...two days later and it still feels just as bad. The Huskies escaped Hawaii with the least-impressive win possible against what was considered one of college football's worst teams Saturday night and many are having a Labor Day fire sale of Chris Petersen stock.
It is never fun to do these Good, Bad and Unknowns when finding more than one or two "Goods" is a challenge, but here goes...
They won - Despite the fact that the game pretty much couldn't have been worse for the Huskies, they still won and start the season 1-0. An opening loss against one of the nation's most abused punching bags in recent history could have been disastrous for the Huskies and Petersen, but Hawaii kind of beat themselves and the Huskies are saved of embarrassment. This game could now hopefully be like Washington's 2011 opener where they were lucky to beat Eastern Washington, but still got the victory and all was pretty much forgotten by the end of the season.
John Ross - Thank god for the speedster from Long Beach. In a game where Husky receivers seemed to have either forgotten how to catch a ball or looked like they were trapped in concrete when they caught the ball, Ross made the most of his touches and ended up being the difference for the Huskies. I can't remember a Husky that looks as fast as Ross does and his 91-yard touchdown catch was a thing of pure beauty. Petersen and his staff are going to have to find ways to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.
No turnovers - This ended up being the difference in the game. The Huskies played it way too safe, but it did end up helping them not turn the ball over, which would have probably resulted in the final score tilting to Hawaii. Give some credit to Jeff Lindquist for struggling, but not giving up the ball and recovering a fumble in the fourth that could have been disastrous.
Whew... where to begin... let's start with the worst of the worst.
Offensive line - Pulling off the worst performance from a Husky offensive line since the Willingham, the veteran Husky offensive line simply looked incapable of doing anything against a smaller, suspect Warrior front. Granted, the younger running backs are a lot less skilled at cutting back and finding holes than Bishop Sankey, but the line couldn't seem to get any kind of push and regularly resulted in short gains on first and second downs over and over again. Most concerning was a line that added a lot of weight from last season looked like they really struggled to move forward when they needed to. Hopefully getting Ben Riva back as soon as possible will help.
Energy - In a terrifying flashback to the Willingham era, the entire Husky team looked like they had been shot with tranquilizer darts, lacking emotion and fire throughout the game. Personally, I am a little bit scared about the cerebral Petersen approach to the game in the modern day of football considering how unenthused the Huskies looked against the Warriors. In the modern age of college football where everything is getting faster and faster, the Huskies kind of looked like Boise State did against Washington in last season's opener where two teams were playing the game at different speeds.
Defensive strategy - I don't want this to turn into a "Oh my god, we hired Willingham again" column, but dear lord, I thought the days of seeing defensive backs giving receivers, especially ones that no one fears, 20-yard cushions were over. A first time starter in Jermaine Kelly doing it is one thing, but a potential first round draft pick like Marcus Peters doing it is another. It appeared for at least one game that the Huskies are going back to the days that they can't get a team off the field and third and long unless the receiver drops the pass or the quarterback completely misses on the throw.
Also, not sure if it was a strategy or the Warrior line just played perfectly, but for a team that was among the nation's best at sacking the quarterback, the Huskies really struggled at getting to the quarterback. They did manage three sacks, but only for 10 yards, showing that they were more simply stopping scrambles than traditional sacks other than for Hau'oli Kikaha's on the second play of the game which then led to him strangely fading out into the ether the rest of the day.
Third downs - Already elaborated on this, but it is going to be impossible to stop teams on third down if you can't get pressure and allow receivers to run 12 yards down field and stop with a defensive back playing prevent behind them.
Front seven - The Huskies were alarmingly soft up front against a smaller team from a lesser conference for a team that was expected to have one of the best front sevens in the nation. Unlike Washington's run game, the Warriors seemed to shred the Huskies up front every time they ran the ball and the Huskies struggled with Joey Iosefa more than they did Ka'Deem Carey, Tyler Gaffney or Byron Marshall last season. It is very scary to think what this front will do against Oregon or Stanford based off of this performance.
Jeff Lindquist in the second half - Lindquist wasn't getting any help from his line, receivers or running backs, but he looked as lost as I have ever seen a Husky quarterback appear. He couldn't hit open passers and it allowed Hawaii to sell out to the run and blitz without abandon and he seemed to give up on some plays once pressure formed.
Hiccup? It is hard to read too much from a single game. Think if the Huskies had opened last season with the Arizona State game, but until next week, this is the only game we have to draw off of. We probably won't know if this game was just a hiccup like Chip Kelly's opener at Oregon against Boise State or the Huskies narrow escape against Eastern Washington in 2011 or if it is more like Willingham's embarrassing loss to Air Force in 2005 - a harbinger of future doom.
Hawaii? The Warriors used to be one of the best mid-major teams in the country but recently became as relaxing to play against as a Hawaiian vacation so it was shocking how fearsome they looked against the Huskies. Was this a case of the Huskies making Hawaii look really good, or will this near-loss not look so bad at the end of the season. We will probably find out next week when Oregon State heads to Honolulu.
Quarterback? In the first half, it looked for a fleeting moment, that Jeff Lindquist could grab a hold of the starting spot, but then it all went to hell. The common logic now seems to be that Cyler Miles will come back from suspension and take things over, but the sophomore seems to still be a little tainted and it might take him a while to catch up still after missing so much action. Who will be the starter at quarterback next week and the weeks to come is a major question.
Changes? I was not enthused by Mike Criste basically being swapped out for James Atoe and Travis Feeney for Keishawn Bierria going into the season and unfortunately I feel that skepticism about these changes was only fueled in the opener. Is Colin Tanigawa's advantage over Criste really enough to justify moving him to center, benching Criste and inserting Atoe who has never seemed to not struggle as a starter. On defense, Feeney is one of my favorite players as a fierce competitor that makes big hits, but was replaced by Bierria who seemed to not be present all game.
Will these changes stick and will we seem some more as the rest of the lengthy non-conference slate unfolds?