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 Washington Huskies Looked Sloppy As All Get-Out In Their Win Over Rutgers

Gotta love a little Friday night college football season kickoff!

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know I had a lot of problems with how the Huskies looked yesterday.  I thought our offensive line got their asses WHUPPED, I thought Jake Browning – while brilliant at times – looked a little off, I thought the defense looked just sort of okay in the first half, and I thought no one outside of Dante Pettis, Myles Gaskin, and Drew Sample really stepped up and asserted themselves on offense.

The Huskies, more than anything, looked rusty and unprepared!  In the end, the 30-14 outcome might be the best thing to happen to them this season, as I definitely got the vibe that the Dawgs were maybe drinking a little too much of their own Kool Aid.  Like they could just show up and blow out Rutgers by 50 points or something.  Not so fast.

I thought Rutgers had a good offensive gameplan early.  Pound the ball and follow that up with quick, short passes.  Don’t hold the ball too long to let UW’s D-Line get home, and don’t throw the ball too deep to let UW’s athletic secondary make plays.  The problem for the Scarlet Knights was that while the Huskies made adjustments (and started to tackle better, though our tackling throughout the night was hit-or-miss … literally), they never changed their gameplan, when it was painfully obvious the Huskies were never too concerned about Rutgers stretching the field.  By that point, in the second half, it was a game of attrition and running out the clock.

Not for nothing, but as a huge underdog, Rutgers probably could’ve been a little more aggressive on 4th & short.  But, given the spread was somewhere around 27.5 in favor of Washington, losing by only 16 points was probably a victory for a good chunk of people (gamblers) in the world.

Pettis hauled in 3 passes for 85 yards, and tacked on a punt return for TD late in the first half to give the Huskies their first lead.  Without a second wide-out to take away some of the pressure, it might be tough sledding this season for Pettis, so I REALLY hope someone starts to step up soon.

Drew Sample had 3 catches for 63 yards, as he occasionally found himself wide open with lots of green in front of him.  I thought he looked too quickly to go out of bounds on his first reception, so it was nice to see him barrel through some people later in the game.

Myles Gaskin was the star of the show, though.  He caught 5 balls for 79 yards and a TD, making some brilliant diving/over-the-shoulder catches all over the field, really having the look of a true wide receiver.  He would also rush for 59 yards on only 7 carries (mostly in the second half, when we finally got some running lanes going).  If Gaskin can truly be this type of duel threat player for the Huskies, he’s going to REALLY help out this offense (and REALLY make himself a lot of money in the NFL as a LeVeon Bell-type player).

On defense, the Huskies could only muster the 1 sack (at the end of the game), because Rutgers was so focused on getting the ball out quickly.  That did translate into 2 interceptions for Byron Murphy, redshirt Freshman.  I thought our entire secondary showed up well in this one.  Taylor Rapp was all over the place, cleaning up the front seven’s missed tackles.  That Rutgers TD in the 4th quarter was almost another INT, our guy (don’t remember his name off-hand) just mis-timed his jump, but he had perfect position to make the play.

What’s most important about UW’s defensive play last night was, after a first, disasterous TD drive for Rutgers in the first quarter, they put the clamps down and nearly shut them out the rest of the way.  That’s the UW football I came here to see!

I guess, for my part, I’ll say that it was probably unreasonable to expect the Huskies to fly all the way across the country and put a pounding on a team that would surely look vastly different than they did last year in Husky Stadium.  Lots of transfer students, new coaching staff, new scheme.  Plus, being at home always helps.  I don’t know if Rutgers will be a bowl team like the dopey color guy was talking about, but I do agree that they look a lot better than they did last year.  I think they’ll have more than 2 wins, but I think they’ll fall just short of the necessary 6 wins.

That having been said, I’m going to be rooting like crazy for Rutgers the rest of the way.  If there’s one thing this Husky schedule needs, it’s a quality non-conference victory.  So, if we can squeeze Rutgers into the Baha Men “Who Let The Dogs Out” Bowl come December, I’ll be one happy Dawg fan.

Next Saturday, we get Montana at home.  Let’s do to them what I wanted to do to Rutgers.