The birds are chirping, the Manny’s is flowing, the tar from Eastern Washington and British Columbia wildfire smoke has finally cleared from our lungs... Of course, that means it’s time for only one thing. The most serious thing of all things in all the land.
Or, as it’s more accurately pronounced, “Welcome to the third annual Stuff and Shenanigans season debut.”
Without further ado, some serious thoughts which demand to be taken really seriously:
An 89% Sober and 100% Accurate Rundown of Absolutely Everything
As with every first shenanigans of the season, I don’t know where to start. This has so far happened each year, where, upon the arrival of football, I suddenly lose all literacy and/or the ability to structure any vaguely related thoughts.
So here goes:
Like many of the Big Fat Important Games™ the Dawgs have been in the last couple years, this one was another reminder that raw talent matters. The first Washington class to be metrically comparable to Auburn’s just enrolled about, oooh... *checks calendar* two months ago, and the core of the Huskies’ roster is, as an aggregate, underdogs. In other words, the fact that — first quarter notwithstanding — Washington went toe-to-toe with the Tigers and, plenty of times in the course of the game, was beating them up, works as a different reminder**: the Huskies continue to overachieve massively.
In other other words: Now that the couple years of overachieve-y winning has caught recruits’ attention and, subsequently, has UW’s floor and ceiling of talent increasing each year, stuff’s about to get fun. #TheProcess, and all that cliche, ya know?
Anyways, moving on to more in-game thoughts:
While, just like every sane Washingtonian, I’m mega sad about not winning, this whole ordeal has me significantly more optimistic about, oh, pretty much everything. Except linebacker depth. And Washington’s special teams if The Whitford of Oz is out for an extended period. Those are in roughly the same condition as that chocolate syrup a pal and I tried to ferment in 7th grade: Horrifying. And stinky.
Also, I suppose it’s inaccurate to call anybody “optimistic” about this year’s field goal unit but, after last year’s kicking being about as reliable as a 19 year-old intern hired by their uncle, it’s better than nothing.
Specifically, this game felt like a neon sign that the offensive line and receivers can hang — even without Trey Adams and Hunter Bryant — and those were the two units I’m sure we were all most worried about in this matchup. Just imagining last year’s O-line against this Auburn front seven — one of, if not the, best in the country — is enough to make any of us repress even the hypothetical memory. Last year’s interior, especially, would’ve been pounded.
Hilbers deserves credit for filling in at Adams’ vacated left tackle spot and, for the most part, not looking like absolute camel crap. (Or at least, looking as little like camel crap as anyone can against Auburn’s edge rushers.) Wattenberg wasn’t perfect, but he was an upgrade. Nick Harris also had some bumps but still looked like affirmation that center is his natural position. Considering the opponent and the fact that he’s a redshirt freshman, Jaxson Kirkland was surprisingly really good*. Kaleb McGary didn’t have his best game but, again, nobody does against these Tigers.
*After re-watching UW’s offensive series I’m officially calling it now Jaxson Kirkland 2020 All-American! *Air-horn blare* #PlaceYerBetsPeople #NoYOURETooOverEager *Air-horn blare*
That’s it there. And now for the receivers.
So. I’m tentatively feeling much better. Tentatively. I still wish there were a few more guys that contributed more noticeably and, given his tendency the last three years to have precisely one insane, critical catch each season, I doubly wish that Quinten Pounds had made more of an impact outside of that nuts-o crazy touchdown — his only reception of the game.
But otherwise, the passing game just felt better and it looks, to me, like that’s a combination of the aforementioned better guard play, receiver improvement on the whole, and a handful of itty-bitty but imperative improvements that Jake Browning’s begun to make.
Which brings us to everybody’s favorite topic to all agree about, drum roll pleeeeease:
whether hot dogs are a sandwich Jake Browning!
This game was evidence of two things for Jake “Lead Jake” Browning: A) More confirmation about his physical ceiling which, after the last two years, we already knew and B) He’s still improving as a quarterback.
