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Ten Things I Loved About Husky Football 2014

What is a holiday season without a good top 10 list?

It's Sunday.  The sun is shining here in Memphis and I'm thinking that golf is going to be in my short term future.  Thus, consider this amongst one of my less wordy entries.

Ok.  You can stop applauding now.

And, please, put your pants back on.

We have another solid week or so before we solidly turn our attention to the bowl game and Oklahoma State (although, you might hear a few tidbits on that before then).  The Huskies will begin their bowl practice schedule this week and you will start to hear some news coming from Montlake as the beat guys do their things.  In fact, this will be a pretty busy week as the Huskies will only take off Monday and Thursday as Chris Petersen and co try to create a little momentum before they let their players go home for the holiday.

While we wait for things to ramp up, I've found myself contemplating my favorite "things" about this season of Husky Football.  Sure, there were a lot of things to not like about it.  But this is the time of year that I tend to dwell on things that make me happy.  When you really stop to consider it, there was much to like about this football season.  In fact, I had trouble carving the list to 10.

With that, here are ten things that I loved about the 2014 regular Husky football season.

10.  The Pursuit

The web video series that the UW Athletic Department put out over the course of the season was a stroke of production genius for both scintillating the fan base and creating a brand message specifically for consumption by recruits.  And, don't forget the "Villain" piece that the they put out as a teaser for the season.  That was fun.

9.  Sidney Jones and the Arizona game

Less than two weeks following the dismissal of Marcus Peters, the Huskies took their first road game.  On the field in Tucson, it became clear very early that the Wildcats were going to test and retest true freshman Sidney Jones who, at varying times, was matched up against stud WRs Austin Hill and Cayleb Jones.  He also had a few turns on Samajie Grant.  While they certainly had some success in throwing that way, I don't think anybody expected the fight and the tenacity that Sidney was going to exhibit.  As the game wore on, Sidney gained more and more confidence as he made more and more plays.  He finished with not one, but two INTs including a fourth quarter gem that could have put the game away under normal circumstances.

While the outcome of that one will always be considered one that got away, it may also become known as the game where a lockdown cornerback was born.

8.  Micah Hatchie and the Love Tap

Rewind back to the Apple Cup.  The Huskies were driving in the middle of the second quarter, trying to get some momentum recaptured following their explosive TD run in the first quarter.  The offense was moving but it was a bit choppy in the freezing elements.  On a second down, the Huskies line up in their normal shotgun formation with Cyler Miles waving his arms, picking up his foot and shouting out a cadence.  A WSU defender lined up over LT Micah Hatchie jumps into the netural zone but catches himself and tries to retreat.  A heady Hatchie reaches out with his left hand and love taps the Couger DE on the shoulder.

WHISTLE.  Encroachment.  Five yards and a first down.

The Huskies would not score on that drive, but that little moment, in my mind, solidified the conclusion to the long journey that Micah Hatchie has been on.  A starter since his RS Freshman year, Hatchie has gone through the ringer as a highly scrutinized left tackle.  He's taking his lumps.  He's endured.  He's gotten better over the years.  He's gotten even smarter.  2014 was an excellent season for Hatchie.  He locked down the blind side all season, led the emergence of the rushing attack as the season wore on and he was our most consistent lineman all year.  He won't go down as the best ever, but his career at UW has been a great one and we will all miss him when he's gone.

7.  Jesse Callier

I don't want to miss one last opportunity to give Jesse Callier the ol' tip of the cap.  He was one of those guys that played as a true freshman under Sark and who will now be moving on.  He didn't get to show off his stuff thanks to a second major knee injury suffered this season.  But where ever he goes, he journeys there with the thanks of Husky Nation to boost him.  Be well, Jesse.

6.  John Ross and the Hawaii game

So, this was a pretty cool play.

And so was this.

5.  Darrell Daniels vs Oregon State

Want a glimpse into the future?  This guy - I pray - is part of it.

4.  Andrew Hudson and the End of the Journey

The most inspirational Husky of the season has to be Andrew Hudson.  Last year's "suddenly senior" - a player that was essentially discarded by Steve Sarkisian and Justin Wilcox after being asked to not return for his last year of eligibility - was given a second chance by Chris Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski.  After navigating the wave of emotions and self-doubt that had been thrust upon him by the previous staff, the under-sized Husky DE recommitted to his new coach and his old team.

What happened after that is a made-for-TV-movie.  AHud quickly reclaimed his starting position.  He fought.  He grinded.  He filled a the gap.  He filled a gap.  He never stopped competing.  He never stopped chasing the QB.  He never stopped smiling.  And he never stopped being the humble, gracious leader that he was born to be.

In his last home game against old-time rival Oregon State, the suddenly senior was suddenly unstoppable.  He recorded not one but TWO sacks in the fourth quarter of the Husky win to put the mother of all exclamation points on a Husky career well-served.

3.  Shaq Thompson and the Art of the TD

I'm not sure the Huskies will ever see a player turn in all-dimensional performance like Shaq Thompson put on in 2014.  A true Swiss Army Knife of a player, the 2014 Paul Hornung Award Winner played extensively in all three phases of the game for the Huskies in the 2014 regular season.  As a linebacker, he was an All Pac 12 level performer who recorded 70 tackles, forced four fumbles, recovered three fumbles, converted an interception and recorded a sack.  On offense, he was the Huskies second leading rusher with 456 yards.  10 of his 57 carries went for more than 10  yards.  For good measure, he caught 57 yards worth of receptions.

Most impressively, Shaq was a threat to score from anywhere on the field, no matter on what side of the ball he was lined up.  All in all, he recorded six TDs - four on the defensive side and two when he was called upon on offense.  He had a pick six covering 36 yards.  All three of his fumble recoveries were scores.  One was of the 100 yard variety.  It was a virtuoso scoring performance from a maestro of an all-around college football player.

2.  Hau'oli Kikaha - UW's All-Time Sacks King

Despite all of post-season snubs, nobody graduating from this team leaves with their head held higher than Hau'oli Kikaha.  When he arrived on campus five years ago sporting the name "Jamora" on his back and showing off the hustle of a Tasmanian devil with his tail on fire, most Husky fans could see that this man was going to threaten the record books.  However, not one but two ACL tears threatened to shorten his career and take away the opportunities that lay before him.

Showing both uncommon character and grit, the Pac 12 All-Academic first-teamer came back in 2013 and put together one of the most prolific pass rushing seasons that anybody has ever seen from a player sporting the purple and gold.  In 2014, we all wondered what a position change - from DE to OLB - would do to both his productivity and his draft stock.  In typical fashion, Hau'oli embraced this change with a passion and turned in an even better season than 2013.  When it was all said and done, he left the Husky record books in as many pieces as he did some Pac 12 offensive linemen.

1. Two words:  Barrel Roll