Husky Football Starts Tonight At Boise State

The Broncos are ranked in the top 25 in both polls; the Huskies are not.  That’s pretty much what you need to know about the game tonight.

Not a lot of people very high on the Washington Husky football team this year.  I think too much is made of all the defensive studs who left after last year.  Yeah, Shaq and Kikaha and Peters and Shelton were all great, but that defense as a whole last year was pretty underwhelming.  If the 2015 Huskies are bad, it won’t necessarily be exclusively the fault of the defense.

As usual, it comes down to quarterback play.  This year, we’ll be without Cyler Miles.  Say what you will about him, but if he were healthy and in a football frame of mind, he’d be the clear best option.  Now, does that mean he’d be any good?  Or that he has very much upside?  I don’t think so.  If you feel like this Husky team is in more of a rebuilding mode for 2015 regardless of whether or not Miles was going to be here, then it’s probably for the best that he’s not.  Let’s see who else we have on the roster; let’s see if – by season’s end – we haven’t found a star in our midst.

The 3-way battle – between Junior, Jeff Lindquist; Redshirt Freshman, K.J. Carta-Samuels; and True Freshman, Jake Browning – has all boiled down to tonight.  The coaches haven’t named a starter, but it would appear Browning is going to get the first crack at it.  I still don’t fully believe the team is going to stick to just one quarterback, as I think at least two will get regular play.  Browning is probably the better passer and quarterback overall, but he’s straight out of high school.  Ultimately, the move to burn his redshirt will probably be a huge mistake.  I tend to agree with the concept that true freshmen should never play bigtime college football; ALL of them should be given a year to adapt to college life, and get bigger and stronger.  The concern is really twofold though, when you’re talking about a highly touted talent like Browning.  The most likely scenario is:  he struggles, he loses his confidence, he gets injured, or some combination of the three.  The flipside of that is:  maybe he succeeds and ends up as this team’s starting quarterback for 3-4 years, but maybe he’s not quite as great as he could be, and when we get to the end of his college career – right as he’d be about to explode as one of the best players in the conference – he’s forced into turning pro before we get a chance at having him play his very best ball.

Obviously, that second scenario is a good problem to have, because it likely means we’ve had a successful 3-4 years.  But, I think we can all agree – however this turns out – 5th Year Senior Jake Browning would be a much better player than 4th Year Senior Jake Browning.

If you want my prediction, I think Browning does start tonight, and I think he does struggle during his true freshman campaign.  I also think he gets hit with the injury bug, because there’s no way I’m ever going to trust a Husky offensive line until they finally prove it to me.  The O-Line has been an issue for at least a decade now, and while help should be on the horizon with some of the better recruits we’ve gotten under Coach Pete, I don’t anticipate the O-Line being much of a strength in 2015.  Even if Browning doesn’t get injured, I still believe Lindquist will have his share of reps.  Maybe he comes in for a drive or two per game.  Maybe he has a sub package where we can utilize his running ability and/or cannon arm.

Either way, though, I don’t expect 2015 to be a banner year for the quarterback position.  Which is why I tend to believe this Husky team is going to struggle.  A lot.

At the moment, the Huskies have six ranked teams on their schedule – Boise St., USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona St.  That doesn’t include a very tough Utah team, an improving California team, a road game against Oregon State, and an Apple Cup against what I feel will be an explosive Washington State team.  As it stands right now, the Huskies are favored to win 4 games, and two of those games are against non-conference duds.  Most of the betting public has the Huskies winning anywhere from 4-5 games; I think five wins might be pretty generous.  I can envision a scenario where the Huskies get beat by the entire Pac-12 and finish last in the conference (unfortunately, no Colorado on the schedule this year).

Did I mention John Ross is out for the year, and we haven’t even played a game?

I don’t see much of any hope for this team making a bowl game, but if they do, it starts tonight.  The Huskies will have to run the table in the non-conference schedule, and follow that up with a home win against the Bears.  That puts us at 4-0, which is where we’ll need to be, because I guarantee we’re going to lose at least the next three games (@ USC, home vs. Oregon, @ Stanford).  We follow that stretch with two home games against Arizona and Utah; we have to win 1 of those 2.  That should give us 2 quality wins, which sets us up for getting pounded down at Arizona State, followed by winning the last two, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State.  That gets us to 7 wins, and 7 wins probably gets us a bowl.  If these Huskies are like the Husky teams of the last five years, that’s exactly what they’ll do and it’ll be like Sark never left (except, I guess there’s now more booze for the rest of us to share).

But, I hardly see that happening.  For this team to be reasonably good, we’re going to need steady play from our receivers.  Mickens is going to have to be a true #1 receiver, and Pettis will need to take a step up after a promising Freshman season.

We’re going to need to lean HEAVILY on our running game.  One of Coleman, Cooper, or Washington will have to step up and be a huge force for this team.

The defense will need to not be a wet paper bag.  Gonna have to find a way to bend & not break.  The secondary has a lot of talent, but who knows if the front seven is going to get enough push to let them do their thing?

And the quarterback is going to need to be more than just a game manager who avoids turnovers.  Make no mistake, he will NEED to avoid turnovers, but he also better be someone who’s got that clutchness gene.  This isn’t going to be a Husky team that rampages through the conference.  If this team is going to win games, it’s going to win CLOSE games.

