroic 49-yard field goal with just over 2 minutes left in the game. But, facing those odds: two minutes left in the game, at their own 25 yard line, on the road in a relatively hostile environment (with, what, a tenth of the original crowd still in attendance?) against what’s supposed to be a Top 10 program in the nation, Cal was able to slice and dice down to our 1 yard line before making a chip-shot field goal with 8 seconds left in the game. I mean, at least provide A LITTLE resistance!

But, ultimately, the offense has to take more of the blame on this one. I mean, you’ve got to finish drives. You’ve got to score touchdowns, not field goals, particularly at home.

So, what does this mean going forward? I haven’t got a clue. It would be nice to not have our playoff hopes dashed quite so early in the season like they’ve been the last two years. But, this is college football, you get what you get. We’re only two games into the season, with two more non-conference games in a row before we get back to business. The division is still in play, the conference is still in play, and a major bowl game is still in play. Cal was always going to be the toughest defense we saw this regular season, we’ve gotten them out of the way, now we can move on and hopefully continue to grow this offense into something much more respectable.

I haven’t given up yet, is the point here. USC, Oregon, Utah, and Wazzu all have to come play us in Seattle. Our only real challenge on the road is probably Stanford and they don’t necessarily look like world-beaters at this point. We’ve just gotta keep plugging along – mostly undetected – and hope to catch some better luck in these close games.

Hawaii is on Saturday; they should be pushovers. Let’s take this one game at a time and see where we are by the end of September, when we get USC at home for our first major showdown.

The Washington Husky Football 2018 Season In Review

Chris Peterson’s first year here was in 2014, the team was full of Sark holdovers, and we were just okay. We finished third in the Pac-12 North and lost in the Cactus Bowl to OK State. 2015 feels like the REAL first year of the Coach Pete regime, as his guys started trickling into the lineup. Most notably: Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin.

It’s been four years with that duo intact, and they’ve been four of the most successful years in the program’s history. 38-12 in the regular season, including 2 conference championships and 3 major bowl games. Now, unfortunately, in that span the Huskies are 1-3 in the post-season, having lost all 3 of those major bowl games, in pretty decisive fashion.

The 2018 Husky Football team was both a rousing success and a disappointment. And, I think you can say that about the entire Browning/Gaskin era.

The one constant throughout Coach Pete’s tenure has been tremendous defense, particularly in the secondary. There’s always been at least one stud interior lineman, and there’s usually some very solid linebacker play, but the secondary is where the defense’s bread is buttered. In an era where passing attempts are increasing by the year, this has been a boon to our program.

It’s unfortunately been the offense that’s been too inconsistent – especially in those big games – to take this team over the hump. And, when you figure Myles Gaskin is the Husky career rushing yards and touchdowns leader, it’s not hard to see where this is going.

I wanted to put some distance between this post and the Rose Bowl, so I could calm down and see things a little more rationally. The truth is, the Huskies wouldn’t have won double-digit games the last three seasons if Jake Browning was a bum. He’s the Husky leader in career passing yards and touchdowns by a pretty significant margin. While he won’t go down as the the greatest Husky quarterback of all time in the eyes of most fans, he has to at least be in every conversation based on his numbers and this team’s overall success alone.

But, his big hang up was always his performance in the big games, and as a byproduct, the team’s success in those games. That’s just the life of a quarterback; it’s not fair. They get the lion’s share of the praise when things are going well, and the lion’s share of the blame when they’re not.

You can go through the schedule and try to nitpick that argument, choosing his all-time best performances in some of our important victories. But, more often than not, his greatest games came against nothing defenses where we were able to run up the score. 8 total touchdowns (6 passing, 2 rushing) in that rout of Oregon in 2016; 378 yards and 6 TDs against a garbage Cal team a few weeks later; nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs in that year’s Apple Cup (which was a total blowout by halftime, in large part due to our defense). I could go on and on; but name me one where Browning took this team on his shoulders and pulled our asses out of the fire late in the game against a quality opponent. You won’t find many; you might not even find any.

The Huskies were 7-7 in one-score games the last three years, and so many of those losses were just huge. They were the result of our defense keeping us in it, while our offense fiddled around for most of the game. You stop the Husky rushing attack – and put the game on Browning’s shoulders – and you’re most likely going to have success.

