The Huskies Defeated 11th-Ranked Michigan State!

To be fair, the Spartans are no longer ranked – while the Huskies made the leap to #18 in the A.P. Poll – but who cares? We beat a team many considered to be good-to-great, and when was the last time you could say that?

The line started out more or less with the Huskies favored by 2.5. It moved by gametime to the Huskies being favored by 3.5. As I discussed last week, that’s fishy as hell. That led me to believe something was up. That Vegas had cracked the code and figured out we were better than the world realized (predictably, the bulk of the money was placed on Michigan State, which means – yet again – Vegas crushed the public).

It was pretty quickly made clear that they were right, as the Huskies marched right down the field on the Spartans, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. We took the next drive all the way down to the 1 yard line before being stuffed on downs, but that just led to our defense getting a safety, followed by another touchdown drive (this time successfully getting it in from the 1). After another punt by the Spartans, the Huskies scored again to make it 22-0 (missing the extra point). It looked like the rout was on from there, though Michigan State finally orchestrated a TD drive to make it 22-8. If you were worried, fret not, because with less than 2 minutes to go, we put up another TD before halftime to head into the break up 29-8, an insurmountable lead.

We traded touchdowns immediately after halftime to make it 36-14, but then things started to get sloppy for the Huskies. They chipped into our lead and got it to 39-28 – with the ball – late in the game. Another cheap touchdown and they might’ve executed the back-door cover! But, thankfully, the Huskies ended things on downs and were able to run out the final three minutes.

Michael Penix once again looked like a stud, completing 24/40 for 397 yards and 4 TDs to 0 INTs. The running game took a backseat once again, but Cameron Davis did carry it 17 times for 69 yards and a TD.

Ja’Lynn Polk had the biggest receiving day (6 for 153 and 3 TDs), but Jalen McMillan had another very nice game (7 for 94).

Defensively, when the game mattered most, we were able to get stops when we needed to. I’m going to chock up the second half surge by the Spartans to us taking the foot off the gas while holding a considerable lead. They really only had one easy scoring drive, every other one required lots of plays and time off the clock. I can’t ask for much more than that.

That’s a statement victory for a team that hasn’t had one since the Chris Petersen era. I would argue we haven’t had a win that huge since 2016. Now, we’re on the map, and I think it’s only fair for expectations to take a jump.

More importantly, we’re a fun team to watch. God bless ’em, I just don’t know what to do with myself! Penix is the best quarterback we’ve had since … I dunno? Marques Tuiasosopo? I’m not joking. I know we won a lot of games with Jake Browning, but has he ever performed at this kind of clip? Through three games, he has 1,079 yards and 10 TDs to 1 INT. I know it’s early, and we haven’t had a clunker yet, but I’m just so impressed with how well he’s been playing. It’s some kind of magic that he’s so good in this very particular offensive system, under this particular head coach.

We’ll see what this means going forward, but we have back-to-back late night games (at home vs. Stanford and on the road – on a Friday night – against UCLA). Either one could be a loss (I’m obviously more worried about the Bruins, but this Stanford game could be a trap as everyone looks ahead), but then things start to open up. ASU just fired their coach, Arizona just barely beat North Dakota State, Cal and Oregon State are middling, Oregon doesn’t look as good as their ranking might suggest, Colorado might be one of the worst teams in college football, and the Cougs are the Cougs.

I dunno. I think it’s safe to get a little excited for this year. I think we have more than a fighting chance in all of these games. We needed the offense to make a huge leap forward, and so far they’ve done just that. Now, I think we can compete, especially with the likes of some of these other high-scoring teams in our conference.

What a pleasant surprise!

This Is The Worst Washington Husky Football Team Since 2008

It’s difficult to explain just how terrible that 2008 team really was. Nothing could possibly top that squad when it comes to sucking! But, that was the end result of deep-seeded, entrenched sucking. Sucking that started towards the tail-end of the Rick Neuheisel era. Husky fans like to point to the head coaches that followed in the wake of Neuheisel’s firing, but the team was clearly going in the wrong direction by his final season here in 2002; that’s what happens when there’s such a discrepency between your recruiting of skill guys (very good!) and your recruiting along the offensive and defensive lines (pretty mediocre).

Nevertheless, Keith Gilbertson and especially Tyrone Willingham did nothing to help the cause, with Willingham’s final season here being the perfect storm of ineptitude that was 2008. The Huskies had been so mismanaged, so neglected, for SO LONG, that even if we didn’t suffer numerous injuries to key starters that year, we still wouldn’t have been worth two shits.

