Husky Football Death Week: Kalen DeBoer, Jedd Fisch Poached

I think last week was, hands down, the worst week of my life as a Husky football fan. I mean, other than getting the Death Penalty, I don’t know how you can script a worse seven days.

It starts with us losing in the national championship game to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan of all people/teams. Not only that, but we weren’t even really competitive; we dug ourselves a huge early hole, clawed our way back to being within one score, but repeated mistakes and incompetence prevented us from overtaking them, only to fall apart in the fourth quarter and lose by multiple scores.

Then came the wave of seniors leaving (Michael Penix and the like), followed by the wave of predictable stars leaving who still had eligibility (Polk, Odunze, Johnson, and the like), followed by the wave of surprise people declaring for the draft, along with a smattering of new transfers opting to go elsewhere. Pretty standard stuff, all things considered, and nothing I wasn’t prepared for emotionally. The Huskies had spent the fall and winter going after some pretty heavy hitters in the transfer portal, so I figured while a 2024 downturn might be expected, there would also still be some hope that it wouldn’t be a total and complete collapse. With this coaching staff, maybe we find a way to claw to 9 or 10 wins next season. Something respectable, while we reload for another playoff run in a couple years.

It all started to go hopelessly south when Nick Saban announced his retirement. OF COURSE he would have to retire the same year Washington makes a surprise run for the championship, so Alabama would have his readymade replacement right there for the stealing. Name me a hotter college football coach than Kalen DeBoer; you can’t do it. Not even Deion Sanders is up there on his level.

Those days were bad, because as a Husky fan, all I’m doing is PRAYING that we go over the top with a deal that can’t be beat. Or, at the very least, would send Alabama looking elsewhere. But, it was all pointless. The same agent for DeBoer was also the agent for every other highfalutin head coaching candidate, who was able to leverage the Alabama opening to get his guys raises with their current teams. Everyone but Washington’s guy, naturally. Because he wasn’t going to be Washington’s guy anymore. Washington can go fuck themselves.

As soon as DeBoer was announced to be Nick Saban’s successor, the deluge of Huskies entering the transfer portal was as dizzying as it was depressing. Everybody you could think of suddenly wanted out, even guys who’d spent mutliple years here (like Asa Turner, over the past 5 seasons). No shock that the new incoming transfers suddenly decided to change their minds, but it was all so sudden and so relentless. We were a rickety raft made of bundled-together twigs and the college football universe just lobbed a massive cannonball right in the middle.

I don’t even remember what head coaching names were being bandied about, but it doesn’t matter, because none of them are even remotely inspiring. Ultimately, we landed on Jedd Fisch, the head coach from Arizona, who took the Wildcats to a 10-3 record with a win over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.

Fisch’s only head coaching experience came in three seasons in Arizona (where he finished with a 16-21 record) and two games as interim head coach of UCLA (where he went 1-1).

The positive spin is that he took over a moribund Arizona program, endured a 1-11 first season with a bunch of terrible holdovers from the previous regime, improved to 5-7 in year two, before finally making the leap in 2023 to be the third-best team in a very good final Pac-12 conference. Making Fisch a head coach on the rise, who we’re getting at the exact perfect time to capitalize on his abilities.

The negative spin is that he lacks extensive head coaching experience. He lacks experience in running a football program, let alone one that has aspirations to be among the national elites. Anyone can luck into a double-digit win season when nobody sees you coming (and you don’t even have to play Oregon), but now you’re joining the team that finished 2023 #2 in the nation. Now you’ve got to stem the tide of suffering we’ve endured over the last week, try to retain as many players as you can, and somehow mold this team into something resembling a winner in our first season in the Big Ten.

If your glass is half full, maybe you see this as a similar outcome to what happened when we hired DeBoer. No one thought much of him coming out of Fresno State (even though, to that point, he had EXTENSIVE head coaching and program-building experience). But, if your glass is half empty (like mine), what are the odds lightning is going to strike twice? What are the odds we hire the best up-and-coming head coach two times in a row?

Also, even if we see the best case scenario come to fruition, that just means we’re going to be in this position again in two more years, when Georgia or Auburn or Florida comes sniffing around our campsite. It’s distressing that Jedd Fisch hadn’t even officially gotten the job and we were already talking about how he’d never stayed anywhere for more than two years, and is clearly always on the hunt for his next opportunity. There’s no WAY he’s sticking here long term, unless he sucks, and then we’re stuck with Mike Hopkins 2.0.

I hate all of this. I’m so disillusioned. Just when you think Washington has turned a corner. Just when you let yourself dream big, that maybe we can be the next Oregon, or Clemson, or Georgia, or Ohio State. If we can find a way to keep everything intact, this could be one of those dynasty programs that plays and recruits on a national level for the next couple decades. My biggest worry before this week was wondering what we were going to do when Ryan Grubb eventually took a job elsewhere, since he – at this point – seems overqualified to be a head coach somewhere.

Instead, Grubb announced that he had his hat in the ring, but Washington turned HIM down to be their next head coach. I’ll be honest, he would’ve been my first choice. It’s SO rare to have a competent – let alone an ELITE – offensive coordinator in college football. If we could’ve, at least, kept our offensive system intact, maybe the hit isn’t quite so hard to this program. Maybe we convince some of the portal guys to return. Maybe he partners with an up-and-coming DC and they take what he learned from DeBoer about running a program and keeps up the winning ways.

But, I understand the risk too. We JUST went through the first-time coach saga with Jimmy Lake, who was as up-and-coming as it got, only on the defensive side of the ball. I dunno, though. Is Fisch really that much of a step up from Grubb? I guess we’ll see.

Now what does this mean? We’re getting a bunch of Arizona transfers? I gotta root for a bunch of former Wildcats? Also, again, what happens in two years when these players move on and it’s time for Fisch to show what he can do on his own? Did he get lucky with his one great season down there? Or does he actually have what it takes to sustain success?

I’m not going into this next period of Husky football with a lot of hope and passion. Maybe things will change once I see how the team is being built. Maybe we’ll get some good-looking players to come in and I’ll get excited again. But, for now, I’m in a period of deep mourning.

Silly me, I had hoped DeBoer might be different. I had hoped he might want to set some roots down up here, rather than chase the easy payday down in the SEC. I had hoped he’d be interested in being the next Nick Saban for Washington, rather than following in his footsteps down there. It would mean so much more to do it for the Huskies. You’d be a legend; hell, you already kind of were! You turned this team around in two short years and led us to the championship game! You could do no wrong after that; except break our hearts.

In Alabama, it’s going to be different. If you don’t immediately take them back to the championship game, you’re going to have heat. You’re going to have boosters and fans so far up your ass, you won’t be able to shit right ever again. Washington was the cool, flashy, fun program in the northwest that everyone could enjoy. Alabama is the fucking Empire, and this is the moment where Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Sad, predictable, and poorly written (just like every disingenuous speech DeBoer has given since being hired away; I don’t believe for one moment he ever gave two shits about Washington).

But, the thing is, Jedd Fisch doesn’t give two shits about Washington either. That’s not what this is about anymore. It’s about getting mine while the getting’s good. As Washington fans, we have to hope we get ours while Fisch is still here in the next year or two. Otherwise, it’s either On To The Next (if he still finds success and jumps to a bigger program), or When Can We Get Rid Of This Fucking Guy (if he’s just mediocre and tainted to the point where any move would be lateral or worse).

Why do we even have contracts anymore? Like, what’s the point of teams requesting an opportunity to interview YOUR head coach to be THEIR head coach? I understand it somewhat if you’re interviewing a coordinator to be a head coach, that’s a promotion. But, did Washington actually have to give permission? If so, why did we do that? Fuck DeBoer, make him stay and finish out his deal! And if we didn’t have to do that, then what’s the point in even asking? What’s with the fake diplomacy or whatever?

It’s all so stupid.

The Huskies Won The Sugar Bowl & Are Playing For A National Championship!