Gun to my head:  I’m going with the majority and saying the Huskies win 4 games.  I think we’re for sure going to lose tonight, and I have a bad feeling it’s going to be by a lot of points.  I think half our wins come from the non-conference duds, our third win probably comes from either Cal or Utah, and our last win happens at Oregon State (here’s to hoping they’re a total trainwreck and keep us from being last).  For what it’s worth, I think the Cougars beat us in the Apple Cup and I think Luke Falk ends up being the next Ryan Leaf (in other words, a good thing for the Cougs, and a very bad thing for whoever drafts him #2 overall in the NFL).

In Coach Pete We Trust?  Maybe in 2016.

Tracking The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

If you look at the right sidebar on my main page, you’ll notice a few things.  I try to update and keep track of the teams that are in-season with their current records and their next scheduled games.  I’ve got a list of categories, if you’d rather just read about one particular team.  I’ve got links to my Twitter and Facebook pages.  And, below that, I’ve got a list of the last five years’ worth of records for each of the teams I cover on this blog.

From time to time, I’ll refer to this list.  Sometimes, I need to know exactly how many wins a certain team had in a specific recent year; sometimes, I just like to marvel at how long it’s been since a team has made the postseason.  I chose five years because I think that’s a good barometer as to where a team is headed.  You can take a quick glance and see if things are trending upward, downward, or in the case of Husky Football, maddeningly the same.

The first thing I notice is that the Seattle Supersonics have been missing from this list for quite some time.  Six-plus years, which is a fucking travesty.  Let’s get on this, NBA!  As for everyone else, let’s separate them by heading.

Husky Basketball

Clearly trending downward.  Once the Mariners make the playoffs this year, the Husky men’s basketball team will have the longest postseason drought in the area, which is just impossible to comprehend.

The great thing about looking back at just the last five years is, it’s usually a good indicator as to a coach’s job security.  Lorenzo Romar has just finished year 4 without an NCAA Tournament appearance.  Gotta figure one more of those and he’s out on his ass.

Husky Football

As I said before, clearly trending even.  2010 was our first year playing in a bowl game since we bottomed out in 2008.  At this point last year, you’d have an argument that the program was trending upward, but with 2014’s uneven performance – punctuated by the dud of a Cactus Bowl – I might even make the argument things are starting to go south.

The Huskies lose some really good players on defense to the NFL draft this year.  Compound that with their most experienced quarterback – Cyler Miles – stepping away from the team (maybe forever?), and I have to wonder where our wins are going to come from in conference play.  2015 is certainly going to be a step back, but hopefully it’s a productive step back, where we find a quality replacement at quarterback who’ll be ready to help this team pop in 2016.  There’s still reason for optimism, but it’s going to be difficult to see through the thick layer of shit that’s right in front of us.

Seattle Seahawks

Trending even, but it’s not like things could get much better than the 2013 season.  I’m not ready to proclaim the Seahawks on a downward trend – as we’ve still got the pieces in place for an extended run at Super Bowls – but it’s hard to say things are going to get much better.  Back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, one boneheaded playcall from winning them both, I’d say this team is still at its peak level of dominance.

Still, 2015 is a key pivot point in this organization’s trajectory.  Guys aren’t getting old, necessarily, but they’re getting older.  Combine that with three consecutive playoff runs for the pillars of this team and you’re talking a lot of mileage.  If we can’t figure out a way to re-stock our depth with this year’s draft (combined with the IR players from last year’s draft who’ve had a full year to acclimate to being a professional), things could start to get hairy in a hurry.  We’re always going to be great as long as our great players remain healthy; but how long this championship run lasts will depend on the quality of players who step up when the greats get hurt.

Seattle Mariners

Trending upward!  Hurrah!  Last year, we were one game out from a play-in game for the playoffs.  We dumped our crap – Smoak, Hart, Morales, Denorfia, Beavan, soon-to-be Ramirez – and what useful pieces we lost aren’t devastating to our overall outlook in 2015 (Saunders, Young, Maurer, Beimel).  The important thing is who we’ve brought in to replace them.  Nelson Cruz is a MAMMOTH upgrade at DH.  Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano should be moderate upgrades in the outfield (over Saunders and Jones, particularly).  Rickie Weeks could be a boon for our bench (over someone like Romero).  And, healthy seasons out of Walker and Paxton should alleviate some of the burden the team had to endure with the likes of Maurer, Beavan, and Ramirez (who were absolute disasters when they had to spot start last year).

Obviously, it’s a long season, and anything can happen.  But, it’s good to know that the Mariners have as good a shot as anyone to not only make the postseason, but win the whole thing.  If you think about it, this is a team BUILT for the playoffs.  Felix is the best pitcher in baseball.  Iwakuma is a rock solid #2.  Paxton and Walker both have the potential to be #1 or #2 pitchers.  Then, with the lineup, we’ve got a 3-4-5 that rivals any team’s with Cano-Cruz-Seager.  Combine that with enough role players around them who should keep this offense afloat in the lean times, and top it all off with a bullpen that could be in the top 5 in all of baseball, and you’ve got a team where it wouldn’t be crazy to see it go all the way.