The turnaround started in 2009 when Sark came to town, but really solidified into the Huskies being BACK when Chris Petersen was hired away from Boise State in 2014.

But, Petersen’s sudden retirement after the 2019 season has thrust the Huskies into a tailspin. And, of course, the pandemic didn’t help, particularly when you consider the one thing Jimmy Lake does well – recruit – is something he couldn’t do nearly as effectively with COVID restrictions being what they are.

And now, I mean, how do you recruit on a 2-4 record? And would it even matter?

The Huskies have to have the most overpaid and inept collection of assistant coaches in all of college football. At the very least, all of the Pac-12 (which, again, puts us well in the running for all of college football). Right at the top, you have to talk about John Donovan, who is the second offensive coordinator in a row – Bush Hamdan being his predecessor – who has gotten the absolute least out of his players thanks to his scheme and his play-calling. But, don’t forget all the positional coaches below him. Don’t forget the wide receivers coach, who oversaw a mass exodus of players this past offseason. Don’t forget the offensive line coach, who has had tremendous stability among his starters, yet everyone seems to be regressing as they go along.

And we shouldn’t discount how diluted the defensive coaching staff has gotten. Jimmy Lake’s promotion turned our biggest strength – our defensive coordinator – into a clear weakness; this was furthered by Pete Kwiatkowski jumping this sinking ship for greener pastures in Texas. Talent alone seems to be holding things together reasonably well, though the defense isn’t perfect, and isn’t able to overcome an offense incapable of making big plays or scoring when it needs to.

Defensive line is the biggest problem on this team, and has been for years. It’s nice that UW has become DB-U over the last decade, but how does that help us when teams are able to ram the ball down our throats? I would argue the D-Line problem extends back for decades now, and the “good” ones since then were held together by maybe one or two dominant defensive tackles. That string of good fortune has come to a close, and with it our ability to control the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback.

Jimmy Lake might be a decent head coach, but he doesn’t have the pieces around him to succeed. He doesn’t have the coaching staff, nor the recruiters, to make this a successful program. He’s also hamstrung by being in the Pac-12, but that’s no excuse for being this terrible AGAINST the Pac-12, let alone a program from a lower division like Montana.

I don’t think it’s going to work out with Lake, because once again there’s some deep-seeded, entrenched sucking going on. As usual, it stems from the offensive and defensive lines. He’s also both weirdly aggressive (going for it on 4th downs, which I like) and bull-headed (not making a switch at quarterback when it’s clearly in the program’s best interest). There’s no salvaging this season. The Huskies are 2-4. We’re clearly not as good as Oregon or ASU, we probably have no business going down to Stanford and beating them. That’s 7 losses, for those of you needing help with the math; that means no bowl game.

We should probably go down to Arizona this week and beat the winless Wildcats, but I’m not holding my breath. You would think we could take care of business against the Buffaloes next month, but that’s a road game, so you never know. And, the Cougars’ whole season is going to hinge on beating our asses for the first time since 2012 (since they just lost their head coach and will probably need that game to make a bowl game).

There’s a version of this team that goes winless the rest of the way, with our easiest remaining games being on the road. Best case scenario, I think the Huskies might scrape by with a 3-3 record the rest of the way, which is still not good enough to make a bowl. So, what are we playing for? Why are we clinging to Dylan Morris, who has 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a miserable 60% completion percentage? Why would we risk alienating our only 5-star recruit, who has the kind of arm talent most schools only dream of?

It’s not like we’d be breaking any kind of mold by going with a true freshman, plenty of WAY better programs do it all the time. Shit, we just had one in Petersen’s tenure with Jake Browning!

Nothing is quite so damning to this program than just having a BYE week – giving us two full weeks to shake things up and prepare for UCLA – and coming out with the same exact problems as before. That tells me Jimmy Lake, ultimately, isn’t the man to lead this program. If he can’t get this team to get its shit together at home, with multiple weeks to prepare, then what the fuck are we even doing here?

The collapse under Lake’s watch has been immediate and a total embarrassment. What’s worse is there’s no hope for the future. There’s only burning it all down and hoping the next regime knows what the fuck it’s doing.