The Washington Huskies beat the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl 37-31, earning the right to play the Michigan Wolverines in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

That game was so surreal. We kicked off our January 1st by making the long drive from Port Orchard to Lake Sammamish for the annual Polar Plunge. There wasn’t snow on the ground as we did it, so already it was better than last time. People always talk about having the option of just jumping straight in, versus the long shallow run out to where it’s deep enough, followed by dunking yourself and running back, but I like the long run. It’s tough on my feet – which get incredibly cold – but the shock is far less dramatic when you finally get out there. For me, it involves going to about thigh-high water, turning around to face the beach, sitting on my butt, and dunking my head face-first. Then, it’s a frantic scramble to my feet and back out of the water. Maybe 20 seconds in total, but in the end I’m always glad I did it.

Then, we went over to our friends’ house to eat food, drink beers, and watch sports on the back porch. The Rose Bowl was first, and I’ll admit, I didn’t give it my full attention. Alabama looked like the better team early, but then Michigan really seemed to take it over. All told, the better team looked like it won that game.

I remember going into the Rose Bowl thinking people were too high on Alabama and not really giving Michigan the respect they deserved. That won’t be happening here with me.

Once the Sugar Bowl started, I was locked in. Much like how Michigan – by and large – looked like the better team, I thought Washington consistently looked like the better team. It’s insane how many opportunities we had to take over that game, only to let Texas back in every time. If that reminds you of both the Oregon games, I’d say we’re onto something.

We kicked off first, forced a punt, and marched right down the field (thanks to a 77 yard pass to Polk) to go up 7-0. Great start, only for the defense to give up a methodical drive to tie it at 7-7. Punts were exchanged, then the Huskies drove down for Dillon Johnson’s second TD rush of the game. We forced a subsequent 3 & Out and things were starting to look great, only to muff the punt and let them tie it at 14-14. We went on to get stuffed on downs (on an ill-advised Wildcat play), and things were looking a little rocky. But, we got the ball back, kept the ball for 4 and a half minutes, and went up by 7 with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately, they marched it right up our asses to tie it at 21-21 at halftime.

We got the ball after the break and, again, methodically drove for another TD. Then, we forced a fumble on their first play of the second half, getting the ball in terrific field position. This was our chance, but they held us to a field goal and a 10-point lead. Nevertheless, we forced yet another punt and ate up the rest of third quarter driving down the field. Ultimately, we had to settle for another field goal and a 13-point lead, an ominous number with an entire quarter yet to play.

Where things got interesting is when we forced their second fumble of the half. They were on our side of the 50 and driving, so it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Score there, and the game is pretty much out of reach. No dice, though. We punted and they scored a TD 4 minutes later to make it 34-28.

As soon as we went up 13 points, I was saying, “We just need one more score and the game is ours.” Well, that score came on the very next drive. We got the ball back with 7 and a half minutes to go, we kept the ball for almost 5 of those minutes, and even though we had to settle for a field goal, we gave ourselves a 9-point lead with less than 3 minutes to go.

On top of which, we forced them to burn 91 seconds AND settle for a field goal. We got the ball back with 1:09 left in the game, with Texas only having two time outs to go. We burned both of them on run plays that netted us 5 yards. With 1:02 to go, we ran it once more. You burn 40 seconds there – plus the time it takes to actually run the play and set the ball – and we’re looking at less than 20 seconds to go in the game. In that scenario, Texas would have to be perfect JUST to put themselves in position for a Hail Mary.

Instead, Dillon Johnson injured his already-injured foot, to the point where he was writhing around in agony on the ground, had to be helped off the field by training staff, and was wincing the whole way back. It looked brutal, and is really the last thing we needed (both in this instance, and for next week). As it turns out, the coaches are at least publicly declaring Dillon Johnson will be back; I’ll believe it when I see it. But, for this game, it very nearly cost us our season.

See, there’s this stupid rule in college football, where even if you’re on offense, and even if you have a lead, if your own player gets hurt, the clock stops and doesn’t re-start again until the next snap. Nothing about this makes any sense; it makes perfect sense if the defense is faking injuries. But, what incentive does an offense have to fake injuries when they’re actively trying to burn the clock? IT’S FUCKING INSANE! If college football doesn’t change this stupid fucking rule, it’s really going to do some damage down the line.

Anyway, instead of Texas getting the ball back in time to have two, MAYBE three plays, they got the ball back with 41 seconds at their own 31 yard line. On 3rd & 10, they hit a deep one for 41 yards, then two plays later they hit another one for 16 yards, down to the Washington 12 yard line with 15 of the longest seconds of my life left to go. At least one of those receptions looked sketchy as hell, where he was actually bobbling the ball – to the point where the ball wasn’t even touching his hands – as he was stepping out of bounds. But, somehow, in spite of no contact on the football, he still had “control”. Bite me.

There was a quick pass for negative-one yard on first down, followed by a whopping THREE incompletes in 10 seconds. We made a miraculous play in the endzone to swat away the potential game-winner, preserving our chances at a college football championship.

Michael Penix was positively sublime in this game. 29/38 for 430 yards and 2 TDs. If we didn’t let off the throttle in the fourth quarter, those numbers could’ve been even better. As it was, I think he has the second or third most passing yards in a college football playoff game, which is incredible. The D-Line of Texas was as good as advertised, but while they occasionally got pressure on Penix, he was still able to maneuver around them for deep gains. Even better? He ran on designed read-option plays 3 times for 31 yards, which has to be keeping Michigan’s defensive coaching staff up at night, because this was decidedly NOT something he put on tape (at least in a Washington uniform) before this game.

Dillon Johnson, while vital, had a tough time getting things going in this one. He ran it 21 times for only 49 yards and the aforementioned 2 touchdowns. Tybo Rogers was the only other official running back to touch the ball and he only carried it 5 times for 19 yards. That’s not going to cut it next week.

The Big 5 receivers were all predictably outstanding! Rome Odunze led the way with 6 catches for 125 yards, Ja’Lynn Polk had 5 for 122 and a TD, Jack Westover – with his usual understated brilliance – had 6 for 59 yards, Jalen McMillan had 5 for 58 and a TD, and Germie Bernard had 3 for 48 yards. There was some crazy stat where Penix to the four wide receivers was 19 of 20, which is absolutely unbelievable!

The defense was up and down, about what you’d expect. We forced 5 punts and 2 fumbles, but they also gashed us for 318 yards passing and 6.4 yards per rush. If Texas had properly focused on running the ball down our throats, the game might’ve turned out very differently. But, our secondary did a good job of double-teaming their best receivers and forced them to beat us with lesser players. They very nearly did, but as always, the Washington defense did just enough to get the job done.

Bralen Trice really stood out, with 2 sacks, 5 tackles (3 for loss). We’ll need him, once again, to carry the mail next week, as he’s really the only guy getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. On the flipside, Washington’s O-Line was as good as advertised as well. Penix had zero sacks on him, and in the grand scheme of things – considering how ineffective we were running the ball, and how many times he ended up dropping back – relatively little pressure to speak of. And it’s not like we were dinking and dunking for quick passes! We were consistently shredding up their Swiss cheese defense!

Which brings us to Michigan. Rose Bowl champions, also 14-0 on the season. We haven’t faced a defense like this before. The closest, honestly, might’ve been what ASU was able to do against us. Granted, this will be a much different environment, but I fully expect the Wolverines to be VASTLY better than the Longhorns.

What has Michigan done this year? Well, they carved up their first 9 opponents, but those teams were all garbage. They pretty well handled a Top 10 Penn State team, but I think the Nittany Lions were vastly overrated. Michigan struggled in a let-down game against Maryland, then nipped Ohio State by one score. We’ll never really know how good Ohio State was this year, because they also didn’t play anyone before Michigan, and then all their best players dipped out of their bowl game (where they lost to Missouri 14-3). Michigan pounded a terrible Iowa team in the Big 10 Championship Game, before taking out Alabama.

Looking back at what we’ve seen so far this year, I think I agree with Brock’s assessment on today’s Brock & Salk show; the four best teams in college football were Michigan, Washington, Georgia, and Oregon. It would’ve been interesting to see what that playoff might’ve looked like.

I can’t sit here and tell you who’s better between Washington and Michigan. What I see from a team in Michigan is an absolute force defensively, and is good-enough offensively. What I see from a team in Washington is an absolute force offensively, and is good-enough defensively. I think Michigan’s offense is probably a little bit more competent than Washington’s defense; I don’t know what to think of Washington’s offense compared to Michigan’s defense, but I fear that also probably tips in their favor. But, again, I’ve seen like next-to-nothing of Michigan football this year, so I can’t speak with any sort of certainty. It’s all vibes, and right now, my vibes are VERY apprehensive.

