The Husky Basketball Team Fired Mike Hopkins, Hired Danny Sprinkle

After a fifth consecutive season landing outside of the NCAA Tournament, and after a losing conference record in four out of the last five years, it was a foregone conclusion that Mike Hopkins would be fired prior to finishing out the last year of his contract. We were at a point in his tenure where the turnover was pretty massive from year to year, there hasn’t been a viable high school recruit since the Romar era, and there was a complete and utter lack of improvement among those who did end up returning. On top of everything else, Hopkins couldn’t even run his signature zone defense anymore, because of that lack of continuity.

It’s been pretty miserable to be a Husky fan, ever since the last remnants of the Romar era won Hopkins his second consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year award, in our last season in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. There’s been equal parts hopelessness and delusion, into thinking that whatever scrubs we were able to bring in via the transfer portal would somehow shake out into a winning basketball club. Ultimately, it’s been a consistent lack of consistency, other than the fact that we couldn’t win any big games against quality opponents, and frequently flubbed things up against lower-quadrant teams.

In the end, we had to very nearly run out the string, thanks to the other big coaching blunder we had to pay out, in the form of Jimmy Lake.

Now that the unpleasantness is behind us, let’s welcome Danny Sprinkle! That name sounding like a My Little Pony notwithstanding, it seems like we did good with this hire. He has a 109-50 record in five seasons, across two teams. He turned around a moribund program in Montana State (after two so-so seasons, he took them to the NCAA Tournament as a 14-seed in back-to-back years), then he flipped a Utah State team that returned zero points from its previous season’s roster into an 8-seed this year that beat TCU in the first round, before succumbing to the juggernaut that is 1-seed Purdue.

That’s three NCAA Tournament appearances in a row, for those keeping track at home. We haven’t had three consecutive Tourney appearances since the 2009-2011 seasons!

This, of course, feels like a Kalen DeBoer situation (or a Jedd Fisch situation, for that matter), where Sprinkle is a head coach on the rise, who will look to jump ship at the first opportunity. But, as is our lot in life, you kind of have to hope that’s the endgame, because it means we’ll actually see some NCAA success in the near future. It won’t be a lot of success, of course. But, just getting there feels like half 99% of the battle.

I don’t know where Sprinkle lands on the list of Best New Hires in men’s basketball this year, but it feels like he’s the best of OUR particular options. The former Coug head coach jumped ship to Stanford of all teams, which seems odd considering it sounded like he could’ve had his pick of any number of open jobs (after taking that team into the Round of 32 this year, when nothing was expected of them heading into this season). It’s even more remarkable that the Huskies were able to hire anyone, considering our Athletic Director left us last week to go to Nebraska of all schools (yes, the same AD who has been here for all of 6 months).

While I agree that the next AD needs to be someone with bona fide Husky ties (and not some dick in the yard from Tulane), I’m not buying that noise about Sprinkle potentially being a long-term fit because his dad played here, and because he was born in Pullman. That’s a tenuous fucking grip AT BEST on the reality of the situation. Washington is a Stepping Stone program (unfortunately for Hopkins, it was a stepping stone into a dark fucking abyss). We haven’t found the next Mark Few, so you can get that out of your heads right now.

I’m excited that we got a young and promising head coach who has had a lot of recent success, but my excitement is most certainly tempered. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m not interested in him doing everything he can to retain the players we have currently on our roster, or our assistant head coaches for that matter. I dunno, maybe I should be; maybe all these players need is just some semblance of competence among its head coach to bring in a winning scheme that works. But, this program has been a stone cold loser for half a decade, and I have no loyalty to ANY of these chumps. Sprinkle should do what’s best for Sprinkle, and if that means totally cleaning house, so be it. I’ll take his opinion over anyone else’s. If it were up to me, the assistants on this staff would be updating their resumes; maybe they can see if Seattle U is hiring.

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 Found A Way To Win The World’s Ugliest Game

What is it about the Arizona State Sun Devils? It seems like no matter how good we are, no matter how terrible they are, they always play us tough. I’ve never been happier to be done with the state of Arizona.

I’ll say this, for starters: that’s a game we absolutely would’ve lost before this year. It really felt like every single Jimmy Lake game, and damn near every loss of the last few years of the Chris Petersen era. The defense was on it, but the offense couldn’t get out of its own way. The saving grace this time was the interception returned for a touchdown; without that, I don’t know if we would’ve won.

Two interceptions, two fumbles, three punts, three field goals. That’s not the offense we’re used to seeing around here. That’s the kind of offense we saw under Jimmy Lake on a regular basis. Couldn’t run the ball (13 yards on 13 carries), couldn’t protect Penix (zero sacks, but he had guys in his face all game long), couldn’t hit a deep ball to save our lives (3 receptions of 21 yards to 3 different receivers were the long), just all sorts of out of sync. At no point did it feel like we could move our offense into scoring position.

Frankly, I believe the only reason we won this game at all is because the ASU kicker couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. He missed a 31-yarder midway through the first quarter, then had a 43-yarder blocked. They had one drive that concluded early in the fourth quarter – after those two missed kicks – where they could’ve attempted one from the 30 yard line; instead, they opted to go for it on 4th & 3 and whiffed. If they had a reliable kicker, they win that game, even with the pick-six.

The defense really saved our asses, even though they gave up 145 yards rushing on 31 attempts. The pass defense did its job beautifully (with an assist from the refs, who were letting pretty much all down-field contact go without flags), holding their QB to 4.2 yards per attempt. As a result, the Sun Devils dominated time of possession 37 minutes to 23 minutes, but we got them where it matters most: they were 5/17 on third down and 2/6 on fourth down.

There’s an interesting argument to be made for when to be aggressive and continuously go for it on fourth down, vs. when to be conservative and play to your strengths. Obviously, coming on the heels of last week’s Oregon game, this is top of mind. If Oregon kicks a field goal instead of playing for a TD even just one time, they might win that game. With ASU, though, it’s a different animal. The Sun Devils are terrible. They’re on the road. They’re playing the #5 team in the nation. On the one hand, maybe you should pull out all the stops and play hyper-aggressively. Your kicker isn’t worth a damn, and against that Husky offense, you have to feel like you need to score touchdowns to win. But, on the other hand, your defense is coming up with big stop after big stop. They’re forcing turnovers, they’re getting in Penix’s face. The Huskies haven’t been able to push the ball down-field like they like to do. Maybe, at that point, you play the field position game.