The Huskies Giveth & The Huskies Taketh Away

You don’t get to see games like the one against the Utes last Saturday very often. It takes a special confluence of circumstances that necessitates having an elite defense … that just so happens to shit the bed for an entire half of football. Now, just saying that – without knowing any of the details of the game – you might think the Huskies got off to a great start, and then blew it. But, that’s what makes this such a rare occurrence! This was the exact opposite!

Defenses don’t normally get stronger as the game goes along. Having to react to the play-calling and tempo of an offense alone is exhausting, let alone all of the actual effort it takes to try to prevent them from scoring (when, not for nothing, almost all the rules are tilted in the offense’s favor). That’s why you often see teams scoring at a higher rate in the final two minutes of a close game; that’s when defenses are most gassed.

It takes a special sort of fortitude to bow up like that after looking so bad for an entire half of football. Utah took a 21-0 lead at the break, and they REALLY dictated everything to the Huskies. I thought the most uncharacteristic thing about this game was how many tackles the Dawgs missed in the first half.

The Utah running game was especially stout, finishing the day with 215 yards on 41 carries and 2 touchdowns. The Huskies didn’t have an answer for it in the first half, forcing a fumble (off a sack) on the very first drive of the game and a punt early in the second quarter. But, otherwise, the Utes marched at will, and it was a little embarrassing!

On top of which, the Husky offense seemed to sleepwalk throughout. Dylan Morris was far from great in this one, throwing 3 picks (albeit, one of them was a hail mary at the end of the first half). The first one was particularly Carson Wentz-esque! Just RIGHT to the defender, like he was the one running the route. And, to make matters worse, the running game never got going (only 88 yards on 26 carries, with a TD).

I fully expected – with all the stars they lost to graduation and the NFL last year – that the Utes would be pushovers. But, that’s a solid program, and they are VERY physical along both their offensive and defensive lines. If there was ever a blueprint on how to beat the Huskies, the Utes unlocked it: run the ball physically on offense and stack the box against us and force our inexperienced quarterback to try and beat you with his arm.

What I never would’ve expected – in just his third college start – was Morris doing just that. While the interceptions were unfortunate (and hopefully an anomaly), he did finish 23/38 for 272 yards and 2 TDs. Tight end Cade Otton was the best player on either offense, catching 8 balls for 108 yards and both of the airborne touchdowns (including the game winner with 36 seconds remaining). Puka Nacua also had some big catches in this one to keep drives alive (finishing with 6 for 67).

I’m sure Jake Browning had a few come-from-behind victories in his 4-year career as a Husky, but he’s certainly not known as someone who regularly pulled our asses out of the fire. Indeed, I would argue we haven’t had a quarterback like that since Marques Tuiasosopo. I’m not saying Morris is the second coming in that regard, but it’s a good sign that this early on in his college career, the moment wasn’t too big for him.

For as bad as the first half was, the second half was a trip! The Huskies got the ball and drove right down the field to cut the lead to two scores. Then, Elijah Molden picked off Jake Bentley, which led to the Huskies getting a short field. Unfortunately, we couldn’t convert – having to settle for a field goal – but by then you could sort of feel something special starting to build. The Utes were stuffed on fourth down on the Husky-side of midfield, and three plays later it was 21-17 (and we were still in the third quarter at that point!).

Things got straight up weird after that. The Utes finally figured out how to move the ball, driving it deep into Husky territory. Then, Kyler Gordon forced a fumble that was recovered by Zion Tupuola-Fetui, and we all thought this was it! Not only would the Huskies complete the comeback, but perhaps the rout would be on from here!

Not so fast, though. The teams traded punts, then what appeared to be a back-breaking third interception by Morris gave the ball to the Utes at the 50 with just under 7 minutes remaining. This could’ve ended things, but the defense stepped up once again to force a 3 & Out and a punt down to the Washington 12 yard line. With four and a half minutes to go, that’s when Morris stepped up for the biggest drive of his life. 88 yards on 12 plays, with a couple of huge third down conversions (including a 3rd & 10 play that went for 14 yards to Nacua), methodically marching down the field, culminating in a 16-yard TD to Otton. Three plays later, Trent McDuffie picked off Bentley for a second time to end it.

What else can you say about ZTF, by the way? He had all three Husky sacks in this one, to win his THIRD consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week Award (yes, that’s 3 for 3 on the season). He just looks like a total fucking beast along the defensive line; absolutely unstoppable! Also, that Death Row secondary held the Utes to 144 yards passing (not that they needed to do a whole lot, with the way they were able to run the ball, but still); you could tell that as soon as they NEEDED to throw the ball, they wouldn’t be able to.

