Washington Huskies Took Out Arizona To Set Up A Top-10 Showdown This Friday

If you want to know where my priorities are today, look no further.  The Huskies are BACK, baby!

There’s usually nothing more satisfying than a dominant victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  Unfortunately, in my experience, that’s a rarity, and we either get stuck with defeats or eking out wildly close and exciting finishes.  The best football game I’ve ever been to in person was the Arizona game in 2009, when Mason Foster picked off a Nick Foles pass that bounced off his receiver’s foot, for a go-ahead touchdown (Desmond Trufant would go on to pick Foles again, deep in Husky territory, on the very next drive to seal the victory in the closing seconds).

We haven’t had much success down in Tucson in recent seasons, but that was set to change Saturday night.  Of course, it wouldn’t be easy, and if you expected otherwise, I’m sure the first drive of the game was a shock to the senses.  The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and held the ball for 6 minutes before scoring a touchdown.  After punting on our first drive, the Wildcats had another 6+ minute drive, but we were able to hold on 4th & goal.  From there, the tide really started to shift in our favor.

We traded touchdowns the next three drives to bring it to 14-14.  John Ross had a nifty little reverse for a 32-yard touchdown – with help from Jake Browning’s block on a defensive lineman to get him around the corner – and a 12-yard TD reception to give him 7 touchdowns on the season.  It was a little frustrating after this stretch, as we missed on a couple of opportunities to take a lead and extend it.  We wasted an interception by our defense, and then wasted a muffed punt from the same drive when our kicker missed the first of two field goal attempts on the day.

After halftime, we really rode our running game hard.  Specifically Lavon Coleman, who EASILY had the best game of his career:  181 yards on only 11 carries with a touchdown.  His 44 yard run on the opening drive of the second half set up Browning for an easy goalline run into the endzone.  Then, late in the game, after Arizona had tied it up again at 21-all, Coleman busted out for a 55-yard touchdown to theoretically seal the deal.

But, Arizona was up to the charge.  They drove right back down in three minutes to re-tie it at 28, forcing overtime.  They won the toss, gave us the ball first, and watched Jake Browning hit Dante Pettis for the go-ahead touchdown.  On their possession, they got it as close as our 10-yard line, but the magic ran out and they finally succumbed to a 35-28 Husky victory.

In spite of our road victory, we still fell a spot in the rankings, this time to 10th in the nation.  Stanford has held steady at the 7th position to give us what we’ve been waiting for since the start of the season:  two Top-10 teams, on Friday night, on ESPN, in front of a national audience, at home, to prove who’s top dog in the Pac-12 North (and, therefore, who’s top dog in the Pac-12 overall).

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  this has shades of 2011 written all over it.  The Huskies were 5-1, ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in forever, getting ready to face an undefeated, Top-10 Stanford team to see if we’re ready to play with the big boys.  And what happened?  Well, I was there so I should know:  we got demolished 65-21.

Or, maybe you’re thinking:  this has shades of 2013 written all over it!  The Huskies were 4-0, fresh off a victory over the Arizona Wildcats, ranked 15th in the nation for the first time in forever, getting ready to face an undefeated, Top-10 Stanford team to see if THIS TIME we’re ready to play with the big boys.  And what happened?  Again, I was there so I should know:  we played them tough, but ultimately our comeback attempt bounced just short and we lost 31-28 (we would go on to lose the next two games to Oregon and ASU to fall out of the Top 25 and effectively eliminate any chance at a 10-win season).  We lost to every ranked team in our conference that year, which has been a trend since we’ve started to climb out of the muck that was the 2008 season.

Against all ranked teams since 2009, the Huskies have gone 10-26.  Our overall record in that span has been 50-41, which means we’ve gone 40-15 against non-ranked teams.  Or, in other words, we’ve feasted on the mediocre en route to 6 bowl games in those 7 seasons.  What’s been most damning is our 0-7 record against Oregon and our 1-6 record against Stanford.  You can’t be the best until you beat the best, and we haven’t beaten the best in quite some time.

