What I’ll Be Watching In The Seahawks/Kansas City Game Tonight

Obviously, first and foremost, I’m gonna need no more demoralizing, soul-crushing injuries.  Okay?  This is obviously the big tune up before the regular season, where the starters play into the third quarter, and I just don’t fucking need the hassle.

With that obvious caveat out of the way, let’s talk about some shit.

I think we’re all pretty interested in the goings on of the offensive line, am I right?  In a vacuum, I think we’d like to see these guys take care of business, but this game features a pretty big test.  These aren’t your 2012 Chiefs; this front seven is for real.  Particularly off the edge, which means the spotlights are going to be shining pretty bright on Ifedi and Odhiambo.

No one is questioning Ifedi’s run blocking ability, but the dude needs to take a big step forward in his footwork and his balance in pass protection.  Too often he’s slow and too often he’s caught lunging at defenders, allowing them to swim right past him.  I don’t know how much Justin Houston or Dee Ford will play, but those guys are animals and I could see them giving us fits.

Pretty much everyone is questioning everything about Odhiambo’s game.  This guy is a virtual unknown when it comes to game action, and what little we have seen hasn’t been all that impressive.  I’m curious to see how he looks after a week as the starting left tackle, getting the lion’s share of the reps, and going into this game with the mindset of a starter.  I think it could be easy to get overwhelmed when you’re dumped into the fire in the middle of a game after the first team guy gets injured.  I mean, let’s face it, if Odhiambo was gearing up to play left tackle heading into last week, I’m sure he was preparing to go up against second and third teamers towards the end of the game.  I doubt he was going to be considered for action with Russell Wilson and Co. still in the game.

I have a very low bar for Odhiambo to clear here:

  1. Don’t get Russell hurt.
  2. Just be better than George Fant was in 2016.

See, I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  I’m not even saying, “Don’t let Russell get hit,” although that would be nice.  I’m just saying don’t let him get HURT.  If that means playing well, then obviously I’d take it.  If that means praying to your lord and savior, then do what you gotta do, but if we leave this game with Russell in any way shape or form at a reduced capacity, I’m going to be very upset.  And you don’t want to see me when I’m very upset (a lot of crying and ice cream eating).

Ultimately, I don’t even think 2016 George Fant was the worst starting left tackle I’ve ever seen (I might save that distinction for Brad Sowell, or some of the turds who took over for Walter Jones in the immediate aftermath of his career-ending knee injuries), but he was pretty bad.  What he had going for him was inexperience, in that once he gained a little experience, you had to figure you’d see some dividends paid.  Odhiambo at least has a pretty good amount of college experience.  He also has a year in the Seahawks’ system.  He’s not a rookie anymore, even though this is his first year starting.  He got out of 2016 healthy, should’ve put the work in in the weight room over the offseason, and ostensibly should be in the best shape of his life.  The fact that I haven’t read any stories like that is certainly cause for concern (that maybe he DIDN’T, in fact, put in the work in the weight room, and ISN’T in the best shape of his life), but I would have to think he’s at least somewhat stronger than he was as a rookie.

So, it’s all out there for him.  Just be better than 2016 Fant.  That SHOULD be good enough to get the job done, from a winning football team perspective.

With all the focus on the tackles, I’m going to just take for granted that the interior of the line will be fine.  No injury setbacks for Joeckel, Britt won’t dive at any other teammates’ legs, and the battle of Glowinski vs. Aboushi will finally be settled.  And maybe, just maybe, Ethan Pocic will force this team’s hand to start him as a rookie (though, based on his shaky performance last week, that seems unlikely).

It’s really kind of a bummer that we’ve got to face the Chiefs this week, as they figure to have a Top 10 defense this season.  Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge heading into the regular season, but I also don’t like my players getting beaten up in a meaningless game.

Take, for instance, the running game.  I have no idea what’s going on with these running backs, but from what I’ve gleaned it sounds like both Rawls AND Prosise will be out for this game.  For those keeping track, Rawls played in the first game, got injured, and is still out; Prosise hasn’t even done that much.  I mean, at this point, it’s pretty silly to consider the running back position anything but a collosal letdown.  With roster spots at such a premium on this team, how can you afford to keep both of these guys when they can’t stay healthy for more than a game or two at a time?

Are we really going to drop perfectly good backs in Alex Collins and Mike Davis – workhorse types who bring a lot of different skills to the table, who also DON’T get injured every fucking week – just to keep around dynamic glass figurines in Prosise and Rawls?  I mean, yeah, I LOVE what those two can do with the football in their hands.  I think they’re both very special talents who could be Pro Bowlers in an alternate universe where they weren’t as soft as tissue paper.  But, we’re stuck in this stupid reality, and in this stupid reality Prosise and Rawls can’t be trusted.  Ipso facto, I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I think the team should cut them both so we can move on with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of wondering if those guys are going to come back next week or not.

Since that’ll never happen in a million years, I’ll be curious to see what Lacy and Carson can do.  Chris Carson might not be the most talented back on this roster right now, but I’m still putting it out there that I think he’ll be this team’s feature back in 2018.  I don’t even think that’s very hot of a take, to be honest!  I don’t think Lacy is all that good.  Sure, he’s a battering ram, and it’ll be fun to watch him wear defenses down in games where we’re leading comfortably in the fourth quarter, but Lacy isn’t talented enough to be a feature back.  I think he’ll struggle for the most part this year and he’ll find his way onto a different roster in 2018.  At that point, it’ll come down to Carson (who I figure will play quite a bit this year, with all the injuries & ineffectiveness ahead of him on the depth chart) vs. the dainty flowers that are Rawls and Prosise.  No contest.  Carson in 2018!

As for the rest of the offense, I’d like to see Jimmy Graham get zero snaps this week.  I’d like to see Doug Baldwin get very limited snaps (but, I’d also like to see him make Marcus Peters look foolish just once, because I like seeing Doug beat the best this league has to offer).  I’d like to see Kasen Williams get a TON of snaps with the first team offense, in hopes of building more of a rapport with Russell.  I’d also like to see J.D. McKissic get some play with the first unit.  See if he can play that Prosise role we keep talking about.  With his return ability (in spite of his muff last week), I’m really rooting for McKissic to crack the 53-man roster.

Defensively, I’m always drawn to the younger guys.  Naz Jones, first and foremost; I’d like to see him continue to build off of his first two games, which were both brilliant.  I’d like to see him get a lot of play next to Jarran Reed in the base defense, and I’d like to see both of those guys get some play in passing situations to see what they have to offer in pass rush up the middle.

Obviously, I’ll be watching Shaq Griffin.  He was picked on a lot last week, and I have to figure we’ll see more of the same again this week.  Of course, this is Alex Smith we’re talking about, so I have to wonder how much he’s actually going to throw to his wide receivers, but I have to believe it’s higher than zero times.  I can pretty much guarantee he won’t throw on Sherman though, so whatever poor sap the Chiefs line up on his side is going to have a quiet, boring day.

I’d also like to see some of our younger safeties get in there against KC’s first unit.  Kam and Earl don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they’re good.  I’d be happy as a clam if they didn’t play a minute of this game.  On top of that, I’d like to see more of the free agent vets we’ve brought in:  Bradley McDougald and Tramaine Brock.  They need run with the first unit to better understand our system, and for the coaches to determine what they can do for this team.

