Tuesday Night Tales

OK, week four for the Huskies should’ve been a pushover game. Mighty Georgia State, they of the oh and twelve record from just a season ago, came into Husky Stadium for their million dollar beat-down.

Only Washington didn’t give them a beat-down. The Huskies largely ignored the visitors from Atlanta and sleepwalked through an extremely pedestrian first half. Washington’s offense was beyond inept, gaining less than 100 yards and showing no clues on how to pick up the Georgia State three-man front pass rush that was augmented with some well disguised linebacker blitzes from both the weak and strong sides.

The vaunted Husky offensive line looked less than motivated, and their performance showed it. After a Marcus Peters interception the Huskies got to start their first possession at the GSU 44-yard line. Their first drive required them to convert a fourth and one, and the drive fizzled out after just eight plays as Cyler Miles was unable to connect with Jaydon Mickens on a fourth and two.

The second Husky drive started at the Washington 11, and ended after just three plays, as Miles was sacked on first down to set the ugly tone. On Washington’s third possession the Dawgs were able to pick up one first down before imploding with a second down sack of Miles followed by a Colin Tanigawa personal foul. Facing fourth a 31, Washington punted once again.

The fourth Husky drive produced two first downs but nothing earth-shaking. The pass rush was clearly bothering the Husky sophomore quarterback and with a less-than-stellar offensive rushing game, Washington looked downright bored on offense. Four drives produced four first downs, 47 yards, three punts, one turnover on downs, two sacks, and no points.

What was worse, the Husky offensive line was confused and overpowered. OVERPOWERED? Yes, that is the correct word. If Georgia State could overpower them for the better part of two quarters, what will Stanford do on Saturday? Why did this offense take such a huge step back in the first half Saturday?

The good news is that the Huskies answered the bell in the second half. After an initial drive that ended in yet another punt, Washington got a huge spark from freshman return man Dante Pettis. Pettis caught a punt at his own 47, made the initial wave miss and broke off a 35-yard return to set up the Husky offense at the GSU 18-yard line. The offense badly needed this boost and reserve quarterback Jeff Lindquist provided the impetus for their first trip to the end zone, a 9-yard bolt up the gut of the defense. That led to an avalanche of points and effort on behalf of the heavily favored home team, but why did it take so long to get off the schneid?

?Danny Shelton said that the team wasn’t expecting a hard fought game. That should set off alarm bells. Cyler Miles said that the team took the game too lightly. More alarms should have gone off, preferably before the game.

The Husky defense gave up far too many yards in the first half, as they had a difficult time with the run on the first couple of drives. That was an eye-opener. Then when GSU quarterback Nick Arbuckle would drop back and throw, he had a decent amount of time to throw in the first half, finding receivers underneath the deep and soft UW umbrellas of zone coverage. It was disheartening to watch the Husky defense get abused by a 30+ point underdog on their home turf.

What was that? Hopefully it was just one large wake up call, but dropping back that big of step from week three to week four is reason for worry. Why did this happen? Why weren’t the Huskies ready to play on Saturday?

If it was just a case of the Huskies not getting up for an inferior foe, that would alleviate some of the concerns while raising others. The biggest concern is, do these coaches have this team’s full attention yet? Week four and the product over the first 30 minutes would indicate that both the offense and defense were somewhere else. It had to drive Chris Petersen crazy. A guy with that much attention to detail and doing things “the right way”, to have to sit through that first half was akin to performing self-dentistry, maybe worse.

At least if Coach Pete were yanking out his molars he’d be in control of the situation. Saturday, no matter what was called, the results on the field and in the huddle were beyond description. His offense did a good impression of Mary Decker in the Olympics, face planting and looking bewildered. The defense “held” the visitors to 14 points, but they looked anything but excited to be out on the field.

The nice thing, and I’m starting to sound like a broken record now, is that the Huskies were able to hopefully learn another lesson while earning a win. They now have four wins, and that is all that really matters up to now. Although it’s hard to ignore that in three of them, it was very clear that the coaching staff and players were not on the same script.

For the first 30 minutes on Saturday, they weren’t even on the same play. They weren’t even the same theatre. As unfathomable as that might seem, don’t forget that this strange Husky team is also 4-0. They are still getting to know each other and their schemes, and now that the quizzes are over and the exams start this week, hopefully both coaches and players have had enough time to study their notes and start acing their weekly assignments. The rubber meets the road now. They have a coaching staff that believes in what they are doing, and a head coach that has a history of not getting out-coached.

How much this team trusts those guys will be on full display this Saturday when the defense is tasked with stopping Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan. Hogan is mobile, accurate, and smart. The defense will need a solid scheme and discipline to stick to it when Hogan begins to go through his checks. If the linebackers drift out of their reads and if the defensive line loses gap integrity, expect Hogan to shred them. They HAVE to know this going in. If they trust Coach Kwiatkowski’s schemes, they’ll commit to them and trust them. This will be a great test.

I do think that these guys trust their bosses. Otherwise you would’ve seen a lot of sniping and bickering at the half. According to Miles, the Huskies were all supportive of each other and of one mind getting after it in the second half. That bodes well.

Stanford is 0-1 in the Pac-12 and will definitely view this game as a must-win. They will watch the film of last week’s game, compare it to week three’s win over Illinois, and probably wonder which Husky team they will face. That might work to the Huskies’ advantage. The Dawgs do not look ready for Stanford after the first four games. Can the coaches scheme successfully to get their team to get them over the hump against a Cardinal team that also don’t necessarily look like world-beaters to date?

I think Petersen deserves the benefit of the doubt, but that’s why they play the games. Bring on the Cardinal.

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