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.

The Huskies Won & Now We Have The Apple Cup To End All Apple Cups

The Huskies beat the Beavers 42-23.  I went to that game, thanks to a free ticket from a friend; I’m pretty sure we got there midway through the first quarter and by the end it was 28-3 and I was thoroughly checked out.  We spent, I want to say, most of the second quarter in a beer garden next to The Zone, and I think I was on my way out of the stadium before halftime.

Listen, this game was always going to be a walk-over, and really this was a day to spend with friends at our final tailgate of the season, as well as saying goodbye to the current incarnation of Dubs, WHO IS A VERY GOOD BOY YES HE IS YES HE IS!

This was all a nice little ramp-back-up for the ultimate showdown.  This year’s Apple Cup will decide who plays for the Pac-12 North, which for all intents and purposes means it will decide who plays for the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl (because, as usual, the Pac-12 South is a garbage fire).

The Huskies are 8-3 (6-2 in conference).  The Cougars are 10-1 (7-1 in conference).  With no third team involved, this is it.  All the marbles.

The Cougars are favored, as they should be.  They’re at home, but more importantly, they’ve been FANTASTIC this season.  Every time I think they’re gonna coug it, they turn that notion on its head.  In fact, if it weren’t for the Pac-12 Refs couging it in that USC game, they might be undefeated and in contention for a playoff spot.  Seriously, at the very least – if they were undefeated right now – they’d be ranked 5th, and when Michigan loses to Ohio State this week, that’s their opening!  With 1 loss, even if the Cougs win out, there’s just no way.  Notre Dame isn’t losing, Clemson isn’t losing, and even if Bama loses they’d still get in there.  Either Michigan wins out to take the final spot, or Ohio State leapfrogs everyone to get in there.

But, that’s neither here nor there.  This week, it’s all about the apples.

Washington hasn’t lost this game since 2012.  I can’t even remember the last time this game had so much riding on the line for both teams.  It might be as far back as the 1981 season.  The Huskies, under Don James, were 5-2 in conference at the time, looking to go back to their second straight Rose Bowl.  The Cougars, under Jim Walden, were 5-1-1 in conference at the time, looking to go to their first Rose Bowl in 51 years.  The game was played in Husky Stadium and the Huskies prevailed 23-10.  We’d go on to beat Iowa in the Rose Bowl, while the Cougars lost to BYU in the Holiday Bowl.

Is there a chance history repeats itself?  Boy, wouldn’t that be nice.

For what it’s worth, I know I should be more confident in the Huskies, but this just doesn’t feel like our year.  We’ve struggled to incorporate a brand new offensive coordinator, our senior quarterback hasn’t progressed the way we’d hoped, we have no pass rush to speak of, our defense might be overrated, and I think the coaching in general has been a little suspect at times.  It all boils down to the fact that the Huskies just might not be that good this year.  It’s okay.  They’re not always going to be like 2016.

Fortunes shine on the lucky sometimes, and the Cougars couldn’t be more fortunate with their scheduling.  They played a less-than-nothing non-conference slate.  They got all the best Pac-12 teams to come to Pullman (Utah, Oregon, Washington, Cal) and of their two tough road games, they lost to USC and the only really impressive win of their season game at Stanford a week after their tremendous home coronation against the Ducks.  So, while it’s been impressive to see them not-coug it week-in and week-out, what’s left to wonder is:  How good are the Cougars, really?

If there’s ever been a team built to beat the Cougars, it’s the Huskies.  Since Coach Pete got here in 2014, we’ve been undefeated against them (a point of pride, in that Luke Falk went winless in his entire tenure with the Cougs).  Now, obviously, Gardner Minshew is a million times better than Falk, but the offense is still that of Mike Leach, and we’ve still got one of the best secondaries in the nation.  I don’t remember sacks being a huge part of our game in these last few Apple Cups; what I do remember is a lot of errant throws and Cougar drives ending in punts.

Ultimately, I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other about the game this Friday.  Gun to my head, I think the Cougs win it in a close one.  But, nothing would surprise me, not even another Husky blowout.  Which, if that’s the case, we’ll get to stop and smell the roses again VERY soon.