On the pick-six to Mishael Powell, it’s a perfect example. They got it down to the 12 yard line, with a 7-6 advantage. Sure, the Huskies were able to cut it to one point on the previous drive, but even then, we stalled out at the 30, and a significant chunk of those yards came on a pass interference penalty (where they really had to mug our guy to get a flag thrown). Instead of kicking what should’ve been a chip-shot field goal to go up 10-6, they went for it and got smoked. I mean, what are the odds that we’re going to block two kicks in a game? What are the odds he’s going to miss a second gimme?

Interesting game from a defensive perspective. Once again, we were shutout from any sacks. We didn’t really pass the eye test as far as getting pressure is concerned. Too many missed tackles for my own personal sanity. Yet, we knocked down 9 balls, and had 4 tackles for loss. Ultimately, it comes down to that miraculous pick-six, but overall I’m pretty happy with the effort.

I would say Penix’s Heisman chances took a hit (275 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 fumble, 64% completions), but I don’t know if anyone else really stepped up either. Caleb Williams lost again – this time at home to Utah, throwing for 256, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, but with a rushing TD – and I don’t recall any huge games anywhere else to put someone OVER Penix. If anything, I’d say Penix came down to Earth after taking the lead the previous week. Now, it’s anybody’s race.

The good news is: we’re 7-0. We’re 4-0 in conference, with USC, Utah, Oregon, and Oregon State all with one loss. We go on the road to play a 2-win Stanford team at 4pm on Saturday, fresh from this wake-up call. Frankly, I think the Cardinal are even worse than the Sun Devils, so we should be primed for a beatdown. There’s no overlooking Stanford this week, even though the following game is at USC.

We managed to hold onto our #5 ranking, but gained no ground on any of the teams above us. Florida State had a hard-fought win over Duke (who really blew it once their quarterback was knocked out). Ohio State got a bigtime win over Penn State to knock them down a peg. Michigan dominated Michigan State, and Georgia was on a BYE. Oklahoma sits there at #6 as the last remaining undefeated big time program; everyone else has one loss or more. Oregon is at #8, Oregon State is at #11, and Utah – in spite of the road victory over the Trojans – could only climb to #13.

The big game this week – other than Huskies at Cardinal – is Oregon at Utah. That could very well knock the loser out of Pac-12 contention. I will, of course, be rooting for Utah. What’s interesting about this one is that if Utah wins, the only difficult remaining game on their schedule is at Washington. I don’t want to get into specific scenarios this early, but if our goal is to avoid playing the Ducks in the championship game, having Utah win this week is pivotal. Because, I don’t know if the Ducks have another loss on their schedule the rest of the way (they get both USC and Oregon State at home).

The 2023 Husky Football Team Looks Great So Far!

It feels kind of amazing how quickly your fortunes can change in college football. I’ve always been of the opinion – especially with a school like Washington, that isn’t in the upper echelon of the sport – that you kind of have to build it up over a long period of time. But, with how quickly Kalen DeBoer has turned things around, I’m starting to have second thoughts.

I became a Husky fan when I started going there in the fall of 1999. That just so happened to coincide with the start of the Rick Neuheisel era. I wouldn’t say I was the most knowledgable fan over the course of the next decade; I just sort of took things as they came. It wasn’t until the nadir that was Tyrone Willingham, and our winless 2008 season, that I finally woke up and understood this was unacceptable.

There was a lot of hullabaloo during the Sark era; he truly was rebuilding this program from the ground up. It felt like he left some unfinished business when he abandoned us for USC, but at the same time it felt like we were ready to take it to the next level with Chris Petersen. And, to his credit, he got us into the playoffs, playing in Alabama’s neck of the woods. Even that took three years to get to, but it felt like a natural progression for a program on the rise. That was in 2016, and we’ve spend the subsequent six years spinning our wheels, trying to get back to that level.

Jimmy Lake proved he was NOT the right guy to succeed Coach Pete. To be fair, the COVID year didn’t help any. But, things were trending in a VERY negative direction in 2021, and we couldn’t help but think maybe that was it. Maybe this was a program heading back into the college football wilderness, never to be heard from again.

Kalen DeBoer wasn’t the flashy hire of a Sark, nor did he seem like a championship-level hire of a Coach Pete. It almost felt like settling, at least it did to me. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

He undid all the damage Jimmy Lake wrought in his first year. We were one stumble away from playing in the Pac-12 championship game, but we still finished the year 11-2, and more importantly, were able to retain our most important core players who were eligible to return.

Now, we’re heading into 2023 as legitimate playoff contenders. We just have to find a way to make it through the conference first.

The tricky part of this whole deal is our schedule. It’s considerably more challenging than it was last year, when we didn’t get a chance to play either Utah nor USC (the two teams who played in the conference title game). You can take that one of two ways: maybe it was a blessing, because if we lost them, we might not have gotten to double-digit wins; on the flipside, we weren’t able to take them down a peg and insert ourselves into that Pac-12 title game.

The 2022 Huskies were a little iffy in the first half of the season, especially on defense. Key injuries may have cost us against UCLA and ASU. We definitely gelled in the second half, securing huge wins over Oregon State and on the road against the Ducks. We’ll never know how we might’ve fared against the Utes or Trojans, but if those games would’ve taken place late, I know we would’ve given them a run for their money.

This year, we miss out on a possibly-rebuilding UCLA and an exciting (but still questionable) Colorado team with a brand new roster under Deion Sanders. In their place, we get Utah at home, and USC on the road. We get Oregon at home, but play the Beavers on the road. And it’s hard to imagine Michigan State will be any more mediocre than they were last year; we get them on the road as well, which should be a tough test.

Even our opener on Saturday came against a Boise State team that won 10 games last year. It would’ve been foolish to overlook them, and to their credit, the Huskies took care of business (even if it took an entire quarter to get going).