That’s going to be the key going forward: keeping opposing running games in check to the point where they have to throw, and then absolutely crushing their spirits.

At 3-0, the Huskies are FINALLY ranked, hitting 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Ducks lost to the Beavers, which has them 23rd now (*giggle*), but we’re somehow behind USC, who is holding steady at 20. I still contend the Huskies are the most complete – and therefore BEST – team in the Pac-12. What this game showed me is that the Utes are a lot better than I originally thought. Clearly, the Huskies have the conference’s best defense, and we might’ve just finished playing the second-best unit.

This Saturday, we’re set to host Stanford at 1pm (our fourth consecutive home game). The Cardinal apparently give up the most rushing yards in the world, so I would expect it’ll be easier to get our running backs going in this one. They sit 1-2 on the year (after having their game against WSU canceled), having just barely beaten Cal (in what will probably be the final college football game in the Bay Area in 2020 thanks to their new insane COVID restrictions). Stanford lost to Oregon and Colorado, who are two of the better-looking teams in the Pac-12, so they’ve really gotten the unlucky end of the scheduling stick this season. We’ll see if they’re really as bad as the numbers indicate, or if it’s a matter of playing really tough teams.

Either way, I expect the Huskies to win, and in much easier fashion than against Utah. Maybe that was a wake-up call. We weren’t able to do what we wanted to do, and really took a shot to the face in the first half. But, we rallied and showed what we’re made of, and I think that speaks well to the character of our players and the preparedness of our coaching staff.

Now, if we can just NOT ice our own kicker and take a horrific Delay of Game penalty before he pushes a 40-yard kick wide right, maybe we won’t have to lose our fucking minds!

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?

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.

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!

The Washington Husky Football 2018 Season In Review

Chris Peterson’s first year here was in 2014, the team was full of Sark holdovers, and we were just okay. We finished third in the Pac-12 North and lost in the Cactus Bowl to OK State. 2015 feels like the REAL first year of the Coach Pete regime, as his guys started trickling into the lineup. Most notably: Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin.

It’s been four years with that duo intact, and they’ve been four of the most successful years in the program’s history. 38-12 in the regular season, including 2 conference championships and 3 major bowl games. Now, unfortunately, in that span the Huskies are 1-3 in the post-season, having lost all 3 of those major bowl games, in pretty decisive fashion.

The 2018 Husky Football team was both a rousing success and a disappointment. And, I think you can say that about the entire Browning/Gaskin era.

The one constant throughout Coach Pete’s tenure has been tremendous defense, particularly in the secondary. There’s always been at least one stud interior lineman, and there’s usually some very solid linebacker play, but the secondary is where the defense’s bread is buttered. In an era where passing attempts are increasing by the year, this has been a boon to our program.

It’s unfortunately been the offense that’s been too inconsistent – especially in those big games – to take this team over the hump. And, when you figure Myles Gaskin is the Husky career rushing yards and touchdowns leader, it’s not hard to see where this is going.

I wanted to put some distance between this post and the Rose Bowl, so I could calm down and see things a little more rationally. The truth is, the Huskies wouldn’t have won double-digit games the last three seasons if Jake Browning was a bum. He’s the Husky leader in career passing yards and touchdowns by a pretty significant margin. While he won’t go down as the the greatest Husky quarterback of all time in the eyes of most fans, he has to at least be in every conversation based on his numbers and this team’s overall success alone.

But, his big hang up was always his performance in the big games, and as a byproduct, the team’s success in those games. That’s just the life of a quarterback; it’s not fair. They get the lion’s share of the praise when things are going well, and the lion’s share of the blame when they’re not.

You can go through the schedule and try to nitpick that argument, choosing his all-time best performances in some of our important victories. But, more often than not, his greatest games came against nothing defenses where we were able to run up the score. 8 total touchdowns (6 passing, 2 rushing) in that rout of Oregon in 2016; 378 yards and 6 TDs against a garbage Cal team a few weeks later; nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs in that year’s Apple Cup (which was a total blowout by halftime, in large part due to our defense). I could go on and on; but name me one where Browning took this team on his shoulders and pulled our asses out of the fire late in the game against a quality opponent. You won’t find many; you might not even find any.