The Huskies Get A Nice Little Mini-Vacation After A Hard-Fought Win Over Stanford

All I really know about the Husky game on Saturday was that it was an absolutely perfect day from start to finish.

Well, that might be pushing it.  I was pretty severely hungover from a Friday night blitzkrieg with my dad and brother, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from getting up at around 8am, getting a couple of sausage biscuits and hashbrowns from McDonald’s, and willing myself to Seattle from Tacoma for the big day.

We set up our tailgate under the covers at the Padelford lot to protect against the rain, and the Bud Lights were cracked open I want to say before noon.  I had a better-than-average day at the beer pong table, enjoyed one more frosty beverage on our walk to the stadium, and at halftime even managed to take down a couple more at whatever beer garden they have just next to The Zone.  Did we miss some of the third quarter?  Hell, shit happens.

Do I remember much of what happened at the game?  Not totally.  I know this:  Myles Gaskin is a total boss and this team needs him active and doing his thing more than anyone wants to admit.

The Huskies tore it up early, taking a 21-0 lead into halftime before holding on to a 27-23 victory.  Gaskin had 148 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 28 carries, as this team apparently has some really serious concerns at the position heading into next year.  No one else did ANYTHING on the ground in this game, or really much at all this season.

Browning had a nice bounce-back game, albeit pretty nondescript.  194 yards and a touchdown, but more importantly, no real back-breaking mistakes.

The most important thing is just getting the victory.  The Huskies are 7-3 overall, and 5-2 in conference play, putting us right in line for a spot at the Rose Bowl.  We get a much-needed BYE this week before a home game against the Beavers (meaning we get a much-needed 2 BYE weeks in a row).  That should hopefully rest us up for a showdown for the Pac-12 North title against the Cougars in Pullman.  That game will be hyped up like you won’t believe!

The Cougs, to their credit, have done what needs to be done.  They’re 8-1 overall, 5-1 in conference.  They go to Colorado this week, then host Arizona next week.  I haven’t done the tie-breaking, but they could conceivably lose both of those games and still have a shot at the Pac-12 Championship game by winning the Apple Cup (as they should hold the tie-breaker over the Huskies, Cardinal, and Ducks in that scenario).  So, it’s a little weird that there’s so many meaningless games between now and Thanksgiving, but that’s the world we’re living in, I guess.

Right now, my plan is to enjoy the BYE week with a little drunken movie night with friends.  I think we’ve all earned a little rest from worrying about the constant rollercoaster that is this Husky football season.

The Huskies Lost To Cal And Somehow Still Have A Chance To Make The Rose Bowl

It’s Win Out Or Bust.  That’s what we’re looking at right now.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d put all my money on Bust.

I didn’t watch a single second of that game on Saturday.  I spent half the day at a friend’s house playing a board game called Terraforming Mars, which was fun and complicated and probably not something you want to be hammered for when you’re first learning how to play.  After that, we rented the movie Mandy on demand.  Those things probably aren’t in everyone’s wheelhouse, but they’re squarely in the middle of mine.  Even if you hate board games and insane Nicolas Cage movies where he’s on a kill-crazy rampage for the last hour, they’d both be preferable than what the Huskies were offering over the weekend.

I did follow along on Twitter, so I had a pretty good idea of what was going on.  The Huskies scored on their first drive of the game and then did jack shit after that.  The drives went:

  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Downs
  • Punt

At that point, the Huskies pulled Jake Browning for Jake Haener and I thought, “Here we go.”  Now, as I said before, I didn’t watch a lick of this game (I DVR’d it, but once I knew we lost, I went home and immediately deleted it), so I couldn’t tell you how the offense looked.  But, I think I can understand.  Given what was still at stake, my first choice would’ve been to let Browning stay in there and try to work through whatever it was he was working through.

However, my second choice would’ve been – if you’re going to pull Browning for Haener – just let Haener finish the job!

Now, obviously hindsight is 20/20, and you see what happened:  Haener’s first drive resulted in a pick-six, to allow Cal to go up 12-7 (they missed the 2-point conversion).  So, that was a disaster, and if they’d let Browning play the entire game, my hunch is the Huskies would’ve won that game.  There were still a lot of variables left to play out, and for all I know Browning would’ve done the same thing and threw a pick-six of his own, but that’s just how I feel.  I think the coaching staff uncharacteristically freaked out and made a poor decision and it cost us the game.