The Broncos owned the first quarter, holding a 6-0 lead (missing an extra point). After an awesome opening return to midfield, the Huskies tried to get their running game going, to no avail. The pass protection was also a little sketchy, leading me to wonder if the O-Line might be in worse shape than previously thought.

But, then we just abandoned the rushing attack altogether, to magnificent results. The Huskies won the second quarter 28-6 and the rout was on. 56-19 was the final score. Michael Penix threw for 29/40 for 450 yards and 5 TDs. Rome Odunze caught 7 balls for 132 yards and a TD. Ja’Lynn Polk caught 3 for 101 and a TD. Jalen McMillan caught 8 for 95 and 2 TDs (he also ran for a 19-yard TD).

It’s a little concerning that the run game never got going, not even late when the game was sealed up. But, this isn’t an offense that’s meant to depend on a Ground & Pound philosophy. It’s gonna go where Penix and these receivers take it. And, based on what we’ve seen across 14 games, I think that can be pretty damn far.

The defense wasn’t elite, but it also wasn’t overwhelmed. I’d like to see more than one sack in a game we win by 37 points, but we did manage a couple of picks. There’ll be games where this side of the ball picks us up and holds games close, but I would say this is a unit that is also going to go where Penix and the receivers take it. This D is meant to play with a lead. Force teams into obvious passing situations, use our talent up front to make things difficult on opposing quarterbacks, and hopefully generate enough turnovers to turn these games into laughers.

If we can manage to win on the road against the Spartans, it should be smooth sailing until mid-October, when we play Oregon. There should be another couple of soft landings before we get to the juggernaut portion of the schedule: weeks 9-11 at USC, vs. Utah, and at Oregon State. That will likely decide who takes control of this conference. We close at home against the Cougs, who might also be ranked by the time we get there.

Anything worse than 10-2 would be a disappointment. But, it’ll almost certainly require a one-loss season if we want to guarantee a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. I think we CAN get there, but that’s going to take a good amount of luck, and a good amount of winning in close games.

Gun to my head, the safe money is on the Huskies not making it to the playoffs. That being said, none of the contenders have it too terribly easy this year. Especially if Colorado ends up being amazing (and not just a week 1 flash in the pan). That’s probably the best thing the Huskies have going for them is the fact that the Pac-12 is fucking loaded in its final go-around. You’d have to be willfully ignorant or outright biased to not give these teams their due (which, this IS college football, so of course that’s what’s going to happen). Any team, from Washington to Oregon to USC to Utah to even Oregon State has a chance to win this league. And if Colorado is at least entertaining? Maybe knocks off a contender or two? All the better. Hell, if they’re legitimately good, and we’re talking about half the conference being elite, that’s going to bring nothing but rays upon rays of sunshine on the rest of these schools. I expect we’ll be well represented in the major bowl games this season.

Even though the safe bet is to short the Huskies, I dunno. This feels different. It feels special. A lot of the Coach Pete seasons felt special too, until we lost a game and all hope felt lost. This time? Who knows? Maybe 10-2 gets us there, if we manage to win the right tiebreakers. This is certainly a situation where the conference beats up on itself, which isn’t great for our playoff hopes. But, if we can get a team through with only 2 losses, I would hope we’re recognized for what we are: among the best teams in the nation.

What’s great about this Husky team is not only that it’s loaded at the skill positions, but it’s also an offensive system that should be foolproof. We should never be out of any game, even if we give up an early lead here and there. As long as the defense is just good enough to not give up a score on every single drive, we should have an opportunity to win every game. It’s just a matter of executing, and catching the breaks as they come.

I’m predicting 10-2 and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The homer in me is predicting 11-1, a conference title, and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. From there, we’ll put a scare in the hearts of every uppity Big 10 school that thinks they’re better than us.

Bow Down To Washington, motherfuckers. Because we’re coming for you!

I’m Having A Hard Time Getting Excited For Football Right Now

This SHOULD be the perfect scenario to get me super pumped for football. We had another down college basketball season; hockey was fun, but in a Just Glad To Be There sort of way when it came to a middling playoff run; and the Mariners are obviously in the midst of yet another in a long line of disappointing seasons (save one) over the last couple decades.

When it’s late-July and baseball is going nowhere, downtrodden Seattle sports fans turn their sights to the impending football season, and all the possibilities therein. But, not me.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe the Mariners play a part in that, in how far below expectations they’ve landed, sucking all of our collective wills to live. There’s a case to be made to have high expectations for both the Seahawks and Huskies. The Seahawks are coming off of an unlikely playoff appearance, they’re coming off of back-to-back potentially-elite draft classes, the dark cloud of the previous era of Seahawks football came to a close with Russell Wilson playing in Denver now. Vibes are high! Now, take the Huskies; they’re coming off of an unlikely bowl game victory, and an even unlikelier double digit-win season. That came on the heels of the team totally falling apart, and the death knell of the Chris Petersen-to-Jimmy Lake Era that had once achieved soaring heights. With most of our important players returning, vibes are even higher on Montlake!

It’s not hard to remember when our expectations were as mammoth; see: the 2023 Mariners.

Now remember that we’re Seattle sports fans, and Seattle is Sports Hell. It’s not Sports Hell because all our teams are miserable all the damn time. It’s so much more than that! We’re in Sports Hell because of this very scenaro. Because our teams do – occasionally – see expectations raised. And THAT’S when our teams choose to fall on their fucking faces.

We have decades upon decades full of experience in this arena. And exactly three championships for our efforts, between the Supersonics, Seahawks, Mariners, and Husky basketball & football teams. In my 42 years of existence – since I’ve been rooting for these respective teams – I’ve only gotten to witness the one (Super Bowl XLVIII), since I wasn’t a Husky fan in the early 90’s. That’s a lotta heartbreak.

I’ve seen a lot of good-not-great teams in my lifetime. The Sonics of the entire 1990’s, the Mariners of the mid 90’s, the turn-of-the-century Mariners (who were a very different beast entirely), the Holmgren Era Seahawks, the Romar Era Huskies, the Legion Of Boom, the Chris Peterson Huskies, the Post-LOB Seahawks, and this current era of Mariners baseball. There’s a lot of great memories sprinkled throughout, but one main throughline: they all fell short of ultimate glory, save one.

