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.

The Seahawks Hired Ryan Grubb Away From Alabama

There have been a number of interesting moves this offseason when it comes to college coaches bolting for the NFL (or lesser jobs at their own level). There seems to be this segment of college coaches who are tired of all the bullshit that’s required in the game today. And until this nebulous mess eventually gets sorted out and morphs into the semi-pro football league it was always destined to become, I think you’re going to find more and more people trying to get into more stable NFL jobs (and yes, I see the irony there; NFL jobs are anything but stable).

Chip Kelly took a demotion – going from UCLA’s head coach to Ohio State’s offensive coordinator – just to try to escape the drama. Jim Harbaugh left his dream job at Michigan to go back and be a hired gun with the Chargers. And now we have Ryan Grubb – formerly attached to the hip of Kalen DeBoer – leaving one of the most prestigious college programs in Alabama, to do the same job with the Seattle Seahawks.

I like this hire for any number of reasons. First and foremost, I think Ryan Grubb is an excellent offensive coordinator and play-caller. Guys were constantly getting open, and defenses were almost always on their heels trying to figure out a way to counter.

Of course, the question we have to ask ourselves is: can he do it without Michael Penix? I don’t know much about his career before Washington. My hunch is that he was still great, but you never know. An elite quarterback can paper over a lot of questionable calls.

There’s also the challenge of doing it at this level, where the resources are infinite. Teams are eventually going to figure out a way to slow him down. That’s when he’ll need to figure out a way to shift gears and adjust on the fly.

What intrigues me most about this is maybe this is the first step in reuniting him with Penix. The Seahawks have the 16th pick. If things shake out the way we expect, Penix just might be available in that range. I would be elated with this turn of events!

And finally, sticking it to DeBoer and Alabama feels exceedingly satisfying. It hasn’t been the smoothest transition for the Crimson Tide – though, I contend they’ll be just fine in the long run – and this is just another speed bump they have to endure before they get rocking and rolling. Will they suffer any new defections as a result? I hope so!

I couldn’t be happier with how this offseason has gone, from a coaching standpoint. The Seahawks have done everything I would have done if I were in charge of the team. In that sense … I dunno, is that a bad sign? What the hell do I know?! Either this all goes perfectly, and we get right back to our winning ways in a hurry, or it blows up in our faces and we’re left wondering if we know anything about the game of football whatsoever.

Given my history of prognosticating on sports, I’d bet the latter.

The Huskies Hired Steve Belichick To Be The Defensive Coordinator

It’s been a tough last few weeks to be a Husky fan. There was the whole unpleasantness with the National Championship Game, the ensuing coaching carousel, and the myriad of player defections. But, it’s starting to feel like things are turning around a bit.

I’m hearing more about players coming IN rather than players leaving. Maybe not enough for the Huskies to be worth a damn in 2024, but hopefully well-equipped for a bounce-back in 2025.

I also got the chance to listen to Jedd Fisch on the radio last week, as he hopped on the Brock & Salk program. I had kind of avoided a lot of the news when he was originally hired, so this was really my first introduction to our new head coach. It’s not that I don’t believe in him; I think it’s as good of a hire as we could’ve gotten, given the circumstances. What he did in turning around the Wildcats so quickly is nothing short of DeBoer-ian. I’m sure he’s a great coach, great recruiter, and he’ll do excellent work for the University of Washington.

But, I mean, he had one foot already out the door before he even signed on the dotted line. Florida is apparently his dream job, and I’m guessing the moment that becomes available, he’ll be gone. Short of that, I’m sure with even moderate success at Washington, he’ll use it to bounce to the SEC and that’ll be that. I give it three years, tops, and only because this first year is looking to be a little down for Washington.

So, I’m not going into this situation with any delusions that Fisch is going to be here long term. College Football is what it is. It’ll be smart for the University of Washington to have people dedicated to tracking more up-and-coming head coaching candidates for when this needs to happen again.

