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Mailbag: "On to Week Two" Edition

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The Huskies renew one of the most contentious rivalries in all of sport this Saturday in Husky Stadium when the Idaho Vandals come to town.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

A useless factoid or two about the state of Idaho:

  • Idaho produces 72 different kinds of gemstones and precious metals.
  • The high-jumping technique known as the Fosbury Flop (used universally today) was invented by Ketchum, ID resident Dick Fosbury.
  • Idaho's state seal is the only one designed by a woman - Mrs. Emma Edwards Green, in 1890.
  • Idaho is 83,557 square miles, the 13th largest state in the U.S.
  • The common Idaho license plate designates the county in which the car is registered, with a letter/number combination.
  • Nearly 85% of the commercial trout sold in the U.S. comes from the Hagerman Valley in Idaho.
  • The first city lit by atomic energy was Arco, ID in 1955.
  • 63% of Idaho is public land.
  • 37% of Idaho is not public land.
  • Feel free to check my math.
On to your questions.

gilly:

Were the Huskies that good or was Rutgers that bad?

UWDP: It was a lot of things. The Huskies are pretty good. Rutgers, with a new offensive system that lacks some of the necessary key components in the first game with a new coaching staff, wasn't great, and the Huskies made a flurry of big plays early in the game that turned the game into a rout. I don't actually think the Huskies are 35 points better than the Scarlet Knights - that's a huge margin. But they took the momentum early on both sides of the ball, and really didn't give Rutgers much of an opportunity to do anything of note until the game was decided.

As good as the defense was out of the gate, part of that was due to Rutgers offense. They just didn't move very fast. They looked confused, and like they didn't really understand the plays they were running - like they were thinking too much. The offense settled down and started looking much more cohesive, but it was after the score was out of hand. I don't think it would've mattered either way, though.

I won't be the least bit surprised to learn that Chris Laviano isn't the starter for Rutgers by the midpoint of the season. Not that he's the problem with the offense, or that he isn't actually the best option at quarterback. But he just doesn't fit what Chris Ash wants to do, and Ash may decide it's better to endure the growing pains with a young - very young - quarterback that plays the style he wants in the longer term.

RunningFaster:

After our first game, I looked around to find national-level articles on the Huskies' dominance of Rutgers, but found little without digging deep. ESPN had no headlines, nor even any references to the Huskies in the main articles featured (even ones about what top-25 teams did in their first games).  Sports Illustrated had nothing.  CBS had nothing in their College Football section, but did have an article about Ross in their NFL section (basically a game summary, but using the opportunity to tout Ross's probable value in the NFL).

Is it possible the authors of the Washington hype didn't actually believe it, and thus are currently in a stunned silence after the Dawgs' impressive showing?  Or is there some other explanation (apart from East-coast bias) as to why UW's strong showing merits less mention than Drake sporting a Houston jersey?

UWDP: DRAKE WAS WEARING A HOUSTON JERSEY!!????!!!?!?!?!

The authors of the Washington hype articles have a certain number of articles they need to write each week, even in the offseason. Jumping on the bandwagon of a team like Washington is easy, because someone else has already done most of the work, and it doesn't require too much effort to steal it. Once the season starts, there's some actual product on the field to utilize to fill that quota, and quite frankly, the Washington Huskies don't sell a lot of magazines or generate a lot of clicks when there are things to write about like Alabama's dominance over USC, Florida State's big comeback, Texas shocking Notre Dame in overtime, Wisconsin winning over a Top 5 SEC team, etc.

Teams on the west coast aren't going to generate a lot of publicity at east-coast based media outlets. Especially teams that are in the infancy of improvement.

rosfari:

Is it better to hope the big boys in the south (USC and UCLA) pull their weight to improve the national image of the conference, or to enjoy their long spiral into the void as it helps us land prime SoCal 'croots deemed to be off limits in eras long since past?

UWDP: The recruiting angle is legit. Washington needs to be significantly better than the southern California teams in order to really impact recruiting head-to-head with them. Not over a player or two, but in terms of dominating the conference in recruiting.

The reality is that the only teams that are nationally relevant from the Pac-12 reside in Los Angeles. Yes, the Ducks have enjoyed some time in the media spotlight, but it took a lot longer for them to get there than it would either UCLA or USC. And they'll disappear a lot faster. And the lights are going to be less bright...

It's not a bad thing for other teams in the Pac-12 to be good, Husky fans. In fact, it's a very, very good thing. USC getting crushed hurts Washington. UCLA looking bad (for the most part) on the road in the SEC hurts Washington. WSU losing (again) to an FCS team hurts Washington. You don't have to cheer for any of those teams with your heart, but intellectually, you need to realize that the Pac-12 being good helps the Huskies, when they beat those teams.

