It’s So Weird That The Huskies Are In The Big Ten Now

This time last year, I wasn’t super confident about the future of the Pac-12. We were heading into the last year of the Pac-12 as we knew it (at that time, we were looking at the L.A. schools leaving after the 2023 season), I didn’t have any super high expectations for the Huskies in general (or the conference as a whole) in football, or even basketball, and we were staring down the barrel of a terrible new media rights deal, and the potential addition of a couple of inferior schools to the conference. The only reasonable argument for good would’ve been the fact that the Huskies and the Ducks would’ve been the unquestioned leaders of the pack. But, that’s not saying a whole lot when compared to the greater college football landscape, if we’re generating pennies on the dollar compared to the other elite programs.

Thankfully, a lifeline presented itself, and to our credit, Washington took the Big Ten up on it. Leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten was definitely bittersweet, but it was ultimately the correct decision, for both our immediate future and our long-term goals.

Then, as the season got going, I was so wrapped up in Washington’s championship game run, I sort of forgot about the bigger picture. The Huskies were one of the best teams in the nation, the conference regained its long-lost form, and we really sent off the football portion of the conference with a bang. Even with every “final” moment – the final Apple Cup as a member of the Pac-12, the final conference championship game, the final home game, etc. – my eyes were squarely on the prize of a national championship, that we came oh so close to acquiring.

It hasn’t really hit me until now. Reading this article, wondering when my dad’s cable provider is going to get the Big Ten Network so he can watch the games … this is going to be a huge change!

The Apple Cup is on Saturday, September 14th! We’re now in a conference with 18 teams! Do I even know all 18 schools? And what do I know about them? Let’s see if I can list them all below:

  1. Michigan Wolverines – hated cross-country foes; I think we’ve beaten them a time or two in the Rose Bowl, but they also got one from us, as well as handling us pretty handily in the national championship game last season.
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes – one of the elites in college football, haven’t been able to beat Michigan the last few years. Always at or near the top in national recruiting, always sending huge skill guys to the NFL.
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions – Joe Paterno, diddling kids, and somehow still nationally relevant ever since the whole scandal (though, not quite on the top tier with Michigan and Ohio State).
  4. Wisconsin Badgers – one year of Russell Wilson, always a great O-line and running game. Usually pretty good, but hasn’t been great probably since Russ left.
  5. Michigan State Spartans – little brother to Michigan, yet somehow also not their main rival. Kind of like our Washington State Cougars.
  6. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Great in the 90’s, not so much the last 20 years. They just hired a head coach who’s supposed to be good, and didn’t they take our athletic director who was at Washington for six minutes?
  7. Northwestern Wildcats – Bunch of nerds. Meet the new, inferior Stanford Cardinal.
  8. Maryland Turpins – Actually Terrapins. What’s a Terrapin? Your guess is as good as mine.
  9. Rutgers – Ahh yes, the Scarlet Knights. Didn’t they used to have Greg Schiano? I wonder where he is now. … Oh, he’s at Rutgers again. Cool career path, bro.
  10. Indiana – Oh, of course, the Hoosiers. Used to be a great basketball program; I don’t think was ever even decent at football, but what do I know? I guess they had Penix before he was PENIX.
  11. Illinois Fighting Illini – Got that mascot nailed! I feel like they’ve been somewhat frisky in the last decade or so, but maybe I’m just thinking of that one time they made a New Years Six bowl.
  12. Iowa Hawkeyes – All defense. I think their offense is just punting on first down.
  13. Minnesota Golden Grahams – Gophers actually. If I recall correctly, I think the Huskies played them in the 1920’s, which is probably the last time they were any good. Also, NOT the school featured in the sitcom Coach; that was the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles, which is a fictional program that’s still more relevant than the Golden Gophers.
  14. Pittsburgh Tigers – I had to look it up; it’s actually the Purdue Boilermakers. That’s how memorable Purdue is. We beat them in the Rose Bowl when we had Tui and they had Brees.
  15. UCLA Bruins – Fuck U-C-L-A!
  16. USC Trojans – Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and all sizzle/no steak since then.
  17. Washington Huskies – The greatest school in the world.
  18. Oregon Ducks – Turd emoji.

So … I didn’t do great in my Big Ten knowledge. Now, I’ve gotta go into a season getting ready to play against these teams!

It’s bizarre looking at the schedule and not seeing any bay area schools. No Arizona or mountain time zone opponents. No easy pick-me-up against the Beaves. It feels all at once more daunting, as well as kind of the same when you dig into it. We play trash like Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers. But, we also get a rematch with Michigan at home, and a tough game in Iowa in October and Penn State in November. Then, in addition to a non-conference Apple Cup, we also face all three of our travelling Pac-12 partners (the L.A. schools at home, and Oregon on the road). Honestly, with all the turnover with Michigan’s roster and coaching staff, I think the toughest part of our schedule is joining us from the west coast!

It’s nice that we get to play all the Pac-12 schools in year one. That’s a cool way to help us transition. It’s a little odd that we face them all in the final month of the season, but it’ll be something to look forward to. Kinda feels like conference play starts in November this year, except not really.

You know what’s going to be fun? Hating on a whole new group of schools. I already have a strong distaste for the Big Ten anyway, but I know we’re going to get some razzing as one of the new kids in town. Which is going to infuriate me even further when we ultimately lose to one or more of these programs.