The overall sports atmosphere in Seattle is one of Encouraging Optimism, which is a huge step up from Cautious Optimism (which is usually as high as things get around here).  The Seahawks obviously busted through the gates with their championship last year, but with the Mariners surging, we’re really in some glorious days.  Of course, it’s not perfect.  We’re probably looking at a total rebuild after next year’s Husky basketball team once again fails to make the Tourney.  But, in general, I’d say this is the best time to be a fan of Seattle sports teams.

Now, all we need is a clear plan to bring our Sonics back, and maybe a lead on an expansion hockey franchise, and we’ll be all set.

YOUR Washington Huskies Shit The Bed In The Cactus Bowl

I don’t know what to say.  I was as confident as you can be going into this game – going so far as making Washington my top choice in this year’s college bowls pool – and I was rewarded with the hottest mess imaginable.

One of my themes on the year has been:  we’re wasting all this great defensive talent with this mediocre offense.  That’s no less true now, and guys like Shelton, Kikaha, and Thompson will all be greatly missed.  But, for what it’s worth, what did those guys or anyone else do on defense last night?  I mean, what’s the deal?  We’re talking about no less than three All Americans on the same side of the ball; yet a team like Oklahoma State is able to shred us at will?  It’s not like those three guys are surrounded by total scrubs; this defense should be better than it is!

A lot of people are calling for the head of the offensive coordinator, but you know what?  This coaching staff failed across the board this year.  Part of the blame should rightly be placed on a difficult transition from one coaching staff to another; I’m willing to concede that.  But, I’ll tell you what:  I’m not giving this coaching staff FOREVER.  In fact, I’m less inclined to give this staff a long leash compared to Sark and his crew when they took over in 2009.  Because the expectations are higher right now, and quite frankly, the cupboards aren’t NEARLY as bare as they were six years ago.

Should Coach Pete and Co. get some time to have their guys mature and see what they can do?  Of course.  But, in the meantime, we shouldn’t be THIS FUCKING BAD with the players brought in by the former regime, because these are still some good players.

One of those players is absolutely not Cyler Miles.  He’s awful.  He needs to go.  This coaching staff can regain a lot of credibility in my mind by benching him and going with literally anyone else.  If Coach Pete wants to start a redshirt freshman next year and go through a zillion growing pains with a future possible star?  BE MY GUEST!  But, if I have to endure another year of Noodle-Arm Miles, just because he’s the most experienced, I’m going to flip the fuck out.

I mean, WHAT HAPPENED?  Washington is supposed to be a school that’s capable of attracting quality quarterbacks!  Even in our leanest times post-Tui and pre-Locker, we had quarterbacks who could do SOMETHING well.  They either had strong arms, or they were able to run fast.  Ol’ Noodle-Arm can’t do EITHER!

The Washington Huskies easily had the worst starting quarterback in the entire state of Washington, and that’s including Wazzu’s backup-turned-starter AND Eastern’s capable signal caller.  Hell, I’m thinking even the Bellevue high school kid’s got some tools Ol’ Noodle-Arm will never DREAM of having.

There really couldn’t be a grosser taste in my mouth after this season.  The only thing I have to possibly look forward to next year is the fact that we never have to see this starting offensive line group ever again.  But, really, no.  I’m NOT looking forward to next season.  At all.  Maybe if they bench Ol’ Noodle-Arm, but I doubt they’re even capable of doing that.  Zero expectations of anything good.  So, who knows?  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I dunno.

I can’t even sit here and expect to make a bowl game next year.  6-6 seems to be our highest upside, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Huskies at the bottom of the conference.

I’ll leave you with this:  the combined record of the seven FBS teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  26-60.  And this:  the combined conference record of the four Pac-12 teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  7-29.

2014:  total disaster for the Washington Huskies.

Injured Huskies Come Away With A Victory In Colorado

This season has been a bit of a bummer in a lot of ways.  There’s a lot of talent on this team, but some of it is raw and some of it is leaving after this year.  The quarterback position has been hampered by injury, ineffectiveness, suspension, and quite frankly, learning a new offensive system.  This was always going to be Cyler Miles’ first year as a starter for the Huskies, but it also coincided with a new coaching staff, along with all the off-season uncertainty regarding his involvement in that post-Super Bowl brouhaha.  As such, he has struggled.  With that, so has the entire team.

A more-experienced quarterback probably leads us to a victory in that Stanford game.  Someone like Keith Price CERTAINLY leads us to victory against Arizona State.  As it stands, we’re only 6-3, and only 2-3 in the conference.  There’s good and there’s bad; straddling that line betwixt them, we have the 2014 Washington Huskies.

The 2014 Washington Huskies come out flat against the winless (in conference) Colorado Buffaloes.  They let arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 hold a 10-point lead deep into the first half, and a 6-point lead in the third quarter.  They also find a way to turn it on at the end, scoring 21-unanswered, by sheer force of the discrepancy in talent.

Shaq Thompson has less than half the carries of Lavon Coleman, and yet has only 82 fewer rushing yards on the year.  Really, he’s had two starts and some sporadic carries here and there prior, yet he has proven to be far and away the best running back on this team.  But, he’s so much more than that!  He’s our overarching best playmaker on this team.  Defensively, he can play all over.  He’s got four touchdowns just on fumble and interception returns!  He’s going to go down as the greatest talent that’s ever worn a Husky uniform and it might not even be close.  If you’ve ever wondered why recruiting matters in college athletics:  it’s 5-star recruits like Shaq that give you your answer.  Ever wonder why the same teams are at the top of the heap in College Football every year?  Because whereas the Huskies have one 5-star athlete, Alabama has a team FULL of them.