The Huskies were 7-7 in one-score games the last three years, and so many of those losses were just huge. They were the result of our defense keeping us in it, while our offense fiddled around for most of the game. You stop the Husky rushing attack – and put the game on Browning’s shoulders – and you’re most likely going to have success.

The real disappointing thing about the last three years – and 2018 in particular – is that the jump in Browning’s game from his Freshman to Sophomore year was outstanding! In 2015, he looked like a true Freshman should look, but he got better as the season progressed, and there was real hope for the future. Then, in 2016: an explosion! We were a 1-loss team that was playing Alabama in the College Football Playoffs! He threw for 3,430 yards and a whopping 43 touchdowns! He was in the Heisman conversation for a little bit!

With the hot recruits continuing to flood into the program, it was only a matter of time before we got back there, and maybe even played for a national title!

Then, there was just a huge step back in 2017, as a lot of our offensive weapons moved on. We were still good, but with two conference losses, we were iced out of the conference championship game. Still, a Fiesta Bowl against an elite Penn State program was a nice consolation prize. But, much like this year’s Rose Bowl, we were late to the party and there wasn’t enough time to complete our comeback.

The hope was that we could use those lessons to better ourselves in 2018. Maybe Browning – who finished 2016 injured – wasn’t quite at full strength in 2017. Hopefully THIS would be the year he’d make the next step up into that elite QB realm.

But, right off the bat, we couldn’t get out of our own way that first week against Auburn, and it felt like the college football playoffs were already out of reach. Considering how it eventually shook out – with the teams who would go on to make the final four, combined with how disappointing Auburn and the Pac-12 eventually proved to be – the Huskies could’ve won out and it’s not a guarantee that we would’ve made it.

Nevertheless, a heartbreaker in Oregon (which wasn’t his fault), and an unforgivable loss against Cal (which was at least partially his fault, as the coach felt it prudent to bench him for part of it), really sunk this season about as far as it could go. We were able to pull out of the nosedive with a 4-game winning streak, including a gutty performance against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game. But, that just put us in a position where we were nearly embarrassed against the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. As it stands, no one even remembers we were in that game; they just remember it as Urban Meyer’s final college game (for now) and that of course he beat whoever the other team was!

I’m not saying it was all bad, or all disappointing, with Jake Browning at the helm. I’m just saying that there really isn’t any significant, signature win. His most memorable game is probably that one down in Oregon to end The Streak, where we racked up 70 points. That’s all well and dandy, but that Ducks team was a disaster and ended the season with all of 4 wins (2 in conference).

There was a lot of hope for the Jake Browning years, but not very much realization of that hope.

Looking ahead, obviously the Huskies of 2019 are going to look drastically different. Here are the notable outgoing Seniors:

  • Jake Browning
  • Myles Gaskin
  • Kaleb McGary
  • Drew Sample
  • Ben Burr-Kirven
  • Greg Gaines
  • Tevis Bartlett
  • Jordan Miller
  • JoJo McIntosh
  • Shane Bowman

On top of that, Byron Murphy (a Sophomore) and Taylor Rapp (a Junior) have already declared for the NFL. Still undecided, apparently, is Myles Bryant. While there are lots of DBs looking to fill the gap, those are still some HUGE holes to fill! But, if you look at the way this team has recruited, and how highly-rated these classes have been, I think there’s only good things ahead.

It’s been super fun the last three years, all things considered. I’d like to think, as time goes on, I’ll think back fondly, with just a tiny amount of wistfulness of what could’ve been.

Of course, if this team ends up going where I think it can go, we might look back at this era as the beginning of something truly great!

The Huskies Lost The Rose Bowl

It was a fun trip, with a not-very-fun result.

Purple vs. Red

My one recommendation, if you’re travelling down to the Los Angeles area: if it makes sense geographically, try your best to fly into and out of the Burbank airport, because it is PHENOMENAL! It’s probably the smallest airport I’ve ever been in, which has to be about 95% of the reason by itself. I’ve never in my life had a quicker, smoother TSA experience. Even WITH the requisite pat-down and hand-wiping, I was through security in about two minutes. No line whatsoever, just a single 2-child family ahead of me. I’d say if there’s one downside to the Burbank airport – at least as far as my experience was concerned – is that the only restaurant was one of those Guy Fieri joints. I thought I’d play it safe and go with the barbecue buffalo wings (because if I can live my entire life not knowing what “donkey sauce” is, I feel I’ll have lived my best life), but they were more bone than meat! I don’t know what animal they got these wings off of, but I’m assuming it was something in the wren family?

