Winning Ugly is....Well, Winning Ugly

Not many expected the Eastern Eagles to not only make it a competitive contest, but dominate it on offense throughout the entire game. One look at the Dawgman.com message boards told you a lot about what the expectation was.

Eastern and their quick passing attack hung nearly 500 yards on the Dawgs defense that looked both vanilla and clueless. It was painful to watch Eastern go up and down the field.

However, Washington teams from as recently as two years ago would not have won this game. They would not have found a way to come up with the big interception at the end of the game (Thank you, Desmond Trufant). And for that reason alone, I'm willing to look for the positives from a game that was shocking in almost every aspect.

1) Chris Polk. My God this kid is a stud. I was in the camp of those that felt the drop off from Polk to Callier would not be that noticeable. I was as wrong, dead wrong. Like "there are WMD's in Iraq" wrong. Like "Martha Stewart is ethical" wrong. Chris Polk, simply put, is an NFL back. He wasn't at 100% on Saturday, yet he found a way to get things done between the tackles. He bobbed, weaved, tucked, and battered through the line for 125 yards, averaging a very workmanlike 5 yards per attempt. He showed no effects from a knee surgery just a little over two weeks prior to the game. Callier looks like an exciting college back with some wiggle and good quickness, but he is nowhere near the class of a Chris Polk. He is a change of pace, and a good one, but clearly not the weapon #1 is. If Polk doesn't play on Saturday, the Eagles win that game. The good news is, Polk did play. And he looked outstanding. I expect more of the same as he will be even healthier Saturday against Hawaii.

2) Crunch time. Yes, the defense got throttled and Bo Levi Mitchell threw at will and moved the chains in the final minute. Just when it looked like he would drop the Husky defense like a fat cow from a helicopter, the defense found a way to win. When all of the marbles were on the line, Desmond Trufant stood up and was counted. He made a big time play to pull the Husky bacon out of the Cheney fire, and give the Huskies a badly needed home opening win. Washington will learn a lot of lessons from last Saturday, particularly on defense. The difference this year? They are learning those lessons with a "w" in the left hand column. That makes them a lot more palatable.

3) James Johnson. How good did it look to see #3 back out there making that touchdown catch? Johnson had a solid game in what was his first relevant action in a year, and he looked good blocking on rushing plays. He is more physical than I remember, and his blocking has really improved. This is a kid that really earned his way back, through hard work, and I would give him a lot more snaps based on what I saw on Saturday. He looked a lot better than DiAndre Campbell or Kevin Smith, but that was just one game so I won't get too crazy yet. Just keep up the good work James, keep on working hard young man.

4) Expectations are high. This makes me really excited, actually. I am not one to chide fans - or anyone for that matter – for having high expectations. They get created when a team starts making people believe in them. And Sark has the fans believing in his squad again. After four years of having a team and fan base about as passionate as a sloth in a recliner, the excitement is not only fun, it's warranted. Sure, the team is very young. They are starting freshman or sophomores at quarterback, two OL spots, TE, and at two of the three LB spots as well as one of the safeties. This is not a recipe for championship football, yet a lot of fans expect it. I LIKE THAT. It means the fans appreciate what they have in Sarkisian and that they trust him. No one should call these expectations "over the top" or "unrealistic". Anyone doing this is missing a perspective. Instead, they should be embraced and welcomed because it means the fans care again. They believe again. Now if the lofty expectations are not reached this year with such a young team, I'd also like to think that these same people can realize that some patience will need to be exercised when assessing where the team winds up the season. And I think that will happen. I give Husky fans a LOT of credit. I don't think I will be let down in the big picture. Things are so much better than they were, that needs to be embraced.

5) Washington won't be that flat again. Saturday was a wake up call. I seriously doubt that the team will lack the passion and emotion that it ended last season with. After watching the film and hearing about it all week from Sarkisian and staff, this team will not repeat those mistakes. These are kids Sarkisian recruited, so he knows how they think. He knows how to motivate them. He knows how to coach them. The new Husky culture will not permit malaise to linger. If you make a mistake, step up, learn, and move on. And do not repeat it again. I expect the defense to be 10 times more passionate than it was on Saturday. I expect the linebackers to not think so much and to go out and execute. The mistakes will hopefully be ones made out of aggression rather than ones made out of thinking too much. Instead of heads on swivels, it would be nice to see ears pinned back and some conviction. I really do think you will see more of that on Saturday. And yes, I do think that Bryant Moniz will toast the defense a few times as a result.

So there you have five definite positives to take out of Saturday's close win over Eastern. Hopefully after the game with the visiting Warriors this Saturday I will have even more positives to point to.
Random thoughts……was anyone else as shocked to see Erik Koehler struggle as mightily as he did on Saturday? I was wondering whether guard might be his better position, or even if he was fully healed from last year's injury. He just didn't look right……Keith Price looked good. He took good care of the ball and while he doesn't have the strongest arm, he throws the ball to very good spots and with good rotation. Having a banged up knee limited him physically and perhaps a bit mentally with his ground game. I think you'll see more of that piece of his arsenal on Saturday. It is what makes him so dangerous. You didn't get to see the entire Price last weekend, so watch out for that………If anyone doubts that young kids make mistakes, just watch the film from last Saturday. Washington is as well coached as they've been since the beginning of the Neuheisel era. A coach can coach until he's blue in the face but when the bullets are live, it's an entirely different show. There is no replacement for about 300 snaps of live football. Seriously. 10 snaps in a game is worth 5 practices. You aren't really an upper-classmen until you get about 300 snaps under your belt, regardless of what class the yearbook says you are. Ask any former player the difference..……Another thing that cracked me up on the message boards were people calling the staff on Dawgman.com too "pollyanna-ish". Steve and Sean, you guys say that like it's a bad thing? {grin}.....I'm taking my two little ones to the game on Saturday, so if any of you Dawg fans find yourselves in "The Zone" on Saturday morning, wander on over and say hello.....are you still reading? Go outside and enjoy the weather!

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