At which point, Coach Pete should’ve just owned it.  He let Haener start the next drive, which resulted in a punt, and after that Browning was back in the game.  I have another hunch that’s probably wrong, but I’m gonna tell it to you anyway:  I think if we would’ve left Haener in there, he would’ve eventually calmed down and driven the Huskies down the field on our final possession to score the game-winning touchdown.

I wish I had whatever Infinity Stone that allows you to turn back time so I could witness all of these different theories in practice, but that’s neither here nor there.

In the world we’re all living in, the end result is that the Huskies lost.  We’re out of the Top 25 rankings (which we absolutely deserve) and I don’t know what to think.

This week, we host Stanford at 6pm on the Pac-12 Network.  It’s our punishment for being two worthless teams who lost games they should’ve won.  The Cougs did the impossible by going down to Stanford and beating them 41-38, so now THEY’RE in the driver’s seat.  But, Washington still has shotgun.

It starts with somehow finding a way to bounce back and beating Stanford this weekend.  Then, we get two weeks to prepare for a home game against the Beavs.  After we destroy them, we have to somehow go into Pullman and rip the hearts out of the chests of every Coug fan in the world.

I’m not saying we CAN’T do it, but it sure seems like a longshot.  It’s fortunate for us that the Ducks lost again over the weekend to make all this possible, but losing to Cal definitely makes me start to think our shit stinks a little bit more than it did earlier this season.  My confidence is at a 4-year low for this program.  I can’t help but feel rattled that these last two years have been complete and total disappointments and I’m starting to worry about my longterm outlook on this Jake Browning era.

A little success is a funny thing.  It doesn’t scratch the itch you think it’s going to.  Rather, it just makes you hungrier and hungrier for more and more success.  Sports are weird.

The Huskies Want No Part Of A 3-Way Or 4-Way Tie For The Pac-12 North

There’s a plausible scenario out there where Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Wazzu all have 2 conference losses at season’s end.  Of course, we’re well aware of all head-to-head tie-breaker scenarios.  Oregon’s got a leg up on us in that regard, which is why their loss in Pullman last week was so huge, as that got them to their second conference defeat.  We have a home game against Stanford and go on the road for the Apple Cup.  The easiest path for Washington to make the Pac-12 Championship Game is to win out; that leaves us with 1 loss and everyone else with at least 2.  Simple math.

But, here’s how all those teams end up with 2 losses:

  1. Oregon would have to win out.  They host UCLA and ASU and go on the road to face Arizona and Oregon State.  They should be favored to win all those games.  They still have a tough road test at Utah that could eliminate them from contention, but it’s totally reasonable for Oregon – if they play like they’re capable of playing – to finish with 2 conference losses.
  2. Stanford would have to beat Wazzu this week and lose in Washington next week.  They finish home against the Beavers, and at Cal and UCLA; odds are they win all of those.  That – combined with their loss to Utah earlier – would leave them with 2 conference losses.
  3. Washington State would lose at Stanford and beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup.  There are other opportunities for them to Coug up their season – particularly a road game against Colorado – but again, if they play like they’re capable of playing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
  4. Washington would beat Stanford at home, win the other games they should be favored in, and lose the Apple Cup on the road.  At Cal this week could be a sneaky trap game for us; we still have a BYE week left, so the only other team we play is Oregon State, who should be dominated.

If all that happens, all four teams would be 7-2.  Ever wondered how the tiebreaker scenario shakes out for multiple teams with the same conference record?

Well, it starts out by comparing your record against the other teams you’re tied with (so, for Washington’s case, our record against Stanford, Oregon, and Wazzu).  In the scenario I outlined above, the Huskies and Ducks would each be 1-2 against those teams; while the Cougs and Stanford would be 2-1.  That would knock off Washington and Oregon, and the next tiebreaker would be head-to-head record between the two remaining teams, which means it would be Stanford over Wazzu.  Nobody wants that.