I bought the tickets for this flight the night of the Apple Cup. I got the insurance – which I’m not sure I could’ve even used, had I needed to cancel – and just banked on the Huskies beating the Utes in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If we had lost, and I couldn’t get my money back for the flight, I still might’ve gone, but it would’ve been a pretty pointless little trip without a football game involved.

I flew out the morning of Monday, December 31st, arriving in Burbank around 11am. From there, I met up with some friends as we got lunch, picked up our Husky Alumni Tailgate tickets, and got a couple six packs of beer to drink while watching the other bowl games on TV. We ended up ordering in Thai food for dinner, and celebrating the 9pm Pacific Time ball drop with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine from the hotel bar. We had an early start to the new year in store, so there was no time to screw around!

We headed out to the Rose Parade around 8am, and were able to see anywhere from 60-90 minutes worth of floats and marching bands and whatnot. Considering we didn’t have tickets for the bleacher seats, I think we did pretty well for ourselves. Around 9:30am, we set out on foot for a good, long hike to the Husky Tailgate. From 10am to 1pm, it was all you can eat hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, nachos, pulled pork sandwiches, and whatever else they had on hand. It was also all you can drink IPAs, Miller Lites, and whatever other alcohol they had in stock. I don’t remember what the tickets cost, but we more than got our money’s worth.

It was staged on a golf course near the stadium, and they really did it up right. Nice, large space, with plenty of booths and room to stand around. Lines were short for the most part, and things really went smoothly.

At some point in the one o’clock hour, we headed into the Rose Bowl, getting there in plenty of time for the game to start. At this point, I couldn’t tell you what actually happened on the field, because my brown out game was on point this day. I know I left during the game, presumably with the goal of finding some way to get back to the hotel room. It turned into me walking until I was sober enough to form coherent words with my mouth again, at which point I pieced together my destination from a photo of the hotel address I took the day before. I ended my New Years Day on the couch in our suite, having wolfed down a bunch of pizza, watching the end of the Texas/Georgia game, followed by a New Girl marathon on TBS.

The Rose Bowl in itself was what any of us could’ve predicted coming into this thing: the Huskies started off miserably slow, the defense pulled it together in the second half, allowing the offense enough opportunities to make a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, only to fall short thanks to an unsuccessful onside kick. Jake Browning had a whatever game, Myles Gaskin put in a Herculean effort with 121 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, but in the end we lost 28-23. Much like the Penn State game last year, if we could’ve chopped off the first quarter, and added a fifth quarter to this game, I think we would’ve won.

I’m sure I’ll have a more definitive recap of the 2018 Husky football season at some point in the coming days, but obviously this is a disappointing end. ALMOST as disappointing as my decision to take the 1:30pm flight back to Seattle yesterday. I can’t properly enjoy the final day of a vacation when I know I have to be at the airport, so I ended up getting there RIDICULOUSLY early and sitting around for about 3 hours before takeoff. At which point, I got to Seattle right in the heart of rush hour traffic, adding an unnecessary rush hour commute home to what was otherwise a delightful 9 days off of work.

The Huskies Won The Pac-12, Set To Play Ohio State In The Rose Bowl

What a Pac-12 Championship Game!  Thrills!  Chills!  Spills!  A 10-3 barnburner that I hoped would never end!

I’m only sort of kidding.  I wouldn’t want a game like that to be the only football game I ever watched for the rest of my life, but it’s nice to have a little variety once in a while.  I feel like you see these back-and-forth, high-scoring affairs all the time, but you hardly ever see a real, true defensive battle to the death!

The Huskies were able to move the ball pretty well at times, but a few things were readily apparent from the get-go.  For starters, Coach Pete has zero confidence in his field goal kicker outside of the 20-yard line.  I mean, that’s as much as I’ve ever seen a coach go for it on 4th down, outside of some lunatic who just goes for it every single time!

Also, it was clear Browning was going to throw his patented early interception.  Somehow, the first two were thrown right at defenders who just dropped them, before the actual interception bounced off of Ty Jones’ chest and leg.  I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like he’s gotta get it out of his system before he can go out there and finish the game.  It’s not like he was TERRIBLE in this one, but Utah’s not gonna make it easy on anyone.