The difference with this week’s Stanford game – as opposed to those highly anticipated matchups in 2011 & 2013 – is:  we’re at home, and we ARE legitimate.  Those other Husky teams were pretenders at best, as you can see from our record against ranked opponents.  But, this year, we don’t need to prove ourselves.  We don’t need a win on Friday to validate all of our hard work.  We just need to take care of business in order to achieve what we’re here to achieve:  a Rose Bowl berth.  This season is bigger than Stanford.  It’s bigger than Oregon even!  This season is about Washington, and our re-emergence on the national scene!  Win or lose this week, we’re still in a position to win a bunch of games this year.  But, if we do win, the world is our oyster.  We take a huge lead in the Pac-12 North, we leapfrog one of our direct rivals in the national rankings, and we put ourselves in line for a potential College Football Playoff spot down the road.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest game in YEARS.  This is bigger than either of those other Stanford games.  Bigger than the 2013 Oregon game where ESPN’s College GameDay came to Seattle.  This is, without any hyperbole whatsoever, the biggest game we’ve played in since the 2000 season’s Rose Bowl against Purdue.  Truth be told, this is the biggest HOME game we’ve played since earlier in that 2000 season, when the Huskies were 15th in the nation, hosting the #4 Miami Hurricanes.  In that game, we defeated the team that would go on to end up #2 in America, handing them their only defeat and preventing them from winning the National Championship; the fact that they ended up ranked one spot ahead of us, when we had the same exact record and we BEAT them that year, is a testament to East Coast Bias being a very real fucking thing, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s been 16 long years since we’ve been in this position.  16 long years since the Washington Huskies have been legitimately great, and contenders for a major bowl game.  If we’re ever going to get over the hump and prove that we belong, it starts this Friday.  It starts with beating the everloving snot out of those fucking Stanford NERDS!!!

Why I Am Excited For Husky Football In 2011

Color me the copycat of the Seattle Times.  Still, seems like as good a time as any for my thoughts on the Dawgs.

I haven’t been a fan of the purple and gold all my life; indeed, I only started being a fan when I enrolled back in 1999.  I was there for Marques Tuiasosopo’s final two years, so right there I got to root for a legend and one of the greatest Huskies of all time.  I got to go to a few games in the student section, so that was always fun.  But, in the years since that memorable run to 11-1 and a Rose Bowl victory in 2000, there hasn’t really been a ton to be excited about.

However, with the hiring of coach Sark, my passion for this football team has increased exponentially.  I’ve become a regular at Husky Stadium – and especially at the Husky tailgates – and I’ve got to say there isn’t anything quite as fun as drunkenly standing and yelling for three hours on a Saturday afternoon.

This year, the Dawgs are coming off of a 7-6 campaign highlighted by running the table in the final three games in as exciting a fashion as you could possibly imagine (the Blackout on Thursday night vs. UCLA; the 4th & goal goalline plunge by Chris Polk at Cal; and the 35-28 shootout in the Apple Cup).  Our Holiday Bowl thrashing of Nebraska was more thrilling than the 19-7 score indicated.  In two years we’ve gone from one of the very worst programs in all of college football to a return to prominence in the newly-formed Pac-12.  As a Husky fan, you have to love what we’re doing with our recruiting, but even so 2011 is still somewhat of a transition year.

While the team overall looks to be improved across the board, it’s undeniable that we’ve taken a step back at quarterback, the most important position on the team.  Say what you will about Jake Locker’s accuracy, I’ll counter that by saying that he was plagued by drops throughout his career.  Even then, he was a consummate leader with a passion for winning on par with other Husky legends like Tui, Steve Emtman, and the Huard brothers.  These guys would kill themselves if it meant a W on Saturday.

It’s these kinds of intangibles that will ultimately distinguish Jake Locker’s senior season from Keith Price’s first season as the starter.  But, make no mistake, Keith Price is the man.  He earned his job this year by being the best quarterback on this team, bar none.  And, on a pure talent-level, Keith Price isn’t much of a drop off from Locker.  He’s got a strong arm, he’s got the ability to scramble and elude pressure, and I feel he’s got the talent around him to succeed.

