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Mailbag: "Mighty, Mighty Vikings" Edition

I'm totally pumped for this game. Totally.

Don't drop the ball so low, Jake.
Don't drop the ball so low, Jake.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

A few useless facts about Portland, home of the Portland State Vikings:

  • The name Portland was given to the town on the flip of a coin; had the other side come up, it would've been called Boston.
  • Approximately 13,000 people participate in the annual "World Naked Bike Ride" in Portland, the largest such event of its kind.
  • Portland is the only major city with a volcano within the city limits.
  • Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland offers legal marriage ceremonies.
  • Rollerblades are illegal in Portland bathrooms.
  • The "Benson Bubblers" located around the city were donated so as to give early settlers an alternative to drinking at the many pubs.
  • Portland is home to the most strip clubs per capita of anywhere in the country.
  • Portland native Douglas Engelbart invented the computer mouse.
  • "The Simpsons" co-creator Matt Groening is from Portland. Many "Simpsons" characters and places are named after Portland streets and spots.
  • The retail birthplace of U-Haul was in Portland.
  • Portlandia is the second-largest hammered copper statue in America, behind only the Statue of Liberty.
  • The Portland Rosebuds were the first US-based NHL team, and the first American team to compete for the Stanley Cup.
  • The Mai Tai was invented by Vic Bergeron, owner of Portland-based Trader Vic's.
  • You could eat at a Portland food cart every day for two years before being forced to eat at the same one twice.
  • While illegal in most states, you can frequently swim in many of the fountains located throughout the city.
  • The "Rosebud and Thorn" is the world's oldest teen drag queen competition, originating in 1975.
  • It's illegal in Portland to modify the weather without first obtaining a permit.
  • In Portland, it's illegal to strap a baby in a car seat to the top of a car using duct tape. Because it happened once. And the city needed a law to make sure it didn't happen again.
  • Before closing in 2002, the 24-Hour Church of Elvis would grant marriages of anyone to anything, be it a pet, Saturn, yourself...
  • Mill's End Park is 2.5 feet in diameter, making it the smallest park in the world. It was originally supposed to contain a light pole, but the city never got around to putting it up.
  • Portland drivers are consistently ranked the most courteous in the nation.
  • The fine for pumping your own gas in Portland is $500. This is for our own protection; we simply lack the training, understanding, and expertise to do it ourselves.
Question time. Gather 'round:

Idaho-Portland Dawg:

(Non-Husky related question) The infamous gaffe in the CMU-OSU game that produced an exhilarating finish. Your thoughts on the missed call?

UWDP: It's a shame when the referees impact the outcome of a game. It's far worse when it's on a fundamental gaffe like not knowing the rules, as opposed to simply "missing" a call.

The Pac-12 has given officials not on the field the ability to correct and oversee officiating through replay and the use of video to enforce targeting even when it's not called on the field. In this case, the call was made on the field, followed by a TV timeout, followed by the Hail Mary play. In that time, which probably amounted to three or four minutes of real time, nobody had the ability to review the rule and make sure the call was actually correct?

While this is outcome was certainly a mistake, it fails to rise to the level of the Missouri-Colorado game in 1990, when the Buffs were granted a fifth down to score a game-winning touchdown. In that instance, nobody had the ability to count to four without making a mistake along the way.

The blown call certainly adds some tarnish to the win, but I doubt many Central Michigan fans care. And even though Oklahoma State rightfully won the game, I wonder how many Cowboy fans would want the victory given to them after the fact. The last play was thrilling, and it made for a dramatic conclusion, but it's tough to know what to really think about it. It counts, but not really.


What's your take on the o line so far?

What percent of blame do each of the following factors have on the run game so far and why?
1) Play-calling
2) RB execution
3) OL execution
4) Not wanting to reveal too much because it's OOC


It seems that it takes time, sometimes into the second half, for the run game to become 'better' (at what point is a run game considered established?).

Anywho, is this attributed to better OL play or is it simply that we are wearing the opposing defense down and they are playing worse? Is our O-line performing any better or worse than other teams in the conference (i.e Stanford)? I'm not an X's and O's guy so I don't know what to look for other than final score.


Thoughts on the running game?


We have 2 games in the book. OL/running game, do we sense a problem that will cause us from great things this year? Or just working things out and we will be fine?


I haven't been able to watch much of the games, but the run game hasn't impressed.  Is there an issue here, or have the Huskies been approaching the games with a passing mentality?

UWDP: I think there are a lot of factors as to why the running game hasn't looked great. In no particular order:

1. It hasn't been great. There have breakdowns across the board, from the offensive line to the receivers to the tight ends and to the backs. Even if the offensive line probably deserves the biggest share of the criticism, no one is immune from sharing in some amount of the blame.