With our running backs starting to get healthy, I find it really interesting that the Huskies are looking to keep Shaq in the mix.  Why not?  Let’s face it, the offense needs all the help it can get.  We’re by no means perfect on the defensive side of the ball, but I think we can manage okay.  But, offensively?  We’re sort of a trainwreck without Shaq on the field.

Right now, Cyler Miles has no reason to feel comfortable out there.  The offensive line has been a decade-long work in progress (with only the names on the backs of the jerseys changing).  John Ross has been hampered by injury for most of the season.  And, quite frankly, the receivers we’ve got out there just don’t compare to some of the guys we’ve lost to graduation in recent seasons.

Which is why we NEED Shaq on offense, as an outlet if nothing else.  Let HIM be the focus of the offense instead of Miles.  Let defenses try to game plan around him instead of shutting down our passing game.  With some of the pressure off, I think Cyler Miles can be serviceable going forward.  He might not be the long term answer, but for right now he’s still the best we’ve got.

Also, I’ll be interested to see the continuing maturation of Dante Pettis, my new favorite Husky.  It’s nice to have that punt return game not only on lockdown, but as a legit strength of this team.  He was finally able to return one for a touchdown last week, for the first time in over a decade for the Dawgs, and I would expect that to be the first of many.  On offense, he also caught his first TD, on a nifty 28-yard reception down the sideline.  I’ll certainly look forward to him getting more involved on offense.  Whenever John Ross is able to get healthy, with Pettis and Mickens getting some serious minutes, we’ll have the kind of weapons all over the field that could make our offense quite formidable.

This week, we host the Bruins.  The Huskies haven’t beaten the Bruins since 2010 (the infamous Jake Locker Broken Ribs game that kickstarted a 4-game winning streak to finish the season, culminating with a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska).  Overall, the Huskies have lost 8 of the last 10 games we’ve played against the Bruins (it might extend beyond that, but I only opted to look as far back as 2002).  Currently, the Bruins are in the Top 25 and still in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

I’d be fine if we didn’t do anything else this season, if it meant we beat the Bruins and knock them out of contention.  There are precious few teams I hate more than UCLA (indeed, I can probably count them on one finger), so nothing would give me more pleasure.

Also, not for nothing, but the 2014 Huskies don’t have a Signature Win yet.  Even the most inept Sark teams always had a signature win!

  • 2013 – 69-27 road victory against Oregon State, where we ran the ball for a million yards
  • 2012 – 17-13 win at home against a Top 10 Stanford team
  • 2011 – 31-14 road victory against a tough Utah team (admittedly, this is stretching it a bit with the definition of “signature win”)
  • 2010 – 32-31 road victory against a Top 20 USC team
  • 2009 – 16-13 home victory against #3 USC, one season removed from the Huskies finishing 0-12

If we can’t beat UCLA this week, what are we looking at for our Signature Win of 2014?  A dominating road victory against a Cal team that MIGHT finish its season at 6-6?  I’m not gonna lie to you, that’s not going to make for a very satisfying season.

Looking ahead, the Huskies do go on the road to play a highly-ranked Arizona team, but I’m not so sure we’re going to be very competitive in that one.  Following that, we’ve got games against bottom-feeding Oregon State and Washington State.

So, really, if you’re looking at this thing realistically, a home victory against the Bruins is our only shot at a Signature Win.  No fucking around this week!  I want to shove it right in their faces!

Neutered Huskies Can’t Get Much Going Against ASU

Oh, did the Huskies play a football game on Saturday?  You’ll have to forgive me if eight straight hours of tailgating left me a little browned out for the majority of the first half.

The defense is doing the lord’s work!  What else can you say?  They scored our only touchdown and gave us every opportunity to take control of this game.  This has to be, without question, the best defensive line since the turn of the century, and it has to rival some of the best D-Lines in Husky football history.  Absolutely unreal.  Hau’oli Kikaha would look MIGHTY good as the Seahawks’ LEO defensive end next year, that’s all I’m gonna say.

This game boils down to pretty much what our team has been about all season:  we don’t have a quarterback.  Troy Williams got his shot on Saturday, because honestly, why the hell not?  Can he be any worse than Cyler Miles has looked at times, and than how Jeff Lindquist looked in the game against Hawaii?  The answer, of course, is yes.  He can be worse.  And on Saturday, he was.  139 yards on 26 attempts for a pathetic 5.3-yard average, to go along with two picks (one of them returned for the game-clinching touchdown).

I want to say that the Huskies would be SO GOOD if we just had a quarterback capable of running the offense, but I’m not sure that’s the case.  At least in the last 5-6 years, we’ve had a dominant running game to take the pressure off.  But, without our top two running backs (Coleman and Washington out with injuries), we were left with Cooper and Shaq Thompson carrying the mail.