I also find the battle for the last couple spots on the D-Line pretty fascinating.  Cassius Marsh is going into the final year of his rookie deal, and normally he’s been a beast in the pre-season.  But, he’s also normally been going against backups.  I’d like to see Marsh get more extensive play in the first half (again, guys like Avril and Bennett really don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they good), and I’d like to see him really step up and earn a spot on this team.  Not just because he’s a good special teamer, but because he’s a weapon we can use in our pass rush package in games that matter!  Also, guys like David Bass, Marcus Smith, and Rodney Coe are probably all fighting for one roster spot.  They more they can do, at more positions along the line, the better their chances of making this team and contributing this season.

Finally, I want more of that shit-talking, fired up Blair Walsh shoving 50-yard field goals down opposing throats (but I’ll settle for him quietly going about his business, as long as he keeps making his kicks).

Big test in this one.  Honestly, this should be one of the best matchups of the entire pre-season, based on the quality of these two teams.  Both Seattle and Kansas City figure to be fighting for spots in their respective conference championship games, and quite frankly both of these teams COULD meet in the Super Bowl if everything breaks right.  I expect a hard-fought, tight battle of defenses through all four quarters, with infrequent bouts of offensive competence.

So, can you imagine how exciting it would be if the Seahawks go out there and kick their teeth in?

Husky Football Starts Tonight At Boise State

The Broncos are ranked in the top 25 in both polls; the Huskies are not.  That’s pretty much what you need to know about the game tonight.

Not a lot of people very high on the Washington Husky football team this year.  I think too much is made of all the defensive studs who left after last year.  Yeah, Shaq and Kikaha and Peters and Shelton were all great, but that defense as a whole last year was pretty underwhelming.  If the 2015 Huskies are bad, it won’t necessarily be exclusively the fault of the defense.

As usual, it comes down to quarterback play.  This year, we’ll be without Cyler Miles.  Say what you will about him, but if he were healthy and in a football frame of mind, he’d be the clear best option.  Now, does that mean he’d be any good?  Or that he has very much upside?  I don’t think so.  If you feel like this Husky team is in more of a rebuilding mode for 2015 regardless of whether or not Miles was going to be here, then it’s probably for the best that he’s not.  Let’s see who else we have on the roster; let’s see if – by season’s end – we haven’t found a star in our midst.

The 3-way battle – between Junior, Jeff Lindquist; Redshirt Freshman, K.J. Carta-Samuels; and True Freshman, Jake Browning – has all boiled down to tonight.  The coaches haven’t named a starter, but it would appear Browning is going to get the first crack at it.  I still don’t fully believe the team is going to stick to just one quarterback, as I think at least two will get regular play.  Browning is probably the better passer and quarterback overall, but he’s straight out of high school.  Ultimately, the move to burn his redshirt will probably be a huge mistake.  I tend to agree with the concept that true freshmen should never play bigtime college football; ALL of them should be given a year to adapt to college life, and get bigger and stronger.  The concern is really twofold though, when you’re talking about a highly touted talent like Browning.  The most likely scenario is:  he struggles, he loses his confidence, he gets injured, or some combination of the three.  The flipside of that is:  maybe he succeeds and ends up as this team’s starting quarterback for 3-4 years, but maybe he’s not quite as great as he could be, and when we get to the end of his college career – right as he’d be about to explode as one of the best players in the conference – he’s forced into turning pro before we get a chance at having him play his very best ball.

Obviously, that second scenario is a good problem to have, because it likely means we’ve had a successful 3-4 years.  But, I think we can all agree – however this turns out – 5th Year Senior Jake Browning would be a much better player than 4th Year Senior Jake Browning.

If you want my prediction, I think Browning does start tonight, and I think he does struggle during his true freshman campaign.  I also think he gets hit with the injury bug, because there’s no way I’m ever going to trust a Husky offensive line until they finally prove it to me.  The O-Line has been an issue for at least a decade now, and while help should be on the horizon with some of the better recruits we’ve gotten under Coach Pete, I don’t anticipate the O-Line being much of a strength in 2015.  Even if Browning doesn’t get injured, I still believe Lindquist will have his share of reps.  Maybe he comes in for a drive or two per game.  Maybe he has a sub package where we can utilize his running ability and/or cannon arm.

Either way, though, I don’t expect 2015 to be a banner year for the quarterback position.  Which is why I tend to believe this Husky team is going to struggle.  A lot.

At the moment, the Huskies have six ranked teams on their schedule – Boise St., USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona St.  That doesn’t include a very tough Utah team, an improving California team, a road game against Oregon State, and an Apple Cup against what I feel will be an explosive Washington State team.  As it stands right now, the Huskies are favored to win 4 games, and two of those games are against non-conference duds.  Most of the betting public has the Huskies winning anywhere from 4-5 games; I think five wins might be pretty generous.  I can envision a scenario where the Huskies get beat by the entire Pac-12 and finish last in the conference (unfortunately, no Colorado on the schedule this year).

Did I mention John Ross is out for the year, and we haven’t even played a game?

I don’t see much of any hope for this team making a bowl game, but if they do, it starts tonight.  The Huskies will have to run the table in the non-conference schedule, and follow that up with a home win against the Bears.  That puts us at 4-0, which is where we’ll need to be, because I guarantee we’re going to lose at least the next three games (@ USC, home vs. Oregon, @ Stanford).  We follow that stretch with two home games against Arizona and Utah; we have to win 1 of those 2.  That should give us 2 quality wins, which sets us up for getting pounded down at Arizona State, followed by winning the last two, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State.  That gets us to 7 wins, and 7 wins probably gets us a bowl.  If these Huskies are like the Husky teams of the last five years, that’s exactly what they’ll do and it’ll be like Sark never left (except, I guess there’s now more booze for the rest of us to share).

But, I hardly see that happening.  For this team to be reasonably good, we’re going to need steady play from our receivers.  Mickens is going to have to be a true #1 receiver, and Pettis will need to take a step up after a promising Freshman season.

We’re going to need to lean HEAVILY on our running game.  One of Coleman, Cooper, or Washington will have to step up and be a huge force for this team.

The defense will need to not be a wet paper bag.  Gonna have to find a way to bend & not break.  The secondary has a lot of talent, but who knows if the front seven is going to get enough push to let them do their thing?

And the quarterback is going to need to be more than just a game manager who avoids turnovers.  Make no mistake, he will NEED to avoid turnovers, but he also better be someone who’s got that clutchness gene.  This isn’t going to be a Husky team that rampages through the conference.  If this team is going to win games, it’s going to win CLOSE games.

Gun to my head:  I’m going with the majority and saying the Huskies win 4 games.  I think we’re for sure going to lose tonight, and I have a bad feeling it’s going to be by a lot of points.  I think half our wins come from the non-conference duds, our third win probably comes from either Cal or Utah, and our last win happens at Oregon State (here’s to hoping they’re a total trainwreck and keep us from being last).  For what it’s worth, I think the Cougars beat us in the Apple Cup and I think Luke Falk ends up being the next Ryan Leaf (in other words, a good thing for the Cougs, and a very bad thing for whoever drafts him #2 overall in the NFL).

