Coach's Corner

OK, so UW lost the kicking game to BYU by roughing the punter, dropping two kickoffs, returning no punts, and snapping the ball over the punter's head for a safety. They also dropped some passes, missed some tackles, failed to get a sack or even much of a pass rush on defense and were miserable on third down and terrible on their fourth down attempts on offense.

Sure there were some questionable calls by both the referees and the coaches, but still they played and had three opportunities and 20 minutes to score a single touchdown to win it. It just didn't happen and all we really know is that this team will not go undefeated. They could still be very good team and there are obvious areas of improvement that can be made in all three phases of their game.

They played a lot of kids (57 by my count) including half of their true freshmen (12-13) and at least six others who had never played a down of college football. They played their opponent even and it was a good opponent besides. BYU was ranked and went 11-2 last year and is in the sixth year of their system under Bronco Mendenhall. Even though the Huskies didn't lose the ball, they didn't get the ball from the Cougars either. Despite it all, they still had their chances to win the game in the fourth quarter but just didn't get it done.

As disappointing as it was, the road loss to a quality opponent was something that plagued every other Pac-10 team who didn't open their season with a "warm-up game". Only USC was able to win on the road and they struggled with Hawaii just to get it done. All the other road warriors lost. Well, maybe WSU didn't just lose, but there is a lot to be said about opening at home against a lesser opponent.

Maybe it's about time to change their scheduling and start with a C opponent first, then play a B, and progress to an A in the preseason part of the schedule. Say what you will about playing the likes of Sacramento State, Portland State, Cal-Davis, Toledo or New Mexico, but all the conference teams that played those teams are all 1-0 and still undefeated. They have all taken one step forward towards bowl eligibility.

So, what needs to change? You can bet they will be solidifying the kicking game and correcting their errors there. The snapper already did by finishing the game perfectly after being so jacked up on his first snap that he rocketed the ball over the punter's head. The punter also righted himself after back to back poor punts (26 yards and 33 yards), which cost his team valuable field position. He finished with a 64-yarder and a 46-yarder. But when it rains it pours, and both of his best kicks ended up in the end zone for touchbacks. Overall, Will Mahan averaged 45.2 per punt on the day.

Erik Folk hit a field goal from 54 yards - a career high - and that's a good sign even if it occurred at altitude. It ranks as one of the longest in school history. His kickoffs were high and deep, showing his improved distance and leg strength.

The changes that are most likely going to take place will probably be in the personnel of the kickoff coverage and punt protection teams. Considering that Syracuse blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown in their opener against Akron, you can bet the Huskies will work hard on their field goal teams as well (Syracuse also missed 2 of their PAT's). On Monday, coach Sarkisian already said there would be changes in the kickoff return team, as they would go back to the same two-back scheme they used last year.

Offensively, expect the Huskies to try and run the ball more often than they did with their 31 attempts against BYU. Their line will need to get more run push, and even though freshman Jesse Callier busted one run for 39 yards, he only got 1 more carry the rest of the game. Both he and Johri Fogerson, who also only got one carry, should see more opportunities against the Orange. This will only help keep starter Chris Polk fresh for the fourth quarter.

Expect Jermaine Kearse not to drop any more passes, while continuing to be productive. Also expect the offensive line to continue to protect Jake on passing plays (They only gave up 1 sack and that was on a mental error which was immediately corrected during the game).

On defense they will probably be using more rotation up front in an effort to keep everyone fresh. Expect Alameda Ta'amu to make some plays after he failed to make even one assisted tackle against BYU. Semisi Tokolahi and Sione Potoa'e will likely see more action. They also got questionable play at defensive end spots and those kids are going to have to improve considerably. They dropped into pass coverage occasionally and were "lost in space". They failed to attack the QB on options and not one of them even got close to the BYU quarterback on passes. Collectively, the defensive ends had only five stops out of 73 plays.

Expect Mason Foster to continue to be the best defender on the field (he was huge against BYU finishing with 14 tackles, but UW had him with 17). Look for him to create some turnovers and be a force for the Huskies.

It appeared to me that Cort Dennison was still hobbled, but he put on a gritty performance anyway. Tim Tucker, a red-shirt freshman, got his first playing time stepping in for Dennison, but Cort made way more than the three tackles he was credited for by the official scorer. The Huskies did have four tackles for loss and forced two fumbles, but didn't recover either one of them.

The other outside linebacker position is probably still up for grabs from my standpoint. Victor Aiyewa made 10 tackles but neither he nor Matt Houston played well enough to prove they are the guy at that position. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cooper Pelluer or one of the other freshmen be given more playing time there. In Aiyewa's defense, it was his very first game at the linebacker position and besides his tackles he did cause one fumble and had a tackle for loss.

Syracuse is 1-0 but only 14-45 over the past five years. Sound familiar? They too are in the second year of their program rebuild under new coach Doug Marrone. They won their game 29-3 over Akron and took a knee at the end of the game going into score so it would probably would have been 36-3. They played an admittedly vanilla game on defense, using few blitzes, and held Akron to only 55 yards rushing and 166 total yards.

Offensively, their running back, Delone Carter, carried 26 times for 91 yards compared to Chris Polk's 92 yards on only 16 carries against BYU. They probably saved much of their playbook for the Huskies realizing they could and should beat Akron, which they did.

The Huskies will be expected to win this game but they will have to tighten up on what could only be described as a sloppy opening game performance. If they can eliminate the muffs, drops, bad snaps, poor kicks, and coverage busts they will have a much better chance at victory.

It was only the first game of the season and regardless of the high expectations they had their chances to win on the road. They just let it slip away and now must regroup and go beat the Orange. It was certainly not the expected result, but there were a lot of good plays and a lot of good calls, and with a break here or there the outcome could easily have been different.

There is a lot to learn from both good and bad but the Huskies have to realize they played a very good team in BYU and only needed to finish the job when the opportunities presented themselves. They were oh so close but made too many mistakes to leave with a win.

They know it and they will change.


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