In title games like these – where the main story is an elite offense vs. an elite defense – I never want to be on the side of the elite offense. It seems like the elite defense always prevails. My hope is that: maybe their defense isn’t as good as I think. I think that’s what I’m going to have to hang my hat on.

The Wolverines are favored by 4.5; for some reason, that feels right to me. They’re the team that the vast majority of the college football viewing public believes will prevail, they’re the higher-profile team with the big-name head coach, and they’re co-leaders of one of the two biggest conferences in the sport.

Washington, meanwhile, heads up a dying power five conference. We’re the team from the Pacific Northwest that no one ever really pays attention to (unlike Oregon, who everyone obnoxiously knows). Sure, we’re undefeated, but every game after the first four has been up for grabs in the fourth quarter, some of them coming down to one play at the very end. It’s been the most fun rollercoaster of a season I can possibly imagine, but it’s also shaky as hell, and at some point this kind of rollercoaster – where it’s missing a few bolts, and hasn’t been properly maintenanced in ages – will come hurtling off the tracks and crash and burn spectacularly. Can we avoid disaster for one more game? Or, will this be the one where it all falls apart and we get blown out by a team people couldn’t possibly despise more?

Michigan feels like the dominant program that’s been extremely relevant for the last two decades, whereas Washington still feels like a team that hasn’t been relevant since the early 90’s (with one blip in 2016 where we lost in the first round of the playoffs). But, that’s just marketing. Washington has been consistently better than Oregon, for instance, but Oregon is still the “class” of the west coast. Same goes with Michigan. What has Michigan done? Until the last few years, they couldn’t even unseat Ohio State for Christ’s sake! Washington last won a championship in 1991, but Michigan’s most recent title was in 1997. They haven’t done much of anything either, but they’re Michigan, so they go into seasons highly regarded and highly ranked, they beat up on a bunch of crap teams to stay highly ranked, and then they fall apart at the end.

Michigan has won the last three Big Ten titles. But, before this year’s Rose Bowl, they haven’t won a bowl game since 2015. They haven’t won a major bowl game since the Sugar Bowl in 2011. I know every team’s different, and it only takes one game to earn them a championship, but this isn’t a program we need to be afraid of. This isn’t some foregone conclusion that they’re going to beat us.

Can they? Of course. It honestly wouldn’t shock me in the least. Will they? Well, that depends. Is Washington going to be able to move the ball like we know they can? Like they’ve done against just about everyone the last two years? Well, if that’s the case, then I would expect we manage to keep it close.

Is Washington going to be able to do what they do on defense? Generate key stops at the most important times? Well, if that’s the case, then I would expect we’ll do what we’ve done all year long: pull it out of our asses at the end.

My gut tells me that this is Washington’s Cinderella moment, that the clock is going to strike midnight, and our coach is going to turn back into a pumpkin in this game. I hope to God I’m wrong. But, if you give me the choice of the elite offense or the awesome defense, I’m going to choose the awesome defense every time.

I’m going to be a nervous wreck all the way up until gametime, and for the next three hours or more. GodAwgs.

Dillon Johnson Is The Secret Sauce That Makes The Huskies Go

The Huskies have as good a chance as any of the four teams in the playoffs to go out and win the championship. I’m not going to say we definitely will, but I also don’t think it’s a total pipe dream either.

The Huskies have very unique and important strengths that make them among the very best teams in college football. They also have certain weaknesses that – if exploited – could cost us. But, I guess the points I’m clinging to are the fact that there’s no one super-dominant team that looks like an inevitable lock, and the Huskies specifically seem to have a knack for keeping games close and prevailing in the end.

Clearly, the biggest strength of the Huskies is Michael Penix and the receivers. Rome Odunze is one of the best wide receivers in the college game today. Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk are as good as complementary receivers get. Even Germie Bernard – for a 4th receiver – is pretty special. And, of course, we can’t discount what Devin Culp and especially Jack Westover have done; they have some of the biggest receptions of the season on their ledgers! When you talk about the Huskies, this passing game is always going to be mentioned first and foremost.

There’s an element of “the Huskies are just getting by defensively” that I think isn’t quite fair to that side of the ball. Bralen Trice is one of the most dominant edge rushers in football right now; the pressure he consistently generates doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet. ZTF isn’t quite the dominant mastermind we all thought he’d be at this point in his career, but paired with Trice on the opposite side, you could do a lot worse. Linebackers Ulofoshio and Bruener aren’t huge names, but they’ve definitely picked up that unit from where it was the last few years; linebacking isn’t the black hole it once was. And, as a collective, the secondary plays bigger than its individual parts. Dominique Hampton certainly stands out as an enforcer, sometimes negatively, but oftentimes positively. Jabbar Muhammad is a solid playmaker on the outside. And, of course, we wouldn’t even be here without Mishael Powell’s pick six in that ASU game. The defense isn’t always pretty; it certainly isn’t the strength it was back in 2016. But, they find ways to get the job done and give our offense a chance to shine.

But, I gotta tell you, Dillon Johnson doesn’t get talked about enough. And it’s not even that he’s being ignored. People are aware. You don’t run for 256 yards against USC and not get noticed. They clearly recognize the skills. But, I’m here to say that – in spite of the praise he’s been getting – he STILL feels underrated to me.

The man is a phenom! We definitely, for whatever reason, took it slow with him the first month of the season. Seemed like more of a running back by committee situation, where we were just feeling guys out and seeing who meshed best. It also looks like maybe Johnson was injured for that Tulsa game (or else he just didn’t play for … reasons). But, he’s just special, man. He’s tough, he’s fast, he has great vision, he has great hands, he can block, he can line up out wide. You would think a guy with his body type wouldn’t have all the skills, but the dude has ALL THE SKILLS.

We all know how the bread is buttered on this team; again, it’s the passing game. But, the Huskies would not be undefeated and in these playoffs now if we had anyone less than Dillon Johnson as our lead back. On any other more run-focused team, Johnson would be pushing 1,500 yards and in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. I can’t tell if he’s underutilized or utilized the appropriate amount, but for this team, he’s the ideal running back. He takes a lot of pressure off of Penix to be perfect, and he can also take over a game if we need him to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a credit to Penix that he hasn’t fought our need to give Johnson the ball more. Johnson has 14 TDs on the year. It’s fair to wonder if you give half of those to Penix, would we be talking about him as the Heisman Trophy winner instead of that LSU guy?

It’s kinda crazy when you think about it. Dillon Johnson was a transfer from Mississippi State, where he played under Mike Leach in the Air Raid system. Why would a guy with his considerable abilities settle for an offense that hardly uses him at all? There are certainly times where it feels like the Transfer Portal can be a bit much, but then there are times like these where it feels like THIS is what it was meant for.

I don’t know what Johnson’s future is at the NFL level. I wonder if he has the raw testing numbers that make him an easy fit in the pros. But, if you focus on his abilities in pads, in game situations, I defy you to find a better running back coming out of college. I hope there’s a place for him in the NFL, because I think he’s more than earned it.

If the Huskies win this game in the Sugar Bowl – no easy feat, I assure you – it will be for plenty of reasons. But, chief among them will be how Dillon Johnson handles the stout front seven of the Texas Longhorns. Taking further pressure off of Penix by putting us in managable situations, and by keeping them honest so we can beat their secondary over the top. That’s the name of the game.

Whenever anyone talks about the Huskies, they talk about the passing game and only the passing game. But, this Husky team is actually one of the most balanced and successful attacks in all of college football. On this stage, I can’t wait for Johnson to show everyone what he’s capable of.

This Is The Best Husky Football Team I’ve Ever Seen

For the record, I didn’t become a Husky football fan until I started attending the University of Washington in 1999. Admittedly, I don’t know how much of the team I actually followed that year, but I do remember being 100% on-board for the 2000 team and going forward. That’s a relatively quick way of saying I wasn’t part of the Don James heyday. In fact, I actively disliked the Huskies all my life up until I was accepted in my senior year of high school.