I’m pretty sure we’re returning 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen.  That kind of consistency is bound to be an upgrade over last year.  And especially when you consider how well they played in the last four games of last season, I have to feel confident in their ability to pass protect (and even more confident in their ability to run block).

We’ve got Chris Polk back, along with Jesse Callier and some real strong younger guys who weren’t on this team a year ago.  Granted, Polk’s injury and subsequent surgery that will likely force him to miss next week’s game against Eastern Washington is more than a little bothersome, I don’t think there’s any way this keeps him off the field for too much longer.  Chris Polk is the strongest running back I’ve seen come through here in the last decade; he’s a difference-maker that’s going to bring more than just balance to this offense.  He’s going to be our leader in the backfield that keeps opposing offenses off the field while racking up a serious amount of yardage and touchdowns for our own.

And what better way to introduce a red-shirt sophomore to his first season as a starter than with our corps of receivers.  Jermaine Kearse was an absolute force for Jake Locker (in spite of his very public case of the dropsies).  In his last two years, he’s caught over 100 balls for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns.  He’s a big target who is going into his senior season.  Look for him to make even more of an impact this year in hopes to raise his draft stock for the NFL.  Devin Aguilar is a senior on the other side who has become the epitome of consistency.  Kasen Williams is one of our hotshot true freshmen who is looking to make an immediate impact right out of high school.  And our incoming true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has to be hands-down our greatest athlete and a lock to be an impact receiving tight end in the pros just as soon as he’s eligible to declare for the Draft.  You couldn’t ask for a better group of targets for a new quarterback!  They’re bound to take every bit of pressure off of Keith Price this season.

On the other side of the ball, you’d have to say that linebacker is the next-biggest question mark going into this season.  Honestly, I’d be a lot more concerned if we didn’t have returning senior Cort Dennison to anchor this group.  But, even if we didn’t, you have to look at our D-Line – anchored by probably the best tackle in the conference, Alameda Ta’amu – and what they also did down the stretch in last year’s run to a Holiday Bowl victory and feel confident that THAT experience will propel this defense to greater things.  Certainly, greater than we’ve seen since the glory days of Rick Neuheisel’s since-tarnished run back when I was still in school.  And, to cap things off, we’ve got Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant with another year of experience to bring to our secondary.

This defense may not be perfect, but it’s unlikely to be something I’ll be overly concerned about.

What IS a concern – and probably worth more trepidation than I’m even giving it credit for now – is our schedule.  Which pretty much is my way of saying that we have to go into Nebraska, and we’re still in a conference with powerhouse schools like USC, Oregon, and Stanford (my pick to win it all and contend for a national championship).

Here’s the thing though, I can look at this schedule and start counting the defeats as if they’re automatic coming into the season, but I can’t help but feel confident.  Maybe it’s the rose-colored glasses I’m still wearing coming off of that 4-0 run to close last season, maybe it’s my rampant homerism taking over control of my brain, maybe it’s my steadfast belief in all of those hundreds of words I just wrote preceeding these last two paragraphs.  Whatever the reason, I can’t help but believe that we will be competative in every single one of these games this season.

Eastern Washington may have won the FCS national championship last year, but let’s face it, they should be pushovers (I’m going to regret writing that sentence next week if they happen to shock the world).  And I don’t know much about Hawaii’s program other than the fact that they seem to carry a lot of talent on offense every year, but if we’re not 2-0 going into that showdown at Memorial Stadium, it’ll be a huge upset.