That makes this weekend’s game between the Cougs and Cardinal that much more important.  I can’t imagine a scenario where Wazzu goes on the road and wins a tough game against an elite opponent just a week after the hullabaloo that was last Saturday’s win over the Ducks.  It just seems impossibly crazy.  But, if they pull it off, and Washington is able to take care of business at home next week, that effectively eliminates Stanford from contention.

Which would ultimately set it up for the Apple Cup to decide who plays for the Pac-12 North (and, in my opinion, who plays for the Rose Bowl, because I don’t think there’s a chance in Hell that the Pac-12 South champion wins it all).

In an ideal world, I’d rather have it come down to just the Washington schools, because I like our chances of beating the Cougs more than I like the notion of Stanford slipping up against one of their final three useless opponents.

Something else to keep in mind is if there’s a 3-way tie for first.  Let’s say the Ducks or Cardinal slip up in one of their games against the non-Washington schools.  For instance:

  • If Stanford, Washington, and Wazzu all finish with 2 conference losses (Stanford beats Wazzu, loses to Washington; Wazzu beats Washington); we’d all be 1-1 against each other, with the same record against intra-divisional opponents.  The subsequent tie-breaker is record against the next-best team in the division, which would likely be Oregon.  That knocks Washington out.
  • If Oregon, Washington, and Wazzu all finish with 2 conference losses (Oregon beat Washington, lost to Wazzu; Wazzu beats Washington & loses to someone else), Washington gets knocked out because we would’ve lost to both the Ducks & Cougs.
  • If Stanford, Oregon, and Washington all finish with 2 conference losses (Oregon wins out; Stanford beats Wazzu & loses to Washington; Washington loses the Apple Cup; and Wazzu cuogs it in another game to get their 3rd conference loss), that would leave us all 1-1 against one another, and tied in intra-divisional games.  Next up would be record against the next-best team (Wazzu), which Stanford would’ve won in this scenario.  That pits Oregon against Washington, and we already lost to them, so that knocks the Dawgs out.

The point is, there’s really no way the Huskies have any advantage in any multi-team tie-breakers.  Better for us to get this thing down to the two Washington schools and play for all the marbles on November 23rd.  In that case, I mean Hell, at least it wouldn’t be Stanford or Oregon getting the glory.

The Huskies Climbed Back Into Rose Bowl Contention

I love Seahawks BYE weeks, if for no other reason than my beloved Dawgs get to enjoy the Monday spot on my blog.

It was a nice, if sloppy, bounce-back win for the Huskies, as they took care of business against a clearly-inferior opponent.  There were still enough cracks in our own team – on both sides of the ball – to be concerned going forward.  But, this is obviously a win we needed to have, and it keeps hope alive for at least one more week.

My day started out in Seattle bright and early.  There wasn’t any tailgating this week, so I met up at a buddy’s apartment for some pre-game IPA’s before we hit up the light rail to the stadium.  I’m just gonna say this about that:  whoever designed the University of Washington station did SUCH a pisspoor job of designing it.  They need, easily, like 4 more escalator bays; even if they’re not always open and running every day of the week, at least for gamedays.  They didn’t account for the crowds that would 1) show up for Husky football games and 2) use the light rail to get there.  But, it’s a fucking mess.  They can’t let too many people use the too-few escalators at once, otherwise they’ll break down.  So, there are HUGE lines going both up (pre-game) and down (post-game).  And, for whatever reason, they won’t open up the stairwells for fit people with functioning legs to walk up, because they don’t have enough security?  What the shit is that?  Do they think the stairwells are just going to be a kill-crazy free-for-all?  Are Seattleites running a Purge just in the UW lightrail station stairwells?  And, particularly for post-game, would it kill them to put additional cars on these trains to get us out of there in a timely fashion?  As it is, they’re doing the best they can, but they weren’t exactly supplied with all the resources they needed to make this a seamless transition.  You’re hoping that the people will use these modes of transportation to get to places … well, it needs to be a better experience if you want us to CONTINUE using these trains!

Anyway, after that first world problem was somehow conquered, my friends and I were in need of alcohol to soothe our jangled nerves.  Luckily, Husky Stadium now sells alcohol, albeit in certain specific locations.  The Zone is dead to me now, as you apparently need to buy a pass just to get into the area where you buy more food and alcohol.  Any way they can nickel and dime the fans, I suppose.  So, we went to this little beer garden inside the stadium; I guess it’s called Off Leash?  Some kind of play on the whole dawg theme?  Like, dogs take off their leashes and get plastered?