In Coach Pete We Trust?  Maybe in 2016.

The First Round of the NFL Draft Happened Yesterday

You’ll notice how little of it applied to the Seattle Seahawks.  Quick Reminder:  Jimmy Graham.

The real story of yesterday ended up being the three players picked from the University of Washington.  Danny Shelton kicked it off for us, going 12th to the Cleveland Browns.  He was the first interior defensive lineman taken and projects to be a BEAST.  If he tops out at a Sam Adams level, I think the Browns would be ecstatic.

Next up, at 18, the Kansas City Chiefs took Marcus Peters.  This almost feels like cheating, considering the Huskies kicked him off the team and everything.  Is he REALLY a Husky, or is he more accurately an ex-Husky who finished his college career as an unemployed independent contractor?  I mean, for better or for worse, when they list the college for Russell Wilson, they’re not listing NC State, even though he spent the bulk of his time there.  Anyway, Peters was the third corner taken, but arguably has the highest grade based on talent alone.  Obviously, getting kicked off the team – and the reasons therein – didn’t help matters.  But, landing in the Top 20 is pretty damn good all things considered.

Finally, probably the biggest surprise of the first round (aside from the general lack of trading that went down) had Carolina taking Shaq Thompson at 25.  Seems a little high to take a weakside linebacker – and a LOT high to take someone who arguably doesn’t have a set position whatsoever – but with his raw talent, you gotta figure a smart organization will plug him in and sort of re-work the defense around him to utilize his talents to their fullest.  Admittedly, I’m not super high on Thompson’s pro potential – at least, compared to the Huskies who went before him – but the kid’s got gifts.  At the very least, you know you’re getting a special teams dynamo (which, obviously, isn’t something you draft for in the first round, but at least you’ll know you’re not getting a total all-around bust either).

The University of Washington had the most players selected on Day 1 of any school in the nation.  I suppose that speaks more to Sark’s abilities as a recruiter, but it still looks good for the program in general.  The Huskies also went a long way towards the Pac-12 dominance we saw, as our conference tied the ACC with 9 picks each (ahead of the SEC’s 7, for what it’s worth).  The Pac-12 for football isn’t NEARLY as disrespected as the Pac-12 is for men’s basketball, but you can’t help feeling somewhat ignored by the national media when it comes to bowl season.  Not for nothing, but you have to wonder how the Pac-12 would fare if Oregon was just another mediocre program (still doesn’t mean I’d ever root for them under any circumstances – up to and including an Oregon victory preventing the end of the world – but it’s interesting to think about).

From a Seahawks perspective, it’s nice seeing 4 of the top 6 draft picks going to AFC teams.  Those players, you figure, are the cream of the crop, so it’s nice keeping them out of our hair for the most part.

The Rams took Todd Gurley, so prepare for dozens upon dozens of Hans & Franz “Gurley Man” references.  He’s an elite – top 5 level – running back talent if he ever returns to 100% following his injury.  Or, he’s a Reggie Bush type who will flash greatness in between bouts in the training room.  He doesn’t really scare me too much considering the Rams apparently have a God-awful offensive line.  Nick Foles makes the Rams much more interesting, but again, you have to wonder how good he’s going to be with that line and his team’s overall lack of weapons to throw to.  I don’t know if that pick moves the needle too much from their 8-8 baseline.

The 49ers traded back and took a defensive end out of Oregon.  That franchise is a mess right now, so don’t be shocked if this guy flames out hard.

The Cardinals took an offensive lineman which is absolutely the right thing for them to do.  It’s not like they’re going to find their quarterback of the future with the 24th pick, so you might as well do everything in your power to keep what quarterbacks you do have healthy and upright.  I don’t like living in this world where Arizona knows what it’s doing on draft day, combined with some whip-smart coaching that’s able to turn moderately-talented individuals into NFL studs.  Let’s hope more misfortune befalls this organization, for all of our sakes.

The Seahawks don’t pick until the 31st pick of the second round later today.  Rumors abound of the Seahawks trading up (as we have approximately a million picks in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds), so I guess we’ll see.  Could be a long, boring few hours, as the Seahawks technically only have two picks today before their nine picks tomorrow.

The Washington Way, Or The Chris Petersen Way

This week, Marcus Peters was kicked off the team.  Either you think it’s a good thing – because he’s likely a bad apple – or you think it’s a bad thing – because he’s a really good football player.

I mean, who gets kicked off of a football team without breaking some law or otherwise getting arrested?  Maybe this happens more than I realize and I just don’t pay attention, but I assure you, college football teams aren’t in the market of throwing away first round draft picks.  That’s not how you win football games.

I don’t know what happened.  No one but the people on the Washington Huskies football team knows what happened, and we likely never will.  We know that there were a number of incidents leading up to this, and apparently there was some straw that broke the camel’s back this week.  There was the apparent sideline tirade during the Eastern Washington game that resulted in a 1-game suspension the following week.  But, other than that, we don’t have a concrete idea of what he’s like as a teammate.

I mean, no one had a problem with Marcus Peters last year, did they?

In the short term, yeah, this sucks.  I was really hoping we’d find a way to beat UCLA, and this puts a serious damper on our chances.  But, let’s face it, it’s not like the Huskies were going anywhere this year.  Having Marcus Peters on our team isn’t going to result in a magic wormhole opening up where we’re all transplanted into another universe where the Huskies are competing for the Pac-12 championship.  We’re 2-3!  There are 8 teams ahead of us in the conference standings!

Likewise, losing Marcus Peters isn’t going to prevent us from going to a bowl game.  We need one more win.  We happen to play both Oregon State and Washington State to close out the season.  That 7th victory is coming regardless.

So, this move doesn’t really impact this season too much, if we’re being honest.  But, really, this move was never really about this season.

This is one of those statement moves.  You have to wonder – if the Huskies were 9-0 right now – would they opt to make the same statement?  It’s a legitimate question anyway; but they’re not 9-0, so they can afford to hurt the team in the short term in an effort to help the program long term.

The thing is, these “statements” can have both a positive and negative effect.  One would hope that this shows not only the players currently on the team – but prospective recruits in the future – that we want players who are going to fall in line.  Buy in to the program and all that.  The University of Washington is far from alone in being an institution and a program that wants quality individuals under its umbrella.  We’re not special in that regard.  But, it’s always a fine line between finding the right type of people, and the type of people that will win you football games.  Sometimes, those groups don’t overlap.  At what point do you sacrifice talent for good behavior?  At what point do you get fired for having too many Good Guys and not enough quality football players?

There’s being a hard-ass and there’s being an uncoachable twat.  Chris Petersen doesn’t necessarily strike me as being overly overbearing, but then again, he’s certainly more of a disciplinarian than Sark was.  If a move like this makes things a little easier; if they make the players a little more coachable, then it’s a positive.

But, if these types of moves hurt the product on the field, then there’s a problem.  Players aren’t going to want to come here if they’re worried about getting kicked off the team.  Granted, as has been stated before, this isn’t an isolated incident with Peters.  But, there’s the coach’s side of the story, and there’s Peters’ side of the story.  We’ve yet to hear the player’s version of how this season has unfolded.  When that story is finally told, how is that going to play in the media?  More importantly, how are future recruits going to take it?  Will they ultimately side with the coach or the player?