Before this year, the best Husky team I’ve ever seen was clearly the 2016 squad that went 11-1 in the regular season, won the conference title over Colorado, and made it to the first round of the playoffs (where we lost to Alabama in the Peach Bowl 24-7). I will say that I have a soft spot for that 2000 team that went 10-1 in the regular season before defeating Drew Brees and Purdue in the Rose Bowl. We were shut out of the BCS Championship Game, saddled with a #4 ranking. I’ll always wonder what we could’ve accomplished had they had a 4-team playoff like we do today.

But, that 2016 team was something special. It’s a year I’ll never forget. The defense was outstanding, the offense had stars at the skill positions, and a steady quarterback who was accurate and careful with the football. They stopped the losing streak to Oregon for crying out loud!

The circumstances around that season afforded the Huskies the luxury of being a 1-loss playoff team. That never would’ve happened this year, especially if that one loss came in the final Pac-12 Championship Game of all time.

As we all know, my confidence in the Huskies beating the Ducks for a second time this season – and a third time in the least two years – was shamefully low. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be so wrong!

We jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, dominating time of possession and forcing the Ducks into back-to-back 3 & Outs to start the game. Unfortunately, Penix overthrew Jalen McMillan on our third drive of the day, in what would’ve put us up 17-0 and really gotten a stew going. We still managed to go up 20-3 late in the first half, after forcing a third 3 & Out by the Ducks. But, that’s where things started to get scary.

The Ducks marched right down the field with under 2 minutes to go in the half, to pull the game to 20-10. They subsequently got the ball to start the third quarter and again marched right down the field to make it 20-17. Then, we picked the absolute worst possible time to get intercepted. Thankfully, our defense got the ball right back two plays later thanks to a Bo Nix pick. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to settle this game down, as Oregon took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter.

That’s when we finally woke up! I’m not gonna lie to you, my wife and I were on the road for the entire first half – until just before the Ducks scored on their 2-minute drive – when we checked into a Kirkland hotel to spend the night. I was VERY concerned that the Huskies were only winning so handily at that time because we were listening on the radio. So, it was nice to see my weak-willed motherfucker instincts were incorrect. The Huskies got back in the endzone to make it 27-24, forced an Oregon punt, then scored again to go up by 10 points with a little under three minutes left in the game. The Ducks proceeded to go 75 yards in 30 seconds (literally) to pull the game back to within 3 points. But, we were able to run out the clock on them and win a game we were projected to lose by double digits!

I would’ve been curious to see what this game looked like from the very beginning, because other than the mid-game lull between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Huskies were in complete control. That, quite frankly, starts with Dillon Johnson, who had another MONSTER game. 152 yards on 28 carries with 2 rushing TDs, a reception for 7 yards, and if that wasn’t enough, a 4-yard TD pass when he shovelled to Germie Bernard crossing behind the line of scrimmage. Just a brilliant game from our most unheralded super-stud!

What I’m really interested in is how Bo Nix compares to Michael Penix. All I saw from Nix – when we finally showed up to Top Golf to watch the game in the bar area – was excellence. But, he struggled for a lot of the first half, and I can’t help but wonder if this was related to his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

When it comes to great quarterbacks, there are two kinds: those who care about stats and personal accolades, and those who care more about winning. The Seahawks recently employed a guy we all THOUGHT only cared about winning, until it became blatantly obvious Russell Wilson cared more about his personal legacy. Which is what makes Michael Penix so refreshing, and has to be a disappointment for anyone who had their eggs in the Bo Nix basket.

It seems like the Ducks had every opportunity to win this game on the ground. Bo Nix himself ran for 69 yards on 6 carries. But, I would argue the Ducks are actually strongest at running back, and between Nix and the two backs, this game might’ve looked a lot different if they relied on the ground game. Instead, Nix threw it 34 times, was frequently pressured, and ultimately limited to 21 completions for 239 yards and 3 TDs (with the 1 INT).

Penix, meanwhile, had the more efficient game (27 for 39 for 319 yards) even though he only had the 1 TD to go along with the INT. He got the ball to our play-makers as he always does (McMillan came back with a vengeance to catch 9 for 131, Odunze had his usual excellent game of 8 for 102, and Ja’Lynn Polk had a nice bounce-back after some drop-filled performances, catching 5 for 57), but then he ceded the important moments to Dillon Johnson, who really deserved the game MVP given what he was able to do.

As it stands, Penix most likely won’t win the Heisman. However, given how Nix lost twice and failed to lead his team to the playoffs, I can’t imagine he’ll win it either. That’s usually what happens to players who care more about their own stats than winning: they fail to win games AND they fail to win the awards they so crave.

It was cool having this all wrapped up on Friday night, because we had all day Saturday to bask in the afterglow of our achievement, knowing with as much certainty as one can that we’d be a lock for the playoffs. Was there still an inkling of a doubt? Naturally. Especially when Michigan and Texas both won, Alabama beat Georgia, Florida State remained undefeated, and we still had certain 1-loss teams lurking like Ohio State. It wouldn’t be the first time a 1-loss team who didn’t even play in its own conference title game somehow made it into the playoffs. When you know the games don’t really matter, and some committee is going to pick the four teams it thinks are best, literally anything can happen (more on that in another post).

Thankfully, Washington was able to earn enough respect to be ranked #2 overall. It’s weird to not have a team in the SEC in the top two, but here you have it:

  1. Michigan (13-0)
  2. Washington (13-0)
  3. Texas (12-1)
  4. Alabama (12-1)
  5. Florida State (13-0)
  6. Georgia (12-1)
  7. Ohio State (11-1)
  8. Oregon (11-2)
  9. Missouri (10-2)
  10. Penn State (10-2)

Just as Oregon was the highest-ranked team with one loss, now they’re the highest-ranked team with two losses. Arizona finished 14th and Oregon State finished 19th, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the top 20. I don’t know if it mattered or not, but Utah was one of the first teams out of the Top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Which just further goes to show what kind of team Washington is, that we were able to win five games against Top 30 opponents, which doesn’t even factor in USC and their high-flying offense, and the rest of the conference, which doesn’t play like the bottom-feeders we see in other conferences.

Is there an argument to be made that we deserved the top seed? Absolutely. Michigan beat Ohio State once, Penn State once, and a garbage Iowa team that couldn’t even put up a single point in the Big Ten Championship Game. We had to beat Oregon twice, an underrated Arizona team, and a rock-solid Oregon State team (both on the road). You think Michigan would’ve beaten the Buckeyes in back-to-back weeks? Because I certainly have my doubts.

But, you know, I’m not going to get a big bug up my ass about it. Michigan is saddled with playing the red-hot Crimson Tide – who just took out the previous #1 team in the nation – so what did they get for all their troubles?

Not that Texas is chopped liver, given that they gave that red-hot Crimson Tide team its only defeat. But, we do have to go all the way to New Orleans – instead of playing in the Rose Bowl – so you could say no one is really happy in this scenario.

But, we did beat the Longhorns in last year’s bowl game. I know these are different teams in different situations, but it’s nice to at least have a little bit of familiarity. I thought we looked shaky as hell in that game last year, so it would be nice to come out a little sharper after this next month off from game action.

Let’s hope we do better than the PREVIOUS best Husky team I’ve ever seen!

The Huskies Outlasted The Trojans In An Epic Offensive Showdown

Saturday was a day I’ll never forget; it was the day I got married to my beautiful bride at the Silverdale Beach Hotel. Everything went off without a hitch and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves the entire night. And I have to say, the cherry on top certainly ended up being the Huskies taking down USC 52-42, in one of the more thrilling games in recent memory.

Of course, I went to the University of Washington, and a lot of my friends did the same. So, it goes without question that I highly encouraged the use of people’s phones to televise the games at their respective tables, allowing me opportunities to sneak away every so often to check on updates. I didn’t end up seeing anything of note when I did tune in – it was hard to want to pull myself away from the rest of the festivities – but I got mostly happy updates throughout the early part of the evening. And, when it was all said and done, my friends had the DJ play the Washington fight song, to – I’m assuming – the exclusive enjoyment of only a small yet vocal minority.