Long story short, we missed most of the first quarter (I wouldn’t say we were missing it, Bob).  The Huskies got the ball first, punted, and Colorado promptly went down and scored, making it 7-0 and making it look easy.  The Huskies finally got their shit together, and had a 14-13 lead heading into halftime.

The defense totally took over the game in the second half, as Colorado didn’t score the rest of the game.  But, the offense struggled to really put them away until late in the contest, finally prevailing 27-13.  Nevertheless, we failed to cover the 17-point spread, and the offense didn’t look particularly great.

Jake Browning didn’t have a whole lot going in this one.  Part of the problem was drops, but also he was wildly off-target on a few as well.  In spite of Gaskin being given the day off (I assume to rest his injured shoulder), the running game did their job.  We ran for 201 yards on a whopping 40 carries, with three different backs sharing the load.

Defensively, we tackled much better today than we have in weeks.  We still didn’t get much in the way of pressure, and are in desperate need for edge rushers to step up in 2018 (it needs to be a point of emphasis for next year as well).  The usual suspects stood out:  BBK led the team in tackles with 15, Greg Gaines was a force in the middle, our secondary made a number of sick plays as we held them to 144 yards passing on 17/28 with a TD and a pick.  But, I wanted to point out number 95, who I noticed flashed on a number of plays in the middle, Levi Onwuzurike, a Sophomore out of Texas.  He had 4 tackles (2 for loss) and our lone sack of the game, in what looked like pretty limited duty.  Gaines is a Senior this year and will be going to the League, so it’s nice to see our interior is in good hands.  I look forward to Levi having a bigger workload next year and REALLY making his presence felt.  When he becomes The Man, don’t forget who pointed it out first!  (it probably was someone who’s much smarter than me and knows a lot more about the Huskies, but I’m also a person!).

Our Saturday got better and better.  Post-game, we went back to my buddy’s apartment to eat some pizza and drink some beer and watch the Cougs take on the Ducks.  And yes, drunken Coug fan with the awesome sign, the Ducks DO Quack Under Pressure!

Thanks to the Huskies blowing it last week, Washington State got to host ESPN Gameday for the first time ever.  And, it looked like the party to end all parties.

The Cougs jumped out to a 27-0 lead at halftime, which only set up the Ultimate Couging Scenario.  Oregon proceeded to mount a comeback in the second half we all knew was coming.  They managed to get it to 27-20 with just under 7 minutes to go in the game; plenty of time to finish the Cougening.  Wazzu started at their own 25 and got down to Oregon’s 34 when it was 4th & 6.  On the previous drive, the Cougs got down to Oregon’s 42 with a 4th & 3 and opted to punt, so I was sure they were going to do something similarly stupid.  At this point (of the 4th & 6), there was just under 5 minutes to go in the game, and thankfully they went for it.  Why punt on 4th & 3 but go for it later on 4th & 6?  Well, according to the announcers, it’s easier for an Air Raid offense to get 8 yards than it is to get 3, so maybe we WEREN’T listening to the dumbest men on the planet call this game?  I would’ve said it was shoddy game management on the part of Mike Leach, but what do I know?

Anyway, thankfully, the Cougs converted that drive into a touchdown and won 34-20.  So, now the Huskies are back atop the Pac-12 North with a 4-1 record.  WSU and Stanford are right behind us at 3-1 (with Oregon at 2-2 – SUCK IT DUCKS!).  We host Stanford in a couple weeks and we go to Pullman for the Apple Cup at the end of the season.  In short, we control our own destiny.

A road game against Cal is on the horizon this Saturday.  The Golden Bears are not there yet, so this is a game we should handily win.  Cal’s only claim to fame is an early victory over BYU, back when we thought BYU was actually worth a damn.  Cal is coming off a drubbing of OSU, so they should be well-rested and confident.