My take-away from the Fisch radio interview is that I’m actually impressed. He does seem really forthright, even if there’s a used car salesman sort of vibe about him. He said that the whole “interview process” consisted of about a 45-minute phone call. Then, a few hours later, he received a formal offer; that was it! Compare that to what the Seahawks went through before landing on Mike Macdonald, and it’s night & day!

Fisch never once talked about Washington being the be-all, end-all. He never made any promises to be here for the duration. His biggest reason for coming here isn’t the locale or the history or even the recent success; he came to Washington because we’re going to the Big Ten next year, and it’s vitally important to be in either the Big Ten or SEC going forward, if you want to compete with the big dogs.

That’s it. His sales tactic to recruits is as follows: we’re in the Big Ten, we’re running a pro style system (so if you want to go to the NFL, best to get your feet wet here), and we’re going to be willing to play Freshmen (because that’s the only way you’re ever going to manage to KEEP your Freshman, since so many would rather enter the transfer portal than red shirt), even if it means we have to endure the growing pains. The main difference between Fisch and DeBoer appears to be Fisch’s insistence that building through high school players is preferable to trying to poach the transfer portal. Of course, at this point, DeBoer won’t have any trouble getting players any way he wants them. There’s no stopping the Alabama train.

Another feather in the Fisch cap is his connections. He has pretty extensive ties in both college and the pro ranks. That experience and network should work wonders. Which brings us to Steve Belichick, our new defensive coordinator.

Belichick has been calling plays for the New England Patriots under his dad for the last however-many years. It’s been a while. The only reason he wasn’t deemed to be the Defensive Coordinator there is because they also had Head Coach In Waiting Jerod Mayo on the defensive staff, and it appears Bill didn’t want to play favorites.

Regardless, Steve Belichick might’ve been a nepo hire originally, but I think he’s proven himself quite well. Say what you will about the Patriots since Tom Brady left, but their defense has been up to the task of at least keeping them in games. I think this is a phenomenal hire! And I can’t wait to see what it does for our recruiting going forward.

I guess you could say I’m coming around on this whole thing. I still don’t know how good the Huskies will be in 2024. There’s really two pieces to this thing: the recruiting part, and the development part. DeBoer was always known as a superior head coach who needed to work on his recruiting prowess (seems like, if you’re a great coach, and you win all the time, what more do you really need to do to sell yourself?). Fisch, on the other hand, has been lauded for his recruiting. But, he only has one 10-win season under his belt so far as a head coach. Will he have what it takes on fall Saturdays to make up for a temporarily-lacking roster? We’ll find out.

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 Are Busy Building For The Future

We’re in prime Transfer Portal Szn across college football. It’s kind of a shitty time to be a college football fan, when it’s supposed to be the very best time.

College bowl games are the greatest. If it were up to me, I would be off of work right now and dedicating my days to nothing but college football enjoyment and chaos. But, I used up my PTO in admittedly more fun ways, so I just have to settle for what I can get outside of work hours.

But, the bowls are rendered less exciting when there’s so much flux going on across the sport. Guys are opting out to focus on turning pro. Pretty much, unless you’re one of the final four teams, you have to be worried about your biggest stars finishing out their college careers. Then, there are the players who are entering the transfer portal, and the coaches who are taking jobs with other programs.

The Huskies are poised to lose their Special Teams coordinator and defensive edge coach to be the DC at San Diego State. Part of me wonders if that’s the first of many coaches leaving for bigger opportunities elsewhere.

This isn’t something I’m trying to dwell on, though. We’re in the playoffs! We’re the #2 team in the nation, and we have an all-important Sugar Bowl game on January 1st to be concerned with! But, the sport of college football doesn’t stop just because I want it to.

There have been a number of acclaimed players opting to transfer to Washington in the last week or so. We picked up a bigtime DT from Montana State with one year of eligibility, who should help our interior pass rush in 2024. We picked up a potential starter at OT from San Diego State, with 3 years of eligibility, who has all the size and ability you’re looking for. We also picked up a defensive end from ASU who was the co-leader in sacks with 6 for the Sun Devils; he also has one year of eligibility. And, to boot, we picked up a grad transfer linebacker with a year of eligibility.