2. The timing is ever so slightly off. Part of this is probably related to a small sample size right now. Part of it might also be related to the fact that a lot of the team work in fall camp has been against the Husky defense, and it's difficult to establish rhythm and continuity against a unit that's better than you are, and also knows all the plays you're running.

3. The Husky offense has run the ball a grand total of 15 times so far with anything less than a 17-point lead. Four of those have been reverses or fly sweeps. While all of the plays after those leads were gained "mean" something, their value lessens just a little bit.

4. The offensive line seemingly hasn't picked up where it left off at the end of last season, but I'm not sure that two data points in two blowout wins provide the most accurate analysis of where this team is at right now. I'd hesitate to call what we've seen "regression." It might be, but a) I don't actually think so, and b) there's too much noise in the data.

5. Chris Petersen's offense will probably look balanced at the end of the season in terms of run/pass ratio, but when he has competent QB play, he's always passed first in order to set up the run. And that's actually true of most teams; even Alabama has largely built its leads through the air in the first halves of games the last several years, only to pound away in the second half with its running game. It was true of the UW in 2015, too. Thus far, the first halves have ended the games, and the Huskies haven't been able, or needed, to maintain the intensity they had at the start of games.

6. There's not a lot of reason to simply pound away with Myles Gaskin in meaningless games in September. If only touching the ball 13 times a game in September means he's able to carry it 25 times a game in November, I'm all for it.

7. The Huskies probably aren't showing quite as much right now as they will beginning at Arizona on the 24th in terms of specific game planning. Again, there's no real need. And we don't know what the coaches want to get on film from games, both in order to work on the Huskies, and to show other teams.

8. There are enough guys that have shown enough to earn a little benefit of the doubt. Both coaches and players.

9. It's closer than it looks. The Husky offense is obscenely complicated, and puts a premium on execution by each player on each down over volume. Plays are run at certain times in order to set things up for later in games (and seasons, for that matter). There's a snowball effect both in success and failure. And the failures aren't really systemic, nor or they a result of fatal insufficiencies.

10. I'm going to wait until the team is unable to run the ball against Arizona before I start to panic or draw conclusions. That doesn't mean I'm going to try to convince myself that all is well right now, just that I have to wait.


After 2 games against lesser competition, please assess our wide receivers.  Who is a surprise to you?  How good is this group so far?  Do you think Young will earn more time later?

UWDP: On the whole, the group has done well catching the ball, and I think their efforts blocking were better against Idaho than they were against Rutgers. But the level competition and the scores of games, plus the small sample size, make it tough to read too much into things. On a number of occasions, the Husky wideouts have made plays simply by "out-athleting" the defense; some of that will continue, but it's not a given.

John Ross has shown that he's a much more polished, complete receiver than he ever was before, and at a faster rate than I would've expected. He looks great playing as an outside receiver. Aaron Fuller has been a great blocker, maybe the best of any of the receivers. Andre Baccellia and Quinten Pounds look like legit additions.

K.J. Young certainly has the chance to earn more time as the season goes on, but he was a really late addition to the roster. He's further behind in terms of knowing the offense, and in continuity with the QBs, than even the true freshmen.


How strong is the PAC10?

UWDP: Who have you already booted out? I'm assuming WSU or Oregon State? Cal?

The Pac-12 hasn't exactly shown brightly, especially at the top. After the Huskies, Colorado might have registered the two most "impressive" wins of the 2-0 teams, even though the competition has been lacking.

The conference has missed out on most of its opportunities to shine thus far against the rest of the nation, and there aren't too many left - a couple of games against Notre Dame (who could be out of the rankings by then), Colorado going to the Big House, Cal against Texas...if you care about the perception of the conference, you'd better be rooting for a huge Duck win in Lincoln on Saturday. But even that won't be entirely impressive, as Nebraska is unranked. Same goes for UCLA and BYU.

The conference is deep, but not as strong at the top as others. That's about what I expected to see.


Please assess our tight ends so far.  Who has played the most?  Done the best? How many have seen meaningful game time?   (throw out both 4th quarters)

UWDP: Drew (don't call me James) Sample and Darrell (don't call me DAH-rul) Daniels have certainly played the most; Sample mostly as a blocker, and Daniels as an H-back or slot receiver. Both are frequently in at the same time.

Both have mostly been okay, but there's room to improve. Sample's primary job is as a blocker on the end of the line. He hasn't been any better or worse than anybody else, I'd say. I'm not worried about him moving forward, as he's shown that he's willing and able to get the job done. He's a sneaky receiver, too; the guy voted "Most Likely to be Forgotten by the Defense" by his peers. I don't want to put too much weight on the dropped sure-touchdown by Daniels against Rutgers, but that would've been nice to have. He has six catches so far (at just under 15 yards each), and the Huskies haven't had the need or desire to show off the big-play capability his speed affords the offense. But it will, probably as soon as the Arizona game.