And, finally, if these types of dismissals continue, at what point do the players currently in the program start to revolt?  Making a statement like this, showing the world how you want to run your program, only works if it ultimately leads to winning and sustained success.  Coach Pete is just starting out, so you figure he has some time to build upon our foundation.  But, if we continue to spin our tires at Just Good Enough To Get To A Bowl Game year-in and year-out, at what point do we stop lauding the coach for his ethics and morals and start condemning him and his holier than thou act?

Like everything, this is another slippery slope he has to contend with.  Many fans really love this approach to running a program.  They like their players disciplined and playing “Washington Football”, a throwback to times of yore where Men Were Men, and the kids did what they were told without any lip.  But, I would argue there’s a strong contingent of fans who are loathe to see the best players – their favorite players – getting kicked off the team for what may or may not be ticky-tack reasons.

Did he rape someone?  Did he burgle a home and get caught by the police?  Did he pick a fight with a bunch of drunken Seahawks fans after the Super Bowl?  No.  Apparently, he mouthed off one too many times and the coaches had enough.  I dunno.  Is the greatness of a coach measured by how strong he is in his convictions, and how he’s able to cut loose a future NFL star because he doesn’t live up to some sort of standard?  Or, is the greatness of a coach measured by how he’s able to work with and mold a troubled kid?

Again, I don’t have all the facts.  All I know is, in one year, we lost our best cornerback and our best wide receiver due to code of conduct violations.  Washington fans like to preach about doing things the Washington Way, but that has nothing to do with Chris Petersen.  He has no ties to this school prior to his hiring this year.

This is all about how Chris Petersen wants to run things.  Which, fine, it’s his team, and he has obviously earned this right through years of success at Boise State.  At some point, within the next couple years, this team will be comprised of almost exclusively Chris Petersen’s Guys.  I’ll refrain from total judgment until then.  I hope to holy hell that he has a team full of saints who are some good, coachable kids that make this staff glad to come to work every day.  But, if they’re not winning some serious ballgames at that point – if we’re not sticking it to Oregon again on a regular basis – then we’ll know what all of this has been for.

Remember, Tyrone Willingham made it his mission to change the culture and bring in a bunch of Good Guys.  Fuck that.  I’ll take some ballers with attitude anyday if it means we’re back to being an elite program.

Quick & Dirty: Going To The UW/Cal Game

So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days.  In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space.  It’s going to be glorious.

That makes travel between now and then … limited.  And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year.  The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways.  But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!

Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work.  As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday.  I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade).  Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours.  It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time.  Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.

I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place.  Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.

And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning!  Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking.  Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road.  This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly.  I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay.  From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards.  "Tailgating, how quaint!  Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!"

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”

Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal.  Nerds, amirite?  Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such.  Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene.  Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.

My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself.  Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).

We were, like, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill.  We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between.  Did I mention the oppressive heat?  There was oppressive heat.

We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice.  They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice.  Those old fucks were good sports, though.  We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.

Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game.  As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in.  I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario.  Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game ...

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …

I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year?  40th?  1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way!  Is that Shaq?!?  No fucking WAY!  OH MY GOD IT IS!!!”  Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.

For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments.  Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half.  In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!

A lot of delayed gratification in this game.  We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is always never fun.  Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance.  The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.

Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game.  He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines.  Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.

The Husky defense was superb.  We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense.  That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before.  Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air.  Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.

It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook.  People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds.  Appreciate it now, while you still can!  And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end.  Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future.  We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.

Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant.  That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).

After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food.  I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think.  Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.

I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport.  My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended.  It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do.  Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game.  One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them.  And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.

Ray Rice Is A Piece Of Shit

Let’s see, how do we twist this into being appropriate for a Seattle sports blog?  I know!  Ray Rice sucks at football and I hope the Seahawks never sign him.

With that out of the way …

We’ve all seen the original video of Ray Rice’s then-girlfriend (now-wife) being dragged out of an elevator, unconscious.  As it was just the two of them in there, it was pretty obvious what had happened:  he beat the shit out of her.  I can’t rightly remember if there was any admission of guilt or what happened after that; all I know is:  he didn’t go to prison, she stuck by his side, and he ended up getting a 2-game suspension for his troubles.

Then, yesterday, TMZ finally got a hold of the video from inside the elevator and unleashed it upon the world.  In the video, you get a clear view of Ray Rice beating the shit out of her, which is what we all assumed happened in the first place.

As you can probably tell, aside from seeing snippets of the original video, I didn’t follow this story all that closely.  Seemed to me that it was an obvious case of abuse.  I guess I just forgot about it as time passed, as I don’t remember ever hearing about what happened with his criminal case.  I guess she didn’t want to press charges?  That doesn’t matter, of course; the state obviously has the right to press charges independently – which, GOOD GOD, how did they let this one slip through the cracks?

What it all boils down to is:  everyone fucked up.  The state fucked up for not prosecuting his ass to the full extent of the law.  The NFL fucked up by only suspending him for two games.  The media fucked up as it collectively shrugged its shoulders instead of digging further into this issue (seriously, how did it take so long for this video to get out, and why is TMZ doing all the heavy lifting when these supposedly serious media outlets like the New York Times, CNN, et al, are sitting back picking goobers out of their asses?).  The main issue at hand seems to be:  no one saw the video from inside the elevator and no one who mattered (the district attorney, the commissioner, the head honchos of the Ravens) even WANTED to see the video.

How does that happen?  I can see why the NFL wanted to sweep this under the rug:  they don’t need any more negative press in this post-Aaron Hernandez world.  Plus, Ray Rice and his lady friend kissed and made up, so all the better.  Just a bump on the road to a happy marriage!  But, how does the district attorney not see the video?  And if they did, how do they let that pass?

If there’s one thing you know about the world we’re living in, it’s that the skeletons will ALWAYS make their way out of the closet.  Just ask Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton and any other celebrity who’s had their phones hacked and their naked selfies distributed throughout the Internet.  Everyone KNEW there was video from inside the elevator.  I’m sure that was one of the first questions asked when people started sniffing around this investigation.  It’s one thing for the NFL to sit down and take the plea of the victim to heart.  But, to ONLY go by that plea – of a victim who may or may not have been under duress – is pretty stupid when you know there’s a video out there that will be leaked.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, in this case, time came up yesterday.

At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got an unimaginable amount of stupidity.  On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got corrupt, evil fuckheaditude.  Everyone involved in the decision to not send Ray Rice to jail, to not suspend him for more than two games, to not ban him indefinitely right from the start, falls somewhere on that spectrum.  And, if the story is true – that they wanted to remain willfully ignorant to try to cover their asses if-and-when the shit hit the fan – then that falls much closer to evil fuckheaditude in my book.

As for Ray Rice, yeah, he’s a piece of shit.  He deserves to be kicked out of the NFL.  He deserves to lose out on endorsement deals.  He deserves to have his dream end right here.  Whether that’s actually what’s going to happen remains to be seen.  I mean, shit, Michael Vick is back in football and he’s practically the devil (or, at the very least, Cruella de Vil … OH MY GOD THAT’S ACTUALLY HOW DISNEY SPELLS HER NAME!).  If you’re in any way invested in this story, you probably despise Ray Rice because he beats women.