Really, though, it’s a soft landing of sorts. We don’t face a tough opponent until week 6 vs. Michigan, and again, how good will they be with all their best players going to the NFL? That kicks off a stretch where there’s almost no easy games the rest of the way (except for Indiana, but even that’s on the road).

I also can’t help but feel a little sad knowing there are so many teams we’ll no longer see again. The state of Arizona can fuck right off, and I still have nightmares flashing back on all the crazy Cal games, and all the times Stanford steamrolled us. But, I genuinely liked competing against Utah, and Colorado was the team we beat to win the Pac-12 Championship Game back in 2016, en route to a playoff loss against Alabama. I also feel bad that the Cougars and Beavers have to make due with their weird 2-team conference; they deserve better. They certainly deserve more than Rutgers or Maryland or fucking Minnesota.

I’m going to take solace in the fact that nothing is permanent, especially in college football. Things have changed so much, so quickly, and it’s only going to continue. We know where this thing is headed; it’s eventually going to be a sort of semi-pro league between high school and the pros, loosely affiliated with colleges and universities, but otherwise probably its own standalone thing. Depending on how many programs get scooped up into whatever the new thing will end up being, we might very well return to some semblance of normal. You have to figure there will be divisions of some sort, based off of geographic locations. Maybe that puts us back in line with our former conference foes. Maybe that brings WSU and OSU back into the fold. Maybe we won’t have to suffer the indignities of being in a cross-country conference, and we’ll never have to play Rutgers ever again!

Wouldn’t that be something?

Until then, we just gotta ride it out. What’s happening in college football is above my pay grade. I’m not going to pretend like I understand everything that’s going on. All I know is it has to do with gobs of money.

My job is to root for the Huskies, root against the Ducks, and let the chips fall where they may.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top 10

You can check out Part 1 from yesterday.

For the record, this isn’t in any particular order. Though, I will say – spoiler alert – that the top five listed here comprise my favorite five, which I’ll get around to writing about tomorrow. Sorry to really drag out this flimsy concept!

My Top 10

  • King Felix
  • The Big Unit
  • Beastmode
  • Bam Bam Kam
  • The Reign Man
  • The Glove
  • Young Zeke
  • Tui
  • Reg-gie
  • Steve Largent

Look, not everyone can have a cool nickname or shorthand. But, for the first – I dunno – 25 to 30 years of my life, Steve Largent was my favorite athlete of all time. When you’re a kid just getting into sports, you gravitate towards the very best players. And, in the late 80’s, that guy was Largent for me. He had every wide receiver record at the time of his retirement (eventually surpassed by Jerry Rice, among others), but nothing’s ever going to top this sequence of events with Mike Harden. What’s insane is that Largent didn’t even miss a game after that cheap shot in week one! Talk about tough as nails.

I don’t know of a great way to rank all the amazing Husky wide receivers through the years, but anecdotally the first name that comes to my mind is Reggie Williams. He started playing with us a year after that magical 2000 season, and is sort of synonymous with my friends and I following the team religiously. There just wasn’t anyone like him. It seemed like every game he was good for at least a small handful of big plays. And, as it turns out, it was pretty much exclusively thanks to his natural-born ability, as he was never really able to parlay his college dominance into NFL success. I’ll save that for some bitter old-time Jags fans who were underwhelmed by him on a regular basis after being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. But, as far as Huskies go, there were few better.

One of those guys would be Marques Tuiasosopo. All I need to talk about is 300/200. Against Stanford. 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing. For the longest time, he was on an all-time list of only his name, until very recently when Malik Cunningham did it with Louisville in 2021. Tui led us to an 11-1 record in 2000 and a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, and I still contend if we had a college football playoff system, that Husky team would’ve made some noise! Maybe even won it all! Just a fun guy to watch on a weekly basis though, especially when you consider how good the Pac-10 was back then, as well as how many times he pulled games out of his ass late.

Isaiah Thomas followed a succession of great Husky basketball players, but how could you not root for a guy of his size and ability? I’ll be honest, he’s on this list because of this, one of my top three favorite singular plays in Seattle sports history. I mean, it’s up there with The Tip and the Beastquake, but I’ll be honest, the one I keep coming back to and rewatching on YouTube is the Cold Blooded call from Gus Johnson in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Championship Game. It’s just unfortunate that the program hasn’t even come close to getting back to that level of play.

The Supersonics were the model sports franchise in Seattle for the longest time. From the 70’s through the 90’s, they were consistent winners. Regularly in the playoffs. Made the finals three times – winning once in 1979 – and had our lone world championship until the Seahawks won it all in 2013. Clearly, there were a lot of tremendous players to wear that uniform, but none were better than Gary Payton. He was the heart and soul of all those 90s squads, and I’d put him up there with any Seattle sports all time great, Griffey, Largent, you name it. He made a name for himself with his unrivaled defensive ability, but over time he really developed a strong offensive game. He was one of the more potent post-up guards in the league, and eventually he even found his 3-point stroke. Things became a lot more challenging for him once he lost his partner in crime in Shawn Kemp, but he still did his best to keep this franchise afloat. Also, he makes this list for being one of the best shit-talkers in the history of mankind.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.

The Huskies Defeated 11th-Ranked Michigan State!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a pleasant surprise!

The Huskies Giveth & The Huskies Taketh Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Era Of Husky Football

This spot is where I would normally have my Seahawks diatribe, but the Huskies had their bowl game, it was Chris Petersen’s final game, and we’ve got even MORE great news that came out yesterday. Why dwell on the Seahawks (when they’re going to lose to the 49ers, then lose to the Eagles or Cowboys in the first round anyway) when we can focus on happier, more hopeful things?