The Huskies will have a number of openings in 2024. Troy Fautanu, our LT, is likely going pro (and going very high in the draft to boot). Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui are both going pro, severely diminishing our defensive end position. Edefuan Ulofoshio and Ralen Goforth are both out of here. So, there’s immediate openings that these transfers could potentially fill.

But, of course, the elephant in the room is quarterback. Michael Penix is obviously in his final college season. That hole to fill is the size of a thousand Grand Canyons. Dylan Morris has already committed to transferring – apparently not seeing a path to starting for the Huskies barring injuries to his competition – so nabbing a transfer QB was always going to be in the cards.

As it turns out, that transfer QB ended up being Will Rogers, from Mississippi State. He’s thrown for over 12,000 yards in his career (apparently 2nd in SEC history) with 94 TDs and 28 INTs. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

This isn’t necessarily a 100% slam dunk. Rogers played in – and had his biggest success with – Mike Leach’s Air Raid system. His 2023 season was injury-riddled, as well as disappointing as the offensive scheme shifted away from the Air Raid after Leach’s untimely death. He apparently isn’t great at pushing the ball down the field, so it remains to be seen how well he’s going to fit into this system. But, at his best, he’s been accurate and extremely productive. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t be a quality passer for the Huskies next year. But, it’s no guarantee that he will be either.

These moves are all well and good; they appear to be ensuring the strength of the program in both the short and long term. But, the only thing I care about at this time is making sure the Huskies give Kalen DeBoer an extension and a raise. The next thing I’d like to see is for this team to find a way to keep Ryan Grubb in the fold for as long as possible. This only works – this only continues – as long as we can keep our coaching staff intact. I’ve never had an OC this effective since I’ve been a fan of the Huskies, so it’ll definitely be a significant transition when we finally have to move on to someone else; I’d like to delay that as long as humanly possible.

The Huskies Prevented Last Weekend From Being A Total Bust

I think, schedule-wise, this season has set the Huskies up for success so far. Boise State was probably the second-toughest non-conference opponent and playing them in Week 1 was the way to go. It’s a nice little test, and the Huskies passed with flying colors. The Broncos lost a hard-fought game at the last second on a 55-yard field goal to a pretty-good UCF team, otherwise they’re 1-1 and looking formidable in the Mountain West.

Tulsa, who the Huskies beat 43-10 on Saturday, was easily the worst of the three non-conference opponents, and we picked a good game to have to overcome a lot of mistakes. Winning by 33 points – in spite of those mistakes – is about as good as you could expect (tough on the bettors who picked the Dawgs to cover, though).

Michael Penix still had a pretty good game, and I don’t think he did anything to seriously damage his standing in the Heisman Trophy race, but he did throw an ugly pick that probably should’ve been directed elsewhere. Nevertheless, he had 409 yards and 3 TDs on 28/38 passing, which has him sitting fourth in college football in total yards (but two of the players ahead of him have already played in three games). He’s also tied for fourth with 8 TD passes, but again everyone tied or above him have played in three games. He’s still over 70% completions, and his average yards per attempt is at 11.0.

His performance also could’ve been even better, if it weren’t for some uncharacteristic drops from our top two receivers. Jalen McMillan lost a fumble and I think also had a drop, and Rome Odunze had a couple bounce off his hands. They, nevertheless, each topped 100 yards receiving (8 for 120 for McMillan; 7 for 107 for Odunze) and each had a receiving TD (Odunze also ran one in from 14 yards out).

The defense wasn’t all-world or anything, but Kamren Fabiculanan had his second pick in as many games, and we did run into a couple sacks even though we were missing a number of starters (including ZTF, which I very much hope isn’t serious). Again, if you have to sit some guys with nicks and scrapes, this is the game to do it.

The pass defense was rock solid; we held the Tulsa QBs to 85 and 65 yards passing. But, the run defense definitely needs work (40 for 168, for a 4.2 yard average).