For starters, no, it’s not okay to beat women.  But, really, it’s not okay to beat on ANYONE.  Especially if you’re a big, strong football player and you’re clocking someone half your size.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

Keith Olbermann had a nice little rant last night.  Here it is, if you somehow missed it.  I generally like Olbermann.  Some people think he’s a pompous blowhard, but that’s because he IS a pompous blowhard.  But, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have valid points on a wide range of topics.  I was right there with him on his Ray Rice stuff, until the very end, when he talked about the NFL being boycotted by all of us if the commissioner isn’t banned and if Baltimore’s executives aren’t fired.

For starters, I seriously doubt – if Olbermann is any kind of serious professional football fan – that he’s going to sit there on Sunday with his arms folded, watching TCM classic movies or some damn thing when his favorite team is playing on the other channel.  But, he does raise a good point about fandom.

What would have to happen to get you to stop watching the NFL?

The answer to that question is different for everyone.  For the casual fan, who doesn’t really have a favorite team and isn’t all that invested in the goings on, it probably wouldn’t take much.  They could take on Keith Olbermann’s challenge to boycott the NFL and probably not lose a whole lot of sleep.  But, for the hardcore addicts out there, what are we supposed to do?

I’ve been watching the NFL since I was a small child.  I’ve been a Seahawks fan for practically my whole life (minus a period in the 90s when I would troll my family and root against this hapless organization just to get a rise out of them).  Football is my favorite sport and so much of my autumns are dictated by what’s going on on Sundays.  Fantasy Football, Pick ‘Em, Eliminator Pools (which I somehow always manage to lose in week 1), and the games the Seahawks are involved in.  I spend $200 just to get NFL Sunday Ticket for my computer, so I’m not stuck watching the dregs that Fox and CBS make me watch.  There’s nothing romantic about my affiliation with football, but it does dominate many of my conversations, just as it fills my days leading up to the game, reading countless articles and blogs on the topic.

Really, it’s more disease than anything else.  The NFL is a cancer flowing through my body; I’m powerless to resist its charms!

The only way I’d stop watching the NFL is if the Seahawks were bought out and moved to another city.  And even then … I do like the Atlanta Falcons an awful lot; I suppose it wouldn’t take much to just bump my affinity over there …

So, does that make me an accessory after the fact?  Am I implicitly condoning Ray Rice’s actions?  Of course not, don’t be silly.  For starters, I’m not a fan of Ray Rice.  I’m not a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.  Hell, I’m not REALLY even a fan of the NFL.  I’m a fan of the Seattle Seahawks.  I can dislike how the NFL runs its organization, I can disagree with certain rules and policies – hell, I can VEHEMENTLY disagree – yet still be a fan of the product.

I can do that, just as I can do that with the United States of America.  There’s a lot about this country I find fucked up and retarded.  I think all politicians are corrupt pieces of shit only out for their own interests.  I think the drug laws in this country are ridiculous.  I think the medical health and insurance industries are sucking this country dry.  But, you know what?  There are parts of this country I really like too.  I’m not going to boycott America just because it’s run by assholes and fuck ups, just like I’m not going to boycott the NFL because it’s run by the same.

What interests me more is how Ravens fans reconcile themselves with what they’ve seen on these videos.  Ray Rice has been such a huge part of that team for so long now; he helped bring them an NFL championship and was certainly well on his way to a Ring of Honor spot (or whatever they call their organizational hall of fame).  This would be equivalent to Marshawn Lynch beating the shit out of his significant other in an elevator and seeing it all on video.

How would I handle that?  I’ve always been of the opinion that I don’t care what these people do in their personal lives, as long as they help the team win.  If someone drives drunk or does drugs or gets arrested for some other reason, I don’t care!  Now, obviously, in such a high-profile situation as this, it ends up working itself out:  Ray Rice is off the team and out of the league.  So, if I’m a Ravens fan, I can continue being a Ravens fan without being a specific fan of Ray Rice.

With me, it’s always about the team.  Which would make it a little more difficult to reconcile my feelings about the team president and general manager also turning a blind eye to the whole thing.  MAYBE, they were directed by the NFL front office to let it go.  MAYBE, they were directed by ownership to let it go.  Or, maybe they just didn’t want to rock the boat.  Players could look at the team tacking on games to a player’s suspension as being quite antagonistic.  The NFL is supposed to dole out the punishment, not the team they’re trying to win games for.  But, I’m not buying that.  If it were me, and I was a fan of the Ravens, I’d want the organization to take a hard line, even harder than the NFL’s.  Maybe not on its asinine substance abuse policy, where you can be suspended just by drinking in your own home, but certainly on something like domestic violence.

Look at it this way, the University of Washington and Chris Petersen just suspended Marcus Peters for the next game because of a personal foul penalty in the previous game, followed by Peters allegedly throwing a tantrum on the sideline when he was taken out of the game.  I don’t like not having one of our best defenders on the field against Illinois – especially when our secondary is so maligned – but I LOVE that he’s sending the message to other players that this crap won’t be tolerated.

It should be that way for the Ravens and frankly, it should be that way for the NFL.

I have no sympathy for a multi-millionaire who fucks up his own life.  Ray Rice had the golden goose and now it’s gone.  Is it an unfair standard?  Sure it is.  A regular Joe probably isn’t losing his job and his primary means to earn a living just because he beats up his wife.  Then again, a regular Joe is probably going to see some jail time for his crimes, because he’s not a multi millionaire who can buy his way out of these things.

But, make no mistake, Ray Rice isn’t in this shit because he’s a woman beater.  He’s in this shit because he beat a woman, it was caught on video, and that video leaked to the world.  Let none of us delude ourselves as we condemn this man.  We’ve been tacitly endorsing this behavior since the game began and started to get huge.

You think Ray Rice is the first NFL player to beat the shit out of his girlfriend or wife?  You think YOU’RE free from guilt because no one on your favorite team was arrested or kicked off the team?  Think again.  Just because we don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  Hell, we still DO hear about it, and those players don’t necessarily suffer the slings and arrows that Ray Rice has felt (Greg Hardy, anyone?).

I know I’m supporting a league that supports domestic violence.  That supports its players pretty much doing anything they want – up to and including murder, Ray Lewis – and getting away with it because they’re rich and famous and too big to fail.  I also support a league that extorts cities into paying for stadia even though its teams are owned by some of the richest men in the world.

But, you know what?  When I eat my Taco Del Mar burrito, I don’t sit around thinking about how the meat got processed.  When I have a beer, I don’t think about all the millions of alcoholics who have ruined their lives.  That’s how it is with the NFL.  When I sit down to watch the Seahawks thump their next opponent, I’m not thinking about all the nasty, evil shit the NFL is involved with.  If I did that, if I lived my life that way, I’d never find an ounce of joy in anything.  My whole life would be consumed with hating everything because it’s somehow, tangentially related to something that’s despicable.

Seriously, think about it.  Think about all the things in your life that either bring you joy or keep you alive.  Your job, where you shop, the movies you watch, the magazines you read, the food you eat, the country you live in, the city you call home.  If you lived your life boycotting all the things you find fault in, as Keith Olbermann might suggest, you’d be the most insufferable prick in the world or you’d be dead.

