As we turn the page and focus our attention on this fall, here’s one last look back at one of the stories that shaped 2016 season...
I said it. I think a lot of Husky fans said it: “I want the Rose Bowl. Alabama will kill us.”
And so it was; UW fell semi-flat against USC at home and the College Football Playoff dreams were quietly extinguished. Still, this team had played seemingly perfect games week in and week out. It wasn’t going to hold up. There wasn’t really anything to be ashamed of. Now Chris Petersen’s Huskies could refocus on closing out the season, finishing strong, and use an Apple Cup triumph as a springboard to a convincing Pac-12 title.
Done and done.
Except a funny thing happened on the way to a free-fall in the rankings. Clemson lost. Michigan lost. Then Michigan lost again. Oh shit. We’re in the playoffs.
It’s all fun and games when you’re holding up a sign after you’ve just watched John Ross snag a 50-yard TD to put the Dawgs up 24-0 in the first quarter of the first game. I gotta admit, my palm was sore from all the high-fiving last fall. This team exceeded my expectations for how talented they were and just how well prepared they would be each week. Still though; did we want ‘Bama?
“We want ‘Bama” is a college football cliche for “we have a good team; a really good team and we keep pounding (most of) the opponents on our schedule. Bring us the head of Alfredo Garcia. Or... the FBS equivalent: The Alabama Crimson Tide.”
Well, you got it Dawg fans. The Washington Huskies earned a #4 ranking and a birth in the Peach Bowl. That brought with it a chance to play Alabama and show the college football world just how good they were.
The conclusion: Not quite good enough.
Did I really care that Alabama fans would mock Husky Nation for smugly “wanting” ‘Bama? Absolutely not. We all knew it was coming, and if we were satisfied to just slide into the Rose Bowl and put 52 points on Penn St, then as fans we simply weren’t aiming high enough. I admit it, I was wrong for thinking Pasadena should be the goal.
Bring on the mocking, we can take it. Alabama has earned the right to be famous for it.
Alabama fans are passionate about their football. Who can blame them? They consistently have great teams, are blessed with an incredible coach and have a rich tradition that has seen them don classic uniforms that have not really changed since 1964. Some may say the obsession with ‘Tide football stems from the notion that (outside of making a reservation to dine at Applebee’s) there isn’t much else to do in what CNBC declared the worst state to live in the USA. I know, we here in the Pacific Northwest can be pretty snobby about our ocean breeze, gorgeous lakes, snow-capped mountains, social tolerance, and sparsely patronized Applebee’s restaurants.
But this is about college football, and in that world Alabama takes a back seat to no one. If the human battering ram Bo Scarborough had not gone down with an injury against Clemson, it was likely they would have taken home yet another national title.
In the Peach Bowl matchup, Washington’s weaknesses were exposed. Small at WR, young and undersized on the OL, and this shortcoming pointed out by All-American Jonathan Allen:
Alabama DE Jonathan Allen on Washington: “They were soft. No disrespect, but we could have played better”— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 31, 2016
Allen would later claim he never said that, but I’m sure he was just trying to save some face after realizing his statement was quite far from “No disrespect.” I don’t blame Allen for his post-game comment. I’m sure he thought the Husky offensive line was soft. He certainly pushed them around all game long. On the other hand, if he played offense for Alabama, I can’t imagine he would have felt the same way. I doubt LG Ross Pierschbacher (#71) was questioning his opponent’s grit after ending up 2-yards deep in the endzone while allowing Greg Gaines to shove him in the path of his own ball carrier:
But lets face it, while the defense played a solid game and looked every bit the part of a national title contender, the offense just did not have the horses to stay with the ‘Tide, and thus they were rolled. Jake Browning, for all his accomplishments in 2016, was mostly ineffective. He was offered very small windows to throw into and rarely provided even a semi-clean pocket to operate from. Poor RG Nick Harris may still have sore heels from being pushed backwards by a dominant Crimson Tide front seven most of the day.
Getting to the College Football Playoff was a phenomenal accomplishment for Petersen and his team. In just his third year at the helm, he has transformed the UW program from middle of the pack to nationally relevant. Wanting ‘Bama, getting ‘Bama; it was all part of the process of elevating the Husky football program back to where it was long ago. Losing 24-7 to ‘Bama... was that part of the process? It wasn’t what anyone in purple and gold wanted to see, but it gave the staff, players and fans a glimpse into the fact that —although the program has come a long way— there is still plenty of work to do.
Being called soft; that had to sting. I know I didn’t like it. Imagine how Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary felt. In my mind, I have this image of Adams screaming “You’re soft” at McGary as he strains to do one more, two more, three more reps in the weight room during the off-season. While last season’s motto was “Prove it,” the cry of the upcoming campaign should be simply “Not Soft.”
The Huskies of 2016 didn’t just want ‘Bama, they earned ‘Bama. What seemed like a pipe dream when the season began turned into a New Year’s Eve reality. The season was in fact a dream, even if it all came crashing down on a 68-yard Scarbrough TD run that left a gassed UW defense grabbing at air. Mission (almost) accomplished.
By the way; no disrespect, ‘Bama fans. I never said that stuff about Applebee’s.