Will Dissly has been the third tight end, and he's played with Sample in what amounts to a "jumbo" package for the Huskies. He's shown well as a blocker in what I've seen. David Ajamu is the fourth tight end; he hasn't gotten as many "meaningful" snaps as the other three, but he's the guy that gets moved around in much the same way Daniels does.

The Huskies haven't really put a ton of effort into taking advantage of this group yet. I think they'll become a bigger part of the passing game as soon as conference play begins.


Given the amount of playing time and apparent improvement of KJCS, how comfortable/hopeful are you (and anyone else who wants to chime in) that KJ can guide the team through the end of a game if it ever becomes a necessity?

KJ has seen some time at QB.  He has done some good things.  Is it just me or does he tend to stare down the receiver he is going to throw to?

UWDP: K.J. Carta-Samuels has looked much more confident and comfortable running the offense than he ever did last season. Part of that is the situations he's found himself in thus far in 2016, but even in his garbage time efforts in 2015, he never really fully looked the part of a Chris Petersen quarterback. He does this year.

Maybe partly by design, and maybe partly due to his limitations in running an offense as complex as UW's, Carta-Samuels was treated as a runner last year. And he seemed like he was playing at a million miles an hour without necessarily getting anywhere. He's shown a huge increase in poise so far; it's palpable. I don't want to see him have to lead the team in a huge game like he did last year at Stanford, but I have a lot more confidence in his abilities this year than I did last.

I'd have to go back and look at his efforts more closely as far as him locking on or staring down receivers. It could very well be true. I thought he did a nice job on both of his TD passes, but I haven't paid too much attention to the other series he's had.


Any concerns about the D?  It seems like they have played really well, but against weaker competition.  If you were going to attack the D, how would you do it?

UWDP: Concerns? Yeah, a couple.

I didn't like the way the secondary looked against Idaho with Budda Baker covering the slot and Brandon Beaver playing free safety. The Huskies gave up a few too many plays in the soft intermediate middle of pass defense, that I think Baker would've taken away. Beaver was also late getting to the sidelines a couple of times in help coverage. Darren Gardenhire didn't get the start last Saturday, which was odd. Maybe the coaches held him out for some reason, and maybe they just wanted to see how Beaver would handle increased playing time.

There hasn't been great pressure off the edges in the pass rush. Neither Jojo Mathis nor Psalm Wooching have had much of an impact. Mathis has been on the sidelines more than his fair share. This could be due to a number of things, though, like a base scheme that calls for more coverage from the Buck than Mathis can really handle, and the fact that the defense is playing a lot of nickel. We'll see.

I really can't wait to see Jaylen Johnson on the field.

The Huskies' defense looked more vulnerable last week in the intermediate middle in the passing game than I'd seen in a while. If Beaver is back there, I'd certainly attack that point. It's also softer underneath; the Huskies haven't played much man coverage. They're letting receivers catch the ball; I'd force the secondary to prove they can make lots of open-field tackles. Which they can. And will. And they'll also play more man as the season moves on.

In the run, I'd want to get to the edges quickly. There isn't going to be much up the middle, and plays that take too long to get to the outside are going to get shut down by pursuit. But it's not a fun job, attacking this defense.


3 things we did better against Idaho than we did against Rutgers, 3 things worse

UWDP: Better:

1.  Wide receiver blocking
2.  Punting
3.  Run blocking (marginally so)


1.  Pass coverage
2.  Returning kicks for touchdowns (not even one - just bad)
3.  Run blocking (marginally so)


Utah's defense continues to scare me. That, plus playing in Rice Eccles and against a QB that undoubtedly wants to beat us, I think Utah may be our toughest challenge. Especially if our OL doesn't shape up. Thoughts?

UWDP: My experience is that most opposing QBs would like to tie, or lose to, the Huskies.

Playing in Rice-Eccles will be tough. Utah's defense is good. Utah's offense really hasn't been, though. It's surprising both that a Kyle Whittingham-coached team have moved so far away from the power running game, and that they've been unable to run the ball all that well, period.

This game might be the toughest road test (although I'm sure lots of gun-shy Husky fans will say Oregon, and it's certainly debatable either way). It's a game the Huskies could lose.


It seems playing easy teams could be a blessing; we get to iron out our flaws before we have a real opponent..... or.... playing easy teams is a curse. When we roll into Tucson or Stanford comes to town, we aren't ready for a solid team. Which is it?

UWDP: No coach, player, or fan is ever going to answer this question in real time; it's always something that's only addressed with the benefit of hindsight.