Sometimes, you just have to let things go.  I know that’s not how things get done and how great social change is enacted, but leave all that shit to the people who actually give a damn.  Because either way, they’re going to find a way to complain and voice their complaints until the rancor and outrage is at its zenith.  I’ll be over here, watching football on Sunday with a beer in one hand and a pork burrito in the other, refreshing my fantasy football page on my laptop, with an erection at full mast, wondering just how in the hell it can get any better than this.

The Huskies Very Nearly Lost To The Rainbow Warriors

I mean, it’s like, come on!

That game was a fucking shit-pile from beginning to end, with the exception of John Ross being my sunshine on a cloudy day.  Do you believe in Love At First Sight?  What if it’s been multiple sights, but you never really appreciated what was in front of you until now?  Oh mercy me, I’m rambling …

I don’t even know what to say after a game like that.  The defense was all out of sync for the entire first quarter.  The running game completely disappeared for most of the game.  And our quarterback couldn’t do a God damn thing the entire second half.  We were LUCKY to come out of that with a win.  If Hawaii would’ve ever managed to snag a lead on us after we got to 17 points, we would’ve been screwed.

Thankfully, the defense started to get its shit together once the Rainbow Warriors got a 10-point lead on us early.  Marcus Peters ended up having a pretty good game, but you can’t discount his disaster of a first quarter.  It looked like he was playing about 15 yards off of his receiver all day.  I don’t know if it’s just the style of their offense, or if they somehow game planned something against us, but when they threw the ball, they overwhelmingly threw to the outside.  I’m guessing their quarterback’s weak spot is hitting receivers down the middle of the field, because he didn’t seem to have much success when he tried that.

The defensive line would go long stretches without getting much pressure, and there were a lot of times where we were gashed in the running game pretty good.  But, they stiffened when they had to and incorporated just enough big plays behind the line of scrimmage to keep Hawaii from totally running away with this one.  Danny Shelton looks like the beast we all figured he’d be, which is a comforting sight.  If he’s not double teamed, he’s on the warpath.  And, even when he is double teamed, he’s getting extreme push to disrupt what the offense is trying to do.

The only thing the defense couldn’t do was create a turnover, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  I think, by season’s end, we’ll be pretty happy with our team’s turnover differential, as they were constantly jumping routes and trying to strip balls.

Offense was a completely different story.  We moved the ball pretty damn efficiently in the first half.  That nifty little reverse to John Ross to score from 20 yards out was a thing of beauty!  When you bring in Coach Pete, you’re bringing in a solid head coach for your football program, but you’re also bringing him in for a little razzle dazzle, and he didn’t disappoint in his first game.  These plays aren’t something you want to feature on every drive, but you pick your spots, and even though you’re known as a coach who will take some crazy chances, it’s still nearly impossible to predict when they’ll happen or what they’ll be.

Our running game has potential, even though we were basically manhandled for most of the second half (until that final drive, when we were able to run out the last four minutes or so).  Dwayne Washington was the de facto starter, and I thought he looked pretty dynamic at times, though the numbers don’t bear that out.  Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper had four combined carries.  I still like Cooper, and think he’ll find a few moments to shine this year, but Callier looks like a shell of his former, pre-injury self.

The story for me in the running game was Lavon Coleman, who’s apparently a red shirt Freshman I’d never heard of before this game.  He’s got the kind of power and burst that can be a workhorse for this team.  Indeed, the team trusted him with the game’s final drive – even after he fumbled the ball that we ended up falling on – and he delivered.  If this game is any indication, the Huskies will have a nice two-headed hydra at running back with Coleman and Washington.

The offensive line looked better than it had in years when it comes to pass protection, but that’s not saying a whole helluva lot.  Still, Lindquist had time, he just didn’t know what the fuck he was doing when he had that time.  Also, there’s no excuse for our running game to be shut down for as long as it was in the second half.  Credit Hawaii for simply out-fighting us in the interior.  That will need to be rectified as the season goes on.

Ultimately, this game came down to the play of the quarterback.  Jeff Lindquist was starting for the first time, so it’s reasonable to give him a pass on this one.  It’s unfair to expect perfection right out of the gates.  Nevertheless, for an entire half of football, he was nothing but a detriment to this team.  Usually, when you’ve got quarterbacks with issues throwing the ball, they can make up for it with their legs.  I have a feeling if we’d gone with Troy Williams to start the game, this is something we would’ve enjoyed.  We might not have had that breathtaking 91-yard touchdown pass to John Ross in the second quarter, but I bet it would’ve been a more comfortable victory, with a much improved running game.

This game really took a turn for the worse midway through the third quarter.  Hawaii had just kicked a field goal to make it a 17-13 game.  Lindquist passed for 21 yards on the first two plays of the drive, then we ran it down to the 50 yard line to make it 4th & 1.  At this point in the game, the defense had been on point for the last two full quarters, only giving up those three points on the previous drive.  The Time of Possession battle was HEAVILY in Hawaii’s favor, thanks to their 10-play and 18-play scoring drives back in the first quarter.  Say what you will about the announcing team (and the color guy’s bias towards the Rainbow Warriors), but they made a good point about how the effects of those two early drives would more than likely be felt late in the game, with tired legs and hands on hips and so on and so forth.  We could’ve taken CHARGE of this game right then and there.

And, indeed, it looked like we were going to go for it.  But, instead, we wasted a time out, and when we came back from commercial, the punt team was on the field.

This was an unconscionably stupid decision by the coaching staff.  For starters, you HAVE to go for it there!  It’s 4th & 1 (but, more like 4th & inches) at the 50!  You’re going up against the Rainbow Fucking Warriors!  This isn’t the Crimson Tide defense we’re talking about.  If you can’t nut up and get a few inches against Hawaii, then you might as well prepare yourself for a lousy fucking season.

When I saw the time out was called, I figured it was just the coaching staff making sure the offense knew exactly what play should be called.  More than likely (the more I think about it), they were probably just stalling to see if the refs would go back and look at the spot of the ball.  Either way, if you’re not going to go for it there, WHY CALL THE TIME OUT?  You’re at midfield; take the delay of game penalty!

That decision to punt was Playing It Safe to the extreme.  I don’t necessarily need Big Balls (Coach) Pete here to go for it on fourth down every time; but I can’t abide punting at the 50 yard line on 4th & inches when you’ve got the most experienced offensive line in one of the best conferences in college football!

I belabored this point on Twitter, but the fact remains:  there wasn’t an immediate impact to this decision.  The Rainbow Warriors didn’t come back on the very next possession and ram it down our throats.  But, for one thing, it set a tone.  The Huskies were going to be timid for the rest of that game.  And, for another, it cut the legs off of the ONLY decent drive the Huskies managed in that half (until they ran out the clock to close things out).

This put a ton of undue pressure on a defense that had already been worked to death to that point in the game.  Which ultimately gives me even MORE respect for what this defense was able to accomplish in this game.  Holding Hawaii to 16 points in this environment was a sight to behold.  If we go for it there and succeed, we probably end up scoring points on that drive.  Which would’ve taken some of the pressure off of our defense.  At the VERY least, it would’ve used up more time on the clock, which would’ve been nothing but a help to our cause.