In this game, you have to start with Dillon Johnson. 26 carried, 256 yards, 4 TDs. It was a running back game for the ages, for a school that’s had more than its fair share of top notch running backs. Once again, he carried almost the entire load on the ground, though it’s safe to wonder – with how well we were blocking, and how poor the Trojans are on defense – if just about anyone would’ve excelled in this contest. I will say that no one on this team runs the way Johnson runs. He’s special! He runs hard, he runs fast, he bowls over and through guys, it’s fun to watch. I know he gets overshadowed a lot by Penix and the receivers, but the more we see from him, the more it’s clear that he’s going to be key for us the rest of the way. I don’t want to short shrift some of the other amazing backs we’ve seen in this program, but Johnson is putting his name up there, and it’s well-deserved.

There’s certainly cause for concern about the Husky defense coming out of this game, but I’m willing to let it slide for a couple reasons. First and foremost, we did get the stops we needed to get at the most important times. ZTF – fresh from losing his father last week – stepped up in a big way with 1.5 sacks, including a huge one before halftime to force a fumble that led to the Huskies taking a 7-point lead at the break. And, say what you will about the D, but they held the Trojans scoreless in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided.

The other reason I’m willing to let it slide is because Caleb Williams is the best quarterback we’ve seen all year. He’s an NFL superstar still in college, and between him and all the weapons they have on offense, it’s almost like we were playing against a professional opponent. Williams was as advertised, pulling huge plays out of his ass, refusing to go down when you think you’ve got him wrapped up, and carving us up and down the field with regularity. He finished with 312 yards passing (27/35) and 3 TDs, and added another rushing TD to boot. But, he had that fumble, and most importantly, his team lost the game (the Trojans fell to 7-3 on the year and were effectively knocked out of the Pac-12 race).

Michael Penix had a bounce-back game of sorts, finishing with 256 yards (22/30), 2 TDs, and an INT in the red zone (he also added a rushing TD to his ledger). You can’t really say he out-duelled Williams, but when your running back has the monster game Johnson had, what do you expect? Penix is still up there in the Heisman race – by virtue of the Huskies being undefeated – but I think he’s still got some work to do if he wants to reclaim the favorite status.

We had some solid, if unspectacular, games from Odunze and Polk (5 for 82 and 5 for 52 and a TD, respectively), but I was glad to see Penix spread it around more in this one. Ten guys caught at least one pass, with the supporting cast making some HUGE plays. Devin Culp had an insane TD catch and Josh Cuevas had a big grab to move the chains.

So, here’s where we stand right now: the Huskies are 9-0, and they remain fifth in the AP Poll. They were also fifth in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season, which were announced last week. Every team ahead of us won (Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State), and either our win or Georgia’s was the most impressive. Either way, I don’t expect we will move up in those rankings.

Oregon won and maintained their 1-loss status. Oregon State and Utah both won to stay at two conference losses with USC. Also, interestingly, Arizona beat UCLA to knock them back out of the Top 25, and are also at two losses (we beat them, though, so they don’t pose a threat to us).

This week, we host the Utes. If we can just win this one, we can pretty much punch our ticket to the conference title game, because the Cougs are falling apart at the seams (they just got dumped 10-7 at home to Stanford). What’s interesting here is that our victory over USC knocked them out of the Top 25. If we beat Utah, that could very well knock them out of the Top 25. Arizona suddenly finds themselves ranked for the time being, but obviously if they were to lose again, that won’t last long. Oregon State is holding strong, but if we beat them and Oregon beats them, that does them in. Suddenly, a conference that was looking like the best in college football is in danger of having exactly two ranked teams: Washington & Oregon. If this goes where I think it’s going – with these two teams in the title game – it’s fair to wonder about our chances of making the playoffs. College football can’t wait to dismiss the Pac-12 like they’ve always done, forgetting the fact that the Pac-12 is doing what IT always does: eats itself up.

There’s no way a 1-loss Washington team – with that loss coming to Oregon in the title game – makes it into a 4-team playoff. That’s a given; we’re going to have to win the title while losing no more than once. But, if we slip up against either the Utes or Beaves the next two weeks, do we still have a shot if we beat the Ducks again? Considering – by season’s end – that would mean the Pac-12 has only one ranked team on our resume, I wonder.

That’s getting ahead of ourselves, though. The Utes for now. They’re certainly very good, and people are burying them for reasons I still don’t comprehend. Their only two defeats are to the Ducks and Beavers. Now, granted, they didn’t look very competitive on offense in those matchups – especially against the Ducks, who absolutely trucked the Utes – but there’s still a lot of talent in Utah. That’s still a quality coaching staff. The defense will come to play. And, as the Huskies have shown the last two weeks, even a middling offense can still move the ball on us.

We can’t afford any hangover. Thankfully, the game starts at 12:30pm. Thankfully, it’s at home. The fans will be rowdy as hell, and I think everyone on this team is well aware of what’s ahead of us. We need to keep taking care of business. We can beat the Utes. Now, let’s go out there and do it.

The Huskies Barely Remained Undefeated As We Head Into The November Gauntlet

I’m able to tolerate a close loss at home against an aggressive defensive team, after coming off of an emotional nail-biting victory against the Ducks. But, I have a hard time with the Huskies almost blowing a road game against a hapless, giving-up Stanford team in front of a crowd of 30 people doing their best church mouse impressions. You don’t get to have a two-week hangover after the Oregon victory, I’m sorry. You’ve gotta get your shit together starting right fucking now, because this is when the schedule gets real. This is when we find out if the Huskies are For Real, or if they’re just going to be Very Good.

For the record, I don’t have any problem rooting for a Very Good Husky football team. The 2022 Huskies were Very Good. They finished 11-2, they also beat Oregon, and they won a hard-fought bowl game. But, that team also dropped two winnable games against flawed-to-bad teams in ASU and UCLA, and that ultimately decided our fate. It kept us out of the Pac-12 Championship Game, and eliminated any opportunity of playing in a Big 6 Bowl Game, let alone the actual playoffs. I remember that team fondly, but it’s just not the same. It’s not what the Huskies were able to do in 2016.

It sounds like I’m being harsh about a 42-33 victory; what am I complaining about? Well, I’m not necessarily complaining about us not covering the spread; I wouldn’t have been foolish enough to put money on the Huskies to cover 27+ points. But, we were in real danger of losing that game, and if we play this way in the next four weeks, we’re GOING to stumble, and that could very well knock us out of playoff contention.

The offense isn’t right at the moment. Sure, we scored 21 points in the first half, but we also had three 3 & Outs, the last one directly leading to Stanford scoring another three points before the half, on a 41-second drive. We put up another 21 points in the second half, but we started that half with a couple punts, we lost a fumble, and we threw a miserable interception, giving them the ball back – down two – with five minutes to go in the game. If it weren’t for an outright drop on fourth down, with the way they were moving the ball and finishing drives with TDs, I have no doubt they would’ve gone down for the game-winning field goal at least.

This game was all kinds of ugly. Penix threw for 369 yards and 4 TDs, but I wouldn’t say he was sharp. He was a little off in his accuracy, and I thought he tried to force it to Polk and Odunze a wee bit too much. There were other guys open, and it looked like the offense ran a little more smoothly when he was hitting other guys too. Let’s open up the defense a little bit! Let’s get them focused on not just the two main guys!

The receivers, for their part, also were a little off. Drops here and there, and that Odunze fumble was a killer. It was one of those fumbles you could see coming in slow motion; the guy coming from behind, him holding it a little too carelessly in one arm, and a massive overhead chop to punch it loose.

The running game was fine, if a little underutilized. Dillon Johnson chipped in with 18 carries for 84 yards and a TD; no one else carried it more than twice. He better not get hurt.

The defense was truly abysmal in this one, in a way we haven’t seen since last year when we lost those two games. We let a mediocre quarterback throw it for 367 yards, and run it for another 81 yards (he accounted for 3 TDs). As a team, they ran it for 128 yards. They converted a third of their third/fourth downs, won TOP 34:40 to 25:20, and gashed us repeatedly for big plays. There wasn’t a single thing we did well on that side of the ball.

I guess they said Michael Penix had the flu or something, but wasn’t that the excuse for the ASU game as well? How long is this bug going to linger?