Huskyfanincougarcountry:

Are the Huskies targeting a punter in this years class? Punting game looks horrible.

UWDP: The Huskies took a punter in the class of 2016 (Van Soderberg) who is likely to redshirt as he makes the transition from a three-step to a one-step punter. They've also got a commitment from Joel Whitford for the class of 2017, a junior college transfer rugby-style kicker.

Tristan Vizcaino didn't have his best day punting the ball on Saturday. But he's shown that he's better than that in the past. And he crushed the ball on kickoffs, so I don't think it's necessarily a matter of leg strength per se. I'm going to give him a few more chances before I draw and quarter him.

Raaagu:

Now that week 1 is under our belt, from your initial season predictions, any differences in who you see us losing to or beating in any matchups?


UWDP: A convincing win is a nice way to start the season. The offense, defense, and special teams all had their moments to shine. But each also showed a wart or two. I'm not going to freak out over a single data point. I don't see anything that suggests the Huskies being significantly different than what I thought coming into the season. So, no.

Dan Arnold:

Rutgers stacked the box to stop Myles Gaskin and despite the dominating performance of the offense, the rushing game didn't look impressive.  What did we learn and what can we expect from the run game against a more balanced defensive scheme?

(anonymous):

How much of Myles Gaskin's limited rushing success versus Rutgers due to Rutgers' defense or to Washington's Offensive Line?
OaklandLombardiHoist:

Despite an incredible win against Rutgers, the lack of offensive line push and running game were a little worrisome. Is this something that can be corrected? When should I really start worrying?

UWDP:
Some of that was
There were a few factors involved here. While I wouldn't say that Rutgers stacked the box to stop the run, they definitely played the run aggressively. And after the game got out of hand, the Huskies stopped throwing over the top to take advantage of the Scarlet Knights' man-to-man coverage on the outside.


In most cases, the failures of the running game were due to the breakdown of one or two players. That's good news, because it means the fix is a lot easier than if we'd seen a systemic failure of the offensive line to generate push, or plays that simply never had any chance to work no matter what the defense did.


Now is certainly not the time for panic. At the same time, success the next two weeks isn't necessarily cause to celebrate things being "fixed" either. But look for progress. Look for clean backfields when the back takes the ball, and no contact until he reaches the second level. I don't think we're going to know a ton until the Arizona game. But there's a pretty good precedent for this running game, with this personnel, to work.  

pk:

What's up with the new signage at Husky Stadium? "Welcome to Alaska Airlines Field"? No mention of Husky Stadium???? Come on, UW, I'd expect a BIT more from you.

UWDP: The fact that there's signage isn't new this year. You can see it on the field in this picture before the Apple Cup last season.


Putting the logo on the field was part of the sponsorship deal between Alaska Airlines and the UW set up last September.

The new logo stood out this season because it didn't "match" the existing field turf.
jhfstyle24:

Why did the snowman call his dog Frost?


Because Frost bites!

Now for the important part.
I've been hearing that Alijah Vera-Tucker is still considering UW. Foster and Henry are still looking hard at us. I have a kind of 2-in-1 here: If you could take one, which would you take, and what pitch would you use to bring them in?

UWDP: I haven't really watched any of the three play, so I don't have much of an opinion on them. But I think it's tougher to find true offensive tackles than guards, so I'd probably start with Foster Sarrel or Alijah Vera-Tucker. And since Sarrel is rated higher and is local, he'd be the guy.

The pitch? "You should come to Washington. It's a great school, with a great football team."

But one of them isn't really enough. How about all three?

BENshakalaka:

It seems like Rutgers was putting some decent drives together against our backup D. Which guys were having trouble, and which guys were doing well?

UWDP: The Huskies use such a liberal rotation of defensive guys that, by the time all of the starters were out of the game, the coaches had third-stringers in there along with second-stringers that are a less intensive part of the early rotation. So those drives were against players that may see 10 snaps of meaningful action in a competitive game along with a couple of guys that might see two, and a handful of guys that probably won't see the field again once conference play starts. I think eight or nine walk-ons got at least a couple of series each, which was cool to see.

This is a tough question to answer, since I doubt these guys have spent too much time playing together outside of scout team work. But I want to offer an observation: The young guys mostly looked really, really small. That's a good thing, because it means the older guys were big. The strength and conditioning program is working, y'all.


Jon May:

Is it just me or did UW really take the foot off the gas peddle after the 24-0 start?

