2019 Husky Football Hits The Home Stretch

It’s been a disappointment any way you slice it. We’re 6-4 which is at least two losses too many, and quite frankly even TWO losses would be a disappointment! I mean, the more games that have been played by the rest of the Pac-12 schools, the worse it looks.

I don’t know if anyone’s all that surprised that the Huskies lost to the two Pac-12 teams currently ranked in the Top 10, but the fact they were both home games is pretty galling (aside from the fact that one of those teams is the Ducks, and fuck the Ducks). Also, I mean, 1-3 at home in conference play overall is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable.

But, going deeper, the loss early to Cal was rough, but they supposedly had an elite defense, so it halfway made sense. That team is now 5-5 (2-5 in conference, which is actually worse than us somehow), has won one of their last six games, and is in actual danger of not making a bowl game.

Then, there’s the Stanford loss; that team is now 4-6 and 3-5 in conference play (also somehow worse than us; how that’s possible I have no idea). The Cardinal will have to beat Cal and Notre Dame to get to bowl eligibility, so that’s not happening.

We could nevertheless be talking about losses to two teams who won’t be playing in a bowl game. What world am I living in?

Meanwhile, the Huskies got to six wins down in Oregon State, which is probably our second-best win of the season? That’s absolutely tragic; even then, we’re talking about a 19-7 game where our defense finally showed up to play 10 games into the season. Our offensive coordinator, however, is still the butt of every single joke among Husky fans, because if he’s not the absolute worst, he’s at least top 5. In what category, you ask? Take your fucking pick.

This week, we go down to Colorado for a night game, after our second BYE in four weeks. So, we should be plenty rested, anyway. And the Buffs are terrible, so I would HOPE we’ll walk all over ’em. Don’t be so sure, because Bush Hamdan no doubt has plenty of wildcat calls on 3rd & short to be stuffed! If not them, then easy out routes for the opposing defense to jump for more pick-sixes! Let’s not let our big-armed quarterback do what he does best: throw deep down field. Let’s keep dinking and dunking to receivers who can’t hold onto the ball because they were too used to catching wobblers from Jake Browning and don’t know what it’s like to catch a pass from an actual NFL-calibre quarterback!

The good news is, with this game followed by the Apple Cup (against the 2-5 – in conference – Cougs), the Huskies SHOULD get to 8 wins on the season. The bad news is that we might get too GOOD of a bowl game, and thus Chris Petersen won’t have a chance to improve upon his shabby bowl record with the Huskies. It’s becoming a thing, you see. All these bowl losses. Don’t think we haven’t noticed.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m glad this season is almost over. It’s tainting other things that should be bringing me more joy. Let’s finish this thing and move on to next year as soon as fucking possible.

The Huskies Blew A Game They Absolutely Should’ve Won

I mean, what the fuck, man? You’re up 14 points in the second half at home, you’re supposed to win that fucking game! Bottom line!

It was set up about as perfectly as you can draw it up. The Ducks tied it at 14, then with three minutes left in the first half, the Huskies drove down and scored a TD to go up 7. We got the ball back with the second half kickoff, and promptly proceeded to drive down for another TD. It was brilliant!

But, the defense is an absolute joke. This is the worst defense we’ve had in the Chris Petersen era, period. Especially in the front seven, which has no answers. The D-Line stinks, the linebackers are non-existent. And the secondary – with all the studs we’ve been recruiting – aren’t good enough either! We’ve lived a charmed life with Jimmy Lake rising through the ranks, but this is an embarrassment and he can’t be excluded when we criticize this team.

I know everyone wants to kill Bush Hamdan as well – and I’ll run out there with you, pitchfork and torch in hand, if he calls one more fucking wildcat play on 3rd & short – but 31 points should be enough to win any game Washington plays.