Either the soft early schedule helped the team gel on its way to a 10-win season, or the soft early schedule masked all of the weaknesses on the way to six disappointing losses. The tough early-season galvanized the team, or it beat them up and broke their confidence.

I'll tell you in December. I'd rather have at least one tough game early in the season, but that's just me. It's what I want as a fan, and I like a team to set the baseline prior to getting into conference play.


Let's have our weekly check-in on Jonathan Smith. What's his favorability?

UWDP: No change for me. How 'bout the rest of you?


Are we..... a passing team now?
UWDP: Always have been. Pass to set up the run. Go back and look at the amount of passing in the first half of games last year. Look at what Boise State did when Kellen Moore was at QB. Look at Alabama with Lane Kiffin.

It's what Chris Petersen has always been. Build a lead, and run to win.


Smell test: Does UW smell like a top 10 team? 5-8? Top 5?

Based on the results/games you've seen, is Washington the best team in the Pac 12 at this moment?
UWDP: It looks to me like the Huskies are waaaaaay better than Rutgers and Idaho. And that they have the capability to play really well on defense, and at least pretty well on offense.

Other than that, I just don't know, Tyler. It's more fun being ranked than not, but there just hasn't been enough football played by anybody for me to change what I thought coming into the season. Yet. Ask me after the Stanford game.

Every team in the conference seems flawed right now. Stanford is probably the toughest to gauge, because as good as their new offense looked in the first half of the win over Kansas State, they were as bad in the second half. If not for McCaffrey's long run at the end, the Cardinal had a single first down the entire half, and couldn't do a damn thing at home against K-State.


JB has been great..... if I had one critique, it would be that he still has a tiny bit of hesitation. There was one pass where he ended up slipping in a tight pass and the CB almost picked it; he did a half pump and hesitated, and lingered with his eyes. Anyone else notice this?
UWDP: He's been a little late in both games at times. It was certainly discussed here after the Rutgers game.

That's my single critique as well. It's tough to argue with his results, but he's made a couple of plays that aren't likely to be there against better teams, and gotten away with a couple of poor decisions. But at the same time, I like that he's being aggressive. That's a good thing.


Favorite moment in Husky Sports History? Since you asked, mine would be IT's step back jumper to win the Pac12 tournament. I cried, and I rewatch it all the time.

UWDP: That Isaiah Thomas shot was fantastic. It's also one of the examples in sport where the announcer's call adds significantly to the drama of the moment. It's the spaces between Gus Johnson's words that make the call so great.

Some of my favorite moments have personal ties to them that maybe make them more important to me than they would other people.

Aside from the obvious ones (The Whammy, 1991 at Nebraska, various bowl wins), one of my favorites was being at the USC "All I Saw Was Purple" game in 1990. It was the first time I saw the Huskies dominate a "top" opponent in person.

Everyone else can chime in below.


What do you think CP would do if one of his players informed him that they would kneel for the anthem?

UWDP: I think Petersen would talk to the player to find out the reasoning behind it. If the player could articulate a strong purpose in doing so, Petersen would support his right to do it, regardless of his own personal feelings.


UW and Pac12 seem surprisingly underrepresented in the "Out LGBT" athletes department. Maybe in areas with such acceptance, the process of "coming out" doesn't seem necessary? Thoughts?
UWDP: Underrepresented compared to whom? I'm sure you're more aware of collegiate athletes that are "out" than I am, but based on what I read (which mostly comes from, there aren't a lot more athletes from the SEC, or B14G, or ACC, or Big 12 than the Pac-12. I'm not sure there's a single conference or school that's leading the pack or blazing a trail. Can you provide more information?


Hypothetically, if you had to gauge Coach Pete's expectations or thoughts for this season, what do you suppose those are? I know he is notoriously mum and nondescript about things like that, but don't you think somewhere deep down inside he wants to be the coach who ends the 12-0 streak against Oregon and the the general lackluster performance of UW against other ranked opponents in the past decade?
UWDP: I don't think Chris Petersen or his staff set goals as general as a certain number of wins, or wins over certain teams. I think they're a lot more specific than that, because it's reaching those targets that leads to wins (at least in their minds). Petersen isn't a "fan," so I really don't think he cares about a streak that has very little to do with him thus far. I'm sure he wants to beat Oregon, but it's because they're a division foe, it helps him in recruiting, it's validation of his processes, etc., not because of some streak. Same holds true of beating other good teams. He wants Washington to be good because it's good for business, and he's got the same healthy amount of ego that all successful coaches have.


My rec-to-comment ratio is too low; my rent is too damn high. What am I doing wrong?

UWDP: What are these "recs" of which you speak? How do I get one? Should I care about them?

Move out of Seattle. Marry well.

All for this week. I can't wait for Saturday. Really.