UWDP: I think the Huskies came out with a lot of intensity on both sides of the ball. And I think that offensively, they took advantage of the fact that Rutgers was a) aggressively playing the run, and b) willing to play man-to-man defense on the outside receivers. Had the game been closer, I think that the Huskies would've continued to take advantage of what Rutgers was giving in the passing game until Rutgers adjusted (which they never did).

Yes, the Huskies stopped working quite as hard to score points on offense. As a team, I think they lost a little of that initial level of intensity.

Lord Farquar:

Can we get a post up about all our former huskies who made nfl rosters or practice squads?
UWDP: Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune did just that recently. You can read about it here.

r2mnotr2:

I don't remember the wildcat ever working (outside of garbage time against Oregon State or Arizona). It certainly didn't last Saturday. Why do coaches Pete and Smith continue to call this exercise in futility? Are they planning on passing out of this formation some day when they really need a big play, or what?

UWDP: I'm not a fan of it, but I will say this: I think people's definition of "working" changes with a non-traditional play. By that I mean that most people aren't going to have significant heartburn with a straight handoff to Myles Gaskin that gains four yards. But the boos will reign down from the woman that sits behind me at the games if Gaskin "only" picks up those same four yards out of the wildcat.

If the Huskies' coaches are working on some major deception out of the wildcat, then they're slow-playing the hell out of it; they've been "building" to that moment for over a year now.

I'm not a fan of taking the best passer on the team off the field, in order to have someone else throw the ball. Maybe that's just me.

Didn't Gaskin score a TD against Utah out of the wildcat last season, that was called back for a weak holding flag on Coleman Shelton?

Of all the dumb things offensive coaches do in the name of being cute, the wildcat ranks pretty low on my list. The risk-reward ratio doesn't balance out for me.

UWRosebowl:

I've believed all sorts of things about this team but the one thing I keep reminding myself of is to trust CP.  relax and trust.  He will get it right.  Q: will we beat Oregon this year?

UWDP: Like they stole something.

olystubbie:

What happened with Jaylen Johnson.  He was a starter and dropped off real quick.  Looks like 4 or 5 freshman played.  How many do we foresee playing this year

UWDP: Jaylen Johnson was in street clothes for the game.  I was really surprised to see Vita Vea listed as a starter on the depth chart released last Monday; it's possible Johnson's injury had something to do with it.

I counted four true freshmen:  Nick Harris and Aaron Fuller on offense, and Taylor Rapp and Brandon Wellington on defense.  No Byron Murphy or Sean McGrew, who seemed like the other two most popular picks of the newbs to see the field.

With each passing game, it gets less and less likely the true freshmen will see the field, outside of injury necessitating it.  Anybody that doesn't play the next two weeks is likely to redshirt.

Jon May:

Fans love the Zone and closing ten minutes early had zero impact on butts-in-seats.  Any chance we see the Zone closed in the future and more liberal selling in the stadium?

UWDP: The Zone isn't going away, ever.

But you're right, it didn't have any impact on fans in their seats in the third quarter.  There were a couple of major factors:  Some left for the parking lot at halftime and then showed up late, just like happens every game (this is a much bigger factor than The Zone).  Some left, period.  It wasn't a great game, and attendance in the second half was just plain low.

I think the UW is playing footsie with the idea of selling alcohol in the stadium right now.  First The Zone, then the special tickets (Off Leash Area, I think?), and now a couple of what amount to beer gardens.  I think we aren't that far away from full-on beer sales during the game.  And the AD gets to watch how things go in Pullman for a year or so...

Here's something to consider:  Selling beer in the stadium isn't going to have much impact on attendance at the start of the third quarter.  Fans are still going to go to the parking lots to get something cheaper, and stronger.

The UW could close the stadium to re-entry.  That would increase attendance at the start of the third quarter.  But it might negatively hurt it in the fourth, because there's going to be a portion of the fanbase that will simply be content to leave at halftime and not come back.  Winning, though.....Fans need a reason to be in their seats.  Negative reinforcement is only going to go so far.

Idaho-Portland Dawg:

Where do you rank the Pac-12 conference compared to the other Power 5 conferences?

(For the sake of making the question interesting, I'll rank the Pac 4th behind the Big 10, SEC, and ACC.)

Ragu:

General overview of the land by conferences: Pac12 and SEC are somewhat disappointed by performances. FCS is looking up. Any trends? Are FCS teams getting better? SEC and PAC more polarized than we thought?


UWDP: It's awful early for this, but I'd probably agree with you, I-PDawg.  Right now, today, I'd put the Pac 12 4th.  With the Big 12 well behind.