The real disappointing thing about the last three years – and 2018 in particular – is that the jump in Browning’s game from his Freshman to Sophomore year was outstanding! In 2015, he looked like a true Freshman should look, but he got better as the season progressed, and there was real hope for the future. Then, in 2016: an explosion! We were a 1-loss team that was playing Alabama in the College Football Playoffs! He threw for 3,430 yards and a whopping 43 touchdowns! He was in the Heisman conversation for a little bit!

With the hot recruits continuing to flood into the program, it was only a matter of time before we got back there, and maybe even played for a national title!

Then, there was just a huge step back in 2017, as a lot of our offensive weapons moved on. We were still good, but with two conference losses, we were iced out of the conference championship game. Still, a Fiesta Bowl against an elite Penn State program was a nice consolation prize. But, much like this year’s Rose Bowl, we were late to the party and there wasn’t enough time to complete our comeback.

The hope was that we could use those lessons to better ourselves in 2018. Maybe Browning – who finished 2016 injured – wasn’t quite at full strength in 2017. Hopefully THIS would be the year he’d make the next step up into that elite QB realm.

But, right off the bat, we couldn’t get out of our own way that first week against Auburn, and it felt like the college football playoffs were already out of reach. Considering how it eventually shook out – with the teams who would go on to make the final four, combined with how disappointing Auburn and the Pac-12 eventually proved to be – the Huskies could’ve won out and it’s not a guarantee that we would’ve made it.

Nevertheless, a heartbreaker in Oregon (which wasn’t his fault), and an unforgivable loss against Cal (which was at least partially his fault, as the coach felt it prudent to bench him for part of it), really sunk this season about as far as it could go. We were able to pull out of the nosedive with a 4-game winning streak, including a gutty performance against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. But, that just put us in a position where we were nearly embarrassed against the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. As it stands, no one even remembers we were in that game; they just remember it as Urban Meyer’s final college game (for now) and that of course he beat whoever the other team was!

I’m not saying it was all bad, or all disappointing, with Jake Browning at the helm. I’m just saying that there really isn’t any significant, signature win. His most memorable game is probably that one down in Oregon to end The Streak, where we racked up 70 points. That’s all well and dandy, but that Ducks team was a disaster and ended the season with all of 4 wins (2 in conference).

There was a lot of hope for the Jake Browning years, but not very much realization of that hope.

Looking ahead, obviously the Huskies of 2019 are going to look drastically different. Here are the notable outgoing Seniors:

  • Jake Browning
  • Myles Gaskin
  • Kaleb McGary
  • Drew Sample
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Greg Gaines
  • Tevis Bartlett
  • Jordan Miller
  • JoJo McIntosh
  • Shane Bowman

On top of that, Byron Murphy (a Sophomore) and Taylor Rapp (a Junior) have already declared for the NFL. Still undecided, apparently, is Myles Bryant. While there are lots of DBs looking to fill the gap, those are still some HUGE holes to fill! But, if you look at the way this team has recruited, and how highly-rated these classes have been, I think there’s only good things ahead.

It’s been super fun the last three years, all things considered. I’d like to think, as time goes on, I’ll think back fondly, with just a tiny amount of wistfulness of what could’ve been.

Of course, if this team ends up going where I think it can go, we might look back at this era as the beginning of something truly great!

The Huskies Lost The Rose Bowl

It was a fun trip, with a not-very-fun result.

Purple vs. Red

My one recommendation, if you’re travelling down to the Los Angeles area: if it makes sense geographically, try your best to fly into and out of the Burbank airport, because it is PHENOMENAL! It’s probably the smallest airport I’ve ever been in, which has to be about 95% of the reason by itself. I’ve never in my life had a quicker, smoother TSA experience. Even WITH the requisite pat-down and hand-wiping, I was through security in about two minutes. No line whatsoever, just a single 2-child family ahead of me. I’d say if there’s one downside to the Burbank airport – at least as far as my experience was concerned – is that the only restaurant was one of those Guy Fieri joints. I thought I’d play it safe and go with the barbecue buffalo wings (because if I can live my entire life not knowing what “donkey sauce” is, I feel I’ll have lived my best life), but they were more bone than meat! I don’t know what animal they got these wings off of, but I’m assuming it was something in the wren family?