Indeed, Shaq led the way with 21 carries and 98 yards, which is pretty impressive considering he hasn’t had a ton of play on the offensive side of the ball this year.  To the Huskies’ credit, they didn’t bring Shaq out to make him a decoy.  When he was in the game, he usually got the ball, and did his best to make the most of it.  The only problem was, the Huskies tended to be a little predictable whenever Shaq was on the field.  It felt like everyone in the stadium knew exactly what was going to happen when they saw #7 back there.

I’ll pick up the action in the fourth quarter, when I finally started sobering up enough to remember what the fuck was going on.  The Huskies had one good drive all day and it happened when we were down 10-7.  We managed to chew up almost six minutes of clock on 15 plays, driving deep into ASU territory.  The bulk of the drive consisted of being in something of a hurry-up mode, with lots of short runs and lots of third down conversions.  We got it to 3rd & Goal at the 2 yard line and ran some dumb bullshit sweep play that ended up losing us yards.  We’d been shoving it down their throats up the gut the whole drive!  Just pound it two more times and get that touchdown!

Once we had to settle for the field goal, the game was pretty much decided.  ASU immediately marched right down the field and scored a TD to take the lead for good.  As soon as we were down seven, it was all over.  With only three minutes to go in the game, there wasn’t enough time for another pound-it-out rushing drive.  We had to rely on the arm of Troy Williams, and that just wasn’t happening.  Not in those nasty weather conditions.  Not with a quarterback making his first college start.  Not against a very good ASU defense.

The Huskies put up a good fight, but in the end this game boiled down to quarterback play.  It’s going to continue coming down to quarterback play until someone finally steps up.  Here’s to hoping whoever is red-shirting this year ends up being the savior this program needs.

Quick & Dirty: Going To The UW/Cal Game

So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days.  In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space.  It’s going to be glorious.

That makes travel between now and then … limited.  And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year.  The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways.  But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!

Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work.  As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday.  I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade).  Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours.  It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time.  Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.

I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place.  Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.

And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning!  Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking.  Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road.  This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly.  I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay.  From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards.  "Tailgating, how quaint!  Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!"

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”

Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal.  Nerds, amirite?  Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such.  Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene.  Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.

My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself.  Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).

We were, like, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill.  We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between.  Did I mention the oppressive heat?  There was oppressive heat.

We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice.  They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice.  Those old fucks were good sports, though.  We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.

Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game.  As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in.  I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario.  Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game ...

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …

I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year?  40th?  1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way!  Is that Shaq?!?  No fucking WAY!  OH MY GOD IT IS!!!”  Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.

For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments.  Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half.  In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!

A lot of delayed gratification in this game.  We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is always never fun.  Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance.  The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.

Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game.  He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines.  Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.

The Husky defense was superb.  We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense.  That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before.  Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air.  Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.

It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook.  People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds.  Appreciate it now, while you still can!  And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end.  Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future.  We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.

Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant.  That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).

After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food.  I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think.  Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.

I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport.  My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended.  It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do.  Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game.  One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them.  And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.

The Huskies Head Into Their BYE Week With More Questions Than Answers

Mostly on the offensive side of the ball.  Primarily with the quarterback position.

Thanks to playing in Hawaii to kick off the season, the Huskies were blessed with four non-conference games.  Thanks to those four teams being terrible, the Huskies were blessed with four victories.  It had appeared, going into last Saturday’s Stanford game, that the Huskies were finally starting to gel.  The running game was pretty solid.  The defense was rounding into shape after a shaky first couple of games.  And while the passing game had yet to really flourish, if we just played our game and limited turnovers, we had as good a chance as any to beat Stanford on our home field.

So, what did we learn from our first defeat of the season?  Well, we learned that the Huskies have joined the likes of Oregon State, Utah, and Colorado among the winless in conference games.  That’s … less than ideal, even if it’s only the one game.  We learned that Stanford is EXACTLY who we thought they were.  A great defense, a pretty good offensive line, and a quarterback who doesn’t do much more than manage the game with his legs.  Kevin Hogan tied for the team lead in rushing attempts, going 14 for 53 yards and a TD; but he only threw 17/26 for 178 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.

Normally, that’s a pretty pedestrian day from a quarterback playing for an upper echelon program.  But, on Saturday, he out-played Cyler Miles like nobody’s business.

Cyler Miles just isn’t very good.  If Kevin Hogan is a Game Manager, Cyler Miles is a Game Towel Boy.  Yeah, he limits turnovers, but big fucking deal if we can’t move the ball down the field!

The offensive line is getting a lot of flak in this whole thing – and I’m not going to be the one to vociferously defend them – but look at it this way:  if the quarterback is no threat to either challenge the defense deep or make good on his long passing attempts, how would you arrange your players if you’re the defensive coordinator going up against the Huskies?  Wouldn’t you load the box and play man coverage on the receivers to take away the run and the little bubble screens we like to throw?  Wouldn’t you put wave after wave of blitzing pressure on Cyler Miles until he’s able to prove that he can handle it and make you pay?

With Keith Price and some of our receivers who have moved on, the Huskies had a deep threat to keep defenses honest.  That’s why our run game was so effective, with essentially the same exact sub-par offensive line performance.  Yes, Bishop Sankey and Chris Polk were both elite college runners, but there’s no saying that Lavon Coleman can’t also be an elite runner.  He just needs a chance.  And, he won’t get that chance if defenses are overloading the box.