I’ve discussed this topic quite a bit on my blog throughout the years. It’s all a matter of perspective. If I was able to just enjoy the journey, take these teams for what they are, and accept the fact that we can’t always win it all, then I’m sure I’d be a lot happier. But, how do you enjoy the 2023 Mariners, when you know this team is underachieving, and we all expected them to be better than they are? This team was supposed to win 90+ games in the regular season and really make a dent in the playoffs; instead, they’re struggling to get to 81 wins, and will almost certainly not reach the post-season. And, as such, now we go into 2024 with more questions than answers. We go into 2024 with more holes than we thought we’d have, and an apparent lack of opportunities and willingness to do what it takes to fill those holes.

I guess the answer to that question is: don’t have expectations going in. If I had zero expectations for the 2023 Mariners, then maybe I could appreciate a .500 team that’s still kinda/sorta in it, and hold out hope that they’ll figure something out in the next two months to eke their way into the playoffs.

But, that’s not how I’m wired. That’s how a fairweather fan thinks, or a complete non-fan. My fiancé could do that, because she isn’t saddled with the burden of following these teams, and has zero interest in them outside of the fact that I have interest, and she enjoys my company enough to care about what I care about.

I can’t go into this football season with no expectations. I see the 2023 Seahawks and I see a team on the rise. I see a lot of talented youths with potential for greatness. I see a division and an NFC that’s up for grabs, and I see us as a potential dark horse.

Then, I see the 2023 Huskies and I see a team that’s there! That’s a legitimate contender for the Pac-12 crown, and if they play their cards right, maybe even a berth in the college football playoffs.

In total, I see two football teams where you don’t necessarily have to squint very hard to see them going pretty far. Just as I saw a certain Mariners team, in the very same light.

So, how could my favorite football teams Mariners things up this season?

Well, the Huskies might just be God-awful on defense, particularly in the secondary and linebacker units. They might need to score a ton on offense every single week, which means they’d have to be damn near perfect on an efficiency standpoint. What if Michael Penix doesn’t even remotely resemble a Heisman Trophy candidate? What if the O-Line doesn’t hold up? What if we get bitten by the injury bug or bad fumble luck? What if we simply lose two fucking conference games and it knocks us out of the conference race entirely? It doesn’t take a whole helluva lot to ruin a college football team with high expectations. Two Pac-12 defeats, that’d do it. We always lose at least one dumb bullshit game against some fucking annoyingly shitty Arizona or Bay Area school with an 8pm start time. Do that, and lose to a legitimately good team, and there you have it: season ruined.

It’s a lot easier to see how the Seahawks could fuck up.

The Seahawks might just be God-awful on defense, particularly in the D-Line and linebacker units. There’s also a decent chance Geno Smith doesn’t survive the entire 17-game season, meaning we’ll have to endure Drew Lock in games that count. But, even if Geno manages to stay healthy, is he really the guy who’s going to lead us to a division title and a deep playoff run? Behind an extremely inexperienced O-Line? The 49ers are still pretty fucking good, even with their injury question marks at quarterback. The Eagles should still make some noise. The rest of the NFC East is nothing to sneeze at, and the Vikings figure to win a lot of games again. Then, you have to factor in how the Seahawks continually get off to slow starts to the regular season under Pete Carroll. It’s a lot to overcome.

I’ll admit, my expectations for the Seahawks aren’t nearly as high as they are for the Huskies. But, I can already feel the homer in me yearning to believe big. He knows that if we can keep this team mostly healthy, they’ll really surprise the rest of the league! Homer Steven is a simpleton like that. He’ll believe anything! So, I’m bound to be disappointed when the Seahawks are just another wild card team losing in the first round again. Or, God forbid, another Seahawks team that failed to make the playoffs entirely (but also wasn’t bad enough to get a Top 10 pick out of the deal).

So, yeah, I figure to have a lot of disappointing moments this fall. And, when I’m not disappointed, I’ll just be dreading the impending disappointment I know is right around the corner. This is the year where my regular football fandom meets my fantasy football fandom.

Speaking of which, I’m coming off of one league championship in my Splinter League, so anything short of a repeat performance is bound to be a letdown. And, in my Dynasty League, so much has gone right for me this offseason, I don’t even know where to begin.

For starters, the Cowboys finally cut Ezekiel Elliott. I have Tony Pollard as the unquestioned lead back. Then, the Vikings cut Dalvin Cook; I have Alexander Mattison. And, the coup de grace, since my Dynasty team has struggled with shabby quarterback play for the last decade, I’m actually not dreading my two guys. Justin Fields – when healthy – gobbles up points with his legs; his experience last year should hopefully propel him into better results through the air. Then, with Rodgers being traded to the Jets, I get to hang onto Jordan Love and see what he’s made of. If they both pan out, I’ve got two QBs locked and loaded for the next half decade. With the way the rest of my team shakes out, I’m not desperate to fill any particular need; I can truly take the Best Player Available in the draft to fill out my bench, and my team should be all the better for it.

Except, of course, we know that’s not how it actually works. My quarterbacks will probably stink and/or get hurt. The rest of my roster will underperform. I’ll play against a lot of fantasy teams going on their best weeks. And, even the weeks I’m victorious, I’ll just dread the following week all the more, because that’s how fantasy football works. It’s a neverending hellscape of frustration.

If I wasn’t getting married and going on a honeymoon this fall, I don’t know WHAT I would be looking forward to! But, it sure as shit isn’t this football season. That I’ll be watching with my hands covering my face, one eye peeking in between a set of fingers, ready for the next nut punch to come my way.

Mike Hopkins Will Not Be Fired At This Time

As expected, the Huskies lost in the opener of the Pac-12 tournament. It was the very first game of the set, and I immediately stopped paying attention beyond that moment. *Checks notes ESPN.com* it looks like Arizona defeated UCLA to take the conference crown in a slight upset. Those are easily the best two teams in the Pac though, so don’t be surprised if they go relatively far. I was surprised to see USC as a 10-seed, after their pitiful showing in the conference tourney; I was less surprised to see ASU as an 11-seed play-in team. They’re not great, but they have a great win here and there.