I bought the tickets for this flight the night of the Apple Cup. I got the insurance – which I’m not sure I could’ve even used, had I needed to cancel – and just banked on the Huskies beating the Utes in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If we had lost, and I couldn’t get my money back for the flight, I still might’ve gone, but it would’ve been a pretty pointless little trip without a football game involved.

I flew out the morning of Monday, December 31st, arriving in Burbank around 11am. From there, I met up with some friends as we got lunch, picked up our Husky Alumni Tailgate tickets, and got a couple six packs of beer to drink while watching the other bowl games on TV. We ended up ordering in Thai food for dinner, and celebrating the 9pm Pacific Time ball drop with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine from the hotel bar. We had an early start to the new year in store, so there was no time to screw around!

We headed out to the Rose Parade around 8am, and were able to see anywhere from 60-90 minutes worth of floats and marching bands and whatnot. Considering we didn’t have tickets for the bleacher seats, I think we did pretty well for ourselves. Around 9:30am, we set out on foot for a good, long hike to the Husky Tailgate. From 10am to 1pm, it was all you can eat hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, nachos, pulled pork sandwiches, and whatever else they had on hand. It was also all you can drink IPAs, Miller Lites, and whatever other alcohol they had in stock. I don’t remember what the tickets cost, but we more than got our money’s worth.

It was staged on a golf course near the stadium, and they really did it up right. Nice, large space, with plenty of booths and room to stand around. Lines were short for the most part, and things really went smoothly.

At some point in the one o’clock hour, we headed into the Rose Bowl, getting there in plenty of time for the game to start. At this point, I couldn’t tell you what actually happened on the field, because my brown out game was on point this day. I know I left during the game, presumably with the goal of finding some way to get back to the hotel room. It turned into me walking until I was sober enough to form coherent words with my mouth again, at which point I pieced together my destination from a photo of the hotel address I took the day before. I ended my New Years Day on the couch in our suite, having wolfed down a bunch of pizza, watching the end of the Texas/Georgia game, followed by a New Girl marathon on TBS.

The Rose Bowl in itself was what any of us could’ve predicted coming into this thing: the Huskies started off miserably slow, the defense pulled it together in the second half, allowing the offense enough opportunities to make a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, only to fall short thanks to an unsuccessful onside kick. Jake Browning had a whatever game, Myles Gaskin put in a Herculean effort with 121 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, but in the end we lost 28-23. Much like the Penn State game last year, if we could’ve chopped off the first quarter, and added a fifth quarter to this game, I think we would’ve won.

I’m sure I’ll have a more definitive recap of the 2018 Husky football season at some point in the coming days, but obviously this is a disappointing end. ALMOST as disappointing as my decision to take the 1:30pm flight back to Seattle yesterday. I can’t properly enjoy the final day of a vacation when I know I have to be at the airport, so I ended up getting there RIDICULOUSLY early and sitting around for about 3 hours before takeoff. At which point, I got to Seattle right in the heart of rush hour traffic, adding an unnecessary rush hour commute home to what was otherwise a delightful 9 days off of work.

The Huskies Won The Pac-12, Set To Play Ohio State In The Rose Bowl

What a Pac-12 Championship Game!  Thrills!  Chills!  Spills!  A 10-3 barnburner that I hoped would never end!

I’m only sort of kidding.  I wouldn’t want a game like that to be the only football game I ever watched for the rest of my life, but it’s nice to have a little variety once in a while.  I feel like you see these back-and-forth, high-scoring affairs all the time, but you hardly ever see a real, true defensive battle to the death!

The Huskies were able to move the ball pretty well at times, but a few things were readily apparent from the get-go.  For starters, Coach Pete has zero confidence in his field goal kicker outside of the 20-yard line.  I mean, that’s as much as I’ve ever seen a coach go for it on 4th down, outside of some lunatic who just goes for it every single time!

Also, it was clear Browning was going to throw his patented early interception.  Somehow, the first two were thrown right at defenders who just dropped them, before the actual interception bounced off of Ty Jones’ chest and leg.  I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like he’s gotta get it out of his system before he can go out there and finish the game.  It’s not like he was TERRIBLE in this one, but Utah’s not gonna make it easy on anyone.