The last thing I want to do is re-live this game in any sort of detail. I will say that drive – the one where it ended on a wildcat 3rd & 2 call, with Jacob Eason split out wide like the fucking scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz – was the backbreaker. As soon as that run was predictably stuffed, this game was over. Because the defense didn’t have a prayer in the world of stopping Oregon, and because you knew – with one drive on the line to decide the game – this offense didn’t have what it took to score a touchdown.

Also, I know Twitter was aflame with calls for pass interference, but the Washington receiver fell down, plain and simple, and no ref would EVER throw the flag on something like that, at that point in the game. You have to make your own breaks in football; you can’t hope the refs are going to bail you out (as bad as the Pac-12 refs usually always are, I’m not wasting my voice from the stands to boo them), so I don’t blame them one bit.

The Huskies were probably overdue for a BYE week, so you could say this comes at the right time. I think we could all use a week off from the Purple & Gold. Let’s get our minds right and try to get it up for the November 2nd game against Utah. The Las Vegas Bowl is calling our names.

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!

At What Point Should We Start Worrying About Mike Hopkins Leaving The University Of Washington?

It’s pretty remarkable how good the Huskies have had it in recent years. Chris Petersen has taken the job with the football team and exceeded our wildest expectations, culminating with an appearance in the College Football Playoffs in 2016. It makes sense, somewhat, as the football team has always been the pride and joy of the University of Washington for upwards of a hundred years now.

The basketball team has always been the Little Brother in that regard. In the modern era, we always point to the Lorenzo Romar teams as the cream of the crop, but obviously towards the end there, things got REAL bad.

Mike Hopkins was a relative unknown when he was hired prior to the 2017/2018 season. A career assistant with Syracuse, he’d never helmed a program, but he seemed to be one of the coaches most fit for a promotion. When it became apparent that his promotion wouldn’t be coming from his alma mater any time soon, he jumped at Washington’s offer, and it’s been nothing but a joy to behold.

Two years – and two Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards – later, we’re in some serious uncharted waters. The Huskies went from a real nadir of 9-22 (2-16 in conference) during Romar’s final season, and improved to 21-13 in Hop’s rookie year. From there, the Huskies were conference champs at 27-9, winning a game in the NCAA Tournament (breaking an 8-year drought) to boot.

You could be forgiven if you expect a bit of a step back for 2019/2020, what with all the players we’ve lost. Four seniors – plus the Pac-12 Player of the Year in Jaylen Nowell (who is committed to entering the NBA Draft as an underclassman) – are gone, and they comprised such a high majority of our production last year.

But, while I won’t rule out potential disappointment, I’ll also argue that the ceiling has never been higher for a Husky team. Check out these incoming would-be studs:

  • Isaiah Stewart (5-star center)
  • RaeQuan Battle (4-star shooting guard)
  • Marcus Tsohonis (3-star point guard)
  • Jaden McDaniels (5-star power forward)
  • Quade Green (5-star point guard, mid-season transfer from Kentucky)

That’s on top of returning players including:

  • Naz Carter (averaged 8.1 points in 20 minutes per game)
  • Jamal Bey (came on strong late in the season, earning minutes in a stacked rotation)
  • Hameir Wright (averaged 18 minutes and 1.4 blocks per game)
  • Elijah Hardy (3-star point guard, could see extended playing time until Green arrives)
  • Bryan Penn-Johnson (3-star center, figures to see increased playing time in his second year)
  • Nate Roberts (3-star forward, redshirted as a freshman)
  • Sam Timmins (the only senior who has played extensive minutes on this team, should provide valuable depth at the center position off the bench)

Look, it’s not ideal. Obviously, you like to have as many experienced stars as possible. But, for a team that will largely be playing together for the first time, with every starting role up for grabs (presumably around wherever Naz Carter ends up playing, who should be one of the leaders on this team). But, that incoming class is no joke. Almost all of them should be ready to contribute right away, with one or two of them stepping into some hefty roles. If this team improves as we approach Tournament time, the Huskies could be a real monster.