This isn’t about the rest of the conference, though. This is about YOUR 16-16 Washington Huskies. It was announced over the weekend that Mike Hopkins would be returning. Normally, you don’t need to release a statement confirming someone still has his job when he’s got multiple years left on his contract. But, given the discourse of late – and the disappointing results we’ve seen since last making the NCAA Tournament in 2019 – it really felt like the Huskies were set to make a change.

As has been discussed, though, Washington still owes him a combined $6.3 million over the next two seasons. That by itself isn’t enough to dictate inaction, but when you throw in Jimmy Lake’s figure (over $6 million for the next two years), all his fired football assistants (and Hop’s basketball assistants), the cost of a new basketball coaching staff, and all the raises Kalen DeBoer and his staff have received after just one season (not to mention all the NIL money being raised to start paying these players, on the football team especially), there’s only so much a school like Washington can reasonably hope to do.

I wouldn’t call Washington a “mid-major”, but I would say we are a tier between mid-majors and true power five schools. We don’t have the reach of these national programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and the like. We don’t have the fans attending these games, nor do we have the television numbers to even remotely compete. But, we’re not chopped liver either. What we’ve come to terms with is that Washington is a football school. That’s not a knock; it’s not a bad thing. But, we’re NOT a basketball school. We’re not trying to be all things to all sports. We’re (smartly, rightly) putting all of our chips into the football basket. That’s where the bulk of our boosters live, that’s where the bulk of the money in college athletics lives, and that’s where we’ve traditionally made the biggest sporting impact (all apologies to the rowers and whatnot, in the lesser sports who win championships to zero acclaim).

So, the money is going to football. We’re shooting our shot – so to speak – on the football team making a serious run at the playoffs in 2023. And, somewhat as a consequence, we’re letting the basketball program stagnate under Mike Hopkins, either until his contract runs out, or until he becomes cheap enough to be fired without having to eat an unreasonable sum.

I thought the Hopkins debacle was all summed up perfectly over at UW Dawg Pound. I was happy to learn that Jamal Bey is, indeed, done with college basketball. I was a little dismayed to learn that even though he was celebrated on Senior Day, Cole Bajema is planning to return. Also, I find it incredibly interesting to discover we’re looking to convince Keion Brooks to come back.

Langston Wilson entered the transfer portal – to no one’s shock – and there might be others looking to leave. But I really wonder what this team might look like if most-everyone came back. Not that I think we’d be world beaters, or even contenders for the conference title, but it’s been exceedingly rare for a Mike Hopkins team to have any semblance of continuity. He had it in 2019 – again, with mostly holdovers from Romar’s regime – and we actually did something of value for once. Not that I think lightning would strike twice, but you never know.

I want to have strong feelings about the Huskies keeping Mike Hopkins, because I like Husky basketball. I like it when we’re good, when Hec Ed is rocking and rolling, and when we’re making our presence felt on a national stage. Winning that game in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 was a truly magical experience, and I want more of that!

But, I’m just so God damned beaten down. The atrocious Mike Hopkins “offense”. The zone defense that couldn’t catch a cold. His impotent sideline antics. Our piddling assistant coaching staff. Our non-existent local recruiting abilities.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been spoiled as a Husky basketball fan. I jumped on the bandwagon at peak Romar era. Even his most mediocre teams were somewhat interesting. He always had at least one or two interesting guys. And while his offense wasn’t any sort of great shakes, at least he had players with real offensive abilities. Guys who could drive the lane, create for themselves, or kick out to a bevy of three-point shooters.

There’s nothing interesting about the guys Hopkins has brought in, other than Terrell Brown. There’s truly nothing interesting about the transfer portal, now that we know what it really is. It’s just one more way to lose your very best players, while replacing them with lesser rejects who couldn’t hack it on relevant teams.

So, you know, I’ll go through the motions of paying attention to the Huskies when they’re on TV. But, I’m not getting my hopes up. We’ll continue to underwhelm in 2023/2024, and if Hop is still here on a final lame-duck season, that’ll be a disaster of all disasters. This is going to hurt his ability to recruit, his ability to keep our “committed” guys, and probably any chance of putting out a non-embarrassing product on the court. This could get REALLY ugly.

The last thing we wanted after Hopkins won those back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards was for him to get poached to a bigger program. Who knew it would’ve been the best possible outcome for all involved? Certainly for us, but also for Hopkins. Ironically, the Syracuse head coaching gig just opened up for next season (for the first time in nearly 50 years). Maybe Hop can one day get hired on to be an assistant again.

This Stupid Husky Basketball Season Is Finally Almost Over

The regular season limped to a close last night, with the Huskies falling 93-84 to the Cougars en route to getting swept in this season’s Apple Cup series. We are 16-15 (8-12 in conference) and it’s now our fourth straight campaign without a post-season berth. We’re currently slotted in as the 8th seed in the Pac-12 Tournament next week, which means at best we could advance to the second round, where we’ll get destroyed by top seeded UCLA. But, I’m expecting we’ll lose in that first round, saving everyone the embarrassment of another double-digit defeat at the hands of the Bruins.

It’s been a VERY discouraging last week or so, as we also had the barn doors blown off of us against Stanford over the weekend. They’re one of the worst teams in the conference, and it’s sad that we couldn’t even put up a fight. There’s no good reason why we should be so mediocre; I find it difficult to pinpoint the reason, that’s for sure. Is it lack of talent? Is it poor coaching/development? Either way, that falls at the feet of Mike Hopkins, in the hottest of seats as he closes out his sixth season. He has two more years left on his deal, earning him $6.3 million.

For those who say, “Easy, fire him and buy him out of his contract,” it’s not exactly so simple. We also just got done paying Jimmy Lake $3.2 million to sit on his ass in 2022. Lake will also earn a combined $6.7 million over the next two years (we’ll see if we get to recoup that in any way, shape, or form as he finds work elsewhere), and that’s not even getting into whatever money we owe his assistants, not to mention the current football coaching staff (who have already gotten raises after one season), nor mentioning the NEW basketball staff that we’ll have to bring in to replace Hopkins.

I understand we’re talking about a university bringing in billions of dollars, and I’m not saying the Huskies should keep Hopkins. But, I would understand if we don’t want to keep compounding bad money decisions.