And, who knows, maybe Lindquist would’ve had a better game had we gone for it.  He was certainly off on the majority of his throws in the second half.  But, he completed a couple on this drive.  Had it continued, maybe he could’ve gotten into a better rhythm.  A lot of what if’s surrounded that decision to punt.  I just hope it’s not a harbinger of hyper-conservative decisions to come.  Because, looking back, even if we don’t convert there, we still have them at midfield and likely would’ve either forced a punt or held them to a field goal.  Granted, that would’ve meant that we would’ve needed to score at some point in the second half, but you can’t live in fear.  I would’ve rather we took the chance, even if it might have ultimately cost us a game we had no business winning in the first place.

Heading into Game 2 against Eastern, I’m absolutely petrified with fear.  If we play like we played against Hawaii, you can chalk that up to a loss and a bunch of snarky replays on SportsCenter.  Oh, the top 25 team with the great and powerful Chris Peterson can’t beat a team from the Divison I Football Championship Subdivision?  Or, something a little catchier with “boo yah” tacked onto the end.

As Husky fans, we have to hope for a couple of things.  Cyler Miles is eligible to play after his 1-game suspension; we have to hope that he’s adept at running this offense enough to be a viable starter in this game.  Because, if Troy Williams isn’t good enough to replace Jeff Lindquist in that Hawaii game, with how atrocious he was in the second half, then I have no doubt in my mind that Cyler Miles is the best quarterback on this team.  Period.  Cyler Miles with even a partial grasp of the offense would be better than what we got in the first game.

Secondly, we have to hope there’s no stubborn pride at play from the coaching staff.  Yes, Cyler Miles was wrong to get in that offseason brouhaha that ultimately led to his suspension.  But, the coaches have to let that shit go and put the best players out on the field.  Let Cyler Miles start, let him get his feet wet in these next three non-conference games at home, so ultimately he’ll be ready to go once the table is set for Stanford on September 27th.

Because I have some serious doubts that Jeff Lindquist is the man for the job.  He will CERTAINLY kill our chances in the “regular season”, and what’s worse, he might even cost us a chance at a win this weekend.

Huskies Dominate Down In Corvallis

Well, it’s about time.

This was the dominating road performance we’ve been waiting for!  I guess last year we went into Colorado and won 38-3, but that’s nothing special.  That’s like going to Idaho and winning 38-3.  The Huskies haven’t made this kind of a killing on the road since Sark got here, and really it couldn’t have come at a better time.

69-27.  That’s a score you can take home to mother!  530 rushing yards, with three 100-yard rushers (Sankey – 179, Cooper – 166, Washington – 141), the second-most on the ground all time in school history.  Then, tack on three interceptions (two for Peters, to go along with a forced fumble & fumble recovery; one for Shaq, which he took back to the house) to go along with some rock-solid situational defense (until the game was 62-6 and the Beaves scored a bunch of garbage points), and you might be looking at the best, most complete game the Huskies have ever played under Sark!

Granted, there are certainly bigger wins, against better opponents, but has the situation here ever been this dire with Sark at the helm?  6-4, 3-4 in conference, sans a conference road win this year, facing the real possibility of being behind the Beavers AND the Cougars going into this week’s Apple Cup, with a very good chance of being bowl eligible with no bowl left to attend.  This being Sark’s fifth year, after three consecutive 7-6 finishes, with Husky Nation grumbling like we haven’t seen since 2008.  Showing improvement on the field, yet nevertheless having the same exact results on the field again and again.  Make no mistake, this was a must-win for this regime.  Not only that, but I would argue the Huskies had to win exactly as they did:  in dominant fashion.  Anything less, and you could seriously be looking at one of the hottest seats in the nation.

So, that’s a relief.  But, we’re not out of the woods yet.  We still have to win the Apple Cup on Friday.  We HAVE to break that spell of 7-win seasons!  And we have to put the Cougs in their fucking place.

To close, let’s highlight some performances.  Give it up for Deontae Cooper!  The Junior has had about a million knee surgeries, and in this game broke off a number of breathtaking runs.  Of course, it helps when the offensive line is manhandling everyone else, but still.

Good win for Cyler Miles.  He didn’t really break the bank – 15/24, 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs – but he didn’t cost us anything either.  This is the type of performance – and soft landing – you can build upon.  I’m not ready to say that he’s going to be the next big dominating force in Husky football, but he’s on the right track and is likely The Guy next year.  I’d rather have something like this to reflect upon than something with a few more attempts and a few more interceptions.

Kevin Smith is going to be a great possession receiver in the NFL.  I see a lot of Doug Baldwin in him.  He may not get drafted high – or at all – but he’s going to make some team really happy it took a shot.

Marcus Peters was a man possessed!  I don’t know how we got to be so good against Sean Mannion, but we’ve really got his number.  I look forward to what Peters is able to do through the rest of his career.

I’m really gonna miss watching Bishop Sankey, as there has to be a 100% chance he goes pro after this year.  He tied the career mark for touchdowns by a running back, and appears to be well on his way to breaking the single-season rushing record of 1,695 by Corey Dillon (now standing at 1,575).

2013 Husky Football Preview

Can you believe that August 31st happens THIS Saturday?  And can you believe that once again I will be out of town and won’t be able to make it to the home opener, or even watch it live on television?  I’M DYING!  Somebody kill me, because I’m dying.

Maybe it’s because I follow Husky fan-blogs, but I’ve got to say there is an amazing amount of optimism among the homers out there.  For instance, there is this universal belief that THIS is the year that Washington finally beats Oregon.  Which immediately gives me pause, because it can’t be THAT easy, right?  I mean, yeah, we’re looking at improved depth, we’re looking at a senior quarterback poised for a bounce-back season, and we have been focusing non-stop to counter Oregon’s style of play by adopting Oregon’s style of play (the ol’ Can’t Beat ‘Em/Join ‘Em Corollary).  When I see everyone and their mothers making the “difficult” prediction that the Huskies are going to beat Oregon, I can’t help but be the contrarian.  So, I’m sorry to say that it’s my official opinion that the Huskies WON’T be beating Oregon in New Husky Stadium and that it’s probably another couple years before we do.

For the record, I think this is the first time the Huskies actually make it a GAME with Oregon.  I think the final result is the Huskies lose by one score or less, and I think Oregon needs a fourth quarter scoring drive to seal the deal – certainly one of their toughest tests of 2013 – but ultimately I think they do, in fact, seal the deal.

So, here’s what I’ll give you.  Since you can’t be a college football fan and NOT be a homer, I’m going the other way with my prediction than the crowd at large.  I say the Huskies WON’T beat Oregon, but I say they DO have a winning road record for the first time in years.

Oh … yeah, I’m going there.  The Huskies have one of the surprisingly tough road schedules in the entire Pac-12 conference.  After playing Illinois in Soldier Field, they go to Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon State.  ASU and UCLA will be with USC in fighting for that Pac-12 South title; and Stanford & OSU will be fighting with Oregon and, yes, Washington for the North title.  And here’s a bombshell for you:  the Washington Huskies go 4-1 on the road.  BOOM!  Take that, prognosticators!

As much as it angries up my blood, I say the Huskies lose to UCLA and Jim Mora’s dumb ass (God, you have no idea how much I hate the Bruins and wish them nothing but pain & misery).  In every other road game, though, I think the Huskies play tough, hard-nosed football, and they prevail with a bevy of final-minute scoring drives.  You are going to look at one of the clutchest football teams since Tui was roaming these fields!