Also, the run offense needs a lot of work. We were, again, limited by injuries, but our top two backs only ran for a combined 12 for 48. I get it, this offense runs through the passing game (Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk had two runs for 41 yards and 2 TDs, to inflate our team average), but against that defense, we should’ve had no problem rolling all over them on the ground.

Thankfully, though, we’re 2-0, the passing game looks great, and it feels like we’re picking up right where we left off. This team improved as the 2022 season went along, so to already be at that level is a blessing. There are things this team can work on and improve, and when they do, it’s going to be quite a formidable opponent for any team crossing our path.

Up next, we have our first big non-conference road opponent (not counting Texas in the bowl game) in the Kalen DeBoer era. Last year, we beat Michigan State at home by 11 points, needing to hold on at the end. That Spartans team – at the time – was ranked 11th in the nation; they would go on to finish 5-7. They’re currently 2-0, unranked, and appear to have a new quarterback and running back combo. They’ve won a couple of cupcake games, and now their head coach has been suspended without pay for sexual harassment.

I don’t know what this means for the Huskies, to be honest. Will they be fired up, playing for a backup coach? Will they be deflated because they all kind of think their head coach is a scumbag? Is their head coach even any good? He has an 18-14 record in three seasons (with a win in the Peach Bowl after the 2021 season under his belt, but was that with the previous guy’s players?). How are the fans feeling right now? Well, they’re fans, so there’s probably a significant portion of them who are siding blindly with the coach.

Either way, it’s always tough playing even a mid-tier Power 5 school on the road. Those stadia are humongous and will surely fill to capacity at the opportunity to see not only a Top 10 school (the Huskies stayed at 8th overall this week), but a future league-mate effective next year.

Not knowing anything about the quality of the Michigan State players, I would say this is a game the Huskies should win. We’re, at the moment, favored by 16 points, and it’ll be interesting to see where that line goes as we get to gametime. Last year, we lost two games, both on the road (we were 3-2 in true road games), and both losses were marred by mistakes.

Penix threw 3 picks combined in those losses, and hit on only 65% of his passes. Moreover, those games were ruined by very poor defense (giving up a combined 85 points and 896 yards, while forcing only a combined 3 punts).

On the whole, the Huskies improved as time went on, both in general and with respect to their road performances. We eked one out against Cal, managed to take down a very good Oregon team by 3, and blew out the Cougs at the end. It’s imperative that we take care of business this week.

Win this game – even if it’s ugly – and we’re in very good shape. We’re home for Cal after that (the dreaded 7:30pm start; try not to remember the last time we played them in Husky Stadium during the Pac-12 After Dark slot), on the road for what should be a winnable game against the Wildcats (try not to remember the last time we went to the state of Arizona), then a BYE to prepare us for our showdown with Oregon in mid-October.

These are the games I worry about, though. It can be easy to overlook a team like Michigan State. Our conference slate starts next week, they seem to be a team in disarray, and we’re a high-falutin Top 10 team with a seemingly-indestructable passing attack. If our injured guys aren’t able to return, or if we lose others to injury, and we get off to a slow start and let that crowd assert itself, maybe some weird shit happens and we’re in a second half dogfight that we can’t quite overcome.

I should also point out that I’ll be with my friends, Deckgating and watching the game on their outside television, which … has seen some mixed results in the past during big games. I can’t say for sure if I’m the Bad Luck Guy or not, but we just need some more bites at the apple to prove my addition to the party is safe.

You know what I will say, though? Sort of off-topic, and I hope we never have to see this play out in a game that still matters, but I like what I’ve seen from Dylan Morris in garbage time! I know, it’s garbage time, we’ve amassed a huge lead, and both teams just want to get out of there without any more injuries, but he’s looked good. He’s looked so much better than he did as a starter, and it gives me hope that – next year – when Penix is playing in the NFL, Morris will be able to re-ascend to the starter’s job and keep this train rolling down the tracks! Not that I’m looking beyond the 2023 season, but it’s nice is all I’m saying. Good for him! Good for him for staying and good for us in case we need him.