Here’s the thing, though: Mike Hopkins hasn’t shown he’s capable of doing anything other than win with Romar’s players his first two years here. He hasn’t recruited successfully from the high school ranks (nor does he really seem all that interested in it). He’s largely flopped with the transfer portal, other than lucking into Terrell Brown’s final year of eligibility. He CLEARLY has no idea how to craft a competent offense, other than “let guys shoot jumpers with defenders in their faces” (and, again, he’s failed in actually finding quality shooters to employ this asinine strategy). And his forte – defense, specifically a tricky zone defense – has also largely stunk, other than the two years he had Thybulle running the show (again, a Romar recruit). Here’s a thought: if your zone defense is so difficult to master, that you need multiple seasons of continuity to perfect it, then maybe you shouldn’t get stuck in a swirling toilet bowl of trying to reload the roster via the transfer portal every year.

I’ll say this: the transfer portal is a total disaster. Anyone who’s even remotely worth a damn isn’t IN the transfer portal in the first place. He’s locked himself down on a quality team. These are REJECTS, who couldn’t hack it elsewhere. So, what makes Hopkins think he has the special sauce to gather them all together here and win at a rate necessary to make the NCAA Tournament? We had our best roster in ages in 2021-2022 – with the aforementioned Terrell Brown leading the way – and we still couldn’t win more than 17 games.

The truth of the matter is, on this year’s squad, there was never anyone even close to Brown’s abilities in creating his own shot, leadership, ball handling, or determination to take this team where it needed to go. So, there was no way in hell we were ever going to IMPROVE over last year’s total. It’s, therefore, no surprise we’re at 16 wins and probably done.

Keion Brooks gave it a hell of an effort – averaging a team-high 17.8 points, to go along with 6.9 rebounds, while shooting 43% from the floor – but clearly we needed more around him. Freshman Keyon Menifield was a breath of fresh air, though predictably inconsistent – as you’d expect. Nevertheless, he finished averaging 10 points, 3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Koren Johnson was another promising freshman guard, whose playing time increased as the season went on.

But, this team was also beset with injuries. With the margin for error razor thin, this was the worst-case scenario for the Huskies. Big man Franck Kepnang only appeared in 8 games. Prized transfer Noah Williams has only appeared in 14 games. And apparently P.J. Fuller has been dinged up lately (he’s also been wildly disappointing when he’s been out there, which makes me wonder if he’s been dealing with these injury issues all season).

The bad news is that Brooks has no more eligibility left. The good news is, neither does Cole Bajema or Langston Wilson (who have NOT been worth a damn at all). The worst news I could possibly imagine, though, is that somehow Jamal Bey still has (at least) a year of eligibility left. Will he finally get the hint and transfer? God I hope so. Giving him 26+ minutes a game is the dictionary definition of a Waste Of Time.

Considering college basketball is what it is, I refuse to try to project how the Huskies move forward. I’m guessing we’ll bite the bullet and get Hopkins out of here. The tide has turned among Husky fans to the point that there’s really no salvaging things. Not that I believe it’ll matter. We have 1 NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 12 seasons (and counting). This is not a prime destination for coaches or player prospects.

I’m just glad it’s all almost over. Soon enough, we’ll turn our focus to the Mariners, and everything will be right with the world (is a sentence I never thought I’d write in my adult life).

My Least-Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

I’ve been writing about my favorite athletes this week, which naturally led me down a path of thinking about my least-favorite athletes. It’s not as simple of an exercise, though!

For starters, I’m ostensibly a fan of these teams, so I’m not predisposed to hate these players. With my favorites, I had a deep pool of reserves with which to select five guys from each team; but I couldn’t even get to five with Husky football, for instance (and the four I’ve got I’m lukewarm on at best). It also feels weird to say you hate a college athlete. Maybe not as weird anymore, since they’re effectively semi-pro players with salaries and no contracts, who can transfer on the slightest whim. But, more broadly, most of the players I hate – or are otherwise my “least-favorite” – are on other teams. John Stockton, John Elway, Paul O’Neill, Mike Trout, literally anyone who’s ever donned an Oregon Ducks uniform.

I’ll be honest, people in general who wear green and yellow kinda piss me off.

To limit this list to people who’ve played for Seattle sports teams usually means one of two things: either they were high draft picks who faltered spectacularly, or they were high-priced free agents we brought in from an outside organization … who faltered spectacularly. But, here’s where I struggle with this. Because, as I just said, I’m not predisposed to hate these guys, usually my deepest ire is focused on those in power who brought these players here. The GM’s, the college coaches; I dislike Tyrone Willingham more than I dislike any individual college player.

But, I did my best to replicate what I did before. Let’s see if we can wrap it up in two days’ worth of posts.

Husky Football

  • Dylan Morris
  • Jacob Eason
  • Ronnie Fouch
  • Casey (don’t call me Corey) Paus

I’m getting this out of the way, because I’m telling you right now, none of these guys come close to cracking my Top 10. Paus and Fouch were from the dark days of Husky football and they just flat-out stunk. Eason was a hired gun returning home from Georgia and was supposed to lead our last great Husky team under Coach Pete to the playoffs; instead, he had zero touch on his deep ball and led us to a mediocre finish (while Jacob Haener who – by all accounts – actually outplayed him in training camp, was left to transfer to Fresno State, where he was awesome). And Dylan Morris was a recent whipping boy under Jimmy Lake who really had no business starting.

Husky Basketball

  • Jamal Bey
  • Markelle Fultz
  • Abdul Gaddy
  • Ryan Appleby
  • Spencer Hawes

Bey just never developed like he was supposed to. That might be Mike Hopkins’ fault more than anyone. But, he’s also been here for-fucking-ever and seemingly will never leave, which is my nightmare in this era of college athletics where guys transfer to new schools all the time. Why couldn’t we shake this kid? Fultz was a five-star phenom who never lived up to the hype. Gaddy never developed a consistent offensive game, for someone who was the number 2 point guard in the country. Appleby never saw a wild jacked-up three he didn’t automatically shoot (and brick). And Hawes was another one-and-done whose one year was pretty pathetic.

