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Mailbag - Duck L'orange Edition

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Have you ever noticed how dentists can never ask a question that can be answered with a "yes" or a "no"? Remember, with out ugliness, there is no beauty. Without stupidity, there is no intelligence. And viola, the existence of the Oregon Ducks is justified.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for your useless facts.

  • Starfish don't have brains
  • The opening to the cave in which a bear hibernates is always on the north slope.
  • Rats are unable to vomit, which is why rat poison is so effective.
  • A "nepheligenous" is someone filling a room wit tobacco smoke.
  • The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, is the only one to sew all of his own clothes.
  • The first telephones didn't have bells, they were connected all of the time.  To get the attention of someone on the other end of the line, one was instructed to yell "ahoy!" down the receiver.
  • The original title of "Hello, Dolly!" was "Dolly; a Damned Exasperating Woman."
  • Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for many years, and established an annual fishing tournament.  Fidel Castro won the tournament in 1960.
  • If placed end to end, all of the cans of Spam ever sold would circle the earth more than ten times (and counting).
  • In Alabama, it's illegal to wear a fake moustache to church if it causes laughter.
  • In parts of Alaska, it's illegal to feed alcohol to a moose.
  • In Utah, birds have the right of way on all highways.
  • In England, there is no difference between a pig and a hog.  In the US, once a pig reaches 180 pounds, it's considered a hog.
  • Ohio is listed as the 17th state, but technically, it's the 47th.  Congress forgot to vote on a resolution to admit Ohio to the Union until August 7, 1953.
  • A duck sleeps with half of its brain awake.  No word on brain usage by Duck fans, though.
And there you have it.  The old saying was that "this, plus $0.25 will get you a phone call.  Today, this information - coupled with a smart phone, a wireless plan, and opposable thumbs, will allow a teenage girl to send a text to the person sitting right next to her.

To the questions.

Anonymous:

Is this the finally the year the Huskies beat the *ucks?

Rhaego:

What are the realistic odds that we win this Oregon game? Does their loss to Wazzu at home make them vulnerable and easier for us to beat them, or does it make them pissed off and more likely to seek validation by beating us?

What are the most intriguing matchups in the upcoming Oregon game, individual to individual or personnel group to group?

danarnold:

Will Oregon be fired up, unwilling to lose 3 in a row; or will they be down, discouraged, dejected and dumb?

UWDP: I wasn't really sure what that last word in the question was, so I starting putting each letter in the alphabet in front of it.  I got to "F", and....

Yes.  Probably.  Maybe.  I don't know.  No.

Yes.  I'm going with that, but I don't find myself having a lot of confidence in it.  Not having seen a Husky win since I was in my 20's probably has a lot to do with that.

I also tend to look at Oregon as a wounded, dangerous animal.  I've read a lot of talk about how Oregon "always" plays its best against Washington during the last 11 games.  I don't think that's true, but I'm fully expecting it on Saturday.

When you look at the advanced stats, though, Washington should win, and in fairly convincing fashion.  Oregon's offense is still good (27th by S&P+), but that's entirely on the back of the running game.  The passing game is decidedly mediocre.  If Oregon doesn't get a big play on a series, it will most likely fail to score, because the Duck offense is decidedly unexplosive this year (71st in the country - did you ever think you'd see that?).  The Ducks are good on standard downs due to that running game, but terrible on passing downs.  The good news for Husky fans is that the Dawgs are beastly on standard downs defensively.  Top 10 in the nation.  Even better is that Washington is top 5 on the country in preventing teams from finishing drives, so even if Oregon does move the ball, they'll likely be held to field goal attempts.

Offensively, the Dawgs should absolutely be able to run the ball.  Oregon's run defense is almost as bad as Cal's was.  Washington is actually a very good team on standard downs (18th in the country), so as long as they can minimize the obvious passing downs by staying ahead of the chains, they should be able to drive the ball successfully.  When you boil it right down, Washington's offense, for as unimpressive as it's been, is actually better than Oregon's defense.  Which is a hot mess.  Outside of Sacramento State, this is the worst defense the Huskies have faced all year, and by a pretty significant margin.

But seeing as how I'm human and not a computer, missing out on even a single Husky win in the entire decade of my thirties left me with angst and a feeling of dread when the the opening line came out and the Huskies were actually slight favorites.  What's even worse is that the line has actually moved in the Huskies' favor since then.  Slightly.  As hard as I try to not do it, I have daymares of Royce Freeman and the Oregon running game going for 300 plus, a trick play score from the offense, one or two big plays from the Oregon QB, and DeForest Buckner setting up shop in the UW backfield.  Ugh.