So, let’s dream a little bit. Let’s say the Huskies come from out of nowhere to make an Elite Eight run! I know Coach Hop just signed an extension, and received a well-deserved raise this past offseason, but if that comes to pass, you REALLY have to wonder how much longer he’ll be classing up the joint.

Indeed, the Huskies don’t even have to make the Sweet 16 for this to be the final year with Mike Hopkins in Washington.

It’s a terrifying thought, and one I don’t really want to dwell on too much, as it’s far too depressing.

Given the way he’s recruited in his short time here, I can already tell Hop is going to be one of the greats. Maybe I’m way off base, with my purple-colored lenses, but that’s just a hunch. The hope, whenever you find someone like this, is that he’ll be the next Mark Few: that he’ll stick around forever, plant his flag for your school, and take you to multiple Final Fours over a multi-decade career. This isn’t like having the SEC in football, you can build a winner ANYWHERE in college basketball! So, why not here? Why couldn’t Washington be the next NCAA powerhouse?

I guess that’s up to him. And the school, to be willing to pay him. And the allure (read: money) ponied up by other schools. You’d like to think it’s easy enough to just pay the man and keep him forever, but if he wants to move on to situations that are perceived to be easier to recruit and win in, then there’s no amount of logical money that could keep him here.

I dunno. I’d be SHOCKED if Coach Hop is still here after another five years. I’d say we have maybe 2-3 years and it’s time to start looking for the next coaching phenom.

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 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 & 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 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 Beat Up On The Fighting Hawks, Now It’s On To Utah

Last week’s 45-3 win was nothing special, but it was fun nonetheless.  I got to go to this one, and honestly the tailgating was the best part.

I thought the defense bounced back nicely.  Not that North Dakota poses much of a threat, but still.  I could’ve easily seen them throw up some garbage TDs late in the game, but we held them to just a field goal.  Really, their one long run of 69 yards (nice) was the only thing they did all day.

The offense, however, was another story.  Now, maybe it’s the dozens of beers I consumed that morning, but I really don’t remember us looking all that good.  The numbers would appear to bear that out.  Jake Browning threw for 313 yards and 2 TDs, but he also threw 2 picks.

The real galling thing about this game was how inept our rushing attack was for the second week in a row.  I mean, we’ve bolstered our O-Line, and we have an NFL running back in Myles Gaskin as our lead rusher; HOW ARE WE THIS BAD?  Gaskin ran 15 times for only 53 yards.  Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, but they only handed him the ball 4 times!  For 44 yards!  IT’S TIME TO GIVE AHMED MORE TOUCHES YOU GUYS, IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, HE’S PRETTY FUCKING GREAT!

There was apparently a lot of rushing after I left early in the 4th quarter – to go and catch that evening’s Mariners game – because the team as a whole looked okay with 195 yards and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average.  But, for the first half – where the Huskies only amassed a 17-0 lead – it was, as coach said, pedestrian.

I still stand by what I said before the Auburn game – I do believe it’s better to play those teams right out of the gate, as the surprise factor more than anything can be a big equalizer, particularly on the road like that – but maybe it wasn’t the best thing for THIS Husky team.  Maybe this team needed a soft landing to start the season, before ramping up against the more elite teams.

I sure as shit hope so, because we’ve got a pretty good team coming up this week in the Utes.  It’s a road game, it’s at 7pm, and it’s going to be a dogfight in every sense of the term!

Can’t lose this game.  At all.  I think that snuffs our playoff hopes before they even got started, and that would be a bummer too big to overcome.  Sure, the conference title would still be in play, but it sucks to think that’s a consolation prize this early in the season.  I’d like to still have that inkling of hope, if that’s all right with the Huskies.

I will say that I’m NOT going to jump on this bandwagon of fans who are clamoring for Jake Haener to take over for Browning … but I’d certainly consider it a lot more if Browning lays an egg in Utah.  At this point, I have to believe it’s all mental with him, and if he’s going to have the yips in every big game we play, then it’s time to move on and look to the future.  This Husky team is TOO GOOD to have a sub-par quarterback ruining the entire season.

