The Huskies came out flat and showed little confidence or burning enthusiasm to be playing in their home opener. Receivers dropped passes, the quarterback made errant throws, the defense continued with the maddening soft man-on-man coverage, and Indiana controlled the clock with sustained drives up and down the field.
Early in the third quarter, the Huskies trailed 13-10 and the lethargic 65,000 or so who bothered to show up were getting restless. It felt like a carbon copy of last year's September home games, most notably San Jose State. Of course, Washington proceeded to explode offensively and put the game away, just like last year against the Spartans. However, it is the continuation of a disturbing trend.
I stated in last week's column, there would be no need to hit the panic button as long as the Dawgs came out against Indiana with a lot of intensity and really got after it. But they didn't. Even in the wake of the 28-point detonation of the 3rd quarter, and even in the wake of the 38-13 victory, it became clear that it will be a challenge to be above.500 this season. That kind of line play won't cut it against Pac-10 foes.
The only solace I could muster were the examples of other seasons where slow starts didn't necessarily spell doom for the rest of the campaign. After all, the 2000 Oregon State Beavers barely edged Eastern Washington by one point in their opener. But they improved every week and ended up drubbing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, to finish at 11-1. Or take the 1990 Washington Huskies, who barely squeaked by San Jose State and Purdue, before walloping USC and finishing the season as Rose Bowl Champions.
However, my mind was completely set at ease after the game. I knew things would be OK. As it turned out, a good omen showed itself at the Husky Tyee 5th Quarter, at the Dempsey Center. During the raffle, my Dad (the legendary CPA Ron Johnson) won a bunch of seasonings from some company called Plankcooking.com.
So what, you say? Well I hasten to inform you, that my Dad had been shut out since the 2000 season, when he triumphed by winning the raffle three separate times. Not coincidentally, that was Washington's Rose Bowl season. It was a year full of overachieving performances, 4th quarter comebacks and raffle victories. Most people gave Marques Tuiasasopo and Rick Neuheisel the majority of the credit. But it was the legendary CPA behind the scenes, quietly raking in the bounty and simply on fire at the 5th quarter.
That magical Rose Bowl and raffle season of 2000, was the first time my Dad had triumphed since . . . 1991. He won three times that year as well, and we all know what was going on back then. At the time, I simply didn't appreciate the meaning behind that assortment of luggage bags, golf club head covers and gift certificates that were coming his way.
Don't be so quick to thumb your nose at seemingly superstitious coincidences. As much credit as my Dad deserves for the Rose Bowl three years ago, he also deserves blame for the end of Washington's 22-game winning streak in 1992. He was the proud possessor of the "Billy Joe Hobert Sweat Shirt". It was a white sweatshirt, and said Washington Huskies across the front, and didn't mention Hobert's name per se. But each time my Dad wore it, Hobert played. And each time Hobert played, the Huskies won. Washington was 22-0 when Dad wore that shirt.
But during that 22nd consecutive victory against Stanford, Dad got too warm and made the tragic error of removing it and placing underneath his bleacher plank. In his post-game haste for getting to the Tyee 5th Quarter, he forgot about it and left it behind. The magical sweatshirt was never to be seen again. To this day, it either lies buried in some land fill, or else is being worn around by a stadium maintenance worker.
A week after losing the sweatshirt, Dad sat in the Tucson sunshine with my Stepmom Margaret being taunted by ungracious Wildcat fans as the Huskies fell hard 16-3. Poof! went the Husky winning Streak.
Dad will take that burden to his grave.
So not to worry, Husky fans. The legendary CPA is warming up once more. His recent raffle triumph bodes well for a 10-win season.
Derek Johnson can be reached at email@example.com
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