The teams that have beaten Oregon in the past have really been able to slow the Ducks' running game down, and the key to that is usually a quick defensive tackle that can penetrate and screw up the mesh point of the read zone runs (hello there, Mr. Qualls...).  The key units will be the linebackers, who have to show the ability to stop Royce Freeman, whose combination of size, power, and speed is similar to my own, and the inclination to chase down and solidly tackle speedster Taj Griffin.  None of the QB's are anything compared to Marcus Mariotta running the ball, but any of them can pick up yards if the linebackers don't stay assignment sound.

Even though a small part of me wants to fast forward to the end of the game to see the final score, the majority of me can't wait to see it unfold.  Be there, Husky fans.  Be part of the home field advantage.

SeaSalt14:

As we enter the midpoint of the season, which position groups do you see making the biggest improvement from now until the end of the season? Which position group needs to improve the most?

UWDP: With such a young team, it's difficult to forecast.  But based almost entirely on the USC game, the offensive line took a huge step forward, and that taste of success could really help propel it the rest of the season.  They did a better job of keeping Jake Browning upright (although some credit goes to Browning both for throwing the ball away and not running around - particularly backward - nearly as much).  They opened up holes in the running game at key times (but again, some credit goes to Miles Gaskin for a couple of really, really good runs).  If Browning had hit on a couple of open passes, we might be talking about a rather dominant Husky win, and really lauding the work of the guys up front.  As it is, the line needs to add on to the yeoman's work they did last Thursday against the Ducks.  If they do, it suggests they might be turning that corner that sets the table for the rest of this year, but really, into the next couple of seasons.

I love Jake Browning's potential, but really, the Huskies' offense needs better quarterback play.  Browning missed a couple of big plays against both USC and Cal that could have really turned those games inside out.  And objectively, his play has actually been fairly mediocre this season, when you discount the fact that he's a true freshman (which I'm not).  But I think he's thisclose having that game when things just explode for him.  I didn't see it (and haven't had the chance to find it) but somebody posted a Q&A with Petersen where a reporter asked him something to the effect of "Do you expect to see Browning be able to make those throws in the next two or three years?"  Petersen replied, "I expect to see him make them in the next two or three games."  Me too.

2003husky:

I've been very impressed with Scott Woodward who has managed to accomplish a lot of big projects (stadium renovations [football, baseball, track, basketball,etc]) as well as make good coaching hires in some tough economic and athletic times at UW. Even selling the naming right to the football field while keeping the stadium called Husky Stadium was a great win in my mind. The athletic program is more than solvent and appears headed upward across the board. How long do we have him under contract right now and do you see us being able to hang on to him well into the future?

UWDP: I looked, and I can't seem to find the details of his current contract.  He signed an extension that ended in June of this year, and it's possible he's working without a contract since the UW didn't have a president until the last couple of days.  I don't actually know.

Yes, he's done some good things in terms of raising money.  And upgrading facilities.  If the class of freshmen the UW signed pan out the way people are projecting, his patience with Lorenzo Romar is justified.  Mike Neighbors is doing a solid job with the women's basketball program.  Volleyball is still rolling, but it's too early to say about first year coach Keegan Cook.

Woodward was also a very strong proponent of equal revenue sharing among all conference members, having seen the value of it in the SEC.

I'd really like to hear an announcement about the basketball facilities.  Soon.

Woodward's time hasn't been without its flaws, though.  He bungled the firing of Tyrone Willingham as his first official duty.  Many of his words about the stadium remodel to the effect of "doing it on the cheap" rubbed Husky fans the wrong way.  His comments on the sideline before the Oregon game in 2010 about the University of Oregon's academics weren't well thought-out.  While the new Husky Stadium is making money, the atmosphere has gone decidedly in the wrong direction with lagging attendance (although that's not really unique to Washington, and not all Woodward's fault) and a "feel" that just isn't the same since the students were moved in the name of "monetizing the stadium."

Woodward isn't really a "sports" guy, he's a bean counter.  He's done a very good job at that.  But it's entirely imperfect.  I don't think the Huskies are in any danger of "losing" him.  I also don't think he's irreplaceable.

GlendaleDawg:

I expected Vita Vea to be a mainstay in the middle of the "Dawg Day Defense" {ya like that?!}. ...Anyway, not seeing a lot of Vita as of yet. Is he going to just be playing in specific sets/packages, or will he be working his way into the rotation a as a regular on the DLine. Thanks, GD.

UWDP: Ever since defensive line coach Jeff Choate said that he felt Vita Vea was more physically talented than Danny Shelton, expectations have been really high for Vea.  He's played in every game as far as I know, and he's certainly had his moments.  The thing that I don't think Husky fans counted on was the emergence of Greg Gaines, who has quietly put together a really, really solid redshirt freshman campaign as the primary backup at the nose tackle position.  He and Elijah Qualls have been on the field together a fair amount, allowing Qualls to become more of a playmaker as a tackle or end.