Washington Lost To Auburn In The Stupidest Way Possible

Look, to try to recount every single way the Washington Huskies shot themselves in the foot would be an exercise in futility.  A Browning fumble here, a mind-boggling interception there, a missed field goal, a missed targeting penalty that falls on both the refs on the field and the replay review board … I mean, my blood is boiling the more I think about this shit.

The losers of these types of games always say this, but I’ll say it anyway:  THE BETTER TEAM LOST!  Auburn didn’t deserve that win.  But, I guess neither did Washington.

It’s not JUST Jake Browning’s fault, but boy does he carry his fair share of the burden.  The thing is, he didn’t totally shit the bed.  He threw for 296 yards and a 9.3 yard average.  I’d argue the play-calling did him little favors, and he compounded those by making things a million times worse.  I mean, if you’re throwing the ball away, THROW IT OUT OF FUCKING BOUNDS!  You’re a 4th year starter; that’s a mistake a true Freshman makes!  Also, if you’re going to run a fucking option play near the goalline, PITCH THE FUCKING BALL ON TIME!  Once again, it smacks of Browning trying to do too much; trying to shed this label of him not showing up in big games.  Just play within the offense and let your teammates make plays, THAT’S where Browning is elite.  We don’t need him to be Russell Wilson, we just need him to be Alex Smith and manage the fucking game.

Also, man, how soft was that defense?  They tightened up in the second half with some adjustments, but Auburn was still able to move the ball at will pretty much all game.  No turnovers, only 2 sacks, minimal pressure on the quarterback, and our vaunted secondary was picked apart!  Auburn’s mediocre quarterback was able to throw for 273 yards on 26/36 passing (and obviously a bevy of missed tackles were the shitty icing on top).

Just a fucking disaster from the get-go.  Obviously, it’s never good when your starting left tackle is hurt, but there should be enough depth on this team to compensate.  This was more about execution and I put as much of the blame on the coaching staff for not getting these players ready in time.  You had all off-season!  These looked like lost, scared little kids through most of the first half, and that’s on Coach Pete.

The shitty thing is that I don’t know how good Auburn really is.  They didn’t look particularly elite to me; I could easily see them losing 3-4 games this year.  We most likely lost to an inferior team in what was truly a home game for them, and losing that game will do us much more harm than the good of the fact that they’re on our schedule in the first place.

What I’m clinging to – because it feels wrong to abandon all hope on the season after 1 game – is that the Huskies are still a great team.  So great, in fact, that I have no doubt we can run the table if we catch a few breaks here and there.  Honestly, after some of the shit that’s gone down the last couple years, we DESERVE some breaks to go our fucking way!  I thought the passing game in general really stepped up in this one; we might not see a better defense the rest of the regular season.  So, that means we should be able to move the ball with regularity.

As predicted, this game came down to the Husky run game, and as I warned, if we ran for less than 150 yards as a team, we’d lose the game.  We ran for 102 on 33 carries.  Really, 8 of those carries were on the QB scrambling, so throw those away.  Our actual running backs had 24 carries for 111, which still isn’t great, but it’s a fine average.  Even though our pass game was getting big chunk plays, I thought we went away from the run too much.  I also thought the team should’ve used Salvon Ahmed more, as his quick burst as a change-of-pace to Gaskin was able to gash them pretty regularly.

So, yeah, SHITTY start to the season.  Got to put it behind us and get on with the rest of it.  There are a ton of games left in the college football season and when it comes time to decide the bowl/playoff teams, no one is really going to remember a whole lot about this Washington/Auburn game.  If I’m wrong and the Tigers are great, then the Huskies can hang their hats on playing them close; if I’m right and they’re mediocre, then whatever, it’s only one road loss in a tough environment against a pre-season top 10 team.  The Huskies have to take care of business the rest of the way, so let’s go to work.