We here at the UWDP sincerely hope that you've enjoyed this 30 day countdown series. For the past month, we've committed to a topic and a poll on a daily basis with the idea of helping you, the Husky faithful, get on your "fan-faces" in preparation for the start of the season.
That day has now come.
Gameday is but one good night's sleep away. For some of you, there will be no sleep. Just anticipation. Good on you.
As we dig in and prepare to root on our Huskies in their first game, our collective imaginations are filled with visions of we expect to see once the game commences. Pre-game festivities, the taking of the field, the Star-Spangled Banner, and, ah, the first play of the game.
Unlike the past four seasons, Husky fans don't have a good frame of reference upon which to build an expectation for what may come in that first offensive snap the Dawgs run. There are hints, to be sure. We know that the trigger man, Jeff Lindquist, has certain strengths and weaknesses. Many of you have seen Chris Petersen offenses take the field while he was at Boise. The "Spring Event" was broadcast several months ago. Some of you may have even been present at a practice this fall.
But, do we really know what Chris Petersen, Jonathan Smith and Lindquist have up their sleeves on that first offensive snap? Probably not. Sounds like a good poll topic. I've listed out three options for you digest.
Option #1 - Mid to Deep Pass / Lindquist to the X or Z
Many coaches in the past have adopted the philosophy that it is a good idea to break in a new quarterback by letting him get that first throw out of the way with the first play of the game. We saw this last night in WSU's stunning loss to Rutgers when the Scarlet Knights connected on a deep pass for a TD on the first play of the game. The logic here is that if the QB connects, it is a momentum starter. If he overthrows or is off-target, he still gets the benefit of "getting his nerves out". If he happens to turn it over (think of Keith Price in last year's opening game), there is still plenty of time to recover.
All of you know that Lindquist has a pretty strong arm and that he has struggled with accuracy so far in his young career. Letting him cut loose with a perimeter pass to start the game may well give the coaches a chance to provide a heat check and give Lindquist the opportunity to establish a rhythm.
Reasons for: Low-risk moment of the game; opportunity to establish momentum; good "heat-check"
Reasons against: Odds are that it is a waste of a down; Lindquist may not have gotten enough snaps during the QB competition to give coaches the faith of opening up the higher risk parts of the playbook
Option #2 - Zone Read Rushing Play Out of the Pistol
I haven't seen any of the practices, but I presume that the Pistol will again be a standard formation for Chris Petersen to operate out of. Given his depth at running back, the "breakout" play of Dwayne Washington during the fall and Jeff Lindquist's size / speed as a running QB, a zone-read play could be an excellent way to open the game for the Huskies. It stands to reason, given a lot of the last week's chatter that we have heard about how Jeff Lindquist "makes the fewest negative plays" and how his role is to "be the Point Guard", that Petersen and Smith will favor a low-risk play to start the game and to get the Huskies into a rhythm. While they could run a variety of rushing plays in that scenario, a zone-read gives the Huskies a chance to work on the fundamentals associated with the decision-making in a part of the playbook that is fundamental to what they will likely be doing for much of the season. Given the relative strengths and weaknesses of that Hawaii Defense, an effectively executed play here could also move the sticks right away.
Reasons for: Low-risk play; gets RB committee involved right away; allows a possible opportunity for Lindquist to "take his first hit" and get past any lingering nerves; allows Offensive Line to establish its dominance
Reasons against: May not be "splashy" enough for the coaching staff; least likely option if goal is to come out of the gate with a big play
Option #3 - Swing Pass, Bubble Screen or Short Pass to an Inside Receiver
Husky fans know this grouping of plays very well. The Jet, Bubble and Swing out of the pistol were all heavily emphasized in Steve Sarkisian's version of the tempo offense a season ago. Many of you, I'm sure, will recall how both Jaydon Mickens and John Ross got featured in last season's opener against BSU with these types of plays.
The running of this kind of play makes sense on a variety of levels. It allows for Jeff to get that first pass out of the way. It is sure to be a staple of the offense both in tomorrow's game as well as for the remainder of the season. It gets the ball, possibly, in the hands of the "star of camp" in Mickens. It could establish a nice rhythm to start the game.
Reasons for: Staple of the offense; effective momentum setter for the offense; gets a big-time playmaker like Mickens or Ross involved immediately
Reasons against: A critical error or mis-timing could be detrimental to establishing momentum
The Verdict - Swing, Bubble or Short Pass
While I think that we are all enamored with the possibility of Jeff getting the chance to air one out to start the game, it just doesn't seem like the M.O. of this staff to work outside the confines of the process or the game plan. While I'm sure that the game plan does allow for some field-stretching plays, I'm having a hard time seeing that being the first one. On the other hand, I do think that the coaching staff is going to want to get Jeff settled down immediately, which is why I think a pass is more likely than a rushing play to start the game.
Getting Jeff into a rhythm by putting him in a position to complete a high percentage pass to one of his key play-making receivers feels like just the sort of lever that Smith will want to pull when he executes the first play of his script. It can help Jeff gain some confidence and, if all goes well, it could turn into a big play against a Defense that may not be adjusted to the speed that either Mickens or Ross bring to the table. I'm voting for the short pass.
What do you think tomorrow's first offensive play will be? Place your vote below.