The sky is still the limit for Vea, but any time a guy greyshirts, and then redshirts, that two years removed from actually playing any real football would create a little rust that'd need to be shaken off.  He's going to continue to play, and continue to get better.

deltron2:

Any hope they'll use Dwayne Washington and Gaskins in the samebackfield? Washington seems like hed be a great H-back/fullback

UWDP: It's certainly possible that they'd be on the field at the same time, with Dwayne Washington either lining up (or motioning) out wide, or a two back look at some point this season.  It's a pretty intriguing package, really.

I don't think it's ever going to be a "regular" look, though.  The Huskies are pretty committed to being a one-back spread team, and I think the coaches like the different looks each guy brings to the offense as a ball carrier.

Broadwayreps:

I'm interested in any information on Will Dissly. We haven't seen much of him.

UWDP: Expectations were certainly high for Dissly coming off of his highly productive spring.  He's played in every game, and even though he hasn't shown up big in the box score, he's done his job in providing depth on the line.

Credit should be given to Jojo Mathis, Tani Tupou, and Jaylen Johnson here.  While Mathis is a relatively known quantity, Tupou has really stepped up in his senior season, and Jaylen Johnson has looked explosive at times both rushing the passer and in run support.

JayDawg:

Given the turmoil at SC, don't you think it is a bit premature to say that the Huskies program has turned the corner? If we can't get the "zero" off our backs this Saturday night, aren't we right back where we were? Looking for answers for an anemic offense and wondering how many times the defense can save the day?

UWDP: Yes, I do.  Not just because of what's going on at USC, but just as much because the progression of such a young team is hardly ever linear, and hiccups are to be expected along the way.  What Thursday was, to me, is the first taste of real success for a group of guys that have come close but not been able to really finish in a game they were expected to lose.  It's validation for the things the coaches have been teaching and preaching.

I think it's up to you to determine what a loss Saturday would mean.  Some of that would probably be determined by how the game actually plays out....What if the Huskies lose 41-38?

For me, I expect the Huskies to both win and lose games they shouldn't due to nature of their inexperience.  I'm trying to not use any single game to cast the trajectory of the team.  But it's tough.

And I really want to beat Oregon.

Rhaego:

How likely is it that this is the beginning of the fall of Oregon? Or is this just a blip of a season?
UWDP: As much as it pains me to say it, Oregon has built itself into one of the top programs in the country over the last decade.   (gargles with bleach)

I don't really know.  For as good as Oregon has been, they don't really have the things that most traditional powers have that allow them to stem the tide of a bad couple of years (they have money, but not much of a tradition or regional recruiting base).  What they had was a huge infusion of money at the same time they had three seamless internal coaching hires that were each better than the previous one.  Helfrich likely breaks that trend, but really, that's to be expected.  That it didn't happen sooner is the actual surprise, if you just play the odds.

Oregon's QB situation is baffling this year, even if Vernon Adams doesn't get hurt (although it's likely a lot better).  Where's the development, such that a townie walk-on in Taylor Alie is splitting time with the guy "most" people thought was going to win the job in the offseason?  Whatever the reasons - transfers, lack of development, poor evaluations - the Ducks have missed at the QB position for a few years in a row to get to this point.

What's happened on defense is even more startling.  DeForrest Buckner is really, really good defensive tackle, but outside of him, the line isn't very good.  The linebackers are even worse, and with four seniors starting, they don't have the excuse of "youth" an equally bad secondary can use.

It's a blip right now.  But without something really shaking up the Ducks next season (infusion of talent, a coaching change), it could very well be a fall from grace for Oregon.  But before anyone gets their hopes up, the likelihood of Oregon falling into the abyss is very low.  It would take mismanagement on the level seen at the UW to fall below being an 8-4 type team.

danarnold:

With a night game how do the players, coaches prepare mentally during the long wait on game day?

UWDP: For the coaches, they probably use every singe minute available to prepare for the game.  Reviewing game plans and situations, discussing personnel, last minute film review, and meetings with the players.

For the players, there's a couple of meetings with position coaches, likely one with the whole team, and a lot of hours to kill without wasting a lot of energy.  Some guys try to take naps.  Some guys will study the play book or review game notes.  Some guys will visualize a successful game.

Really, it's a grind.  It can lead to a lot of nervous energy and over-excitement.  A big part of the coaches' jobs is managing that.

Thanks for the questions, Dawg fans.  Be there, and be loud.