That game at Nebraska has taken on an entirely different meaning with our stomping of them in the Holiday Bowl.  If we were going into that game 0-2 against them in the last year, I’d be singing a much different tune.  But, we’ve shown what it takes to beat this team on a national stage, and I don’t see why we can’t use that same rush-heavy blueprint to do the same thing on their home turf.  Now, if I was a betting man, I’d stay away from this game completely, because as a rational human being, I don’t think there’s any way the Huskies go in there and come out alive.  But, as a fan of the Purple & Gold, I have to admit that I honestly didn’t think there was any way we could’ve beaten them in the Holiday Bowl either.  And I don’t buy this argument that they weren’t “up” for the Dawgs last December.  If you’re a big time college football program and you can’t get “up” for a bowl game, then there’s something more than a little wrong with you than being disappointed about your opponent.  No one in their right mind in that program would use excitement level as an excuse for the butt-whipping they endured.  They had the same amount of practice time as we did; they just got beat.  And it’s not impossible to say they won’t suffer a similar fate this year.

After the first three, we get Cal at home (a definite advantage for the good guys), a road game in Utah (who might be the biggest wild card in all of the Pac-12 outside of Montlake), and a home game against Colorado (who I just have to hope we don’t look past on our way to the bigtime matchups coming up).

Because once we get through our sixth game of the season, shit starts getting REAL.  @ Stanford, vs. Arizona, vs. Oregon, @ USC, and @ Oregon State.  That Stanford game is hands down the game I’m least confident in.  So, of course that’s the road game I decided to attend this year.  Aside from what I’m hoping is me being a good-luck charm, the only other thing we have going for us is the fact that Stanford’s home crowd isn’t anything to write home about.  Let’s just say their home experience isn’t the most terrifying in all of sports.

Arizona always seems to have a monster offense, and they always seem to have our number (except for that 2009 game – which I attended – where we miraculously came back with two late TDs, including Mason Foster’s mind-blowing pick-six to seal the deal).

Oregon is Oregon, but they’re coming to Husky stadium and we would give just about anything to break the stranglehold they have on us.  USC is also USC, but we’ve found a way to have their number in the last two seasons and there’s no reason to think we couldn’t make it three in a row.  Oregon State, by all accounts, looks to be down compared to last year, but it’s still in their home stadium and they’re always tough at home.

We close the season with the Apple Cup (as it should be) at CenturyLink where we may or may yes be pushing for a bowl berth.  I think the Cougs will be much better than they were last season, by which I mean the Cougs will win more than AH conference game.  But, I don’t think among those conference wins will be one in the Apple Cup.

If I had to predict a record, I’d say 7-5 is a safe bet.  Still, best case scenario is 9-3, and my thoughts on the matter are waffling constantly.  I’ll probably have an updated prediciton when I’m actually able to see this team play.  But, whatever happens, I’m still excited for a memorable 2011.

At the very least, I still have the Husky tailgates.  If the team falls apart and I’m made to look like a huge idiot, at least I’ll figure out a way to have fun (read:  by being super drunk every Saturday).

Why The Huskies Will Be Better Than Expected

That title is kinda ridiculous, when you think about it, because I have a feeling expectations are all over the map on this team.  I’m sure there are some who will see a team minus Jake Locker, minus a couple of quality linebackers in Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa, and they’ll say, “This team is going nowhere but the bottom of the Pac-12.”  And, I’m sure there are sycophants out there who will point to all the talent at skill positions and say, “This is a team that can contend for the Rose Bowl!”

I’m not going to go quite that far, but I do think we have a chance to win anywhere from 6 to 8 games, depending on how things shake out.

I’m not gonna lie to you, losing Jake Locker is a step back.  But, I don’t know how BIG a step back this will be.  Keith Price has the luxury of having started a game against the Number 1 team in college football (on the road!).  He’s been put through the trial of an offseason competition with Nick Montana and come out on top.  He’s got the wheels of a quality running quarterback – maybe not as fast or as powerful as Locker, but then again, who is?  What we’ve yet to find out about Keith Price is:  can he drive us down field in a 2-minute offense using solely (or primarily) his arm?  Because Locker was great at that.  Maybe he had to improvise a little bit, but he would almost always get the job done.