I thought some of the play-calling was REALLY suspect, after a nearly-flawless Apple Cup.  I mean, if you know you’re going to go for it on 4th down on Utah’s side of the field, then why not run it on 3rd & 6 to see if you can get it to a point where you can then run it on 4th & short?  Don’t tell me the offensive coordinator wasn’t aware, because that had to have been in the gameplan going in:  we’re not letting our kicker screw us!  The running game wasn’t anything spectacular – Utah held us to 119 yards on 40 carries – but it was pretty dependable that we were going to get SOMETHING on most every carry.  That’s better than trying to rely on Browning to do the job against a stout front like that.

Ultimately, with the game tied 3-3 late into the 3rd quarter, there were two possible outcomes:  we were either going to blow it, or our defense was going to have to put points on the board.  I had zero trust in the Husky offense coming from behind in this one, and with the way Utah was moving the ball for much of the 3rd quarter, the tide was starting to swell against us.

I really thought I was going to have bought plane tickets to Pasadena for nothing!

Thank God for Byron Murphy!  When he picked off that first one, I literally shouted, “YOU HAVE TO SCORE!”  Had he been tackled even inside the Utah 10-yard line, I have no doubt in my mind we would’ve mucked it up somehow.  As soon as he crossed the goalline – and as soon as it was confirmed there were no flags on the play – I can’t begin to tell you the amount of relief that washed over me.  Up 10-3, with a quarter left to play, this game felt much more in control.

Another pick by Murphy, and one by Jordan Miller on the very next drive, helped seal that deal.  Did I think there was a little missed PI call on that final Utah play?  Oh sure, but I always expect the worst!  I don’t think that necessarily cost them the game; I still think we would’ve prevented them from scoring a touchdown.

That was just a MONSTER defensive performance, from the players on up to the coaches.

And so here we are, going back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season!  This feels good.  More than that, it feels RIGHT!

This is an insane run the Huskies have been on.  Two years ago, in the Peach Bowl against Alabama.  Last year, in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State.  Now, the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.  All three are premiere bowl games against three premiere college football programs.  Against Bama, we took an early lead, but were pretty well over-matched going forward.  Against Penn State, we were overwhelmed from the jump and made a valiant effort to bring it back to a 1-score game, but ultimately it never felt like we were in EITHER of those games.

Now, we’ve got the Buckeyes.  A 12-1 team some had pegged for the College Football Playoffs.  I’m sure I’ll have some sort of preview in the days leading up to the game, but I just want to start off the bowl season by saying this:  we’ve been in big games before.  This team has played some HUGE schools.  The spotlight, the national stage, should NOT be too much for this group.  You could argue against Bama, we weren’t ready.  You could argue we were still a little raw – particularly on defense – last year in the Fiesta Bowl.  But, this is a game that can be won by the Huskies.  Ohio State has some impressive-looking wins on paper, but I would argue the Big 10 is wildly overrated.  I would argue the Buckeyes themselves are wildly overrated.  Yes, they have talent, but their defense isn’t anything special.  And, if the Husky defense plays like they did against Utah, we should have no trouble slowing their offensive attack.  I would argue we match up better against Ohio State than we do the Utes!

If I’m right, it’s going to be one Happy New Year, as I celebrate at the Rose Bowl with my friends.

The Huskies Won The Apple Cup (Yet Again), Play For The Pac-12 Championship

Sorry Seahawks, but when my team beats the Cougs for the Pac-12 North championship, they get the coveted Monday post!

So yeah, no, I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the Huskies last Friday.  We’ve looked pretty stagnant most of the year – particularly on offense – and we’ve lost a couple games we had no business losing.  Auburn stinks, and that ends up going down as just a painfully bad loss.  Oregon is mediocre at best and that game was absolutely within our grasp.  And I’ll never understand what happened at Cal, but holy hell was that a miserable day.  It all sort of boils down to a senior quarterback never progressing beyond his sophomore year, and a championship-contending team breaking in new play-callers on offense and defense.  Just a fundamental breakdown on all levels.

Meanwhile, there were the Cougars, one loss on the year at USC that probably shouldn’t have been a loss.  Sure, they played nothing but cupcakes in the non-conference slate, but at every turn where the Cougs normally Coug it up, instead they found ways to win.  They endured Utah (which is all you can ever really do with Utah, be it the college football team or the state and its peoples), they dominated Oregon with the light of the nation shining down upon them, then they followed that up with a powerful road win against Stanford.  They took care of business against Cal, that game at Colorado could’ve been a prime Couging opportunity (but instead they won so bad the Buffs fired their head coach), and they destroyed the Wildcats to put themselves in a VERY outside chance of cracking the Top 4.  I still believe that even if the Cougars had won the Apple Cup – even if they’d crushed us – Ohio State would still leap over them in the next rankings, but we’ll never know.  The point is, the fact that the Cougars were so close to the ultimate glory really says a lot about this year’s team.

