Weekend Thoughts (Week 4)

Washington finished the out-of-conference schedule 3-0, but the "real" season begins this weekend with a contest against an explosive Arizona team. Here is a look back at the weekend that was for the Huskies as well as the rest of the Pac 12 with an eye on what the Wildcats will bring to the table this Saturday when the take on the Dawgs at Husky Stadium...

Washington Gameday Observations...

-- If there is a receiver on this team playing better than Kevin Smith, I'd sure like to see him. The senior wideout seemingly hauls in everything thrown his way and he's also made some very tough catches and when the ball is in his hands, he's a tough runner that is hard to bring down in the open field. He's also proven to be a very good blocker and that is a reason that the short passes to guys like Jaydon Mickens and John Ross have been working so well.

-- We still have not seen the best of Kasen Williams yet. He struggled a bit early on for the Huskies in their blowout win over Idaho State, but he eventually came along and had a nice day (four receptions for 78 yards).

-- It was nice to see Cyler Miles get some reps with the first team offensive line. You can see his running ability and how he will change the offense when he's in there -- Price can run a little bit, but not like Miles -- but he still has a ways to go as a passer.

-- Hauoli Kikaha had three sacks and appears to be back to form as a relentless pass-rusher, something the Dawgs will need over the rest of the schedule as they face some very talented passing teams. The nice thing about the Kikaha is that he's bulked up to the point where the Huskies can move him inside to get some pressure straight up the gut, something that has been lacking in recent years.

-- Count me as someone who was leery of burning Marcus Farria's redshirt, but if the coaches think he can help them this year, then playing him vs. Idaho State was the right call. He showed really good "get off" and was tough to handle as he rushed the quarterback. He did get his first QB sack in the game and I can envision ways that they will use him as a spot pass-rusher/sub throughout the rest of the season.

-- It was nice to see Cleveland Wallace get some extended playing time for the Huskies last week. He had a pick and played pretty well throughout the afternoon in his first extended action.

-- Yeah it was vs. Idaho State, but John Ross showed why the coaches are so excited to get him involved in the game plan. The combination of moves he made to go 57 yards for a score was impressive and hopefully that's just the tip of the iceberg with him.

-- The penalty situation with this team is ridiculous right now. Yeah, I went back and looked and saw the shift that Idaho State was using to draw some of the penalties from the offensive line, but that doesn't matter in the long run. If the Huskies hope to reach their goals this fall, double-digit wins/playing for a conference title, then 16 penalties just cannot happen. Against Idaho State, it really didn't affect anything the Huskies were trying to do, but vs. Pac 12 teams that can really mean the difference in winning and losing. The best teams in the country do not have double-digit penalties called on a regular basis.

Pac 12 Weekend Observations...

-- Mike Leach's decision to put his starters back in to "preserve the shutout" was lame, unsportsmanlike and deserves to be called out (not that I am the first). Yeah, a shutout is important for the psyche of any team and I get what he was trying to do, but once you've made the decision to pull your starters, unless your opponent is making a huge comeback, you need to leave the subs in and let them get their reps and take their lumps. It also isn't a good thing for Washington State that their coach was seen on T.V. cursing at the opposing coach at the handshake (yeah, I am sure Idaho's head coach had his own expletive laden comment toward Leach). Not that anything will be done about it, Bill Moos seems to engender this type of stuff, but it made Washington State look small-time.

-- USC, offensively, still looks bad, bad, bad. Cody Kessler just seems to be clueless about how to stretch the field and make the right reads. Utah State is a pretty good non-AQ team, but from a talent standpoint, they shouldn't have been able to hang with the Trojans and then to have the chance to win it late? Not a good omen for the men of Troy.

-- That being said, USC's defense, especially their front-four, is really, really good. They are big, they are athletic and, in the case of Morgan Breslin, they are relentless.

-- Somehow, Oregon State is now 3-1, but it sure looks tenuous. Sean Mannion continued to shine, hitting on 69% of his passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns, but their defense is shaky and the Beavers cannot run the ball at all. Eastern Illinois ran for 172 yards against San Diego State, but the Beavers managed just 10 yards on the ground vs. the Aztecs. A lot of that seems to be caused by an injury-depleted offensive line, but it's something that Mike Riley needs to fix.

-- Very impressed by Arizona State's comeback vs. Stanford on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinal were steamrolling the Sun Devils, up 29-0 at halftime, but head coach Todd Graham kept his guys focused and they came right back and made it a game in the fourth quarter. Like Keith Price last year, Taylor Kelly took a beating against Stanford, but he hung tough and made some really impressive throws. I think ASU was a bit over-rated heading into the season -- many thought they were a top 10 type team -- but their players played hard all game long and it paid off as they made a game out of it at the end.

-- Stanford and UCLA look like the second best teams (a tie), behind Oregon, in the conference. Whereas Stanford uses physicality and discipline to win games, UCLA looked a bit sloppy, but their playmakers, especially QB Brett Hundley, are better then Stanford's. Kevin Hogan is a great game manager. He doesn't make many mistakes and his naked bootleg to extend Stanford's final drive and seal the win was a thing of beauty.

-- Utah got it's fourth-straight win over BYU in the "Holy War", but I still think they are a bottom-tier Pac 12 team. They cannot defend the pass and, while QB Travis Wilson played well vs. the Cougars, his mistakes vs. Oregon State essentially cost the Utes a win. Don't get me wrong, Utah will be a tough out for most of the teams in the conference, but they are still not to the point, from an athletic standpoint, where they can really challenge for a Pac 12 South title.

-- Arizona had a week off to prepare for the Dawgs and the hope out of Tucson is that they can find a passing game to compliment the running game led by Kadeem Carey. Former JUCO QB B.J. Denker is a good runner (evidenced by his 224 yards rushing and five touchdowns so far this season), but the Wildcats' passing game has been woeful in their three wins. Now they take a step up from a pedestrian early schedule -- Northern Arizona, UNLV and UT-San Antonio -- to face off against the Dawgs at Husky Stadium. Washington should be able to shut down the Wildcats' passing attack and focus their attention on a diverse and explosive running game (322.3 yards per game). On defense, the Wildcats have some pretty good players, but it's been tough to tell from watching their games how they will use them since they have been pretty vanilla.

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