First and foremost, the Huskies throttled the Boise State Broncos, 38-7. We got off to our usual hot start – jumping out to a 24-0 lead early in the second half – and pretty much coasted from there. The defense continued its impressive finish to the season after back-to-back home losses to Oregon and Utah. In our final four games, we gave up a total of 47 points (11.75 per game) and more or less looked like the Husky defenses of the last few years. It was nice to see as we head into 2020 under new leadership.

Jacob Eason had a pretty good game, showing better touch out of a couple of his deep balls than I’d seen since the non-conference slate. He finished with 210 yards and a touchdown on 22/32 passing.

The game got a little frustrating in the second half, as we came out passing WAY more than we probably should have. When you’re up 24-0 (it turned into 24-7 on the very next Broncos drive, but it took them 11 plays and five and a half minutes to do it), you should be pounding the rock and draining as much clock as possible. Instead, I dunno, there were a couple of frustrating drives where the offense couldn’t do anything and it looked like Boise State might make a comeback. But, things settled down towards the end and we were finally able to get back on track and run out the clock.

I really liked what I saw out of Richard Newton, who had a nice 69 yards on the ground, one rushing touchdown, and another passing touchdown on a nifty trick play in the fourth quarter. I also thought Salvon Ahmed had a gutty performance, playing through some injury stuff, scoring twice. I could’ve even used more Kamari Pleasant, who looked explosive on his two carries for 14 yards.

It was a nice final game for Andre Baccellia, who caught 3 for 34 and a touchdown. I think a lot of us expected more out of his Husky career, but it was cool to at least get him a score on his way out. Terrell Bynum really led the way in receiving, catching 5 balls for 67 yards and a TD. Not really much else to get into from the receivers.

Defensively, Elijah Molden led the way in tackles, and REALLY came on late in the season. I hope he returns for his Senior year, because we could really showcase a guy with his talents. There was a good amount of pressure up front, but while it didn’t necessarily translate into a high sack number, we were able to force their quarterbacks into plenty of mistakes. Molden and Myles Bryant each had interceptions on the first two plays Boise State had in Husky territory (cool to see Bryant get one more – giving him 4 picks of his career (I thought he had more for some reason) – as he heads to the NFL next year).

Chris Petersen ends his Husky career with a record of 55-26; his .679 winning percentage is good for seventh all time (if you count Marques Tuiasosopo’s 1-0 record as interim head coach for the one bowl game he coached). If you count only the Huskies who coached 20+ games, Petersen is fourth all time (interestingly enough, just one spot ahead of Rick Neuheisel.

Coach Pete’s teams won two Pac-12 championships in six years, and played in three major bowl games (including one College Football Playoff game). Three straight years in major bowls is nothing to sneeze at; unfortunately we went 0-3 in those games, and only went 2-4 total in bowl games. These were GOOD Husky teams under Coach Pete, but they could never quite get over the hump on a national stage. Close, but of course, no cigar.

That’s unfortunately the legacy for him right now. Things could change, assuming all the talking points are correct: that Coach Pete laid the foundation for greater things to come and all that. If Jimmy Lake can keep it up with his recruiting, if he can develop those players, if he can turn them into wins on the field, championships in the conference, and wins in major bowl games, then I think we can paint Coach Pete’s tenure a little more rosy than we do right now. I won’t say he was a disappointment, but I will say that I kinda hoped for more.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask. It’s bigtime college football, if your goal isn’t conference titles, Rose Bowls, and National Championships, then what’s the point? Why should we continue to settle for less than the SEC and Big-10 and all the other conferences out there who have success? We should hold our revered head coaches to the same standard any other bigtime fanbase would hold theirs. You think Alabama fans are happy to be playing Michigan this year? You think they’re settling for a “good” season? No, they’re probably pissed off and hungrier than ever for next year!

That’s where we need to be, and I’m hopeful that Jimmy Lake is the guy to take us there. He already made me a fan for life by firing Bush Hamdan yesterday. I honestly have no idea why Hamdan was ever hired in the first place, other than he was a “Chris Petersen Guy”. I mean, he was a low-level assistant for Washington early in his tenure, then he was Quarterbacks Coach for the Atlanta Falcons, and that makes him qualified to call plays and design an offense for a major college program?

Washington’s offense was TOTAL SHIT under Hamdan, who was in over his head from Day 1, and I’m fucking glad he’s gone. He’s been the bane of my existence for the last two years, and I’m so happy that Lake’s first change was to rid this program of that bum. This gives Washington the entire rest of the bowl season to look for his replacement – as well as, interestingly enough, Jimmy Lake’s own replacement as the defensive coordinator. Do we make Pete Kwiatkowski the regular, full-time defensive coordinator again? That was his job before Jimmy Lake assumed control as co-coordinator and head defensive playcaller. If you want to talk about continuity within the program, that’s probably the best way to go. Offensively, on the other hand, I think we have to bring in someone from the outside. Preferably a more veteran coordinator who won’t be an immediate head coaching candidate for every other school in the conference.

I’ll admit, though, Saturday’s game was a little emotional. More than anything, I’m happy the Huskies could send Coach Pete off as a winner. There weren’t a ton of people expecting a Husky victory over a previously 12-1 Boise State team, but they hadn’t played anyone all year, and this just felt like the perfect opportunity to show why Chris Petersen made the change in the first place.

