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Instant Reaction: Huskies Embarrassed in the Cactus Bowl

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The Huskies played in a bowl game tonight. It was awesome. Or it wasn't.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies continued their identity-les season tonight as a team that was thought to be strong in their defensive front seven was thoroughly dressed down and blown out by the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2015 Cactus Bowl.  The Cowboys, starting a true freshman QB and missing their best playmaker, dominated the Huskies in just about every facet of the game on their way to an easy 30-22 win that was never as close as the final score might imply.

Husky fans realized even before kickoff that things were not going to go exactly as planned when it was revealed that starting OG Dexter Charles had been left in Seattle to address academic issues while All-American OLB Shaq Thompson took the field with a bulky cast on his left arm.   The Cowboys took full advantage by marching down the field for an easy TD on their first possession while their D was frustrating the Husky offense for much of the first quarter.  Despite some early turnovers, they never really looked back.

The rest of the first half was all Cowpokes.  While Mason Rudolph had a few spectacularly bad plays, he benefitted from a strong pocket, a very effective rushing attack and some big third down conversions of his own making to help OSU run off 17 points before the Huskies had even generated their own first down.

The second half ....

The Cowboys put up a very convincing effort.  Not only was Mason Randolph a revelatation, but the Desmond Roland really stepped up in the Cowboys rushing attack.  There was a lot of attention being paid to Roland and how how he would respond after the Cowboys dismissed second leading rusher Tyreek Hill following a domestic violence incident.  Roland rushed for ...

This offseason promises to be one of disruption and change for the Huskies.  The Dawgs will graduate four starting offensive linemen while the future of the fifth, OG Dexter Charles, looks somewhat in doubt.  In addition, the Huskies will graduate its entire starting defensive line while its All-American linebacker, Shaq Thompson, is likely to declare for the NFL draft.  With uncertainty at all levels of the defense, along the offensive line, at wide receiver and at quarterback, the Huskies will go into 2015 projected to finish near the bottom of the Pac 12 standings.

Instant Reactions Dotsh

  • I was shocked -- SHOCKED -- at how easy it was for that OKST OLine to create holes and pockets in the first half.  That was supposed to be a huge advantage for UW that simply was neutralized and was the difference in the game.
  • If there is anybody still out there that thinks that Jonathan Smith is worthy of his job, I'd like to meet him.  The dink and dunk playcalling is horrible (an option run on a second quarter fourth down when the offense had not attempted a single long pass to stretch the defense?  Really?) but that's not even the big issue.  Its the general state of ineptness of the position group that he manages.
  • So much for that Husky rushing attack.
  • One of the things that is really challenging the Husky offense is how complicated the playbook is.  If you were paying attention to the formations and the motions that were run throughout the game - including several variations of the Pistol - you likely came away with your head swimming.  Imagine what it is like for the players.  It was the "multiple" philosophy that Steve Sarkisian discarded before fielding his record-breaking UW offense of 2013.
  • Oklahoma State racked up about 300 yards of offense in the first half.  This is a team with a patchwork offensive line, a true freshman QB and missing their most explosive player.  300 yards in one half.  Think about that for a second.
  • The Huskies generated two first quarter turnovers.  However, they did not convert a single first down and exited the first quarter down 14-0.  That's bad.
  • If Cyler Miles thought that he had the starting QB job sewn up for next year based on a strong second half of the season, he may have just given that advantage up.  The first quarter, in particular, was amongst some of the worst all-around quarterbacking play that we've seen by any UW quarterback in some time.  He was inaccurate, indecisive and ineffective with his legs.  Though Cyler warmed up as the game went on, Troy Williams may still want to delay his transfer decision.
  • So, John Ross has a bit of a bowl game streak going when it comes to kickoff returns.  He's good.
  • The Pokes completely took Hau'oli Kikaha out of the game.  I'm going to have to go back and watch again to figure out how they did that.  I recall one play in the third quarter - the one where the Cowboy receiver had his incomplete pass confirmed - where Kikaha was one on one on his OL and was completely stonewalled.  I can't recall seeing him play so poorly this year.
  • Despite his turnovers, Mason Rudolph was impressive.  I can't recall seeing another QB this year who had a quicker release.  From the moment he decides to throw to the time it leaves his fingers, it is Dan Marnio-esque.  Makes one wonder why they waited so long to take his redshirt off.
  • Both UW and OSU came in with young and weak defensive secondaries.  However, it was OSU's passing attack that averaged 12 yards per attempt (!) that took advantage.
  • The Huskies OLine has been a hot mess all year and was particularly bad in this one.  Normally, I'd bemoan having to replace four - maybe five - starters from one year to the next.  But, whatever.  Time to move on.  I won't miss watching James Atoe continue to whiff badly on blitzing OLBs. And, man, Mike Criste.  What was going on out there today?
  • Darrell Daniels will go into 2015, in my opinion, as the playmaker with the highest upside on offense.
  • I don't know how good a cover corner he will ultimately become (though his two near interceptions are pretty good signs), but Sidney Jones is already well on his way to becoming an elite CB in run support.
  • Penalties are still a thing.
  • Did anybody watch Shaq Thompson tonight and come away thinking that this guy is a sure thing NFL player?  I get that he was wearing a cast.  Still, he was just plain bad tonight.
  • I'm just going to say it...Korey Durkee is not a Pac12 caliber punter.
  • Speaking of which - why the hell do Husky kickoffs continue to be so bad?
  • James Castleman, a 300 lb DL, completely embarrassed the Huskies on both his TD run and the game-clinching screen pass.
  • Kasen Williams was a factor in his last game at UW.  He caught a pass right at the end of the first half and was targeted on a long pass earlier in the second quarter.  He went on to be a major contributor in the second half and finished the night with 73 yards on 5 catches - his best game of the season.

Given that I'm now a bit sleep deprived and over inebriated, I think it may well be a good time to hang up the keyboard.  Before I go, I will note that tonight was a major step backwards for Chris Petersen and the Huskies.  The Dawgs will now go into the offseason lacking any kind of identity as a team and having to face down significant questions related to the offensive coaching staff.  Also dealing with major turnover on both sides of the line of scrimmage, it is hard to enter this offseason with any kind of optimism.  Of course, that is the role of a fan - to worry incessantly about all that they cannot control.

Nevertheless, it can't be denied that Chris Petersen has burned through much of the goodwill that he inherited when he was hired a year ago.  This Husky team underperformed to its talent level.  There is no debating that.  How he responds to the challenges he faces this offseason will be a major factor in determining whether he will ultimately be successful as a UW Head Football Coach.