The Huskies Actually Played A Football Game, Beating The Beavs

You ever try to stay awake, sober, for an 8pm start-time to a college football game? It’s a lot of work! Of course, I’m 195 years old and staying up until all hours of the night isn’t as easy as it used to be (particularly when you regularly wake up anywhere from 3-5am most mornings). I’m not gonna lie to you, I made it until halftime, then had to DVR the rest of the game to watch it the following morning (at 5am, which is apparently a more appropriate time to watch a football game, because again, I am an old, elderly, deceased man).

You’d think the excitement of having college football back – and specifically the team I most care about – would be enough to carry me to the finish line. But, obviously, the effects of a COVID-marred season is taking its toll. There wasn’t the usual fire in the Husky text thread Saturday night, as I think many of us feel like this season is just one long exhibition more than a real sampling of what college football has to offer. Like NFL pre-season in its level of importance.

For me, it comes down to the Pac-12 having no shot to make the college football playoffs. Why they’ve stubbornly refused to expand – if for only this one year – is beyond all reason. We get a 4-team playoff and we can choke on it, as the usual gang of idiots monopolize those spots for another season.

So, what are we playing for, then? For fun, I suppose. For something to do on Saturdays for a few weeks. Obviously, for the players to showcase their skills, particularly for those who opt to go pro after this season (I don’t know what the rules are across all conferences, but I know the Pac-12 players have the option of extending their eligibility an extra season (2020 effectively not counting) if they do want to return in 2021. I’m not against it; I’m not complaining we have the Pac-12 back in our lives. But, I’m just saying it lacks that usual juice. The Huskies could go 6-0 this year (with 7-0 formally off the table) and it won’t make a lick of difference.

On top of the lack of stakes, it’s not like we can have proper tailgates. We obviously can’t attend the games. We can’t get any road trips together with our friends. Going to a bowl game seems dicey in these times where the COVID cases are climbing.

But, it’s football, and once the game got going, I was certainly enjoying myself. It’s not normal, but it’s close enough for now.

When I went to bed at halftime, the Huskies were ahead 24-21. The final score ended up being 27-21. I can only imagine how irritated I would’ve been staying up another however many hours of real time trying to make it to the bitter end, when as it was – being able to fast forward through halftime, commercials, and all the in-game stoppages – it was already pretty boring.

The global view of this game is that I’ll take a win any way I can get it! I thought, given the circumstances (late start, cold temperature, lots of rain throughout), the Huskies looked pretty good.

Redshirt Freshman Dylan Morris got the start for the Dawgs, who I suppose was a quasi-surprise given the 4-man competition. It sounded like the senior, Kevin Thomson, was in street clothes (indicating he’s got an injury), but I find it interesting Morris got the nod over Sophomore Jacob Sirmon (who actually did see a wee bit of playing time in 2019). Jimmy Lake said Morris was the best of the bunch at limiting either mistakes or turnovers (which I consider to be the same thing, in coachspeak), so that’s something. I thought Morris looked okay, but there were a lot of frustrating drops by the wide receivers (I remember this being a theme for the Huskies last year as well), and the team didn’t have him do too much (14/24 for 141 yards).

The running game was the star of the show. The Huskies had four running backs featured (plus Morris scrambles, plus a few fullback dives, plus some wide receiver jet-sweeps); the team as a whole combined for 267 yards on 51 carries and all three touchdowns, which is pretty outstanding! In a season-opener, with a new head coach, quarterback, and offensive coordinator, I don’t think you can ask for anything more from that side of the ball. Most importantly: there were no Husky turnovers.

The Huskies split carries pretty evenly between the three main backs. Kamari Pleasant did indeed get the start and looked good (12 for 61 and a TD). Richard Newton looked like the wrecking ball we all remember him as (15 for 41). And Sean McGrew looked like an absolute revelation! He was fast, he was explosive, and he was CRIMINALLY underutilized (9 for 91 and a TD). If this were a normal season – or if it eventually morphs into something resembling a normal season – McGrew would be taking the starting job and running (!) with it. My hunch is, if he keeps averaging 10 yards per carry, the coaches will have no choice but to give him the lion’s share of the carries. But, as everyone is getting used to playing again, it might not be the worst idea to have a big rotation going, to keep everyone healthy and fresh.

Terrell Bynum was the only receiver that really stood out to me in this one (4 catches for 66 yards, and another 2 carries for 33 yards), but there will be time for this unit to shine this season. Honestly, even though the Huskies gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown after the opening drive (our prized long-snapper delivered his first college snap about 10 yards over the head of our punter, who tracked it down, tried to punt it anyway, and got absolutely clobbered for his effort), we were pretty well in control throughout, so there was never a need to abandon the run. That won’t be the case every week; at some point, we’ll learn what Dylan Morris is all about.

