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.

Huskies Close Out A Perfect Non-Conference Schedule

It wasn’t the mightiest of non-conference schedules, but since we don’t really have to worry about playoffs, I’m not gonna read too much into it. We beat Eastern, Hawaii, and BYU by a combined 144-53, which is pretty much what you want to see when your team is great and your opponents are … not.

Yet another quick start for the Huskies, jumping out to a 21-3 lead. From there, it was pretty much cruise control. Once again, Jacob Eason looked fantastic, throwing for 24/28 for 290, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. The pick was pretty bad, but so many of his throws were NFL-calibre. Talk has intensified every week about the likelihood that Eason declares for the League after this season, and I’m inclined to believe that over the alternative. At the very least, I’m not getting my hopes up, and if by the grace of all that is holy he comes back for 2020, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. At this point … maybe a 5% chance he stays?

The running game was rock solid, even with Salvon Ahmed out with an injury. We’re so deep at the position, it really didn’t make much of a difference. Sean McGrew is a serviceable workhorse, and Richard “Big Richard” Newton looks like a real dynamo.

The receivers are as deep as we’ve had in a long time. Where we lack a top-line talent a la John Ross or Dante Pettis, the whole group is pretty great, with Hunter Bryant probably the biggest matchup problem of the bunch. He had just an okay game, but I feel like if you wanted to, you could ramp up his catches whenever you want. Aaron Fuller led the way with 8 for 91 and a TD, who’s probably the closest we’ve got to a true #1; Andre Baccellia is our primary speedster who had a nice game with 4 for 72 and a TD.

The defense didn’t get a ton of pressure on the road, but did force a couple fumbles and brought one back to the house. I feel like this unit is getting better with every game though, and by season’s end we should really be holding other teams down.

This week, conference play gets going again and the Huskies look to even up the record after a disappointing Cal loss. USC comes to town headed by their third string quarterback; they hosted Utah last week and came away with an impressive victory, so this one is no sure thing. Losing to BYU isn’t gonna win them many votes in the polls, but they’re still ranked at 21, so this will either be an impressive win for the Huskies, or they’re continuing to over-rate a mediocre Trojans team. We’ll see, but I still expect the Dawgs to prevail. Maybe somewhere in the 34-20 range.

The Huskies Enjoyed A Comfortable Victory Over Hawaii

I suppose you’d call that a palate-cleanser, huh?

It was 38-0 before Hawaii finally got on the board just before halftime, so it’s not like this one was ever in any doubt. You could argue things got a little hairy when the Rainbow Warriors pulled to within 38-20, but the defense stiffened up and the offense got going again to pull away 52-20.

Jacob Eason threw for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Hunter Bryant went off with 5 catches for 115 yards and a TD. Ahmed and McGrew each carried the ball 8 times for a combined 146 yards and a TD. Freshman Richard Newton only ran for 29 yards, but pushed the ball over the goalline 3 times!

Defensively, Myles Bryant led the way with 2 picks (the defense as a whole accounted for 3 picks and 4 passes defensed). There was only 1 sack for the group, but Hawaii seemed pretty concerned with getting the ball out quickly.

A lot like the Eastern game, the Huskies did what they were supposed to do: stick it to a vastly inferior opponent. You could argue this one was more impressive, as Hawaii had already beaten Arizona and Oregon State, but I would argue those are two of the worst Pac-12 teams we’ve got this year. We’ll see. Regardless, I don’t think anyone will be putting this one in the “quality win” bucket.

Next week, however, presents a significant challenge as the Huskies travel to BYU. To date, the Cougars went on the road to beat Tennessee, and are just coming off of a home victory over USC; they lost to Utah, but Utah’s a top 10 program right now, so that’s understandable. I feel pretty secure in saying that BYU will be playing in a bowl game this season, so with it being on the road, this will be no gimme.