I know that the Huskies are the HUSKIES and the Cougars are our little buddy or whatever, but if there was ever a year where the David might slay the Goliath, I thought this might be the year.  I’ll admit it, I bought into the hype.  If I was a Coug fan, I ABSOLUTELY would be one of those yahoos wearing the fake Gardner Minshew moustache.  That guy just seems like everything Luke Falk wasn’t:  a guy who could put it all together in a big game.

And we made him look like the Checkdowningest Charlie I’ve ever seen!  26/35 for a measly 152, with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.  What a breathtaking defensive performance, by an elite unit and from again, a first-year defensive play-caller in Jimmy Lake!

The Cougar running backs were their best players – James Williams scored both of their TDs and averaged 5.9 yards per rush – but since it’s a Mike Leach offense, of course their backs only rushed a combined 16 times!  Between JW and Max Borghi, they combined (rushing and receiving) for 164 out of 237 yards of total offense.  They led the team in receptions with 7 apiece, and yet I would argue they were still underutilized!  Mostly because there was probably another 100 yards of rushing they left on the field, but still.  I agree with the primary sentiment coming out of this game:  I hope Mike Leach never leaves!

For the Huskies, it was absolutely the Myles Gaskin show.  27 carries for 170 yards and 3 TDs.  I am SO going to miss this kid, it’s not even funny.  He is everything you could ever want out of a running back.  4 straight 1,000-yard seasons.  I mean, just the fact that he stayed for his senior year says a lot.  What a true, hall of fame Washington Husky!  I mean, I’m ready to retire his number and hang his jersey right now!  Do we even do that?  I dunno, but we should!  And we should start with #9.

Hunter Bryant came alive for 108 yards and a TD on 3 receptions.  After a miserable, injury-riddled season, it’s nice to see him finish with a flourish.  We’ll need him next week and beyond as well, so it’s good to get him into the flow of the offense while we still have him.

Andre Baccellia was, I thought, an under-the-radar MVP of this game.  He doesn’t get the pub of a lot of guys in this offense, but he had 5 catches for 89 yards, and they were all seemingly in huge situations!  I like where this receiver group is at for next year, I’ll tell you that much.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’m starting with Greg Gaines, who was a manimal in the middle.  He ended up with a sack and a few tackles, but he was impactful all night.

Joe Tryon was a name I didn’t recognize, but he had a sack and looked to create a lot of pressure off the end.  If he’s someone we can count on next year, that would really be something.

Finally, BBK, Taylor Rapp, and the rest of that Death Row squad, I can’t wait for you guys to tear shit up at the next level (but, if a few of you underclassmen wanted to stay one more year, I’d love you all the more).

All told, it added up to a snowy 28 to 15 victory in Pullman.  That’s a game I won’t soon forget!

Now it’s on to Santa Clara, where we have a date with the Utah Utes.  Recall we beat them 21-7 in Utah in week 3.  It’s been a long time since that one, and I don’t think things have gotten any easier.  They ended up 9-3, losing to both Washington schools as well as at ASU.  They’re on a 7-1 streak though, and came out of a poor Pac-12 South pretty easily.

Washington lucked out, in that we had an extra day to prepare for them, as they had already locked up the South and had a game against BYU on Saturday.  Considering the Pac-12 Championship Game is on Friday at 5pm for some reason (I guess the Pac-12 doesn’t like eyeballs on their marquee football teams), I’d say we have a marginal edge.

I think the Huskies SHOULD win, but obviously nothing is a given with this team.  Utah and Washington have the two best defenses by a mile in this conference, so I wouldn’t expect a ton of points.  Being clean on special teams is going to be paramount.  Ultimately, it’ll come down to a few big plays, and it’ll come down to which teams make those big plays.  Expect a frustrating, early bone-headed interception by senior quarterback Jake Browning (or, maybe just to fuck with our minds, a LATE bone-headed interception).  But, hopefully we can get Gaskin going and overcome.

I’ll predict a 22-21 Husky victory, as we go for 2 to play for the Rose Bowl at the end of the game.