But, here’s the thing:  what do we do?  Quite frankly, this BYE week couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the Huskies.  They can use this extra week of practice time one of two ways:  either groom Lindquist or Williams as your starter the rest of the way, or take advantage of the extra practice by refining Miles’ awareness and handling of the offense.  Figure out which areas he can improve upon and work on helping him improve, while at the same time tweak the offense to fit his skillset.  And, for the love of God, encourage him to pull the ball back on some of these zone reads and take advantage of the defense’s over-pursuit!

And, so help me, if you don’t figure out how to get John Ross a minimum of 10 touches on offense per game, I don’t know what else to do with you.  You’ve got an elite-level NFL talent at your fingertips, USE HIM!  Don’t try to force the ball to Mickens.  It’s absolutely unconscionable that Mickens has 29 offensive touches while Ross only has 12 (I don’t care if Ross missed an entire game with injury).  There’s no excuse for this offense to be this bad, regardless of who is at quarterback.

On the flipside, the defense is pretty great and it’s only getting better.  Granted, we’ve yet to play an elite offense at the FBS level, but I’ve been REALLY impressed with how suffocating we can be at times.  Timing can sure be a bitch when it comes to college football.  We’ve got all this amazing defensive talent that’s going to leave after this season, and we can’t take advantage of it because we don’t have a quarterback who knows what he’s doing.  It’s one thing to look good against the dregs of the conference, but if we’re going to stink against Stanford and Oregon and the like, then we’re no better than we’ve been the last four years.

I’m going to hold off on criticizing the coaching staff too much in this early going.  After all, we don’t really have a full allotment of Coach Pete’s personnel.  For instance, I wonder if he would’ve gone after ANY of the quarterbacks we have on our roster right now (at least the ones that aren’t redshirting).  But, I will say that fake punt was an unmitigated disaster.  Here’s a tip:  if you’re going to fake punt by direct-snapping to Shaq Thompson, then make Shaq Thompson a member of your regular punting unit.  So, you know, his presence doesn’t IMMEDIATELY tip off that it’s going to be a fake.  That’s pretty much bluffing 101 right there:  don’t tip your hand.

If I’m revising my outlook on this team, I’ll tell you this much:  the game on October 11th against Cal is a Must Win.  For starters, the Bears are not very good.  But, it’s a road game, so you can never be too confident.  Following that, we go to Oregon, then come back home for Arizona State (both pretty good teams).  Losing at Cal could see us embark on a 4-game losing streak to fall to 4-4 and desperately needing to scrape together two more wins just to be bowl eligible.

When you start the season 4-0, bowl eligibility should NEVER be a concern.  From head to toe, the Huskies are the better team when compared to the Cal Bears.  If we don’t beat them, then there’s a legit chance that we could theoretically lose any and all the rest of the games on our schedule (okay, probably not Colorado, but now that I said that, just watch what happens on November 1st).

So, About That Husky Game …

Look, the Huskies are 4-0 and that’s pretty much all that matters.  If we’re looking at the extreme bright side of things, then I can say that the Huskies are three more wins away from being bowl-eligible.  That’s the Cal game, the Colorado game, and the Oregon State game.  Bing, bang, boom, 7-6.

Of course, I don’t think very many of us would be too thrilled with 7-6.  Not with the surefire NFL players we’ve got on both sides of the ball right now.

But, if we keep getting these inconsistent performances like we’ve gotten for the most part in the first four games, we may have to temper our expectations and start looking on the bright side more than we’d like.

What can you say about this game last Saturday?  Georgia State is not a team that should be able to fly all the way out here and not just hang with us for a half, but clearly out-play us for a half!  They were up 14-0 after two quarters!  We struggled to run the ball.  Then, we mysteriously stopped running the ball.  And you can forget about any sort of passing game.  If we’re not throwing one of those annoying WR screen passes that don’t work unless John Ross is catching them, then we’re running these long-developing patterns that don’t work because our offensive line can’t keep guys off our quarterback!  Or, our quarterback gets a case of the happy feet, but either way, the passing attack is flawed.

How about simpler stuff?  Some slants, some crossing patterns, some 10-yard comebackers.  This isn’t rocket science.  Cyler Miles obviously isn’t comfortable back there.  This was only, what, his fourth career start at this level?  How about some quick drops and some quick passing?  How about some quick passing that isn’t a long lateral down the line of scrimmage?  That shit’s eventually going to get pick-sixed in a big moment, so I’d like to move away from that if at all possible.

Anyway, as I was saying, it was 14-0 at halftime, and the fans were restless.  I, for one, don’t blame the fans for booing.  I’m not saying you should boo every single time the team does something bad, but when your team is down 14-0 at halftime against a team they should CLEARLY dominate, then I think it’s God damn appropriate for you to boo.  Maybe don’t boo if you’re down 14-0 to a team like Oregon or something.  But, Georgia State?  Come on, man!

So, what happened in the second half?  Oh, not much.  The Huskies just ripped off 45 unanswered points to win the game 45-14 (and very nearly cover the 34.5 point spread in the process).