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!

How Much Longer Will We Have The Pac-12 To Kick Around?

The big news of the week as far as Husky football fans are concerned is they released some of the early-season TV schedules for non-conference games. We’ve got our opener on September 2nd against Boise State on ABC at 12:30pm, which sounds pretty nice. I’m assuming that’s still going to be a regional game – and the vast majority of the country will have some other game on that network – but, you know, exposure is exposure. It beats the Pac-12 Network, which practically nobody has or gives a shit about.

The point of contention came with our marquee non-conference opponent – Michigan State, on the road – and the decision by the Big 10 to relegate that game to the Peacock streaming service. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have Peacock. I don’t have the numbers either, but I don’t think a significant portion of America – or the college football-viewing public – has Peacock either; it’s not one of the more popular streamers out there. It’s not Netflix or Hulu or Max or Prime Video or Apple TV or YouTube or Disney+ or even Paramount+. That’s just off the top of my head, but I just now looked it up and according to FlixPatrol.com, Peacock is 18th most popular streaming service, with around 22 million people having it worldwide. That’s … not super great.

At first, people were upset because it felt like another Pac-12 blunder. But, really, it wasn’t our call, and that arguably makes it worse. Now, granted, maybe this is a Michigan State thing. They might not be good. So, why would the Big 10 want to promote an inferior program when they might get slaughtered by an opponent from an objectively-inferior conference? But, from a business standpoint, I’m guessing it has nothing to do with how good or bad Michigan State is, and it has everything to do with lack of interest in the Pac-12 football schools outside of the L.A. market (which, as we all know, is moving to the Big 10 in 2024). From a national perspective, no one gives a shit about the Pac-12; that’s a given. Call it East Coast Bias or SEC Bias or whatever you want, but it’s a fact that we’re often overlooked, and all we’re really good for is a late-night football option (Pac-12 After Dark) when all the other markets are comfortably in their homes getting ready for bed.

But, there’s also arguably just as big of a problem with lack of interest in Pac-12 football within the Pac-12 media landscape. Now, obviously, go to any school and you’ll find rabid football fans who live and die with every play. But, the Pac-12 – by and large – doesn’t pack ’em in on Saturdays the way they do in other parts of the country. You can dismiss that by saying, “What else do they have to do in Alabama or Michigan or Texas?” and I’ll agree with you. But, they could have all the activities in the world to do around various SEC and Big 10 programs, and you’d still find their stadia packed to the gills week-in and week-out. And, more importantly, you’d still find those fans at home watching their games in record numbers, which you just don’t see with Pac-12 schools.

Which is why the next Pac-12 media deal is going to suck balls. Nobody wants our games, again, unless it’s for those late night hours – and you happen to be an all-sports network – and you just need live bodies to fill that particular timeslot. But, they don’t want to put us on at a reasonable prime afternoon hour. Not unless they can lowball us. What incentive do they have, with the L.A. schools jumping ship? Adding SMU and San Diego State? Big Fucking Deal!

It’s just a shame there isn’t a centralized company – like the NCAA, for instance – to enforce geographical divisions and provide a proper playoff system based on achievement within those divisions. What we have to do now is go through the motions of whatever embarrassing TV rights deal we’re going to have to swallow – for another 7-10 years – before it all inevitably gets blown up anyway, because that’s just where this thing is headed. We have to pretend like the Pac-12 matters in the grand scheme of college football. We have to act like this conference isn’t going to totally dissolve, with various schools going to the Big-12 or Big 10 or wherever the fuck.

If the Pac-12 does survive beyond this next media deal, it’s not going to look anything like it does now, or will look after next year. It’s going to be the lesser state schools in Washington and Oregon, maybe the Arizona schools (if one or both don’t jump to the Big-12), and then the likes of … San Diego State, Boise State, Utah State, Colorado State, Fresno State, UNLV. Essentially, it’s going to be the Sun Belt West, for all intents and purposes.