He could’ve stayed at Boise State his whole career; hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’d still be chugging along for the next decade or longer if he’d just stayed where the conference is small and the expectations are relatively low (a la Mark Few at Gonzaga). Unlike the Zags, however, you REALLY need to be in one of the Big 5 conferences to compete for a championship. Mid-majors in basketball go to the Final Four all the time; unless the NCAA Football side of things expands to an 8-team playoff, I just don’t see a mid-major football program cracking through. Indeed, even if it does go to an 8-team playoff system, and you find the occasional Boise State or TCU or Baylor or whatever in there, 8 teams means 3 games you have to win to win the National Championship; that’s going to weed out pretty much every single mid-major program who’s lucky enough to sneak in there.

Petersen knew that, and that’s why he came to Washington. Unfortunately, with all the good that comes with college football at this level (access to better recruits, better facilities, better stadia, etc.), there’s also tons of bad. All the recruiting games and bullshit, dealing with other schools poaching your players, all the nonsense with Pac-12 scheduling and our inept commissioner, and of course, the NCAA itself and the inherent bias towards programs east of the Rockies. Then, there’s all the media obligations, the ass-kissing of the high-level donors, the non-stop, 24/7/365 nature of the game and the news cycle and social media … I mean, it’s a SHIT-TON of bullshit to wade through, when all you really want to do is coach your players and play the game of football.

I can see why he wanted to at least take a break, if not retire for good. If he gets the itch again, I’m sure there’s a small school he can go to where the limelight won’t be quite so insane.

It was a pleasure having Coach Pete here. There were a lot of highlights in such a brief span of seasons. And, the University of Washington is definitely better having had him here.

Now, it’s time to look ahead to a new and exciting brand of football.

A Murderer’s Row Of Outgoing Huskies & Some Other Peach Bowl Thoughts

The big news of the week is the four underclassmen who are declaring for the NFL draft.

  • John Ross – WR
  • Budda Baker – S
  • Sidney Jones – CB
  • Elijah Qualls – DT

We more or less all saw this coming a hundred miles away, so it’s not like it’s a shock or anything.  And, really, it shouldn’t be a source of frustration; these kids balled out for the Huskies and have achieved all there is to achieve (for the most part).  I don’t begrudge them taking their talents to The League.  Nevertheless, can we take just a moment to fantasize about what next year’s team would’ve looked like with these guys returning as seniors?

Ahh, that’s the stuff.  It could’ve been massive, but in a way it’s exciting to see the guys coming up behind them.  Sure, they could be worse, but what if they’re better?

This is on top of the guys who were Seniors and have thus run out of eligibility:

  • Kevin King – CB
  • Joe Mathis – LB
  • Psalm Wooching – DE
  • Jake Eldrenkamp – OL
  • Jeff Lindquist – TE (erstwhile QB)
  • Brandon Beaver – DB
  • Darrell Daniels – TE
  • Cameron Van Winkle – K
  • Shane Brostek – OL

Some pretty big names on this list, but in going down the roster, it’s heartening to see the large pile of Freshmen and Sophomores.  The hope being that Coach Pete and Co. mold these guys into the next great Husky football teams in coming seasons.

And, quite frankly, the number of star players returning really dwarfts those leaving, and that’s not even counting all the red shirts and incoming Freshmen we’ll have this fall.  Assuming there aren’t too many high-profile transfers, the Huskies will still be great next year and for years to come.

Tip of the cap to the guys leaving though.  I know there was a bit of snark in my previous Husky post this week, but I’ll always have the fondest of memories for John Ross.  I haven’t sat down and really put in the thought, but I have to think he goes down as one of my top 3 favorite Huskies of all time, up there with Tui and Reggie.  I can’t wait to see Ross in the NFL and will be rooting hard for him to be great.

Same deal with the secondary guys.  Budda?  Are you kidding?  My God is he going to be fantastic at the next level!  I would give absolutely anything for him to fall to the Seahawks in the first round.  Sidney Jones was always a comforting presence there, locking down one side of the field.  He should have no problem proving his greatness at the next level.  And Kevin King had, without question, the greatest interception I’ve ever seen in my life against ASU.  Like I said before, it’s going to be TOUGH to replace these guys.  The secondary will be the unit to watch in the early going, to see who steps up.

Qualls, Mathis, and Wooching round out the guys I’m prepared to talk about today.  Big number 11 was a force on the interior, and was a big reason why the beef along the D-Line was able to be as effective as it was.  Joe Mathis was definitely missed when he went down with injury and was lost for the season.  We certainly could’ve used his leadership and athleticism against Bama.  And Wooching, with increased playing time due to Azeem Victor going down, really stepped up and filled some of the pass rushing void, allowing this defense to really not lose a whole lot down the stretch.

The 2016 Huskies will always be something special in my book.  Now, let’s hope 2017’s version blows them out of the water!

***

Just a few random thoughts about the Peach Bowl that I left out of my previous Husky post on Tuesday.

I remember sitting there as the game went along, seeing botched Husky drive after botched Husky drive, silently pleading for this team to start taking some shots down the field.  I mean, that was the key going in, right?  You’re not going to run on Alabama; your only shot is to do what Ole’ Miss did, which is throw deep and throw often and hope for the best.  The fact that we couldn’t complete anything longer than 20 yards all day was a real point of bitterness on my end.  I mean, what the shit?!  I know their pass rush was pretty good, but there were times Jake had PLENTY of time to throw!