A 4-1 road record would be about as Awesome Sauce as it gets, because I think the Huskies will be going 6-1 at home, with that aforementioned defeat to the Ducks, leaving us 10-2 with a 7-2 conference record.  Ultimately, I don’t think two conference defeats gets us into the Pac-12 Title Game (because, with tie-breaker, that would involve Oregon losing three times in conference, which – with their relatively easy schedule – isn’t happening), but 10 wins isn’t 7 wins, and that by itself is something.

I think 2013 will ultimately be remembered as the year Sark finally put together a dominant team.  All that hot-seat bullshit will go away for good and this program will spring-board into bigger and better things.  Of course, 2014 by default will be a bit of a step back, as we will be working in a first-time starting quarterback.  But, I don’t think we will step back far enough to miss out on a bowl.  And, that kind of experience should make 2015 our target year for making it back to the Rose Bowl and returning to the kind of prominence we deserve!

***

The season, as always, hinges on Keith Price’s performance.  If he manages to return to or exceed his Sophomore form, we will be looking at that 10-win team everyone has been salivating over.  If he maintains his Junior form, then God help us all.

I truly think Price was hampered by a loss of weapons in this offense last year, moreso than the injuries.  Remember, Price was hobbled for most of his Sophomore season too, and that didn’t prevent him from being one of the best QBs in the conference.  The bottom line is:  we need to supplement the talent round Kasen Williams and ASJ, and I think this team has done so.

Kevin Smith, thus far through camp, has taken a huge step forward after an injury-plagued Junior season.  At the moment, he’s looking at a starting spot on this team, but of course that can change at any time.  The real reason for optimism lies in our true freshmen receivers:  John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow.  At the moment, Ross is listed as a starter and Stringfellow is listed behind Williams.  There were grumblings about red-shirting one or both of these players, but I think this season is too special and too important to not play our very best guys.  That means All Hands On Deck, and that means true frosh – if they’re able – get the nod over disappointing elder statesmen like Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell.

One of my very favorite things about college football is that constant sense of competition (it’s also one of my very favorite things about the Seahawks right now).  You replenish lost talent via recruiting, and those guys have an instant chance to make an impact and join the ranks of the starters.  They only fail in that charge if they have legitimately been beaten out by more experienced players, who feel the push from those coming up behind them and rise to the occasion.  Either John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow play meaningful snaps with this team, or they make the other receivers around them better.  Win/win.

And, speaking of improved depth, look no further than our running game.

Bishop Sankey returns as one of the best backs in the Pac-12 – with an outside shot at being one of the best backs in the nation.  Jesse Callier returns from injury to give us that change-of-pace quickness we were lacking last year (though, some accounts have him as not quite back to his 2011 form; possibly worried about that knee, possibly due to lack of conditioning).  Between the two (Callier is listed 3rd on the depth chart, if you can believe it), is Dwayne Washington, the converted wide receiver who – by all accounts – has looked absolutely phenomenal in camp thus far.  So phenomenal, in fact, that it wouldn’t be shocking to start seeing him steal carries away from Sankey as the season goes along.

As with any other football team, though, this offense will only go as far as its offensive line allows.  I can’t remember the last time the Huskies have had a dominant line, which goes a long way in explaining how far this team has fallen from its Don James/Jim Lambright days.  This year, I think we’re all hoping for marginal improvement.  Major improvement would be unthinkably outstanding, but let’s not get our hopes up too much.  What this line does have going for it – aside from returned health – is experience.  The number of linemen on this team who have started games is amazing.  That can only be an asset for a unit searching for an identity and hopefully some cohesion.  There are currently no Seniors on the depth chart, so that’s a little concerning.  But, four out of five starters are Juniors, so that will bode well if they manage to play the majority of snaps.  If we can get improved play out of these guys, 2014 should be an embarrassment of riches along the line.

This offense should be capable of averaging well over 30 points per game this season.  I have the utmost confidence that we will see a return to form for this Husky offense.  It will be an asset and not a liability like last year, I promise you.

***

The 2012 Husky defense was the very definition of a Pleasant Surprise.  After the Nick Holt abomination, the 2012 D could have been only slightly better than its 2011 counterpart and we would have been thrilled.  But, in truth, the 2012 D was a legitimate strength, it kept us in some games we had no business being in, and it won us some games we shouldn’t have won.  Granted, we still got thrashed by LSU, Oregon, and Arizona.  But, they helped us over the hump against the likes of San Diego State, Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal on the road, in one of the sloppiest games in recent memory.

The 2012 defense wasn’t perfect.  That choke-job in the Apple Cup is an embarrassment of the highest order.  But, the defense was a step in the right direction, leaving this team poised for even better things in 2013.

The two big losses on this unit were Justin Glenn and Desmond Trufant.  I agree that there’s no way to replace someone like Trufant, but I don’t think the cupboard is bare by any stretch.  We still have Sean Parker, who will be among the best safeties in the conference, as well as Marcus Peters at one corner spot, who should be poised to make a name for himself in his second season.  Gregory Ducre, my erstwhile whipping boy ’round these parts, is one of the fastest guys on the team and going into his Senior season.  The level of improvement out of this kid never ceases to amaze me.  With another senior, Will Shamburger, at the other safety spot, we actually have one of the most experienced secondaries in the Pac-12.  There’s no Desmond Trufant in there, but that might not matter with the depth we’ve got behind these guys I just mentioned.

The Husky linebacking corps is one of the best – as a whole – we’ve had in some time.  Led by Junior John Timu in the middle, and all-world athlete Shaq Thompson on the outside, we will be fast, powerful and elite in the middle.  Which is important as this defense goes from challenging the power rushing attack of Stanford to the speed rushing attack of Oregon to the aerial assault of Arizona State.  If this team is going to take the next steps towards being elite, it’s going to be on the backs of these linebackers.

I’m not necessarily as sold on our D-Line as many, but I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.  Danny Shelton is a Junior looking to make a name for himself among NFL draft boards.  To generate the kind of attention he’s hoping to get, he’s going to have to be a dominant force not just once in a while, but on every single down.  Many question whether he has the drive to become the next in a long line of elite Husky defensive tackles, and count me among them.  I’ve seen him out there, seemingly going through the motions, far too often to have much more than wavering confidence.

One interesting note on the recent depth chart is Cory Littleton taking the defensive end spot over Josh Shirley.  If that’s a way of saying that Shirley isn’t so much an every-down end as much as a pass-rushing specialist, then I agree.  If that’s a way of saying that Littleton is actually on par as a pass-rusher with Shirley, then I’m pretty fucking happy.  Because we know what Shirley is capable of as a rusher, and we have a good idea of what he could develop into if he puts his mind to it.  And, if Littleton is on par with that, while also being an asset in the run game, then that’s a little scary.

***

There’s a lot of reason for optimism for this team.  We’re at a point where it’s all Sark’s guys, and those guys have the kind of talent we haven’t seen in over a decade.  Get ready, Husky fans, because 2013 is the year it all starts getting fun again.  Fewer embarrassing blow-outs, more thrilling last-minute finishes.  And, with an improved kicking game, I actually might not have that much to bitch about (oh, who am I kidding?).