The plus side, again, is that we won. Special teams like we hope this one is, they have games they win like this. They get lucky on some nailbiters. You need luck sometimes. The object of the game is to get the win, to win as many games as possible, to put yourselves in line for the conference championship game, and to get to the playoffs. It’s all still right there for us.

The Huskies are still ranked 5th. It sounds like the first college football playoff rankings will come out later today. I expect us to still be 5th, though I could see an argument to be made that our victory over Oregon – currently 6th in the AP, and 7th in the coaches poll – is the most impressive victory of any team currently in the top 5. Of any team period. I mean, Oregon IS the best 1-loss team in America right now.

That’s because the Ducks went to Utah and smashed ’em. That knocked Utah down to 18th, with their second conference loss. Oregon State, for what it’s worth, also lost (to Arizona), giving them two defeats as well. That leaves Washington undefeated, and Oregon and USC with one conference loss (the Trojans also have a loss to Notre Dame keeping them down). The Beavers are 16th, the Bruins are quietly 20th, and the Trojans held steady at 24 (with probably the worst defense of any ranked team).

So, that makes this Saturday’s game at USC pretty vital. I think the last thing we want to do is drop this one, and be in a three-way tie with them and the Ducks for the conference. If we end up dropping two of our next four, I shudder to imagine the tie-breaker possibilities between the two-loss teams (especially if the Ducks win out, but even if they manage to lose to the Beavers somehow). God, did you know Oregon is at home for three of their final four, with the only road game at ASU?

For the record, I’m getting married this Saturday. The game starts at 4:30pm, which is also when our ceremony starts. I will see next-to-nothing from this game, and will be relying on the brief moments I can connect with one of my friends, who I hope will be streaming it on his phone.

There’s a lot riding on this game, though. This is an opportunity for our offense to start looking right again. There’s no reason why we couldn’t put up 50+ in this one, and we very well may need to. I’d like to see some opportunistic plays from our defense. I’d like to see our pass rushers finally start to get home with more regularity. I’d like to see us force a few turnovers. And I’d REALLY like to see Penix out-duel Caleb Williams and really grab hold of that Heisman Trophy race.

More than anything, I’d like to cut the Trojans off at the knees. One by one, we can start knocking teams out of the conference title race, by adding to their loss column, and buying us a head-to-head tiebreaker. If we can win these next two games, it almost won’t matter what we do against the Beavers. I’ve been saying all along that the team I’m most afraid of is Utah, but after last weekend, I think I need to give more credit to the Beaves. They seem to be the more complete team of the two, and that game will be on the road.

I’ve gotten a lot of really cool wedding presents in the lead-up to this Saturday. But, a Husky victory over the Trojans might be sweetest of them all.

The Huskies Chomped On Some Roast Duck

If you don’t think that Washington/Oregon game was the Pac-12 championship, then I want you to come back to me in late November and we’ll see who was right, because I think there’s a VERY good chance we see both of those teams match up again.

For the record, it’s the very LAST thing I want to see, so that means it’s definitely happening.

This 36-33 Husky victory was incredibly tense throughout. It’s so weird how it all played out. We started out with a punt for each team, then neither team punted again the rest of the first half. The Huskies grabbed a 7-0 lead on their second drive, then the Ducks took a lead of their own on the drive after that, 8-7. It went touchdown-touchdown-touchdown before the Dawgs finally stiffened and forced a field goal to make it 22-18. We still had plenty of time to go down and score again, but our drive got fucked up in a hurry before Penix threw a bad pick to give the Ducks a chance before halftime. They, indeed, took it down to the goalline lickety-split, but instead of kicking the field goal to make it a 1-point game, they went for it as time expired, coming up empty on a terrible roll out play to the right side, that cut off half the field and sent a million Huskies into a very small area.

It was especially dumb because Oregon got the ball first after the break. They would’ve had 3 more points and momentum. The head coach said their plan all game was to be aggressive, which portended well for the Huskies in the second half as well.

The Ducks went 3 & Out after halftime, leading to a Husky touchdown to take an 11-point lead, 29-18. The Ducks immediately drove it down inside of Washington’s 10 yard line before turning it over on downs (again, instead of taking the FG and making it a 1-score game). At that point, we had ’em. But, for whatever reason, the Husky offense went ice cold. 3 & Out, 3 & Out, and turnover on downs were our next three drives. Meanwhile, Oregon scored back-to-back TDs to take a 33-29 lead.

If we could’ve kept it up offensively and put the nail in the coffin after getting the ball back that first time, I’m convinced we could’ve routed them. That’s definitely one of my take-aways from this game. The Huskies won in spite of clearly not playing their best. Penix was apparently cramping up, Jalen McMillan re-injured himself early and didn’t factor in whatsoever, the defense wasn’t tackling super great, giving up 204 yards on 40 carries. There are things we can clean up. It’s no guarantee that we would beat them again, next time on a neutral field, but it’ll give me some hope heading into that showdown, knowing we won without giving them our best effort. We could’ve blown them out by multiple scores. I’ll always believe that.

Where the game was very nearly lost was on the very next drive after they took a 4-point lead. We got the ball back with 13 minutes to go and ate up about half of that clock, driving from our 40 yard line to the Ducks’ 8 for first & goal. First down, we run it up the middle for 7 yards with Dillon Johnson, fine. Love it. At that point, we’re actually on the 1/2 yard line, and what do we do? Shotgun, wildcat, Jesus Christ. Gets blown up, we lose a yard and a half. I get, with Penix cramping, you don’t want to run the QB sneak. But, how do you not take one shot with a snap under center, RB dive up the gut? Then, on third down, we don’t even give Penix a shot to throw with it, or roll out and make a run/pass decision. Instead, we sweep it to the left and get back one yard we lost (but very easily could’ve been another lost yardage play). Then, on 4th down, we go for it (might’ve considered the FG, but whatever). Again, shotgun. This is with a 9-man box; both receivers spread wide opposite each other, with single coverage. How do you not throw in this situation?! It looked like a half-hearted zone read (where Penix didn’t even pretend like he was going to pull it back) that got blown up so bad it wouldn’t have mattered who had the ball in the end. Just an awful sequence of play-calling there, in a game and a season where that’s exceedingly rare.

If it was me? Run on first down like they did. Run up the gut (maybe try to leap the defense) on second down. Then, if you’re bound and determined to go for it on fourth down, I’m putting it in the hands of my Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and letting him make a play with the remaining two downs. This is a Must Have game, and you can’t afford to fuck around.

Thankfully, we were able to hold Oregon on downs again, but not before they ate up 51 yards and over 4 minutes of game clock. If we had gone for the field goal, maybe they would’ve been more aggressive in taking shots down the field. But, we could’ve also mitigated any touchdown they might’ve scored by holding it to (at worst) an 8-point deficit. Luckily, though, the Ducks stuck to their guns, went for it on fourth down at midfield (instead of punting it deep and forcing us to go 90 yards), and for the third time in this game, Bo Nix came up short when it mattered most. I don’t want to say that totally ices him out of he Heisman, but in a game where you went up against one of your direct rivals for the award, you were 0 for 3 on fourth down when you could’ve salted the game away.

Meanwhile, Michael Penix did what he does, drove us right down the field: 2 plays, 53 yards, go-ahead touchdown to give the game its final score. The only quibble was that we left them with 1:38. They took it all the way down to the 25 yard line, but thankfully pushed the kick wide right, avoiding overtime in what has to be the game of the year so far in college football. Husky fans rushed the field, and it was a sight to behold even from the comfort of my couch!

Penix is, indeed, the leader for the Heisman, but no one ever won the award after half a season. He was 22/37 for 302 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk both had monster games (8 for 128 and 2 TDs, 6 for 118 and a TD respectively), and Giles Jackson returned to pick up the slack without McMillan (6 for 58 and a TD). Dillon Johnson was also a man possessed, running 20 times for 100 yards and a TD. We really relied on our studs in this one. Not counting Penix, only two other running backs went, each with just one carry. And, after our top three receivers, only two other guys caught 3 combined balls (though one of those was a huge Westover 4th down conversion catch, that was for naught after we threw a pick two plays later).