But, you know, upon further reflection, that’s probably easier said than done.  If it was so easy to throw deep on Bama, everyone would’ve done it and they probably would’ve lost a game by now.  Even though I was in attendance, I didn’t get a good look at the coverage down field; my attention was predominantly focused on the lines.  I mean, how can you not?  That Bama D-Line is spectacular!  I remember one time in particular, it was 2nd & 3, where it looked like the perfect time for the Husky offense to take a shot, but someone was on Jake’s ass almost immediately and he had to throw it away.  I feel like that happened more times than we realized.  I’m sure the Huskies WANTED to throw deep, but it’s not like you can do that all the time.  You have to pick your spots.  And, my hunch is, more often than not, in those spots you’d find a Bama lineman or linebacker in the backfield harassing our guy.

On top of that, it was pretty apparent that Alabama didn’t have any respect for our running game.  It seemed like all day they went with a 6-man box, just DARING us to run the ball.  Of course, when we did, we still couldn’t, because their 6-man box is way better than anything we could throw at them.  I’ll say this, I was dreading any instance of Myles Gaskin touching the ball.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a solid running back with great vision and patience.  But, you’re not going to get very far being patient against that Bama D-Line.  This was proven by Gaskin having a rushing long of 10 yards, while averaging 3.4 yards on 10 carries.  I would’ve much rather seen Lavon Coleman get the lion’s share of the carries doled out to our running backs.  Not necessarily because I think he’s the superior back, but I think his style lends itself more to potentially breaking one against them.  Now, obviously, on 7 carries he only got 16 yards, with a long rush of only 5 yards, so it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if he had another 10 touches.  But, still, I like a guy who’s quick to decide and hits the hole hard against a line like that.  Because, let’s face it, if the Huskies were able to open ANY holes in the running game, those holes weren’t destined to remain open for very long.

Ultimately, when you combine the fact that Alabama mostly kept six in the box, and rarely blitzed, it allowed them to keep their safeties back and eliminated most – if not all – deep passing attempts.  I will say that, after the pick six, right before halftime, I saw John Ross streaking up the middle of the field, having gotten behind the defense.  Had Jake Browning seen the same, we could’ve stolen a touchdown right back and made the second half a lot more interesting.  But, who knows, he was probably trying to dodge another defender who aimed to take his head off.  It was pretty discouraging to see us almost never attempt a pass in the middle of the field when the game was in doubt.  Again, I don’t know if the defense dictated that, or the game plan, but an offense full of short passes to the sidelines isn’t going to get it done against any defense.

I’ll just close out with a little something on Jake Browning.  I think it’s pretty clear he took a big step forward from his Freshman year to this year.  I feel like he’s getting a lot of flak from fans, who think he “doesn’t show up” in big games.  Let’s just take a step back here and remember he started from the very first game as a true Freshman last year.  So, he was essentially thrown into the fire, and did pretty well for himself.  He was damn near a completely different quarterback by season’s end.  That put him into his Sophomore year this year, where as I noted above, he took a big step forward.  The team succeeded accordingly and we cracked the College Football playoffs!  He even found himself, for a while there, in the national discussion for the Heisman Trophy!  Granted, it was a bit of a down year for the Heisman; I don’t know anyone who thinks Lamar Jackson is literally the best player in college football in 2016 (this probably should’ve been the year it went to a lineman or something).

In 2017, you have to figure Jake will be in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy from Day 1.  He’s coming off of a 12-win season and a playoff berth, the pressure will be ungodly.  So, I’ll be most interested in seeing how he responds.  He’ll be an upper-classman, he’ll have two years’ worth of experience in this system, and you figure he’ll be poised for one more big step forward in his progression.  At this point, he’s got the experience, he’s mastered being a leader for this team, now it’s time to refine and fine tune his game to be an elite college quarterback.  With a target on his back, and all of the Huskies’ backs as conference champions, nothing will come easy for this team in 2017.

How they respond to being in the long shadow of the 2016 Huskies will go a long way towards dictating whether we’ll be even better next year, or regress towards the mean.

Pretty Crazy About Sark, Huh?

When Steve Sarkisian bolted from the University of Washington for USC, I’ll admit I was pretty damn bitter.  That’s not totally unexpected, but what’s a little shocking is the level of naiveté I was working with.  As far as Husky fans are concerned, I’m something of a n00b.  I was never into college football, whatsoever, when I was growing up.  I attended the University of Washington because it was close to home, and because it accepted me.  Had I not made the cut, I was well on my way to being a Washington State Cougar, and my whole life would be radically different right now.

I enrolled as a Husky in 1999, the same year Rick Neuheisel was hired.  Neuheisel was a dramatic shift away from past Husky leaders, Don James (the immortal, from 1975-1992) and James’ defensive coordinator, Jim Lambright (1993-1998).  Lambo took over under the harsh scrutiny and penalties of the NCAA, and for the most part held the program together through some pretty dark times.  But, the university was looking for a change, and made a big splash in wooing Neuheisel away from Colorado after some successful years.

So, for all intents and purposes, Rick Neuheisel was my first Husky coach.  Of course, history hasn’t been kind to the Neuheisel regime.  Many argue he had his greatest successes with Lambo’s players (particularly superstar quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo), finishing 3rd in the nation in his second season as the Husky head coach, followed by another Top 20 finish the very next year.  Neuheisel’s fourth and final year was something of a disappointment, and as it turned out, 2002 was just the beginning of a long, slow death of a football program.