I’ll tell you what happened:  Dante Pettis happened!  The Freshman phenom and punt returner extraordinaire!  Four returns for 98 yards; I REALLY thought we were going to break that long drought and bring back a punt to the house.  Eventually – and very soon, I might add – he WILL bring one all the way back, and it’s going to be glorious.

We got some short fields, and finally we were able to impose our will in the run game.  The Huskies ended up rushing for 182 yards, which isn’t a crazy amount, but remember with Pettis we had a lot of short fields in play.  No one really took the reins and ran away with it, but it was a nice little team effort after a gnarly first half.  Shoutout to Jeff Lindquist who got in the game a few times and ran some QB keepers.  He ended up with 3 carries for 35 yards and a couple touchdowns on the ground.  That’s a nice little weapon to have, considering Cyler Miles doesn’t appear to be anxious to expose his body to unnecessary hits in the running game.  Over the course of the season, we could be looking at a nice two-headed hydra at quarterback that may prove to give opposing defenses fits.

Overall, I thought the defense acquitted itself well.  That’s two games in a row after that Eastern Washington debacle, and three good performances out of four overall.  With Stanford coming up this weekend, we’re going to need every ounce this defense can give us.

It’s understandable that you’d doubt this team going into this Saturday’s game against the 16th-ranked team in the nation.  The Huskies have yet to really play a complete game.  The offense outside of John Ross has been pretty underwhelming, and with him fighting an injury, this could be a scary proposition.  Stanford has a REALLY good defense, and it wouldn’t be totally shocking if they came in here and shut us out.

Do I think that’s going to happen?  No, but like I said, I wouldn’t be shocked.

However, I really think people are underestimating this Husky defense after that Eastern game.  They’re not going to be perfect each and every drive, but they have enough talent at all levels – secondary, linebacker, and especially along the line – to keep us in any ballgame.  And, let’s not forget, Stanford isn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard themselves.  Their offense isn’t so great!  Yeah, they ran up the score against Army and UC Davis, but their defense really had a lot to do about that, considering they were able to shut out both teams.  Against USC, at home, Stanford was held to 10 points.  Now, they’re supposed to come into Husky stadium and ram the ball down our throats?  I don’t think so.

I think our defense is more than capable of keeping this game close.  I think eventually our offense will generate just enough big plays to make it interesting.  If we have John Ross back and healthy, I think we’ll even pull out a win somehow!  You heard it here first:  21-20, Huskies upset big bad Stanford.

Huskies Are Starting To Hit Their Stride

After the first game in Hawaii, it was pretty clear:  the offense needed to improve.  We needed more consistency out of our quarterback position and our running game.  For week 2 against Eastern, we got Cyler Miles back.  He wasn’t amazing or anything, but he was steady.  And, it didn’t really matter, because our running game went off the hook.  But, the defense took a huge step back as we faced a terrific passing attack.

We knew – going into this Illinois game – that we’d be facing another up-tempo, pass-first offense.  So, if our D didn’t come to play, we’d be stuck in another shootout with another inferior team.

Thankfully, the Huskies put it all together.  The passing game was good, but a little unnecessary, as we again rushed for well over 200 yards (246 to be exact).  The offense as a whole piled up 465 yards.  And, the defense came to play.  Yeah, the fighting Illini racked up 351 yards of their own, but they weren’t exactly harmful.

When you talk about this game, you have to talk about Shaq Thompson and his two interceptions returned for touchdowns.  Or, I guess, nevermind.  One was an interception, one was a fumble return.  Forgive me, on Saturday I spent all morning drinking at the tailgate, then was sort of hungover for most of the game, as is what happens when you stop drinking.  But, yeah, Shaq had his hands all over this game.

The defense as a whole forced three turnovers.  They kept Illinois to a 1 for 11 success rate on converting third downs (1 for 1 on 4th down, but that’s neither here nor there).  They limited their rushing attack to 2.8 yards per carry.  Yeah, 19 points kind of sounds like a lot, but they didn’t get their first touchdown until the Huskies had 35 points on the board.  Their other touchdown happened in the third quarter, and then there was nothing.  Considering how much we were up by in this game, and factoring in all the reserves that probably got playing time on defense, I’d say holding them to 19 is pretty good.

This is exactly the game the Huskies needed.  Something where it was all put together.  THIS is what the Chris Petersen Huskies should look like going forward.  Everyone is familiar with the scheme and the play-calling.  Everyone has had a chance to get their feet wet and ease into this season.  On top of that, we play a very hapless Georgia State team this Saturday, which will push our record to 4-0.

And that’s the most important part:  the Huskies are undefeated.  We may not be ranked anymore, but we’re still in this thing.  We’ve survived our rough patch and in a couple weeks, we should be totally prepared for REAL football to start.

Huskies Beat Eagles 8 TDs & 1 FG to 7 TDs & 1 FG

So, that game against Eastern Washington, amirite?

I had a really odd feeling throughout that game.  For starters, I was in a bar having lunch as the game kicked off and Washington raced out to a 21-0 lead.  The Eagles fumbled on a kickoff with their first possession, and contrary to popular belief, the Huskies actually DID manage to force them to punt – one time – on their second possession.  Nevertheless, even with a 21-point lead, I couldn’t help feeling like it wasn’t safe.  That NOTHING would be safe.