So, where does that leave Washington?

I can’t say I’m super encouraged. I wish I was. We’re clearly a vastly superior program compared to those Sun Belt West schools I just listed. We’re in a solid mid-range media market, with a good amount of money and tech sector people to bolster our footprint. But, we’re not Oregon. We don’t have that national name-recognition that Nike Boy has forked over for in these last few decades. And Seattle isn’t the Bay Area. Washington has a better football program – and a more significant history in college football – than either Cal or Stanford, but I would wonder if those schools don’t also have priority. I could see Cal kind of lowering itself to play among the other UC schools; I could see Stanford maybe going independent. But, if they’re committed to playing in a power conference, given their academic pedigree and reputation, I dunno.

I actually think this 2023 season is vitally important to Washington’s future. There is A LOT of hype and expectations around this team. Michael Penix is a legit Heisman Trophy candidate heading into the year. Kalen DeBoer has a tried and true offensive system that makes for exciting and winning football. Everyone involved just got PAID (key players and coaches, anyway), and we’re really making a run at a conference title and hopefully a playoff berth. We finished in the Top 10 last year, and will either start there again, or be mystifyingly snubbed (but, at the very least, still in the Top 15).

But, none of that matters. What matters is taking care of business on the football field. If Penix gets off to a slow start (or, God forbid, gets injured and misses a few games) and his Heisman Trophy hopes are dashed before they even really get going, that’s a lot of focus that’s going to immediately get turned away from our program. If we lose a game or two that we should probably win, then that’s going to kill our playoff chances – again – before they even begin. Hence why I’m thinking about that Michigan State game. That’s a game we should win. But, it’s on the road, and we don’t know what kind of improvements the Spartans are going to make from last year to this year.

The brutal truth is that – even if we do start out fine, and win the games we’re supposed to win – as a member of the Pac-12 – even a member with the L.A. schools for one more season – our margin for error is razor thin. Remember, the playoff expansion doesn’t start until 2024. So, there’s still just the four teams, and no guarantee for any conference champion outside of the SEC and probably the Big 10 (no literal guarantee, anyway, but we all know the best teams from those conferences make it in every year).

How did we make it into the playoffs in 2016? Well, we only lost once, and it happened to be to a red-hot USC team that only failed to make the Pac-12 Championship Game because of early-season stumbles (but still managed to finish ranked ahead of us in the AP Poll at season’s end). Can we do that again in 2023? Can we finish with one loss? Seems like a tall order, with road games against USC (who probably has THE Heisman frontrunner in Caleb Williams) and Oregon State (a team very much on the rise) – along with Stanford, who always seems to bite us in the ass when we least expect it – and home games against Utah and Oregon. Also seems like a big ask for a Washington school who doesn’t have nearly the amount of defensive talent that we did in the Chris Petersen era.

There’s a very remote universe out there where the Huskies realize all of their greatest dreams and end up in the final four, maybe even sneaking into a National Championship Game. But, the odds are far more likely that this season doesn’t go the way we hope. I think – barring key injuries – we’ll still be good. But, maybe more in the 9-3 or 8-4 realm. Maybe we’re fighting for a spot in the conference title game in November, but for whatever reason it doesn’t shake out that way.

In the ideal scenario, there’s a lot of hope for a Washington program that makes a big impact on a national stage. That school is coveted by the Big 10. Maybe that school gets to call its shot on where it wants to go after the Pac-12 blows up entirely or deflates into the Sun Belt West.

But if, as expected, Washington just does sort of okay, I don’t know that they automatically get to go to wherever Oregon ends up. I don’t know if we get to keep that key and super fun rivalry long term. I think we end up being a little disappointed about where we land, while trying to talk ourselves into why it’s a good idea to be the biggest fish in the Sun Belt West pond.