At the time, I thought Neuheisel got a raw deal with his termination – I mean, come on, a football coach can’t participate in a friendly NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket contest?  But, who knows?  Maybe it was for the best.  If he didn’t destroy this program with shoddy recruiting, he either would’ve left for a better-paying gig, or even possibly gotten us saddled with more sanctions than we ended up getting.  Much like the mighty oak tree, Rick Neuheisel was shady as all get-out.

But, that didn’t help things from a football perspective on the field.  Keith Gilbertson was hired as Neuheisel’s replacement.  He was a throwback to the Don James days, and he should be commended for taking a no-win situation.  As one might expect, he struggled to get us to .500 in his first year, before totally collapsing with a 1-10 record in 2004 (including going 0-8 in conference play).  After that, in an attempt to clean up our reputation, we hired Tyrone Willingham – recently fired from Notre Dame after having great success in Stanford years prior – and thus began our final bottoming out.

Throughout that whole decade, from 1999 through 2008, I followed the program, but I wouldn’t say I followed it as ardently as I do now.  I’m sure I didn’t watch all the games, for instance.  I certainly didn’t go to all the games, or even a high percentage of games.  In fact, if I had any memory at all, I may have gone to MAYBE 10 games total in that time period.  Part of that had to do with not having a ton of money, part of that had to do with spending a year and a half out of state, but the Husky football program was more of an excuse to hang out with friends and party than it was actually appreciating the product on the field.

In 2009, all of that started to change.  We hired Sark with the express purpose of getting back to winning football games.  Fuck graduation rates, fuck our reputation in the NCAA, now it was time to produce on the field.  In a lot of ways, my Husky fandom was reborn with the hire of Sark.  And, in his first couple of years, Sark didn’t disappoint.

  • In his first game, the Huskies fought hard & lost a close one at home to LSU
  • In his third game, we beat 3rd-ranked USC at home
  • In his sixth game, we beat Arizona in a thriller, 36-33, which still stands as the best football game I’ve ever seen in person
  • In his first Apple Cup, we shut out the Cougs 30-0
  • In his first season finale, we destroyed 19th-ranked Cal 42-10
  • In Year 2, we went down to 18th-ranked USC and beat them again
  • In the final three regular season games of 2010, we swept UCLA, Cal, and Wazzu to earn our first bowl game since 2002 with Rick Neuheisel
  • In that Holiday Bowl, we beat 16th-ranked Nebraska, who had slaughtered us earlier that same season

After those first two years, Sark was our adopted heir apparent to Don James.  The Dawgfather Part II.  While we all knew there was a great possibility that he’d eventually leave us for USC whenever they came calling, many of us couldn’t help but dream of a scenario where Sark brought us back to the Don James glory days of contending for national championships, building an empire in the northwest for the next quarter century.

That naiveté I talked about earlier.  It was there in spades.  I mean, why WOULD you trust anyone who played at BYU, who was from Southern Cal and who got his first coordinating experience with USC, when he said that the Washington Husky Football head coaching job was his “dream job”?  It’s ludicrous!  Those are empty words that you hear from practically every single head coach upon being hired by a new team!

Nevertheless, when he left, it stung.  It stung worse than when we lost Neuheisel.  I just had the feeling that he’d go on to USC, bring them back to national prominence, and we’d be up here looking like the fools who gave away the golden goose.

Sark’s first year at USC was pretty solid.  9-4 record, 2nd place finish in the Pac-12 South, important wins over ranked Stanford & Arizona teams, and a Holiday Bowl win over 25th-ranked Nebraska.  They finished in the Top 25 in both polls; all in all, not a bad start to a tenure.  Meanwhile, Chris Petersen struggled in his first year as Sark’s replacement.  We finished the regular season 8-5, losing to all five ranked opponents, including an unforgivable botch job in that Arizona game; then we lost our bowl game to a not-very-good Oklahoma State team.  We had four players on defense get drafted in the first two rounds, yet as a unit, our defense couldn’t have looked more mediocre.  There were definitely some growing pains as holdovers from the Sark regime tried to adjust to Coach Pete’s expectations, and in the end it all resulted in one of the more unsatisfying seasons we’ve had around here since our winless 2008.

2015 didn’t appear to be trending much better, with the Huskies going with a true freshman at quarterback, while trying to patch together a defense that lost a lot of starters.  Through four games, the Huskies were 2-2 and things were as expected.  We’d coast through the rest of a losing season and PRAY some of the young guys showed real, tangible improvement.  On the flipside, USC looked pretty ordinary in their own right through four weeks.  Starting the year as a pre-season Top 10 program, the Trojans let one slip away against an unranked Stanford team.  On top of that, there was the pre-season flap where Sark had too much to drink and made an ass out of himself at a school function.  A lot of Husky fans had a lot of fun at his expense, not realizing the full extent of the problem.

Were there rumors that Sark was something of a partyboy when he was head coach of the Huskies?  For sure!  But, we’re talking about a relatively young guy, promoting a youthful, fun atmosphere.  And, you can say what you want about his on-field playcalling, but he certainly got the job done in the recruiting department (maybe not in the offensive line, but you don’t get a player like Shaq Thompson to come here if you’re not a guy who knows how to recruit – players, and fellow coaches/recruiters).  Does he like to have a good time, and occasionally allow himself to consume too much?  Sure, but who doesn’t?