But, when you think about it, this SHOULD be a team that leans heavily on the run.  When were we at our best last season?  When all thoughts of a Heisman Trophy went out the window and we decided it was best for this team to pound the ball.  QB draws and Chris Polk.  A LOT of Chris Polk.  I would expect more of the same this year.  Polk will be our horse, we still have Jesse Callier, and I’m pretty sure we have a freshman coming in who might end up being more talented than both!

The studs don’t stop there, though.  We have receivers out the ying-yang, starting with incoming beast Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end.  Our other superstar freshman – receiver Kasen Williams – should also demand some heavy playing time.  Coming back, we have D’Andre Goodwin and Jermaine Kearse, and I’m sure a few other guys who are primed to step up into the spotlight (or, in the case of James Johnson, BACK into the spotlight).

If we’re going to be a running team, what are we going to do with all this talent at receiver?

Well, I’m sure they’re not going to be neglected – I’m sure we’ll be able to feature them heavily in our first two non-conference games – but when it gets down to crunch time, when we need a couple yards to convert on third down, I have no doubt it’ll be a steady dose of the running back off tackle.

A lot of people, when they look at this year’s Husky team, will point to the defense as a huge question mark.  After all, we lost our two best players to the draft.  And that was from a defense that wasn’t all that great to begin with! 

Well, if you give any creedence whatsoever to spring practices, then you’ll have confidence in our defensive line, because apparently it was a non-stop killing machine!  Josh Shirley – transfer from UCLA – can get after the quarterback like nobody’s business.  Now, can he do that in a real game?  That’ll be the question.  One guy we know can wreak havoc is Alameda Ta’amu.  He’ll be a senior, the unquestioned leader of that line, and should make running the ball against us a non-factor.

As far as our linebacking is concerned, it seems like every year we lose an all-world linebacker, only to have the next guy in line step up and make an impact.  This year should be no different as long as Cort Dennison is around.  He moves up to become the leader of the defense, and I have no doubt he’ll be able to keep the other linebackers in check.

My main concern is the secondary.  I just don’t think we have the talent to prevent the good teams from moving the ball up and down the field (that Stanford game should prove to be a God-damned massacre once again).  Hopefully, if our D-Line is as good as advertised, the other teams’ quarterbacks won’t have enough time to launch ball after ball down field.

My other big concern is our schedule.  It’s not necessarily a bear because of our non-conference foes – although, Eastern Washington and Hawaii are no slouches – but because the Pac-12 (as usual) is fucking loaded at the top.  Oregon, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State will all be awesome (according to what I’ve read, anyway).  We play all of those teams (except Oregon) on the road; so that’s cool.

First thing’s first:  we have to go into Nebraska 2-0.  Losing to either EWU or Hawaii is not an option.  I actually like the way this shakes out, to tell you the truth.  We start out with a team in a lower college division (albeit the BEST team in that lower division), then we take a step up to a mid-major type university, then we take the big leap to the Big-10.

Now, in my fantasy world, I’m not saying we’re DEFINITELY going to march into Nebraska and make them our bitches like we did in the Holiday Bowl.  But, I don’t see why we COULDN’T do that.

What we MUST do is win a minimum of 6 games at home.  This year, we have a 7-game home schedule.  Something tells me we won’t topple the Ducks; so that means we have to beat:  EWU, Hawaii, Cal, Colorado, Arizona, and WSU.  Win those:  go to a bowl.

On the road, like I said before, it’s pretty nasty.  @ Nebraska, @ Utah, @ Stanford, @ USC, @ Oregon State.  I don’t like ANY of those games!  I think IF we’re going to win a game, it’s going to be either Nebraska or Utah.  I can’t imagine we strike gold a third consecutive year against USC, not with Barkley running the show and likely looking at Heisman contention.

I dunno, I could be wrong.  Maybe these teams I fear won’t be worth a damn by the time we face ’em.  If we can find a way to steal a couple of those road games, while still maintaining our 6 wins at home, I would say 8-4 is better than most people expect.  Either way, just GOING to a bowl could shatter a lot of expectations for how this Pac-12 is going to shake out.  I believe they’re going to do it.  And, for the record, I believe the Dawgs are going to steal at least one road game.