As always, it’s sad to think about where college football is going. For a lot of fans, it’s exciting to see it become this semi-pro league with legitimate playoffs and lots of glory for all the Haves of America. But, I’m coming to grips with what’s going to happen to the Have Nots, while at the same time extremely nervous that my school is going to be left in the dust.

So, I’m going into the 2023 season with sky-high expectations. I’m letting my hopes and dreams get the best of me. I’m going into each game on pins and needles, living and dying with every positive and negative play.

Our very future might just depend on it.

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.

The Huskies Handled The Longhorns In The Alamo Bowl

Nothing felt right about the 8-4 Texas Longhorns being favored by 3 points over the 10-2 Washington Huskies. At best, you could call this a de facto home game for the Austin-based school – a mere 75 minutes away from the San Antonio-based bowl – but I would argue there was a significant talent discrepancy which was only overwhelmed by the gargantuan Want To discrepancy.

I couldn’t possibly keep track of all the perfectly healthy Texas players who opted to NOT play in this game, because they’re certain to be drafted into the NFL next year and would rather save their bodies than play in this meaningless game. We’re talking about really impactful players! I want to say not one but two of their best running backs sat out, and I think the broadcast mentioned a good pass rushing linebacker to boot? That would prove pivotal in this particular game; who knows, it might’ve actually meant the difference between the loss they ended up suffering, and a win they can only dream about.

I can count on zero hands the number of Huskies who opted out of this game, because that number is zero. I wouldn’t have faulted someone like Michael Penix from sitting this one out, but that was before he announced he was coming back for the 2023 season. The Dawgs were indeed as close to full strength as we’ve ever been, less a Cameron Davis injury late in bowl week practice that was only major enough to sit him in this game, but isn’t supposed to cost him next year. Losing our second-best running back isn’t really all that impactful in the grand scheme of things.

I believe a lot of money came in late on the Huskies, as the moneyline payout went down ever-so-slightly. A lot of east coast fucks probably took a bath on this one; that’s what you get for ignoring the Pac-12 this year!

Probably best not to throw stones, for those of us who hammered the over REALLY got snookered!

My big question heading into this one was: how good is Texas’ defense? That was probably my biggest concern. I figured they’d be good-enough moving the ball, and the Huskies are going to be in any game so long as Michael Penix is behind the center. But, if their defense gave us fits, how would we respond? I don’t know if the Huskies had played a truly great defense this year. Probably Oregon State was the best, and you saw how we barely eked out that one.

It never occurred to me that the Husky defense might step up in a big way! Granted, their top receiver Xavier Worthy was KILLING them with drops – including what would’ve been a breakaway touchdown in the second half – but I saw some improved coverage, I saw a drastic decrease in yards after contact/yards after reception with stout tackling, and I saw a good amount of quarterback pressure to keep him off-the-mark on just enough throws to limit them to 6/15 on third downs (2/3 on fourth downs).

That added up to a ragged-as-hell first half. The Huskies finished the game 11/20 on third downs (2/3 on fourth downs), but a lot of that came in the second half. We were limited to a 13-3 lead at the break, with a number of poor throws, costly drops, and baffling referee decisions sprinkled in. There was one long third down would-be conversion we should’ve had – where their guy CLEAR AS FUCKING DAY grabbed our receiver’s jersey in a blatant pass interference move to prevent a huge gain, only to get a no-call from these blind as bats fucking refs. And the Rome Odunze butter fingers moment in the endzone sure looked like it might loom large just before the break, costing us 4 points in the process.

What really saved us and kept us afloat was the production of running back Wayne Taulapapa, who had the only touchdown of the first half on a 42-yard scamper down the left sideline. He ended the game with 108 yards on only 14 carries, and was really gashing them throughout. Richard Newton took on backup duties and had a workmanlike 44 yards on 11 carries.

Both teams came out to play some offense in the second half. The Longhorns marched right down the field to make it 13-10, but the Huskies finally woke up as well. Things were looking dicey as it appeared we might go 3 & Out and shift momentum completely, but we converted a 4th & 1 on our own 34 yard line with a Penix sneak (where it looked like we might just take the delay of game penalty and punt, after not getting them to jump offsides). That propelled us to convert that drive into a nifty touchdown pass to Taj Davis, and we were off to the races from there.