Everything seemed to come to a head last Thursday, as the Huskies made their way down to USC.  No one gave us a chance in Hell.  Yet, our defense was as good as I’ve seen it since the Neuheisel days, and our offense did just enough to get us the W.  Husky fans rejoiced, we poked more fun at Sark, and this season has since taken a wonderful turn towards the positive.  Maybe we’ll beat Oregon at home this week, for the first time in ages!  MAYBE, we’ll even win enough games to get into a bowl game, thereby giving our true freshman quarterback some extra practices to hone his craft!  Limitless possibilities!

Not so, down in Trojanland.  Apparently, Sark came into practice last Sunday while still drunk, or at the very least at the end of a long bender.  He was placed on leave, and later terminated for cause, because having an erratic lush as your head coach will NOT do wonders for your recruiting it turns out.

When I wrote that post above, in the days/hours following Sark’s abandonment of the Husky program, as I said before I was pretty bitter.  I wished him ill will.  I wished he’d be ridden out of Southern Cal on the rails like Lane Kiffin had before him.  This moment, this happening, SHOULD bring me great joy!  I should be wallowing in the succulence of sour grapes like a pig in shit.  But, honestly, I can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.  He was supposed to be crushed under the impossible weight of USC expectations, and watch miserably as his teams faltered on the football field.  He wasn’t supposed to let that misery affect his personal life and drink himself out of a job!  I mean, I’m not a monster, after all.  I am capable of having sympathy, apparently (who knew?).

I have a different take on quote/unquote alcoholism than I think most others.  I think the textbook definition – and most people’s definitions – of alcoholism is greatly exaggerated.  It dates back to this country’s puritanical origins for all things “sinful”.  Sex out of wedlock is naughty, marijuana is a gateway drug that will ruin your life, and more than four beers makes you an alcoholic.  It’s insane!  Before I learned all these stories about Sark being drunk on the job – at practice and even during games – when we only had the story from that pre-season USC function, and some bar tabs from recruiting trips and such while he was head coach of the Huskies, I thought that Sark was no different than myself.  I like to tie one on during the weekends.  I work all week in an office, I should be allowed to have as many fucking beers as I want on Friday and/or Saturday nights!  As long as I’m not driving while drunk, getting into fights, or otherwise being an asshole while drunk, then who cares?

My take on alcoholism is this:  when it starts infringing on your regular, everyday life, then you’ve got a problem.  Like, when you’re drinking a fifth of vodka every single day, just to get through the day.  Like, when you’ve got so many DUIs that you lose your license and need to be chauffeured everywhere by family or friends.  Like, when you turn into a raging dickhead when you’re drunk and start alienating everyone around you.  Or, when your drunkenness starts affecting your ability to hold down a job.  Among, I’m sure, other reasons I can’t think of right now.

I think the term Functioning Alcoholic, or High-Functioning Alcoholic, is dismissive and patronizing.  Alcoholism shouldn’t be reduced to how many drinks you have in a day, or how many you have in a week.  If you drink to unwind after work, and you’re not hurting anybody, then who cares?  You’re not a High-Functioning Alcoholic, you’re just a person, making it through what can be – at times – a long and shitty life.

Sark, it appears, went off the deep end, though.  In almost any job, you have to be aware of your abilities and limitations.  I don’t know of any employer who’s going to tolerate you coming into work while sauced.  But, that dynamic increases 100-fold when you’re in a public position like head coach of a major college football program.  Without knowing him personally, or even the intimate details of his private life, Sark strikes me as someone who needs help.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of; we all need help at one point or another.  It’s good that he’s finally at a point where he’s willing and able to get that help.

As a Husky fan, more than anything I feel sorry for the guy.  Yes, he brought it upon himself.  Yes, he’s a famous, white millionaire with the epitome of First World Problems.  But, he’s still going through a lot of emotional shit right now, and as much as I want to enjoy him falling on his face for leaving the Washington program, I just can’t do it.

The stark truth is, Sark did have his dream job, when he was hired by USC.  He’s since lost that job, in a painfully embarrassing and premature way.  And, he’ll never have that opportunity again.  He can go to rehab, he can get his addiction under control, and he can be in a position to be entrusted with another bigtime college football program.  He can do almost anything he wants with the rest of his life, and he can live that life in comfort and financial security.  But, he’ll never have his dream job again.

Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?  I tend to have my doubts, especially in cases like this, where that love was ripped away all too soon.  So, if you’re looking for a reason to feel bad for a guy you may have resented for leaving the Huskies, I’ll present exhibit A.

Huskies Shut Out Inferior Opponent It Paid Nearly Half A Million Dollars To Play Here

49-0.  After a scoreless first quarter, the result was never really in doubt.  One could argue this game was decided before it was even played – given the discrepancy in talent between the two teams – but upsets are known to rear their ugly heads from time to time.

I don’t know what you really take away from a game like this.  It counts as a win in the record books, so that brings us one game closer to a bowl game, I guess.  Maybe it gives the kids on the Huskies some confidence – or some relief, at getting the first win out of the way.  For a true freshman quarterback, I’m sure this is fabulous.  Say what you will about Sacramento State, but it’s still a step up from high school ball.

Jake Browning looked a lot better today.  326 yards, 2 TDs (one of which probably should’ve been picked off) and 0 interceptions.  He was more than a struggling newb throwing balls towards or beyond the sidelines; he dissected the middle of the field and looked confident doing so.  Again, the level of competition demands you pull back on calls that this kid is the next Brock Huard or Marques Tuiasosopo – surely we’ll find what he’s made of once we reach conference play – but nevertheless this beats a poor performance any day of the week.  I think we can all rest easier knowing that he has some semblance of greatness in him.  How great he’ll be remains to be seen.