Supersonics

  • Kendall Gill
  • Jim McIlvaine
  • Sarunas Marciulionis
  • Vin Baker
  • Calvin Booth

We’ll get more into Gill and McIlvaine tomorrow. Marciulionis was a shooting guard we brought in for the ill-fated 1994-1995 season. I don’t know if he’s actually as bad as I remember, but I sure didn’t like him at the time. He catches a good portion of the blame for our first round exit that year (with Gill infamously getting the lion’s share). The thing was, he was supposed to be this veteran hot-shot to get us over the hump (after the disaster that was being the first #1 seed to lose in the first round the previous season). Instead, we finished even worse and still lost in the first round. Vin Baker’s a tough case because when we first traded for him, he was awesome. Then, we signed him to a big-money extension, and he went in the tank. We would go on to find out he was an alcoholic with depression issues, so now it feels bad to shit on him. But, those were dark days for us all. Booth was just another in a long line of shitty centers we VASTLY overpaid; you could put nine guys in this spot and I’d loathe them all the same.

Seahawks

  • Jerramy Stevens
  • Kelly Jennings
  • Rick Mirer
  • Germain Ifedi
  • Jimmy Graham

We’ll save Stevens and Jennings for tomorrow. I’ve gone to great lengths to bemoan our fate for being saddled with Mirer, when just one pick earlier we could’ve gotten Drew Bledsoe. But, having the second quarterback in a draft – at the number 2 pick, to boot – should come with a reasonable amount of success! Maybe in another time, we could’ve crafted an offense to properly utilize his running ability. But, the damn guy just couldn’t throw the football, and he set us back for years to come. Ifedi was a mediocre guard we tried to shoehorn into the right tackle spot, to predictably terrible results. And, again, I hate the idea of trading for Jimmy Graham – giving away our elite center in the process – more than I hate the actual player. Of course, his “blocking” style left a lot to be desired, and by the time he got here, he wasn’t the same athlete that he was in New Orleans. Consider it the opening salvo of catering to Russell Wilson’s desires, which torpedoed this franchise for the duration of his tenure here.

Mariners

  • Richie Sexson
  • Chone Figgins
  • Jesus Montero
  • Carlos Silva
  • Justin Smoak

You wanna know where the vast majority of my discontent resides? Look no further! Spoiler alert, we’re going to talk about my Top 10 least-favorite Seattle-based athletes tomorrow, and all five of these Mariners are on the list! This doesn’t even get into Hector Noesi (who might be the worst pitcher of all time), Bobby Ayala (crushed us on the regular out of the bullpen in the mid-to-late 90’s), Eric Byrnes (absolutely worthless), Jarrod Washburn (an overpaid dud), Erik Bedard (we traded a king’s ransom for a Five-And-Diver), Jeff Weaver (got crushed in 2007), Dustin Ackley (“best hitter in the draft” who couldn’t actually hit Major League pitching), Heathcliff Slocumb (cost us two great baseball players and didn’t even improve our bullpen one iota), or the countless other pieces of garbage who we’ve been saddled with over the years for this underachieving organization. It’s taking a lot out of me to not make the entire Top 10 exclusively Seattle Mariners.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a deeper look at those guys and rank them accordingly.

It’s Oregon Week

I mean, if you encompass the entire state of Oregon, we’re on a two-week run here of Oregon schools.

I don’t know if last Friday’s victory at home over the Beavers was “impressve” necessarily, but the Huskies really gutted one out in a weird game. Weird, first of all, that the Beavers were ranked in the Top 25 in the nation; when was the last time we saw that? I don’t care, so don’t answer me.

What are the Beavers nowadays? They used to be kind of interesting and frisky in the Dennis Erickson/Mike Riley eras, where they’d be good-to-mediocre, but every once in a while would spike and be pretty great. They hit a real low point in the mid-2010s, but have since been making slow and steady progress under ex-Chris Petersen OC Jonathan Smith. They went seven bowl-less years until 2021, but now they’re poised to go back-to-back, and heading into this contest, they were slated to make even more noise.

The Huskies managed to shut that down real quick. I’ll be honest, I was annoyed that the Beavers were ranked and we weren’t, even though we had the same overall record. Apparently, there can only be one, so after our 24-21 victory, we took their spot in the low 20’s.

The main reason to come away impressed by this come-from-behind victory is the fact that we 100% would have lost this game under Jimmy Lake. The Beavers never trailed in this one until there were 8 seconds left in the game. They went up 7-0 in the first, we tied it in the second. They took a 14-7 lead just before halftime, we tied it up midway through the third quarter. They went up 21-14 heading into the fourth, we tied it on the very next drive. Then, punts were exchanged until we got the ball back on our own 3 yard line with four and a half minutes left, where we proceeded to drive 92 yards – eating up almost all of the clock – while converting three 3rd downs. This was in a driving wind storm to boot, making even a gimme chip shot field goal no guarantee.

Now, we go to Oregon, the undefeated (in conference) leaders of the Pac-12. They’re in the top 10 in the nation, having only lost on the road to the consensus top team in the world, Georgia Bulldogs.

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, this one looks pretty grim. 2017 was the last time we beat Oregon. 2016 was the last time we won IN Oregon (a delightful 70-21 romp that might have been the best television viewing experience of my life), but I would argue those were down years for Oregon. Certainly 2016 was, when they finished 4-8. Anyway, that appears to be just a blip on their overall record dating back decades now. They’ve owned us, plain and simple. And I can’t see that changing this week.

They’re 11th in rushing yards, 21st in passing yards. We are … exceedingly mediocre on defense overall, and frankly I don’t know what we’re worse at. Our secondary has fallen off a cliff with all the guys going pro last year. And our rush defense hasn’t been worth a damn since Vita Vea and Greg Gaines left us. We don’t get nearly enough of a pass rush to make up the difference against elite offenses, and make no mistake, this is the best offense in the conference we’re going up against. On the road, in one of the most hostile environments to play a football game.

Frankly, the Ducks being favored by 13.5 points feels low. I’d bet that in a heartbeat if I was a money-grubbing swine who had no morals or values.

What the Huskies have going for them is their own offense. If we had a defense that was remotely worth a damn, we could hang with this team. But, I’ll tell you exactly what’s going to happen, because I’ve seen it a thousand-million times in my life.