I thought some of the play-calling was REALLY suspect, after a nearly-flawless Apple Cup.  I mean, if you know you’re going to go for it on 4th down on Utah’s side of the field, then why not run it on 3rd & 6 to see if you can get it to a point where you can then run it on 4th & short?  Don’t tell me the offensive coordinator wasn’t aware, because that had to have been in the gameplan going in:  we’re not letting our kicker screw us!  The running game wasn’t anything spectacular – Utah held us to 119 yards on 40 carries – but it was pretty dependable that we were going to get SOMETHING on most every carry.  That’s better than trying to rely on Browning to do the job against a stout front like that.

Ultimately, with the game tied 3-3 late into the 3rd quarter, there were two possible outcomes:  we were either going to blow it, or our defense was going to have to put points on the board.  I had zero trust in the Husky offense coming from behind in this one, and with the way Utah was moving the ball for much of the 3rd quarter, the tide was starting to swell against us.

I really thought I was going to have bought plane tickets to Pasadena for nothing!

Thank God for Byron Murphy!  When he picked off that first one, I literally shouted, “YOU HAVE TO SCORE!”  Had he been tackled even inside the Utah 10-yard line, I have no doubt in my mind we would’ve mucked it up somehow.  As soon as he crossed the goalline – and as soon as it was confirmed there were no flags on the play – I can’t begin to tell you the amount of relief that washed over me.  Up 10-3, with a quarter left to play, this game felt much more in control.

Another pick by Murphy, and one by Jordan Miller on the very next drive, helped seal that deal.  Did I think there was a little missed PI call on that final Utah play?  Oh sure, but I always expect the worst!  I don’t think that necessarily cost them the game; I still think we would’ve prevented them from scoring a touchdown.

That was just a MONSTER defensive performance, from the players on up to the coaches.

And so here we are, going back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season!  This feels good.  More than that, it feels RIGHT!

This is an insane run the Huskies have been on.  Two years ago, in the Peach Bowl against Alabama.  Last year, in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State.  Now, the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.  All three are premiere bowl games against three premiere college football programs.  Against Bama, we took an early lead, but were pretty well over-matched going forward.  Against Penn State, we were overwhelmed from the jump and made a valiant effort to bring it back to a 1-score game, but ultimately it never felt like we were in EITHER of those games.

Now, we’ve got the Buckeyes.  A 12-1 team some had pegged for the College Football Playoffs.  I’m sure I’ll have some sort of preview in the days leading up to the game, but I just want to start off the bowl season by saying this:  we’ve been in big games before.  This team has played some HUGE schools.  The spotlight, the national stage, should NOT be too much for this group.  You could argue against Bama, we weren’t ready.  You could argue we were still a little raw – particularly on defense – last year in the Fiesta Bowl.  But, this is a game that can be won by the Huskies.  Ohio State has some impressive-looking wins on paper, but I would argue the Big 10 is wildly overrated.  I would argue the Buckeyes themselves are wildly overrated.  Yes, they have talent, but their defense isn’t anything special.  And, if the Husky defense plays like they did against Utah, we should have no trouble slowing their offensive attack.  I would argue we match up better against Ohio State than we do the Utes!

If I’m right, it’s going to be one Happy New Year, as I celebrate at the Rose Bowl with my friends.

The Huskies Won The Apple Cup (Yet Again), Play For The Pac-12 Championship

Sorry Seahawks, but when my team beats the Cougs for the Pac-12 North championship, they get the coveted Monday post!

So yeah, no, I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the Huskies last Friday.  We’ve looked pretty stagnant most of the year – particularly on offense – and we’ve lost a couple games we had no business losing.  Auburn stinks, and that ends up going down as just a painfully bad loss.  Oregon is mediocre at best and that game was absolutely within our grasp.  And I’ll never understand what happened at Cal, but holy hell was that a miserable day.  It all sort of boils down to a senior quarterback never progressing beyond his sophomore year, and a championship-contending team breaking in new play-callers on offense and defense.  Just a fundamental breakdown on all levels.

Meanwhile, there were the Cougars, one loss on the year at USC that probably shouldn’t have been a loss.  Sure, they played nothing but cupcakes in the non-conference slate, but at every turn where the Cougs normally Coug it up, instead they found ways to win.  They endured Utah (which is all you can ever really do with Utah, be it the college football team or the state and its peoples), they dominated Oregon with the light of the nation shining down upon them, then they followed that up with a powerful road win against Stanford.  They took care of business against Cal, that game at Colorado could’ve been a prime Couging opportunity (but instead they won so bad the Buffs fired their head coach), and they destroyed the Wildcats to put themselves in a VERY outside chance of cracking the Top 4.  I still believe that even if the Cougars had won the Apple Cup – even if they’d crushed us – Ohio State would still leap over them in the next rankings, but we’ll never know.  The point is, the fact that the Cougars were so close to the ultimate glory really says a lot about this year’s team.