Where in the holiest of fucks has Myles Gaskin been all my life?  Well, considering he’s a freshman, having just concluded his second college game ever, I’d say Myles Gaskin originated from some sort of Badass Running Backs Factory, subsisting on a steady diet of Gatorade and the bones of his vanquished enemies.  14 carries, 146 yards, 3 touchdowns, showing the vision and burst of a superstar in waiting.  Coach Pete has struck me thus far in his Husky career as a man most willing to spread the touches around.  But, if Gaskin keeps dominating the way we all saw today, I don’t think he’ll have much choice (if he wants to keep his job) but to give Gaskin the lion’s share of the carries and get the God damn fuck ass out of the way.

Joshua Perkins is a senior tight end I know relatively little about.  Quite frankly, I came into this season the way I go into most seasons where Austin Seferian-Jenkins isn’t on the college roster, believing the same thing:  the Huskies simply don’t have a tight end this year.  He had 25 receptions last year, and 5 the year before that.  But, he’s 6’4, and it looks like he’s going to be a prominent weapon for us down the seams and in the red zone.  I don’t know what his 40 time is, or what he’s got going for him in a 3-cone, but if he manages to ball out at the combine (and/or the Husky Pro Day, depending on if he’s invited to the combine or not), he could see himself on an NFL roster this time next year.

Today was a drubbing for the Hornets, plain and simple.  In the second and third quarters, the Huskies moved the ball at will.  And, for the most part, throughout the game, the defense held them in check.  Over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing will always look good on the stat sheet, but who knows if this is real or make believe?  Last week, against a top 25 ranked opponent, the Huskies could only muster 150 yards passing and under 30 yards rushing.  I’d say the true talent level of the 2015 Husky offense resides somewhere in the middle.  Where we find them on that spectrum will dictate if this is another bowl team, or simply a step-back in the rebuilding of this roster under Coach Pete.  As he continues to secure top-flight recruits, and as today’s game featured far more inspired play-calling than last week’s game in Boise, I’m encouraged by the direction this team is taking.

Next week, we face a moderately more fierce opponent in the form of Utah State.  The Mountain West is certainly a step up from the Big Sky, but nevertheless the talent gap still resides in Washington’s favor.  All in all, you have to like the way the Huskies have been tested thus far, as we prepare for Cal to come to town in two weeks.  God Awgs.

YOUR Washington Huskies Shit The Bed In The Cactus Bowl

I don’t know what to say.  I was as confident as you can be going into this game – going so far as making Washington my top choice in this year’s college bowls pool – and I was rewarded with the hottest mess imaginable.

One of my themes on the year has been:  we’re wasting all this great defensive talent with this mediocre offense.  That’s no less true now, and guys like Shelton, Kikaha, and Thompson will all be greatly missed.  But, for what it’s worth, what did those guys or anyone else do on defense last night?  I mean, what’s the deal?  We’re talking about no less than three All Americans on the same side of the ball; yet a team like Oklahoma State is able to shred us at will?  It’s not like those three guys are surrounded by total scrubs; this defense should be better than it is!

A lot of people are calling for the head of the offensive coordinator, but you know what?  This coaching staff failed across the board this year.  Part of the blame should rightly be placed on a difficult transition from one coaching staff to another; I’m willing to concede that.  But, I’ll tell you what:  I’m not giving this coaching staff FOREVER.  In fact, I’m less inclined to give this staff a long leash compared to Sark and his crew when they took over in 2009.  Because the expectations are higher right now, and quite frankly, the cupboards aren’t NEARLY as bare as they were six years ago.

Should Coach Pete and Co. get some time to have their guys mature and see what they can do?  Of course.  But, in the meantime, we shouldn’t be THIS FUCKING BAD with the players brought in by the former regime, because these are still some good players.

One of those players is absolutely not Cyler Miles.  He’s awful.  He needs to go.  This coaching staff can regain a lot of credibility in my mind by benching him and going with literally anyone else.  If Coach Pete wants to start a redshirt freshman next year and go through a zillion growing pains with a future possible star?  BE MY GUEST!  But, if I have to endure another year of Noodle-Arm Miles, just because he’s the most experienced, I’m going to flip the fuck out.

I mean, WHAT HAPPENED?  Washington is supposed to be a school that’s capable of attracting quality quarterbacks!  Even in our leanest times post-Tui and pre-Locker, we had quarterbacks who could do SOMETHING well.  They either had strong arms, or they were able to run fast.  Ol’ Noodle-Arm can’t do EITHER!

The Washington Huskies easily had the worst starting quarterback in the entire state of Washington, and that’s including Wazzu’s backup-turned-starter AND Eastern’s capable signal caller.  Hell, I’m thinking even the Bellevue high school kid’s got some tools Ol’ Noodle-Arm will never DREAM of having.

There really couldn’t be a grosser taste in my mouth after this season.  The only thing I have to possibly look forward to next year is the fact that we never have to see this starting offensive line group ever again.  But, really, no.  I’m NOT looking forward to next season.  At all.  Maybe if they bench Ol’ Noodle-Arm, but I doubt they’re even capable of doing that.  Zero expectations of anything good.  So, who knows?  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I dunno.

I can’t even sit here and expect to make a bowl game next year.  6-6 seems to be our highest upside, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Huskies at the bottom of the conference.

I’ll leave you with this:  the combined record of the seven FBS teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  26-60.  And this:  the combined conference record of the four Pac-12 teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  7-29.

2014:  total disaster for the Washington Huskies.