Some teams start fast and fade, and some take a while to get going.  But heading in to the season, I would've argued that the Pac 12 is probably weakest at the top of any of the P5 conferences, and nothing did much to change that.  Except maybe the Big 12 looking even weaker....

4th is about right.  We'll see if the Pac 12 can show a little stronger in the middle of the conference in week two.
SeaHusky:

Is there anything we can actually learn from the next 2 games or do we have to wait until the Arizona game to learn more about this team?

Rhaego:

What do we want to see in Idaho and P-State matchups? What do we need to fine tune for Arizona and Stanford?

UWDP: It's going to be tough to learn too much, I think.  The coaches, who look at this stuff in far more detail and with a much better eye than any of us do will get a great deal more, but even to them, better performance against an inferior opponent isn't the greatest indicator of genuine improvement.

The Huskies have played in games like this before and won big, but looked sloppy while doing it.  They've more "out-athleted" their opponents, into submission.  As I already mentioned, I hope to see improved offensive execution in the run game and the short passing game.  That doesn't necessarily mean 80-yard TD runs to me as much as it does preventing penetration into the backfield at the handoff, and backs getting to the second level without having to cut or make people miss tackles.

I want to see relatively easy wins, and I want to avoid injuries.  That'd be a good couple of weeks.  But I can't help it - I'm really ready to play Arizona.

(anonymous);

what was the star ranking for each of the top 7 Husky offensive linemen coming out of high school??

UWDP: Based on who started, and who came into the game first as backups, I'm calling the top seven linemen Trey Adams, Jake Eldrenkamp, Coleman Shelton, Shane Brostek, Kaleb McGary, Nick Harris, Jesse Sosebee, and Andrew Kirkland.  I guess that's eight, but I wanted to include at least one backup that can play tackle.

Using scout.com's ratings:

Adams:  2015 4* OT, #
Eldrenkamp:  2012 3* OG, #60
Shelton:  2013 2* OT, NR
Brostek:  2012 3* OG, #71
McGary:  2014 4* OT, #27
Harris:  2016 3* C, #14
Sosebee:  2014 2* OT, #123
Kirkland:  2013 3* OT, #37


excited yet scared:

Should I be afraid of this hype machine surrounding? I know this team has talent, but the recent polls show a #8 ranking and a #11 ranking, for the AP and coaches respectively.

Booger McFarland:

Are the Dawgs actually worthy of a number 8 ranking?

UWDP: I find it impossible to rank teams this early in the season.  There are way too many unknowns.  It's mostly based on last season's results, with a team or two that are the popular darlings (Washington and Tennessee in the 2016 offseason, for example).  Some teams played games against opponents that wouldn't even make their scout team, while a few opened up with fantastic early season matchups.

Too little data, too many confounding factors.

Sure, the Dawgs are 8th.  Why not enjoy it?  Set your own expectations, though.  Don't let the rises and falls of the early season determine how you see things.

Rhaego:

Is there a final count of how many people saw playing time? Do we have a list?

UWDP: I count 70.  You can read the f


Rhaego:

Quotes from UWDP Tailgate: "Man, this tailgate sure is a hoot. We should do this weekly!" - "Too bad the UWDP staff never support our tailgates" - "Man, that Rhaego guy is absurdly handsome" - "How high is Landon going to put Cal on the Power Rankings this week?"

UWDP: Did anybody else say anything, or did you do all the talking?

Nice work on this, guys.  Sounds like it went well.

Darin Johnson:

That John Ross fellow seems fast.  Why is this the first we're hearing of him?

Given that the Huskies obviously cannot run the ball, do you think it's realistic to hope for a bowl game?  Or should fans just shift to thinking of this as a rebuilding year?

In the range of possible outcomes for the Rutgers game, what percentile was that?  I.e., how unexpected was it?

I thought the Rutgers DL was decent.  What's your take on the performance of the Dawgs' OL?  Should we be Very Worried, Somewhat Worried, Neither Worried Nor Not Happy, Somewhat Happy, or Very Happy?  Give your answer in the form of a Limerick.

I thought the Wildcat worked better last year with Lindquist.  Do you agree?

The crazy old bat behind us ("Nice call, Chris Petersen!") was strangely silent.  Do you think she has laryngitis?  Maybe row 3 should pitch in and get her some flowers.

Do we want 'Bama?  I say no.

UWDP: Yeah, I was like "Who's #1?  Is he a walk-on?" every time he touched the ball.  John Ross.....I'll have to check him out next game.

I don't think this is a rebuilding year, and forget about replacing Jonathan Smith if things don't get better.  S'far as I'm concerned, Chris Petersen is coaching for his job.  If the team can't run the ball better on Saturday, Jen Cohen should shoot him in the hamstring with a BB gun and drag him into Lake Washington.