If I had my druthers, I’d make it the Stanford game and really shock the world.

Jake Locker & Mason Foster, Go Make Us Proud

Man, when Locker went 8th to the Tennessee Titans, I almost pissed myself!

I don’t have a whole lot to say, since I don’t really know their situation, but I have a feeling this is going to be a perfect fit for him.  They can re-sign Kerry Collins, they have the best running back in football, and when Collins finally gets injured, Locker should have the kind of soft landing needed for him to excel in this league.

I got a good feeling about this kid.  It’ll be nice to root for the Titans to go to the Super Bowl every year (it’ll be bittersweet to have to root against him when the Seahawks go to the Super Bowl every year, but that’s neither here nor there).

As for Mason Foster, it’s sweet to see him go to an up-and-coming team like the Bucs.  They’ve been killing this draft so far on the defensive end.  Their line will be young and fast, and if he gets a chance to start down the road, I know he’s never gonna give up his spot.

These are the two best Huskies to leave our school in quite some time.  They’ve got real good chances to have some fine NFL careers.

Price vs. Montana

Spring practices!  How about it!

Yeah, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s next to impossible to get excited for college spring practices.  Unless I can stand out in the parking lot of Husky Stadium drinking beer all day beforehand, I don’t think caring is in the cards.

Of course, if there EVER was a year to care – even a little bit – this might be the year.  Which seems a little backward, because we’re not supposed to contend for the Pac-12 championship.  We don’t have a Heisman candidate.  Yeah, we’re coming off of a marginally successful season capped by a late-season run against mediocre teams … but the 2011 Huskies will look nothing like the 2010 Huskies.

The reason to be excited is simple.  This is the first real test of Sarkisian’s ability to recruit.  Granted, in the last two seasons, we managed to expunge most of the guys from the previous regime simply by merit (or lack thereof) alone.  But now, even the quality guys have moved on.  No more Jake Locker to kick around.  No more Mason Foster.

We’ve got position battles, people!  We get to see how ALL these Freshmen – who’ve been getting extended opportunities the last couple years – progress and mature and grow.  Will they turn out to be studs?  Will we have to cycle in ever more Freshmen?

One of the major stories of the spring thus far is how much better the Defense is compared to the Offense.  I think that’s one of the most overrated stories of any offseason program.  Oh, you’re telling me the defense is dominating?  Well, what does that really MEAN?  Is our offense just so craptacular that we’ll be lucky to average 10 points a game this year?  I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m leaning more on that side of the spectrum.  Although, if what I’m hearing about our defensive line is true, we could all be pleasantly surprised come September.

The most important position battle, of course, is that for our Starting Quarterback.  Nick Montana vs. Keith Price.  Nick Montana, who red-shirted last season; and Keith Price, who started and played fairly well at Oregon.

I don’t have much of an opinion on this, because I’ve never seen Montana play and I only remember Price running for his life as the Ducks ran up the score in the 4th quarter.  It sounds like the race is too close to call, but it also sounds like Price has an edge in this race.

If I had it my way, I’d make this Montana’s job to lose.  Very simply put:  there’s a ceiling on all “running quarterbacks” where there’s not for a pure pocket passer.  Now, I don’t know where Montana’s head is at, if he’s making dumb mistakes, or if he’s got the field smarts of his father; but it seems to me that this was the biggest “Get” of Sark’s early recruiting run with the Huskies.  He’s got a year under his belt where he watched a legend lead his team to a Holiday Bowl victory, he’s got four years of eligibility left, and quite frankly he’s got some of the best running backs in the conference to lighten his load!

I’d rather have Montana get the chance and let this team grow around him for the next four years.

And, not for nothing, I’d really like to thumb my nose at BYU and Jake Heaps.  After all, Montana is the guy we settled on when Heaps spurned us in favor of the Mormons.  Heaps had his chance last year and ran away with it; I’d like to see Montana get that same opportunity.