The defense was solid. They really only gave up 14 points (and only three sustained drives, one ending early in the fourth quarter on downs after some iffy officiating in our favor). I would say the pass defense is as advertised – limiting the Beavs to 85 yards passing on 11/24 with an INT – but the rush defense had some holes (167 yards on 34 carries) and we didn’t get to the quarterback as much as I’d like. Nevertheless, we’ll throw out some individual kudos to Edefuan Ulofoshio (led the team in tackles with 10, and 4 passes broken up), Elijah Molden (our stud DB who was all over the place in this one), Asa Turner (our interception) and Zion Tupuola-Fetui (our only two sacks!) for really standing out. There were lots of good plays across the board though, so I look forward to shouting more guys out as the season goes along!

Next week, we host Arizona at 5pm, assuming nothing goes haywire. The Wildcats lost a close one to USC at home earlier on Saturday (after having their own opening game canceled because of Utah’s COVID outbreak) and I thought they looked pretty impressive. Of course, USC might also be underwhelming, but Arizona’s big quarterback was making all sorts of plays to keep drives alive, so I’ll be interested to see how we keep him in check. He isn’t quite the runner that Arizona has had in recent seasons, but he makes up for that with a strong arm (as well as enough mobility to keep defenses somewhat honest).

My guess is his skillset plays to our defensive strengths, but I am worried about his ability to keep plays alive with his legs (either in avoiding our pass rush, or outright running for first downs to keep drives going). I didn’t see anything from Arizona’s defense that particularly scares me, but it’ll be more important for our offense to just execute, regardless of what they throw our way.

The weather might not be a whole helluva lot better than it was last week, but with the earlier start time, I would expect more points out of the Huskies. It wouldn’t shock me to see this one turn into something of a shootout. Either way, we’ll get a MUCH better sense of how good this Husky defense is, as the Wildcats’ offense should be much more balanced than Oregon State’s.

Is It A Bad Sign That The Husky Football Team Hasn’t Named A Starting Quarterback?

We got our first depth chart of the season yesterday. There are a number of familiar names at the skill positions – Kamari Pleasant the surprise starter at running back, though he’ll surely be part of a committee with Sean McGrew and Richard Newton; Puka Nacua, Terrell Bynum, Ty Jones lead the way at receiver; with Cade Otton at tight end – but for the most part what’s on everyone’s mind is the 4-way logjam at quarterback:

  • Ethan Garbers (true Freshman)
  • Dylan Morris (redshirt Freshman)
  • Jacob Sirmon (Sophomore)
  • Kevin Thomson (Senior)

They all seem to be worthy in one way or another of becoming the starting quarterback for the University of Washington, but for whatever reason it seems no one has asserted himself as the Top Dawg, so to speak. Obviously, there’s some mindgames at play here, as this forces Cal to have to try to prepare for multiple different players (with multiple different styles). Coach Lake has even gone so far as to announce that more than one could see playing time in this game, which again could simply be posturing to force Cal into doing more work than they need to. In that sense, sure, I get it; why make it easy on them?

I guess my question stems from the notion that Coach Lake is being honest. That there really is no one guy who has far-and-away dominated over everyone else. I can see why that would be concerning for Husky fans! Kevin Thomson – the graduate transfer – obviously has the most college playing experience of anyone on the roster, and it sounds like he’s also the most mobile (which could be a big help with a lot of new pieces across the offensive line, as well as breaking in a new offensive coordinator and scheme); if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the entirety of the Taylor Family Farm on Thomson getting the first reps (and the most reps), but, you know, I’d probably be willing to bet a goat or two on it (yes, we have many goats on the Taylor Family Farm, sorry to brag so much). Logically, he makes the most sense, but if we take Coach Lake at his word, then that means Thomson … isn’t very good? Can’t beat out three guys who – combined – have only played a handful of snaps at the college level?

Now, the flipside of that is: one or more of those other guys have surpassed expectations and it’s an embarrassment of riches! But, come on, when is that EVER the case? Don’t shit a shitter, you guys; you know as well as I do that what he’s suggesting is Coachspeak for, “Ehh, you know, I like our guys I guess, but I just don’t trust ’em as far as I can throw ’em.”

I’ll be honest here, I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve enjoyed watching a team try to straddle two different (and healthy) quarterbacks. I mean, maybe Joe Montana and Steve Young in their primes, but what are the odds we have two surefire Hall of Famers in this group? Plus, even then, I’m sure it was annoying. I barely like shuffling running backs in and out of a game for the same reason: you need time to get settled in! At least at the college level, most of the running backs are really talented, so it’s more about offensive line play than anything. But, what’s worse than going back and forth between two ice-cold quarterbacks? Probably going back and forth between three or four ice-cold quarterbacks, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t have a lot of super-high hopes for this season for any number of reasons. New head coach and new offensive coordinator being at the top of my list. You need time to grow and work out the kinks; I wouldn’t think it’s likely we would contend for a conference championship even if we had a returning 3-year starter at quarterback! The only moderate reason why I MIGHT have hope is because this is such a flukey circumstance – 7-game schedule, COVID protocols and the like – and because we have a lot of returning stars on defense and at the skill positions to hopefully paper over some of the growing pains, that I believe it’s 2020 and literally anything can happen (plus, if we grow and improve over the first five games, we JUST might be ready to compete with a team like Oregon in the regular season finale).