Indeed, as the first quarter drew to a close – with Washington up 24-14 in one of the highest-scoring quarters of football I’ve ever seen – we were in a dogfight for the ages.

I watched the rest of the game from home.  And, you know, I saw what you saw:  a defense that couldn’t get out of its own way.  Giving up bombs as well as intermediate & short routes.  Not being able to get off the field on third down (Eastern converted 6 of 12 third downs and 4 of 4 fourth downs).  We gave up 573 yards to one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.  To be fair, they’re a well-coached and well-recruited college football program.  Also to be fair, the Washington Huskies should be in a completely different class.

But, this wasn’t us playing down to the level of our competition.  Nor was it a lesser school rising to the occasion.  This was simply a matchup nightmare, and I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done from a scheme standpoint or a player personnel standpoint to make the outcome of this game any different.

In spite of all of that, though, I never felt like we were going to lose this one.  For as great as their offense was, ours was just a little bit better.  John Ross is a fucking maniac and I love him to death.  If he manages to stay healthy, he might go down as the greatest wide receiver the Huskies have ever produced.  The numbers might not be there – as we somehow only managed to get him three touches in this game of non-stop scoring – but when all is said and done and he’s making lives miserable in the NFL, we’ll look back and remember with fondness his all-too-brief tenure with the Washington Huskies.

The running game was the real star of the show.  After being shut down for long stretches in the Hawaii game, the Huskies rampaged to the tune of 356 yards on 57 carries for a 6.2 yard average and 7 touchdowns.  Lavon Coleman once again took over, with 17 carries & 118 yards; Dwayne Washington was next on the list with 10 carries and only 35 yards, but he seemed to get a lot of work in the red zone and goalline, as he plowed through for 2 scores.  It’s unfortunate that this great rushing game is completely forgotten thanks to the ineptitude of the defense, but then again, it’s Eastern:  you’re SUPPOSED to run for 356 yards against a smaller school like Eastern.

Cyler Miles, as I hoped, did indeed get the start at quarterback.  He looked as rusty as you’d expect, but he also flashed leadership and ability that we weren’t getting from Lindquist in Hawaii.  Miles ended up throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown (and no turnovers), but he also ran for 58 yards on 12 carries, for three more touchdowns on the ground.

This was the perfect game for him, to be honest.  We needed everything he had on Saturday, and he delivered.  It was a nothing defense, so he was able to work out his kinks and eventually find a rhythm.  But, the game was always close, so he got a full game’s worth of reps that he also desperately needed.  It’s a nice little warmup for him as we take on Illinois this week.  They should be somewhat better defensively, but they shouldn’t be so good that he’s having a hard time doing what we need him to do to win.

In the end, it came down to turnovers, as so many games do.  The Eagles overcame that early-game kickoff return fumble to eventually take a lead in the third quarter, 38-37, and then going into the fourth quarter, 45-44.  But, to kick off the final frame, the Huskies pushed through another TD and a 2-point conversion to take the lead for good.  On the subsequent drive, the Eagles were moving the ball with ease once again, but as they got it into Washington territory, a defender popped out a completed pass for a fumble that we recovered.  The Huskies drove the ball right back down the field and got that 2-score lead to seal the deal.  Obviously, the Eagles scored again to bring it back to 1-score, but the Dawgs were able to run out the last 3+ minutes for the win.

I know everyone’s down on this defense – even though they single-handedly preserved that victory against Hawaii in the second half – but I’m not.  The Eagles were a fucking matchup nightmare as I said before, with a mature quarterback who’s capable of throwing it all over the field.  With the way we’re trying to break in almost an all-new secondary this year, the passing game was always going to be our Achilles heel.  The Eagles just so happen to do it better than most.  I shudder to imagine what our defense is going to do against the likes of the Wildcats, Ducks, Cougars, Beavers, and Bears, but lets hope the kids grow up fast.

I fully expect the Huskies to come out this week against Illinois and put up that complete game they’ve been looking for all season.  Then, we follow that up the following week with another cream puff of a game with Georgia State.  At this point, the Huskies WILL be 4-0 as we all anticipated coming into this season.  I’m more sure of this now than ever before, even after the shitpile of a start we’ve had to this season.  Everyone’s just getting back into the flow of football being back, combined with getting used to the new coaching staff and playbook.  You’re going to have some kinks, because contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t Alabama or Ohio State.  Not yet, anyway.  We’re still working our way back to elite, and this is just another blip on the journey.  By the time we finish our 4-game non-conference schedule, we should be well primed to take on the best of what the Pac-12 has to offer.

  • Miles will have three full games under his belt by then
  • The kinks should be worked out of our pass defense
  • The running back rotation should coalesce into a two-headed monster of Coleman and Washington
  • The offensive coordinator should figure out how to get the ball into the hands of John Ross more than a paltry few times per game
  • The offensive line will have had four full games together and should improve accordingly

All while knowing that our stable of offensive skill positions is stacked.  On top of Ross, I thought Kasen Williams looked solid, especially on that nifty 2-point conversion.  He could be the jump-ball machine we all expected, and it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

And finally, let’s not forget that this defensive line is doing the lord’s work.  Danny Shelton looks like he’s a first round talent at defensive tackle.  We should be able to keep running games in check while still being able to generate pressure without necessarily sending more than four guys at the quarterback.