Cactus Bowl: Previewing The Huskies

This week I had a chance to talk to former Washington Huskies quarterback Damon Huard, a native of Washington having played high school football at Puyallup High School and led them to two state championships. He went on to play quarterback at Washington and finished up as the Huskies all-time passing leader.

In the NFL, Huard played for the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs. He earned two Super Bowl rings while playing for the Patriots. Huard is now the chief fund raiser for University of Washington football, and along with Dan Marino and others has a wine company in Passing Time Vinyards. He is also the color analyst on the University of Washington Radio Network from IMG.

Huard gave a really good synopsis of the Washington season, the first under former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.

"We started out 4-0, but the schedule was pretty light. We played Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois, and Georgia State," Huard started explaining. "We got off to that good 4-0 beginning but we weren't playing that good even though we were winning.

"Then we got into Pac-12 play and it was one of those deals where we won the games we were supposed to and then lost to the favorites, so I don't know if we had that big signature win over a top-25 Pac-12 team during the season. I will say this, as the season went on you just saw the thing building and in the last month of the season really played our best football.

"We lost a game in November down in Arizona that we shouldn't have. We had the game won and with a minute and a half left fumbled the football and they went down and kicked the winning field goal. That was a tough pill to swallow and the team played so well and should have won.

"That was an important point because the team had a choice to make in whether they were going to hang their head or if they were going to finish strong? Man, did they finish strong. They played so well with Oregon State and then beating rival Washington State."

Huard agrees that the quarterback position needed to be developed throughout the season. He also likes the player that is the one connection to Oklahoma State on the Huskies team in Los Angeles product Jaydon Mickens, who was at one time an OSU commit in recruiting.

"Cyler (Miles) is also a guy that is playing his best football of the season down the stretch," Huard said of the Huskies quarterback. "You look at his numbers and see 16 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

"He is being very efficient and he is also very athletic and can take off and run for his size. He has some good straight-line speed. He is not the strognest-armed quarterback but he is very accurate. He is completing 57 percent of his passes. We haven't had many explosive plays, but he has played really better the last couple of weeks and we are seeing a sophomore quarterback develop before our eyes.

"Jaydon is a character and a firecracker and he plays a hundred miles an hour," Huard said laughing. "He is our leading receiver and has 53 catches and is a guy we love to throw the bubble scree and slip screens to. He runs really well with the ball after the catch. He is not a big guy but he plays big and plays really hard."

The defense for the Huskies is a mixed bag, very veteran and talented up front and very young and sketchy in their play on the back end.

"You are talking about a defense with 49 total sacks and three guys on that defense are probably going to be first-day draft picks," Huard complimented. "Really anchored by a solid front seven.

"We are super young on the back end of this defense, but we are starting two true freshmen back there and we have a true sophomore that is also starting and then we have a senior over there that is starting but he started at receiver the first eight games of this season in John Ross. We moved him over to defensive back, corner where he has started the last four games. The pressure from the defensive line is helping those guys and the strength of this defense is the linebacker corps. Shaq Thompson is one of the best athletes in the program, and yes, he has played some offense for us as well."

The Cowboys and the Huskies will play for the third time in history on Jan. 2 at Sun Devil Stadium in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. The two teams have split with Washington winning in 1980 in Stillwater and Oklahoma State winning in Seattle in 1987.

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