The Cougs overtook the Huskies in the AP rankings, which was a possibility that had occurred to me on Saturday, but wasn’t one I took very seriously.  We’re still ahead of them in the Coaches Poll, but it obviously doesn’t matter, since no team from the Pac-12 will be representing the conference in the playoffs.  Anytime college football wants to expand the playoffs to 8 teams (with each major conference getting a guaranteed slot) will be okay with me.

Until then, eyes on the prize:  Rose Bowl or Bust.

What The Hell Were The Huskies Doing?

4th & 3 at the Oregon 33 yard line, tie game, with 71 seconds left:  the Huskies went for it, throwing to Sean McGrew for 4 yards and a first down.  Absolutely the right call!  And, from then onward, the Husky coaching staff lost their FUCKING MINDS.

1st & 10 at the Oregon 29 yard line, tie game, now with 50 seconds left (for some reason, we opted to let 21 seconds go before running another play, even though the previous play netted all of 4 yards):  the Huskies ran the ball for 8 yards.  Not playing hurry-up is idiotic.  Running the ball is semi-idiotic, but it gained a big chunk of ground, and we called a time out, so I can somewhat forgive it.

2nd & 2 at the Oregon 21 yard line, tie game, with 40 seconds left:  the Huskies ran the ball for 1 yard.  Okay, so this is getting REALLY stupid now.  For some reason, we’re just setting it up for a field goal.  Not only that, but WE’RE LETTING THE CLOCK RUN ALL THE WAY DOWN.

I can somewhat understand the line of thinking if this were an NFL game.  You expect a professional kicker to make a 37-yard field goal.  That’s just a shade longer than an extra point in the League.  But, when you sit there and type it out – 37-yard field goal – doesn’t that sound like it’s a little long?  It’s nearly 40 yards, and what percentage of those do you think the pros make?  It’s not automatic, is what I’m saying.  A 37-yard field goal is NOT automatic, not even for the very best kickers in the world.

But, this wasn’t the NFL.  This was college.  This was a Redshirt Freshman walk-on in his first season as this team’s kicker.  And you’re asking HIM to make a 37-yard field goal, on the road, in the biggest game we’ve played all year, against our most hated and feared rival?

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, we still had a time out remaining!  This is still the college game!  You get a stoppage of the clock with every first down!  You have a senior quarterback who was NAILS in this game!  You have stud receivers all over the field to throw to!  YOU HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO KEEP DRIVING CLOSER TO THE ENDZONE, AND YOU JUST FUCKING GAVE UP!

You put it in the hands of a Redshirt Freshman kicker.  Hell, he could’ve been a 7th-year senior kicker and I still wouldn’t trust him!  The best college kicker of all time was drafted insanely high by the Tampa Bay Bucs and I don’t think he’s even in the League anymore!  And you’re putting this team’s season in the hands (or on the foot) of a fucking REDSHIRT FRESHMAN?!

Also, on a side note, why does the college game allow you to burn through all of your timeouts right in a row?  Do we really want to be icing these kickers multiple times on the same attempt?  Does that seem at all sporting?  I’m not saying that’s why we lost, but I’m just saying it’s cheap and tacky.

Anyway, I don’t know what’s dumber, the decision to play for the LONG field goal, or the decision by our supposed hotshot defensive coordinator to REPEATEDLY rush only 3 and drop 8 into coverage.  The Husky pass rush in this game was a fucking trash pile all day, yet Jimmy Lake kept sending only 3 rushers, allowing that Herbert guy to stand in the pocket all fucking day to shred our secondary.  I mean, what were YOU thinking?  Fucking put some pressure on the guy!  Instead of forcing our secondary to cover for 10 seconds a pop, force the QB to make a quick decision and let our guys react accordingly!  If I’m gonna get beat, I’d rather the opposing QB make some miracle throws against intense blitzing pressure, than watch him stand there like a statue all fucking day.

God damn this coaching staff is great, but they ROYALLY shit the bed in this one.  It’s unforgivable.  We’re so fucked now I can’t even see straight.  Now, by the grace of God, we need the Ducks to lose again to get back in the Rose Bowl race.  Obviously, the playoffs are out of the question.  We’re relying on the Cougs to not Cuog the shit out of this thing this weekend as they host Gameday and Oregon at the same time.

As you can see, three days later, I’m still far from over this.  Just, fuck off, everyone.