The Ducks are going to move through us like a hot knife through warm butter. Well, hang on, because first the Ducks are going to win the opening coin toss and they’re going to defer. The Huskies are going to immediately go 3 & Out and punt it away. Then, before you know it, it’ll be 7-0 Ducks. The Huskies will then proceed to start moving the ball, but they’ll stall in the red zone and have to settle for a field goal. The Ducks will then march right back down the field and take a 14-3 lead before the first quarter is done.

Maybe then, we pull it to within 14-10 and that’ll be the high point of our day. From there, the Ducks will go up 21-10, then they’ll generate a turnover. Maybe Penix forces one into coverage, it gets tipped, and they either bring it back to the house, or get it close. The Ducks will go up 28-10, force another punt, and put up a field goal just before halftime to go up 31-10.

The Ducks will be on cruise control in the second half, so offensive domination will give way to a more measured approach that both adds points to their total, while taking more time off the clock. I think the Ducks get to 48 points in this one, though if they really try, they could put up 60. The Huskies might even win the second half on a late garbage-time touchdown, but I don’t think it gets any closer than 48-31. That feels generous, because I’m picturing something in the range of 48-24, if I’m being honest.

Granted, the Huskies have at least been somewhat competitive in recent years against the Ducks, but that was when we were presenting a stout defense against them. We’ve already given up 40+ on the road to UCLA and ASU, though, so why shouldn’t the Ducks – easily better than both of those teams – do at least that much?

This is a good Ducks team. I hate to admit it, because I so desperately want us to kill them, but I’m not getting my hopes up. In my mind, we’ve already lost, and I’m moving on to the Buffaloes.

Frankly, I’m happy to have the distraction of moving, so I don’t have to watch this waking nightmare. I’m even happier to have the distraction of going to see the Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction at Climate Pledge Arena later that night. No one should be forced to sit and watch the Huskies lose to the Ducks. It’s torture akin to the climax of A Clockwork Orange!

The Huskies Are Bowl Eligible

I’m glad I didn’t watch this game. Following along on the radio was nerve-wracking enough!

Also, I’ll say this: fuck the I Heart app and fuck KJR 93.3. First of all, it’s idiotic that we lost KUBE. Second of all, it’s even more idiotic that there’s a sports radio station on the FM band. Third of all, it’s the most fucking ridiculous thing that I can’t get access over my phone to the fucking Washington Huskies game because it thinks I’m out of the area. I was in Gig Fucking Harbor! If I was a 70 year old man who owned an actual radio, I could’ve easily gotten this game over the airwaves. But, for whatever reason I have to jump through nine hoops to get it on the Internet and lo and behold, no dice. Don’t make me download a stupid fucking app. Just let me go to a website on my phone and push a play button; fuckin’ a.

I had to find a random Port Angeles radio station website that had what I was looking for, but it took a good 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Anyway, I hear the Pac-12 Refs were in rare their usual form with some of their bullshit calls. I can’t handle that anymore. There’s enough in this life to be outraged by, I don’t need it with the stupid fucking refs who can’t do their fucking jobs. Some defensive lineman falls down and it’s automatically a holding penalty; what the fuck has the game of football come to?!

For whatever reason, the Huskies always struggle against the Cal defense. I don’t totally get it, because it’s not like they’re destroying everyone they play. Yet, year-in and year-out, they seem to hold our offense down. Now, part of that in recent seasons has been due to whoever the fuck Jimmy Lake put in charge of calling plays, compounded by mis-management of the quarterback position.

This year, we have a competent head coach, an elite offensive system, and a capable quarterback to run the whole thing. Yet, it still seemed like a struggle to get to 28 points! But, we got there – thanks to 14 points in the fourth quarter, to finally open things up – and managed to hold the Golden Bears to 21.

It’s even more impressive when you factor in how the Huskies were up only 6-0 at halftime. The defense finally came to play! Until it didn’t, giving up three TDs to Cal in their first four drives of the second half. But, we managed to stiffen up on their last two drives to hold the score exactly where it was.

Penix threw for 374 more yards (he’s had 300+ in all 8 games this year, a Husky record) and 2 TDs. That came up big, because the running game didn’t have a whole lot to show for it. Jalen McMillan led the way for the receivers with 8 for 81 and a TD.

I know just being bowl eligible isn’t any great accomplishment in college football, but considering we haven’t played in a bowl since 2019, and we haven’t really been a fun team to watch since 2018, this is noteworthy. It’s something to hang our hat on.

The downside to this season, obviously, is that it feels pretty remote that we’ll manage to claw our way to the top two, which is what we’d need to do if we want to play in the conference championship (since they’ve done away with the divisions). We don’t play USC or Utah (who both have one loss, ahead of our 3-2 Pac-12 record), so we can’t make up ground from them without help. We already lost to UCLA (the other one-loss team), so we’ll need them to really fall apart. And Oregon, of course, sits atop with a 4-0 record. Even if we did manage to go down to Oregon and defeat them (no simple task, even with our offense), we’d need them to lose a second game somewhere, and their only other tough game is at home against the Utes.

But, I guess we’d only need to get to the 2-seed, so maybe asking Oregon to lose a second game isn’t a huge priority.

That, of course, all assumes the Huskies manage to go undefeated the rest of the way. Obviously, the game in Eugene is our toughest hurdle in that respect – the other games seem pretty reasonable-to-easy – but as far as I’m concerned, beating the Ducks would be our Super Bowl. I wouldn’t give a shit about any of the other games, as long as we manage to take them down a peg.

For now, the Huskies get a much-needed BYE week. It’s the perfect time in the season; if I had it my way, all the teams would either have their BYEs after game 7 or game 8 (just split all the teams in half and get them all done in a 2-week stretch). Next up, we get a Friday Night game on November 4th, hosting the Beaves. They share our record and they share our BYE week, so there’s no real advantage for either team. I don’t know what they do well, other than beat up on the bad teams and lose to the good teams.

What I do know is that the Ducks have already had their BYE week, and they face back-to-back road games against a couple of pushovers before hosting the Huskies. We’ll have one extra day to prepare for that one, which I like. Every little bit helps.