Defensively, it was tough sledding. Only one sack and 4 tackles for loss, and some really critical penalties to keep drives alive. All in all, when we meet up again, we’re going to have to put more pressure on Nix and play a much cleaner game with our tackling.

I know USC is still undefeated at 4-0 in the conference, but their defense is so bad, I would be blown away if they’re playing for the Pac-12 title. The team I’m probably most afraid of after Oregon is Utah, but thankfully we get them at home. The other team who will certainly make some noise is Oregon State, and we have to find a way to beat them on the road.

For now, we get a couple of easier games, which should put us at 8-0 as we head into our gauntlet stretch. We can’t take them lightly; we certainly don’t want to see any hangover games the next two weeks. But, we get ASU at home this Saturday night, in another Pac-12 After Dark matchup, followed by a mid-afternoon game at Stanford. Just keep taking care of business as we head into a brutal November. And maybe hope one or two of these other schools suffers an extra defeat.

The Huskies Remain Undefeated Heading In Their BYE Week

Last Saturday’s 31-24 victory in Arizona wasn’t the prettiest, but we got the job done and it wasn’t even as close as the final score, thanks to a late TD by the Wildcats, followed by a Husky recovery of the onside kick that ended it.

But, it also wasn’t what we’ve seen thus far this season. It wasn’t an easy, breezy, 20+ point victory over an inferior opponent where we were rolling with backups to close it out. We had to work for it a little bit. We had to overcome a fumble and an inordinate amount of penalties. We had to make due with settling for shorter passes (or, at least, didn’t get to enjoy our usual bomb-it-downfield sort of attack) and taking what the defense gave us. We got by without a single touchdown from Michael Penix and without a single 100-yard receiving day.

I find that part particularly interesting. All of our TDs came on the ground. Dillon Johnson was 16 for 91 and 2 TDs, Will Nixon ran 2 for 8 with a TD, Germie Bernard was the player of the game at receiver with 8 for 98 and 5 rushes for 12 yards and a TD. Rome Odunze was limited to 5 for 64, Ja’Lynn Polk only had 5 for 41, Jalen McMillan once again sat out, giving him an extra week with the BYE to recover from his injury.

Yet, Penix was still efficient, 30 of 40 passing, for 363 yards and 0 INTs. He was sacked a couple times, but he didn’t make mistakes, and still managed to throw for an incredible amount of yards.

This team has proven it can win any way you slice it. Take away the deep threat? We’ll beat you underneath. Take away the pass, we’ll still run it down your throats. Frustrate our top two receivers, we’ve got more where they came from. Germie Bernard is yet another weapon we know we can count on when the chips are down. We just keep coming after you in waves, and it’s thrilling to behold.

The defense wasn’t wildly spectacular, but we still limited their QB to 5.9 yards per attempt. They had one completion over 20 yards. They ran it a lot (31 times) but were limited to 3.5 yards per carry. 5/13 isn’t terrible on 3rd down, but you’d like to be better on 4th than giving up 3/4.

All that being said, it sounded like a classic Pac-12 Refs sort of game as far as penalties went. I didn’t get a chance to watch it, but the text thread was blowing up while I was at a comedy show.

Bottom line, this was a classic Trap Game, for all the reasons. Perfect record heading into it, with a Top 10 ranking. On the road, down in Arizona, late start time, just before the BYE week, which itself is just before our all-important showdown against Oregon in two weeks. The target was and is on our backs, and we got the best shot from a team that had nothing to lose, who were down a running back and their starting quarterback. The Wildcats seem like a team that’s better than their record or their perception would indicate. That’s a game we might’ve lost in prior years, but the Huskies – very businesslike – went down there, got the W they needed, and now get to enjoy a week off with a 5-0 record, still the 7th team in the nation.

I’m less concerned with BYE placement in college when it comes to the specific week, but I like that we have it right before the Oregon game. I’m less thrilled that they also get to enjoy their BYE week with us, but there’s no excuses after this one. Can’t say anyone got jobbed; we both have the full two weeks to prepare. It’s our turn to host, so you can’t get mad about that. Now, we just have to go out there and get the job done.

I can’t look at the respective schedules and make a determination as to who is better. Neither team has had a particularly impressive slate of games thus far. We beat Cal and Arizona; they beat a VASTLY overrated Colorado team, and a very appropriately-rated (terrible) Stanford team. This is the toughest matchup either team will have had to date. And then we both go on from there to start the rigorous portion of our schedules (we each have to play – over the final weeks – Oregon State, Utah, USC, and Washington State). All of those are good-to-great teams, but they also have very real flaws. It wouldn’t shock me if both Washington AND Oregon were to run the table in that slate. At which point, it comes down to this one game.

This MIGHT actually decide our season!

All these games throughout my lifetime tend to bleed together, so I don’t remember a ton about beating Oregon last year. I seem to recall Bo Nix was a little banged up, and may have been a little hampered. He, nevertheless, didn’t look great as a passer; he wasn’t terrible. But, they made their hay on the ground, as a team (312 yards on a whopping 51 carries). It was back and forth the entire game – no one leading by more than one score – and it came down to late-game execution, where we stopped them on downs on their side of the 40-yard line, before hitting the go-ahead field goal and then stopping them before time expired. It might very well be that kind of game again; in fact, I would bet on it.

I do like that we’ve finally been tested a little bit. I like that we’ve had to find other ways to win, and it hasn’t JUST been the Michael Penix Show. We can draw from that. Oregon’s had it relatively easy for a while now; other than coming back at Texas Tech from down 9 points in the fourth quarter (to win relatively comfortably), the Ducks have steamrolled their last three weeks. They also had their big emotional release in taking the Buffaloes down a peg in front of a nationally televised audience. They haven’t played anyone like us yet. Not since last year, and I would argue we’re better NOW than we were then, which has to be scary.

After a week off – and a week where we were buried on the Pac-12 Network – we’ll be rewarded with the 12:30pm slot on ABC. EVERYONE is going to be interested in this game. We might even have Gameday visit us (the only possible matchup they’d pick is 17 Miami at 14 North Carolina, but that seems silly compared to 8 Oregon at 7 Washington). It’s certainly a game that’s going to be on the NFL’s radar.

Which leads us to Heisman Watch. Penix still has the passing yards lead with 1,999 after five games. He’s almost at 75% completions. He’s tied for second in TD passes with 16. And he’s still among the least-sacked players in the game. Maybe he took a little hit with zero TD passes at Arizona, but I would expect that to change pretty quickly into our game with Oregon.

It’s going to boil down to limiting mistakes, limiting turnovers, and who can get the big stop on defense. Tough game to break in a first-year kicker, but hopefully he can rise to the occasion.

I think we’ve got as good a chance as any to prevail in this one, but I’d like to get off to a fast start to make things a little more comfortable for us, and a LOT more UNcomfortable for them. Let the fans get into it. Let the pass rush make some noise. Hopefully force Nix into some turnovers, and let’s get out of there with an impressive win to catapult us to bigger and better things.

The Huskies Thumped The Golden Bears

The Huskies on Saturday continued looking like one of the best teams in college football. It’s a broken record I never want to turn off!

This was decidedly NOT your ordinary Washington vs. Cal game. We hopped out to a 14-0 lead before the offense even hit the field, thanks to an interception and a punt returned for a touchdown. Cal managed a long TD drive (with a missed PAT), but then the Huskies tacked on 10 more points before the first quarter ended, to go up 24-6. We didn’t stop there, winning the second quarter 21-6 to take a 45-12 halftime lead.

I went to bed at that point. This just so happened to be the last night of my bachelor party in New Orleans. So, for starters, the game didn’t even kick off until 9:30pm. I definitely understand why the east coast never sees the Pac-12 games! And we were technically in the central time zone!

Even though I was savagely hung over – after three straight days of drinking and staying up late – this day ranked up there, thanks to the Huskies putting a delightful capper on a fantastic long weekend.

Anyway, Michael Penix tacked on another TD pass in the third quarter, before giving way to the backups. Cal made some useless noise in the second half, but in the end the Huskies prevailed 59-32; so, if you were brave enough to bet on the Huskies to cover (and the total game over, for that matter), you got paid out handsomely.