After forcing them to punt, we marched right down the field again to make it 27-10, thanks to an incredible shoe-string catch by Jalen McMillan. Those two touchdown drives were 13 plays and 14 plays, respectively. 75 yards and 90 yards, respectively. 5:47 and 6:57, respectively. Just taking the absolute wind out of their sails. Sure, the Longhorns followed up that second touchdown with one of their own – to make it 27-17 – but by then we were in the meaty part of the fourth quarter, and content to sit on the ball and convert third downs, move the chains, and drain clock. Our subsequent drive ended on downs, but it was still another 13 plays and 5:29 off the clock. Texas got the ball back with just over 4 minutes remaining and needed over half of that just to go 55 yards on 10 plays to convert a field goal to make it 27-20. With 1:40 remaining, we bled their final two time outs, and ran it down to 25 seconds, where they took over on their own 16 yard line, unable to do anything.

That’s precision. That’s execution. That’s a methodical, veteran victory over a marquee football team in the NCAA landscape, against our former head coach (Sark) and our former defensive coordinator (Pete Kwiatkowski). When you think of Kalen DeBoer, you think of awesome passing attack and high-flying offense. But, what you also get is a complete head coach who pushes the right buttons, is aggressive when this team needs him to be, and is smart and conservative when it means our victory is all but certain.

That last drive is a perfect example. How many coaches out there would’ve thrown on one of those downs – especially after we were stuffed on the first play – in order to salt the game away and make a name for himself? Or, take the drive(s) before that. How many up-tempo offenses would’ve caved? Would have given the ball back to Texas with too much time left on the clock? The drive where we gave it up on downs was quietly one of the most critical of the entire game! We took five and a half minutes from them! That’s what great teams do: amass a double-digit lead, then you fucking sit on them and bleed them dry! Don’t give them any opportunity to weasel their way back in the game. FINISH THEM.

We’ve seen the Huskies win a lot of different ways this year, en route to an 11-2 finish. We’ve seen huge blowouts, we’ve seen back-and-forth scoring festivals, we’ve seen tough and gritty low-scoring nailbiters. I think that’s what impresses me most about this team: its adaptability. If we just got a LITTLE bit more out of our defense, we could really do something with this squad.

Without taking anything away – because an 11-win season in the Pac-12 is always impressive – I will say there’s a lot of unknown, but also a lot to look forward to. We beat the Oregon schools, which was impressive, but we lost to UCLA (I refuse to even bring up the other shit school we lost to) and we didn’t even play the Utes or Trojans (our Pac-12 Championship Game representatives). It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t slide into a New Year’s Six bowl, because I’d REALLY like to see what this team could do against the best of the best. I would not put the Texas Longhorns in that tier, for many reasons.

Next year, we don’t have that luxury. Next year, we do play the Utes and Trojans (USC on the road). We avoid Colorado (in full-on rebuild mode with Deion Sanders at the helm) and UCLA (unclear if their quarterback is returning, or if they’ll be worth a damn at all). When you factor in a non-conference road game against Michigan State, there will be every opportunity to prove ourselves.

What we haven’t seen in a while is a Husky team with sky-high expectations. We’ll be major players in the non-conference rankings! We might be as high as the Top 10, we might be snubbed with a slot in the teens, but we’ll be in there somewhere. I think 2017 was the last time we headed into the season in the Top 10; we made it as high as #5 (with our 6-0 start) before losing to the fucking team that shall not be fucking named.

While we all loved those Coach Pete teams – we got to play in our first-ever playoff game, which I attended in Atlanta against Alabama! – there were faults with that offense in big games. So far, I’ve seen none of those issues under Kalen DeBoer and Michael Penix’s leadership. This offense is ready to play with everyone, and I can’t wait to see what we look like next year. Full season AND full offseason under our belts? Watch out, college football!