The Huskies Actually Played A Football Game, Beating The Beavs

You ever try to stay awake, sober, for an 8pm start-time to a college football game? It’s a lot of work! Of course, I’m 195 years old and staying up until all hours of the night isn’t as easy as it used to be (particularly when you regularly wake up anywhere from 3-5am most mornings). I’m not gonna lie to you, I made it until halftime, then had to DVR the rest of the game to watch it the following morning (at 5am, which is apparently a more appropriate time to watch a football game, because again, I am an old, elderly, deceased man).

You’d think the excitement of having college football back – and specifically the team I most care about – would be enough to carry me to the finish line. But, obviously, the effects of a COVID-marred season is taking its toll. There wasn’t the usual fire in the Husky text thread Saturday night, as I think many of us feel like this season is just one long exhibition more than a real sampling of what college football has to offer. Like NFL pre-season in its level of importance.

For me, it comes down to the Pac-12 having no shot to make the college football playoffs. Why they’ve stubbornly refused to expand – if for only this one year – is beyond all reason. We get a 4-team playoff and we can choke on it, as the usual gang of idiots monopolize those spots for another season.

So, what are we playing for, then? For fun, I suppose. For something to do on Saturdays for a few weeks. Obviously, for the players to showcase their skills, particularly for those who opt to go pro after this season (I don’t know what the rules are across all conferences, but I know the Pac-12 players have the option of extending their eligibility an extra season (2020 effectively not counting) if they do want to return in 2021. I’m not against it; I’m not complaining we have the Pac-12 back in our lives. But, I’m just saying it lacks that usual juice. The Huskies could go 6-0 this year (with 7-0 formally off the table) and it won’t make a lick of difference.

On top of the lack of stakes, it’s not like we can have proper tailgates. We obviously can’t attend the games. We can’t get any road trips together with our friends. Going to a bowl game seems dicey in these times where the COVID cases are climbing.

But, it’s football, and once the game got going, I was certainly enjoying myself. It’s not normal, but it’s close enough for now.

When I went to bed at halftime, the Huskies were ahead 24-21. The final score ended up being 27-21. I can only imagine how irritated I would’ve been staying up another however many hours of real time trying to make it to the bitter end, when as it was – being able to fast forward through halftime, commercials, and all the in-game stoppages – it was already pretty boring.

The global view of this game is that I’ll take a win any way I can get it! I thought, given the circumstances (late start, cold temperature, lots of rain throughout), the Huskies looked pretty good.

Redshirt Freshman Dylan Morris got the start for the Dawgs, who I suppose was a quasi-surprise given the 4-man competition. It sounded like the senior, Kevin Thomson, was in street clothes (indicating he’s got an injury), but I find it interesting Morris got the nod over Sophomore Jacob Sirmon (who actually did see a wee bit of playing time in 2019). Jimmy Lake said Morris was the best of the bunch at limiting either mistakes or turnovers (which I consider to be the same thing, in coachspeak), so that’s something. I thought Morris looked okay, but there were a lot of frustrating drops by the wide receivers (I remember this being a theme for the Huskies last year as well), and the team didn’t have him do too much (14/24 for 141 yards).

The running game was the star of the show. The Huskies had four running backs featured (plus Morris scrambles, plus a few fullback dives, plus some wide receiver jet-sweeps); the team as a whole combined for 267 yards on 51 carries and all three touchdowns, which is pretty outstanding! In a season-opener, with a new head coach, quarterback, and offensive coordinator, I don’t think you can ask for anything more from that side of the ball. Most importantly: there were no Husky turnovers.

The Huskies split carries pretty evenly between the three main backs. Kamari Pleasant did indeed get the start and looked good (12 for 61 and a TD). Richard Newton looked like the wrecking ball we all remember him as (15 for 41). And Sean McGrew looked like an absolute revelation! He was fast, he was explosive, and he was CRIMINALLY underutilized (9 for 91 and a TD). If this were a normal season – or if it eventually morphs into something resembling a normal season – McGrew would be taking the starting job and running (!) with it. My hunch is, if he keeps averaging 10 yards per carry, the coaches will have no choice but to give him the lion’s share of the carries. But, as everyone is getting used to playing again, it might not be the worst idea to have a big rotation going, to keep everyone healthy and fresh.

Terrell Bynum was the only receiver that really stood out to me in this one (4 catches for 66 yards, and another 2 carries for 33 yards), but there will be time for this unit to shine this season. Honestly, even though the Huskies gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown after the opening drive (our prized long-snapper delivered his first college snap about 10 yards over the head of our punter, who tracked it down, tried to punt it anyway, and got absolutely clobbered for his effort), we were pretty well in control throughout, so there was never a need to abandon the run. That won’t be the case every week; at some point, we’ll learn what Dylan Morris is all about.

The defense was solid. They really only gave up 14 points (and only three sustained drives, one ending early in the fourth quarter on downs after some iffy officiating in our favor). I would say the pass defense is as advertised – limiting the Beavs to 85 yards passing on 11/24 with an INT – but the rush defense had some holes (167 yards on 34 carries) and we didn’t get to the quarterback as much as I’d like. Nevertheless, we’ll throw out some individual kudos to Edefuan Ulofoshio (led the team in tackles with 10, and 4 passes broken up), Elijah Molden (our stud DB who was all over the place in this one), Asa Turner (our interception) and Zion Tupuola-Fetui (our only two sacks!) for really standing out. There were lots of good plays across the board though, so I look forward to shouting more guys out as the season goes along!