That’s another 304 yards (on 19/25 passing), with 4 TDs and 1 INT. Through four games, he’s now leading the nation in passing yards (1,636) by over 200 yards; he’s leading in TD passes (16); he’s fifth in completion percentage among QBs with over 100 completions; he leads in average yards per attempt among quarterbacks with over 100 completions; he has the highest passer rating among quarterbacks with over 100 completions; and he’s taken only a single sack (in spite of the fact that the Huskies have already needed to do some O-Line shuffling thanks to injuries). The only blemishes in his game at the moment are two interceptions that he definitely didn’t need to throw. But, otherwise, I don’t see how he’s not leading in the Heisman race a third of the way through the season.

Then, there’s Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk (Jalen McMillan missed this one due to injury, but it shouldn’t keep him out much longer than that game or maybe also the next one). Odunze filled in for McMillan as our punt returner and took it 83 yards to the house in some of the niftiest footwork I’ve seen since Dante Pettis. Odunze also added 125 yards on 5 receptions, two of them for touchdowns. Odunze is second in college football receiving (544) by only 12 yards. He’s fourth in yards per catch among receivers with 20 or more receptions (Polk is third in that category). Polk – who had 127 yards on 8 receptions, 2 for TDs – is technically the third option on this team, yet he’s 13th in college football in total yards. And McMillan is 41st, but that’s in only three games!

Once again, the rushing game by committee worked wonders; the team ran for 140 yards on 30 carries (4.7 average). Dillon Johnson led the way with 66 yards on only 10 carries (with 1 TD), Will Nixon added 39 yards on 5 carries, and Sam Adams II had 22 yards on 4 carries (with 1 TD).

Defensively, somehow we were held without a sack, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t doing some work along the line. The Cal starter was pressured into 3 interceptions and held to 207 yards on 17/32 passing, with 2 TDs. They ended up getting some garbage yards in the second half against our backups, which skews the numbers a bit. But, we held them to 4.0 yards per rush, and I have to imagine our first half defense was even better.

There’s a lot of hype around this team! We leapfrogged USC in the AP Poll (they had an uninspiring victory over ASU on Saturday) to reach 7th. In fact, 7-10 in the AP Poll looks like this: Washington, USC, Oregon, Utah. Wazzu leapt up to 16th thanks to not quite Cuoging it against Oregon State (though they almost gave up an onside kick late to make it interesting), who dropped to 19th. UCLA had a tough loss at Utah (14-7) to drop out of the Top 25, and Colorado had an embarrassing loss at Oregon (42-6) to also drop out of the Top 25. The Huskies remain at 8th in the Coaches Poll, but we also have 1 First Place Vote in each poll, which I can’t even remember the last time that happened.

Now, we go to Arizona to play the Wildcats, also a Pac-12 After Dark game (though, this time we’re buried on the Pac-12 Network, so DEFINITELY no one is seeing our game). I don’t know what to make of the Wildcats. They’re 3-1, they just barely beat Stanford on the road (who has all of 1 win on the season), and their most impressive performance might be a 7-point loss at Mississippi State. But, I’m sure the Wildcats have a lot of speedy talent on offense, and will be looking to give us a game.

Is THIS the one where the Huskies show up flat-footed? I couldn’t tell ya. Like the Cal games of years gone by, road games in the state of Arizona tend to be … unwieldy, to say the least. But, we can’t overlook this one, because a victory here sets us up for a 5-0 start heading into the BYE week, before our major showdown at Husky Stadium against the Ducks (who will almost certainly also be 5-0 after beating the Cardinal on the road this week), who are coming off of their college football-shattering victory over the national darlings that are the Colorado Buffaloes (who are almost certainly the frauds we all expected them to be, now that they’re playing legit teams). We’re favored by 18 points in this one, which I would still be inclined to stay away from, but with the way we’re playing, there’s no way I’m ruling out a cover.

Let’s keep it rolling, Dawgs!

The Huskies Dominated A Hapless Future Big Ten League-Mate

This was some kind of impressive ass-whooping!

It’s hard for me to really tell you who’s got the best offense in college football. I don’t watch all the games; I don’t follow any other team all that closely. If you wanted to argue against the Huskies before this past Saturday, I’d say look no further than their relatively pedestrian rushing stats through the first two games. And while it’s only been one game, I don’t know if you can necessarily hold that against ’em now.

Oh sure, Michael Penix had his usual brilliant game (27/35, 473 yards, 4 TDs), and that’s all while playing only two drives into the second half. To that point, the Huskies put up all 41 of their points in this contest (somehow still punting twice in the process), and it was time to lean on the Spartans and salt this game away largely on the ground. You could argue that even on the two second-half field goal drives, we just settled for them to give our kicker practice, as I would have no confidence in Michigan State whatsoever to stop us on 4th & 6 in the red zone.

That’s all to say that this game could’ve been MUCH more lopsided, and we took pity on our future Big Ten league-mates.

But, we also found some success on the ground, and I think that’s going to be a huge boost for us going forward! Dillon Johnson looked absolutely unstoppable on his only 8 carries, netting 71 yards on an 8.9 yards per carry average. And Tybo Rogers mopped up beautifully, carrying it 15 times for 74 yards, earning himself a bigger role in this offense going forward. All told – including Richard Newton’s 4 carries for 29 yards – the Huskies ran it 33 times for 177 yards, or a 5.4 yards per carry average. Simply outstanding!

Again, though, it was all about the passing game, with Dylan Morris chipping in for 63 yards on 2/4 passing, with a pick. Rome Odunze led all receivers with 8 for 180. Ja’Lynn Polk had 5 for 118 and a TD. Jalen McMillan had 4 for 96 before a scary-looking injury that might keep him out for the short term, but shouldn’t keep him out for the long. And, new fan favorite Jack Westover had 4 catches for 37 yards and a whopping 3 TDs! I don’t know how I don’t remember him previously (probably because, as Tight End University, Washington does nothing but churn out elite tight ends), but he’s already got 4 scores on the young season, on only 10 receptions (all he does … catch touchdowns!).

The defense, though, really took a step forward in this one. It’s not easy to hold any team to just one score – which took place on their final possession of the game, after an 11-play, 99-yard drive that took up over 5 minutes of game clock, against presumably nothing but backups – but, to go on the road, against a major Power 5 opponent, and absolutely dismantle them, was better than I could’ve possibly imagined.

We had 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks (both by ZTF), an interception, and two passes defended. We limited them to 53 yards rushing on 27 carries, and we limited them to a combined 208 yards passing on 14/35! They had no answer for us whatsoever.

It’s hard to say if that’s going to be deemed a quality win or not. I just don’t think they’re in the same universe as us. They might go on to be okay in the Big Ten this year, but my hunch is they won’t be any better than 6-6, and that’s probably the best-case scenario, considering word is out that their maligned head coach is about to be fired (if it hasn’t happened already).

The Huskies sit at #8 in the nation, but we’ve definitely closed the gap on Penn State. It feels like we’re one or two more impressive victories away from leapfrogging a team or two, and that’s without the need for anyone ahead of us to actually lose.

On the docket this week is a home night game against Cal. Cal is 2-1, with their only blemish being a late touchdown given up to Auburn at home in a 14-10 defeat. Auburn is currently 3-0, so that should probably be qualified as a “good loss” for them. Nevertheless, Cal’s defense is no joke, so if we were looking for a test, this might be the best one we see all year (at least, until Utah comes to town in November).

It gets real now. I know we’re at home, the game is at night, and for anyone willing to stay up past 10:30pm on the east coast, this will be the marquee matchup of the timeslot, but you’re not looking for style points here. The Huskies are favored by 21 points, but if I were a gambling man, I’d take the Golden Bears to cover. And I’d certainly take the under of 63 points scored in the game. Cal hasn’t had a ton of success against us, but in our last four outings (no game in the COVID year), we’re 2-2, and every game has been decided by one score or less. They’ve never really figured out how to field a competent offense under Justin Wilcox, but his defenses have been underrated and nasty to go up against. I’m not particularly looking forward to this one (it’s a good thing I’ll be at my bachelor party in New Orleans this weekend).

After that, we go to Arizona, and it was announced that will also be a 7pm start time. So, you know, hope you enjoy the night games! Hope nothing too fucked up and weird happens!