In reality, though, assuming we lose a game or two early, I’d love to see one of our younger quarterbacks get a good run in and build some confidence heading into 2021. So, if Thomson isn’t the ace we thought he could be, he should have an EXTREMELY short leash. I don’t see any point in wasting a year of everyone’s eligibility on a guy who won’t be around after this season.

So yeah, I think it’s a bad sign we don’t officially know who the starter will be. They’re most likely ALL mediocre! Of course, if we’re all being hornswoggled, then I might be singing a different tune next week.

I’m Excited & Nervous About The Huskies Adding Transfer Quarterback Kevin Thomson

Writing about Husky Football twice in the same week, and it’s not even football season yet? I feel like a real college football … head.

As I wrote about before, the Huskies are coming off of two consecutive highly-rated recruiting classes (2019 & 2020) and as such are considered to be among the favorites to win the Pac-12 this season. Of course, 1-A among biggest question marks would be: who’s going to start at quarterback? The guy who’s never started a college football game, the other guy who’s never started a college football game, or the incoming True Freshman who’s – say it with me now – never started a college football game?

No one really believed the Huskies were going to stand pat with Jacob Sirmon, Dylan Morris, and Ethan Garbers, though the dream scenario was trying to entice that USC transfer to come here (J.T. Daniels ended up going to Georgia, because SEC). Enter Kevin Thomson.

Thomson was the Big Sky Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he threw for 3,216 yards and 27 TDs (against only 8 INTs), with an additional 619 yards rushing and 12 more TDs on the ground for Sacramento State. It’s truly an impressive resume … for a small school in the Big Sky; so take that with about a thousand grains of salt.

Graduate transfers are a unique proposition. They’ve got the experience you like to see (especially if you’re a program that has none at the position), but you always have to wonder why they’re transferring in the first place. Russell Wilson was famously a grad transfer, but I feel like he’s the exception. He – along with Gardner Minshew for the Cougs – are probably the ideal of what you’d like to see when you acquire one of these players, but look at what we’re talking about here: a future NFL Hall of Famer, and another NFLer who played for a Mike Leach system that was built for players like Minshew to succeed at an elite level.

I’m sure over the vast landscape of grad transfer quarterbacks, you’ve got all kinds, from those elite success stories, all the way down to complete washouts who never played a down for their new school. I feel like the majority of these guys are like Thomson, who played the bulk of their college careers for a smaller school, and are looking to get a taste of the big time to see what they’re made of.

The Huskies are saying the right things, of course. He isn’t guaranteed the starting job by any means, as it will be a four-man competition as we head into the season. But, you can see why people might be excited about Thomson. The experience disparity between him and the others alone gives him a significant advantage as it is, but considering COVID-19 eliminated all spring practices – and has severely hampered what we’re able to do for any sort of training camp this summer – you have to figure Thomson is all but a lock.

The cool part of this is – if he works out – then we’ve got a legitimately better chance to win a lot of games this fall. The knock against Thomson is his accuracy – which has yet to get over 60% in any of his seasons – but I wonder about the talent level around him. With Pac-12 players on the roster to throw to (and to block for him), we could see that number improve. I also LOVE a dual-threat quarterback – especially in college – where protection often breaks down regardless of how talented the offensive lines are (lack of rushing ability seriously hampered Browning and Eason – and as a result, the entire Husky offense – in recent years, in spite of really good O-Lines in front of them).

The other cool part of this is – even if he doesn’t work out – then that means whoever does end up winning the starting job will be that much better and hopefully result in the Huskies winning even more games. I’ll never throw advanced competition out of bed for eating crackers!

The downside is, these moves often lead to one or more quarterbacks transferring from the program, and the three above guys I mentioned who were already on the roster are all highly-rated prospects (with a 5-star QB joining the Huskies in 2021 who looks to be a strong candidate to be a multi-year starter from Day One). You’d hate to see someone leave the program – who might go on to a quality college career – for a one-year rental in a grad transfer. But, the fun thing is: it’s all in their hands. If you want to be the starter, go out and win the job. It’s that simple.

I would’ve put the Huskies’ chances at winning the Pac-12 at MAYBE 10% before this week, given their schedule and the level of competition around the conference. I think this move legitimately improves our chances. And, if we hear good things about Thomson as the competition gets going, you’ll be looking at one rabid Dawg fan when the calendar flips to September!

I mean, let’s be real, you’re going to hear from a rabid Dawg fan regardless because I’m a consummate homer and will have talked myself into ongoing Husky domination between now and then, regardless of whatever news I read. Is it sane? Probably not. Will I be getting my hopes up for later disappointment? Well, I’m a sports fan, so what else is new?