Next week, we host Arizona at 5pm, assuming nothing goes haywire. The Wildcats lost a close one to USC at home earlier on Saturday (after having their own opening game canceled because of Utah’s COVID outbreak) and I thought they looked pretty impressive. Of course, USC might also be underwhelming, but Arizona’s big quarterback was making all sorts of plays to keep drives alive, so I’ll be interested to see how we keep him in check. He isn’t quite the runner that Arizona has had in recent seasons, but he makes up for that with a strong arm (as well as enough mobility to keep defenses somewhat honest).

My guess is his skillset plays to our defensive strengths, but I am worried about his ability to keep plays alive with his legs (either in avoiding our pass rush, or outright running for first downs to keep drives going). I didn’t see anything from Arizona’s defense that particularly scares me, but it’ll be more important for our offense to just execute, regardless of what they throw our way.

The weather might not be a whole helluva lot better than it was last week, but with the earlier start time, I would expect more points out of the Huskies. It wouldn’t shock me to see this one turn into something of a shootout. Either way, we’ll get a MUCH better sense of how good this Husky defense is, as the Wildcats’ offense should be much more balanced than Oregon State’s.

Is It A Bad Sign That The Husky Football Team Hasn’t Named A Starting Quarterback?

We got our first depth chart of the season yesterday. There are a number of familiar names at the skill positions – Kamari Pleasant the surprise starter at running back, though he’ll surely be part of a committee with Sean McGrew and Richard Newton; Puka Nacua, Terrell Bynum, Ty Jones lead the way at receiver; with Cade Otton at tight end – but for the most part what’s on everyone’s mind is the 4-way logjam at quarterback:

  • Ethan Garbers (true Freshman)
  • Dylan Morris (redshirt Freshman)
  • Jacob Sirmon (Sophomore)
  • Kevin Thomson (Senior)

They all seem to be worthy in one way or another of becoming the starting quarterback for the University of Washington, but for whatever reason it seems no one has asserted himself as the Top Dawg, so to speak. Obviously, there’s some mindgames at play here, as this forces Cal to have to try to prepare for multiple different players (with multiple different styles). Coach Lake has even gone so far as to announce that more than one could see playing time in this game, which again could simply be posturing to force Cal into doing more work than they need to. In that sense, sure, I get it; why make it easy on them?

I guess my question stems from the notion that Coach Lake is being honest. That there really is no one guy who has far-and-away dominated over everyone else. I can see why that would be concerning for Husky fans! Kevin Thomson – the graduate transfer – obviously has the most college playing experience of anyone on the roster, and it sounds like he’s also the most mobile (which could be a big help with a lot of new pieces across the offensive line, as well as breaking in a new offensive coordinator and scheme); if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the entirety of the Taylor Family Farm on Thomson getting the first reps (and the most reps), but, you know, I’d probably be willing to bet a goat or two on it (yes, we have many goats on the Taylor Family Farm, sorry to brag so much). Logically, he makes the most sense, but if we take Coach Lake at his word, then that means Thomson … isn’t very good? Can’t beat out three guys who – combined – have only played a handful of snaps at the college level?

Now, the flipside of that is: one or more of those other guys have surpassed expectations and it’s an embarrassment of riches! But, come on, when is that EVER the case? Don’t shit a shitter, you guys; you know as well as I do that what he’s suggesting is Coachspeak for, “Ehh, you know, I like our guys I guess, but I just don’t trust ’em as far as I can throw ’em.”

I’ll be honest here, I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve enjoyed watching a team try to straddle two different (and healthy) quarterbacks. I mean, maybe Joe Montana and Steve Young in their primes, but what are the odds we have two surefire Hall of Famers in this group? Plus, even then, I’m sure it was annoying. I barely like shuffling running backs in and out of a game for the same reason: you need time to get settled in! At least at the college level, most of the running backs are really talented, so it’s more about offensive line play than anything. But, what’s worse than going back and forth between two ice-cold quarterbacks? Probably going back and forth between three or four ice-cold quarterbacks, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t have a lot of super-high hopes for this season for any number of reasons. New head coach and new offensive coordinator being at the top of my list. You need time to grow and work out the kinks; I wouldn’t think it’s likely we would contend for a conference championship even if we had a returning 3-year starter at quarterback! The only moderate reason why I MIGHT have hope is because this is such a flukey circumstance – 7-game schedule, COVID protocols and the like – and because we have a lot of returning stars on defense and at the skill positions to hopefully paper over some of the growing pains, that I believe it’s 2020 and literally anything can happen (plus, if we grow and improve over the first five games, we JUST might be ready to compete with a team like Oregon in the regular season finale).

In reality, though, assuming we lose a game or two early, I’d love to see one of our younger quarterbacks get a good run in and build some confidence heading into 2021. So, if Thomson isn’t the ace we thought he could be, he should have an EXTREMELY short leash. I don’t see any point in wasting a year of everyone’s eligibility on a guy who won’t be around after this season.

So yeah, I think it’s a bad sign we don’t officially know who the starter will be. They’re most likely ALL mediocre! Of course, if we’re all being hornswoggled, then I might be singing a different tune next week.

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.