85th percentile.  No, make that 86th.

Somewhat worried (ahem):
The offensive line at Washington
Just couldn't get nothin' goin'
Coach Petersen said
As he slapped Strausser's head
"It's not just assignments your blowin'!"

(waits for laughter to die down)

(still waiting)

(still waiting)

(raises hands to silence crowd, which just makes them laugh harder)

(still waiting)

Okay.

The wildcat was no better without Lindquist, which makes it clear he's not the problem, and should be put back in charge of it.

If she had laryngitis, I'd pitch in to buy more for her.

Rhaego:

3 observations that say we are a CFB playoff type team. 3 observations that say we aren't a CFB playoff type team...... YET


UWDP: I don't think the Huskies are a playoff team in 2016.  Nothing that I observed changes that.  Things that suggest this team could win the Pac 12 North:

1.  Explosive plays from the passing game.
2.  Those guys that are on the field between offensive series.  All 17 of them (at a time).
3.  The adults on the sideline.

Not ready to win the Pac 12 North (faggedabowd da playoffs):

1.  Offensive line still needs to prove it.
2.  It's only been one game.
3.  It's only been one game.

gliderdawg:

Of these two UW opponents, who would you least want to be? A) The opposing QB who's "private" email boasting how he will "shred the overrated Husky D" somehow found its way to the headlines of the local sports page? B) The WSU 2nd string QB in his first start... in The Apple Cup?

UWDP: I'd never want to be a WSU quarterback.  Not ever.


HuskyInExile:

As a retiree on a (low) fixed income, what is best
Online source for reasonable Hysky stuff (T-shirt, hat, bumper sticker)?

UWDP: If you're looking to support the UW, the bookstore always has some stuff on sale.  If you don't care about that (not that you should), then just about every other place out there is selling the exact same stuff at the exact same price, really.  I wish I had a secret source for you, but I don't.

Rhaego:

CFB has pretty much lost all its shiny now that week one is over. (kidding) BUT I'm excited about basketball too. Do we make the tournament? Predicted finish in PAC12 standings?

UWDP: I don't know if the Australia/New Zealand trip was a good thing or a bad thing in predicting how this season is going to play out.

The team is still young, but it's nice to not have quite so many freshmen in so many key roles.  The star power at the top of the roster is certainly down this year, but maybe that translates into a little more balance.

There's definitely more size than there's been in a long time.  That's a good thing.

I'm not sure how good the conference is going to be this year.  I don't think it's going to be great.  The Huskies are probably going to be somewhere in second tier of teams, but that could mean anywhere from a 3rd to 7th place finish.

I'm on the fence here.  Ask me later.

Rhaego:

I think it's about time that I get some honorary knighthood or dubbing of "UWDP Mascot". So how do we go about making this official?

UWDP: Knighthood is reserved for guys like Bob Hope and Kevin Spacey.  But as far as I'm concerned, you've been the UWDP mascot for a year now.  Sure, we can make it official.  I need a second, and then we can vote below.

Rhaego:

Stadium atmosphere was REALLY underwhelming; I'm assuming that school hasn't started, and that would explain the empty student section (seriously, empty) but it wasn't loud, it wasn't exciting. Yes, it was 11 am. But I was severely disappointed. If Stanford isn't sold out and rockin, I'm seriously considering being part of the problem and not buying season tickets. Might not be worth it to spend a grand on season tickets if the rest of husky nation ain't willing to do the same.

UWDP: No students, labor day weekend, bad start time, underwhelming opponent, and a general malaise around Husky football.  I'm not sure why people didn't expect exactly what we saw on Saturday from the fan base.  I know I did.

I'm not sure I understand the comment, Ragu.  If other people don't show up, you're not going to, either?  That doesn't really make sense to me.  Can you explain a little more clearly?

Ragu:

Wazzu: FCS loss to begin the season last year; does WSU still have a solid season like last year?

UWDP: Count out the Cougs at your own risk.

I think that 2015 was at the high end of reasonable expectations for the Cougs.  I think the most likely outcome in 2016 is the same as it was in 2015 - somewhere around 6-6.

I watched the WSU / Eastern game, and it was really surprising how much pressure Eastern got on Luke Falk with only a three and four man rush.  WSU's line looked horrific much of the game.  And I don't know what it is, but Falk's head seems to slam the turf more violently and more often than other quarterbacks that get hit the same amount of times he does.

WSU isn't as bad as they played.

Cooper Kupp is a stud.

All for this week, Husky fans.