I think I read somewhere that Sark doesn’t like going with dual quarterbacks; he likes to have a clearly defined starter and backup.  If they’re so close in ability right now, I kinda wish he’d back off that stance a little bit and give both a chance to play this year.  ONE of them is going to have to become a star.  I’d hate to see Montana’s growth stunted for another year based on one man’s personal preference.

I Didn’t Even Have To Use My AK: Fuck UCLA!

So, was it just me, or were those Pac-10 refs last night doing their best Wyatt Earp impressions? They’re going to single-handedly, in one game, clean up the game of college football! All these fouls that nobody ever calls, THEY’RE going to call every two seconds! Thus dragging the game down to a fucking CRAWL; but it’ll all be worth it, generations from now, when we look back on THESE REFS who were so bold, so brave, as to throw the flag on EVERY, FUCKING, PLAY.

Anyway, Jesus, other than that, it was a pretty good game last night, no?

Boy was it tight. Started out with a UCLA 3 & Out where the guy flat out dropped the ball on the third down conversion attempt, then we went 3 & Out, then they drove 90+ yards for a touchdown, most of that on the ground. Just churning out the yards! I had the sick feeling that this was our season right here. Once again, we were going to be run off the road by a speeding truck.

And then, the unimaginable happened. Our defense tightened up! Our defense responded! Our defense made adjustments! Our DEFENSE got a turnover in the first half!

As much as it pained my ass to see us flail about on so many 3rd & short’s, the best thing Sark ever did for us last night (and probably the best thing he’s done all season) was play conservative. Resist that nagging, stinging urge to go for it on 4th down when you just proved to everyone in the free world that you can’t convert 3rd & 1. Punt that shit. Play the field position game. Trust your defense. Trust that their offense sucks dick.

Of course, conservative game play doesn’t just stop with punting at the 50 yard line on 4th & 1. It also incorporates running the football. And boy did the Dawgs expose the Bruins for the frauds that they are on defense! 41 carries for the team, 253 yards! Including 26 for 138 for Polk and 10 for 107 (that’d be a 10.7 yards per carry average) for Callier. With that kind of mass destruction on the ground, we didn’t NEED to throw the ball!

And, that’s a good thing, because Locker wasn’t exactly precise on his throws (10 for 21 for 68 yards; and I’m not blaming the dropsies either, some of those throws were God-awful).

This is something I’ve been begging for all year. Run the ball! Run the ball some more! Just because you’re down by 10 points in the 3rd quarter doesn’t mean you’re finished with the run! God Dammit, it’s the single best thing you do on this team! That doesn’t even mean I’m calling for a return to Jake the 1,000-yard running back. I’m just saying, feed Chris Polk. I’m saying more fly-sweeps to Jesse Callier. Keep doing it until he breaks it!

With this defense that we employ, there’s no excuse for trying to up the tempo of the offense. We need to grind, grind, grind! Mash that clock into a bloody mess on the floor. This isn’t even about giving the defense “a rest”. It’s exactly about keeping our biggest liability OFF the field!

Of course, having said that, yesterday’s Time of Possession game was almost even; which is a testament to us being 1 for 12 on 3rd down. And, of course, having said that, our defense actually came up pretty big. We held their 3-pronged passing “attack” to 55 yards on 6 for 25 with 3 interceptions. And, we held their running game – which was among the top quarter in the nation – to a mere 108 yards (and to almost nothing after that touchdown drive back in the first quarter).

In short, yes, our defense is our biggest liability, but yesterday they played like they were our biggest strength. Mason Foster is a god on the gridiron, plain and simple. I can’t wait to watch him at the next level just destroying people. Our secondary – often a source of frustration – played their best game of the year, hands down. A pick six, a lot of jarring hits, some excellent zone-type coverage (in part thanks to UCLA’s terrible quarterbacks). All in all, it was a defense to be proud of. We haven’t been able to say that since the last two games of last season.

Here’s to hoping the last two games of this season are exactly alike.