I know that the Huskies are the HUSKIES and the Cougars are our little buddy or whatever, but if there was ever a year where the David might slay the Goliath, I thought this might be the year.  I’ll admit it, I bought into the hype.  If I was a Coug fan, I ABSOLUTELY would be one of those yahoos wearing the fake Gardner Minshew moustache.  That guy just seems like everything Luke Falk wasn’t:  a guy who could put it all together in a big game.

And we made him look like the Checkdowningest Charlie I’ve ever seen!  26/35 for a measly 152, with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.  What a breathtaking defensive performance, by an elite unit and from again, a first-year defensive play-caller in Jimmy Lake!

The Cougar running backs were their best players – James Williams scored both of their TDs and averaged 5.9 yards per rush – but since it’s a Mike Leach offense, of course their backs only rushed a combined 16 times!  Between JW and Max Borghi, they combined (rushing and receiving) for 164 out of 237 yards of total offense.  They led the team in receptions with 7 apiece, and yet I would argue they were still underutilized!  Mostly because there was probably another 100 yards of rushing they left on the field, but still.  I agree with the primary sentiment coming out of this game:  I hope Mike Leach never leaves!

For the Huskies, it was absolutely the Myles Gaskin show.  27 carries for 170 yards and 3 TDs.  I am SO going to miss this kid, it’s not even funny.  He is everything you could ever want out of a running back.  4 straight 1,000-yard seasons.  I mean, just the fact that he stayed for his senior year says a lot.  What a true, hall of fame Washington Husky!  I mean, I’m ready to retire his number and hang his jersey right now!  Do we even do that?  I dunno, but we should!  And we should start with #9.

Hunter Bryant came alive for 108 yards and a TD on 3 receptions.  After a miserable, injury-riddled season, it’s nice to see him finish with a flourish.  We’ll need him next week and beyond as well, so it’s good to get him into the flow of the offense while we still have him.

Andre Baccellia was, I thought, an under-the-radar MVP of this game.  He doesn’t get the pub of a lot of guys in this offense, but he had 5 catches for 89 yards, and they were all seemingly in huge situations!  I like where this receiver group is at for next year, I’ll tell you that much.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’m starting with Greg Gaines, who was a manimal in the middle.  He ended up with a sack and a few tackles, but he was impactful all night.

Joe Tryon was a name I didn’t recognize, but he had a sack and looked to create a lot of pressure off the end.  If he’s someone we can count on next year, that would really be something.

Finally, BBK, Taylor Rapp, and the rest of that Death Row squad, I can’t wait for you guys to tear shit up at the next level (but, if a few of you underclassmen wanted to stay one more year, I’d love you all the more).

All told, it added up to a snowy 28 to 15 victory in Pullman.  That’s a game I won’t soon forget!

Now it’s on to Santa Clara, where we have a date with the Utah Utes.  Recall we beat them 21-7 in Utah in week 3.  It’s been a long time since that one, and I don’t think things have gotten any easier.  They ended up 9-3, losing to both Washington schools as well as at ASU.  They’re on a 7-1 streak though, and came out of a poor Pac-12 South pretty easily.

Washington lucked out, in that we had an extra day to prepare for them, as they had already locked up the South and had a game against BYU on Saturday.  Considering the Pac-12 Championship Game is on Friday at 5pm for some reason (I guess the Pac-12 doesn’t like eyeballs on their marquee football teams), I’d say we have a marginal edge.

I think the Huskies SHOULD win, but obviously nothing is a given with this team.  Utah and Washington have the two best defenses by a mile in this conference, so I wouldn’t expect a ton of points.  Being clean on special teams is going to be paramount.  Ultimately, it’ll come down to a few big plays, and it’ll come down to which teams make those big plays.  Expect a frustrating, early bone-headed interception by senior quarterback Jake Browning (or, maybe just to fuck with our minds, a LATE bone-headed interception).  But, hopefully we can get Gaskin going and overcome.

I’ll predict a 22-21 Husky victory, as we go for 2 to play for the Rose Bowl at the end of the game.