In the case of A), there’s not much to add here; as it’s been established, Jake “Captain of the Jakes” Browning has about as much athleticism as a rusty propane grill — although, if you’ve been following either the Stuff or the Shenanigans on this site the last couple years, you know I like to champion the philosophy that he’s actually a #bonafide #dualthreat. (Move over Khalil Tate, amirite?)
But in the case of B), that’s where it gets both more intriguing and more hopeful.
For one, while we know Jake “The Second in a Long Line of Jakes” Browning isn’t gonna Uncle Rico-style chuck a pigskin over them there mountains, Auburn was more evidence that the sheer magnitude of his 2017 arm weakness was a result of his 2016 shoulder injury compounded with last season’s receivers-not-named-Dante and interior offensive line performance being total butt.
And, in line with Chris Petersen’s emphasis on improvement between junior and senior years, there were a few hugely significant but subtle improvements that showed in Jake “The Four Non-Jakes” Browning’s game Saturday, even in the face of Auburn’s crazy-ass defensive front. Among those, he was way more decisive on downfield throws in a way he wasn’t in 2017 against any defense, much less one on this level. That to me feels like it’s indicative of three units’ improvement: the guards giving Jake “Running Out of Jake Nicknames” Browning an actual real-life pocket, the receivers not sucking at getting separation or fighting for receptions, and Browning himself having more trust in both the offense and his arm.
What might be the most optimism-inspiring observation, though, is how he reacted to pressure.
Now, I’m not gonna say that Jake “Since U Been Jake” Browning was some perfect example of standing and delivering at the quarterback position Saturday, but there were quite a few times where my gut dropped in anticipation of him flushing from the pocket and subsequently ruining a play. Many times I was instead surprised with him stepping up in the pocket, dodging some super villain-level Auburn pass-rusher, and delivering a dependable pass. Sure, he still had some hilariously crappy pocket presence screw ups but, in this one game, he was markedly better than last year, all against a D-line better than any he went up against. Multiple times where 2017 Jake would’ve scrambled backwards before getting sacked, 2018 Jake stepped forward and released.
Lastly on the offensive front: Don’t worry about the running game. We know Gaskin and Ahmed are killers. It’s just that Auburn’s run defense are killers, too. Unfortunately, due to this fact, the Dawgs had to establish a downfield passing game. Fortunately, Browning, Fuller, and Ty Jones did just that. Unfortunately, again, they did that one quarter too late and, in the process, wasted 15 minutes of game clock that, in an alternate universe, brought the Huskies victory.
My defensive thoughts are more concise, mostly because Washington fans didn’t really learn anything Saturday that we didn’t already know: the secondary are ballers (Byron Murphy’s 2-point conversion tip, anyone?), there is preeeeeetty much nobody physically reliable at ILB behind Ben Burr-Kirven and DJ Beavers, and Greg Gaines and Jaylen Johnson still make opposing QBs crap their pants. (Seriously, if you want a fun time, go to any number of Auburn fan boards — College and Magnolia articles will do — and ctrl + f search “99” or “Gaines.” After Saturday, they respect the heck out of him.)
I guess the only halfway new thought of mine, where the defense is concerned, is that the Auburn game was validation of Washington’s typical defensive game plan where blitzing is rare. Sure, blitzes are sexy and it’s fun to see them but, when predictable, they’re not that hard for an opposing quarterback and center to get around, assuming those two are even remotely astute.
Instead, when it felt like UW started clicking, a lot of that was returning to what they do best: sending three or four guys for pressure, dropping back a buttload of other dudes to clog passing lanes, and suffocating the quarterback with indecisiveness. It’s not shiny and indulgent, but it works.
Lastly, this was by far the most hilarious moment of the game.
Lastly lastly, Nick Coe is a monster. You take good care of him, Auburn.
Also, to any Auburn fans lurking here (if you haven’t moved on to the next opponent yet), apologies for that one annoying as heck troll on College and Magnolia.
Also, with that red zone option play, #FireSmith amirite?
**For comparison, these are the schools who’ve averaged roughly the same per-recruit measurement for their classes of 2014-2017: Arizona, NC State, Nebraska, Missouri, Pitt, Texas Tech, Louisville, Arkansas, UCLA, Arizona State, West Virginia, Kentucky... You get the picture.
Line(s) of the Week
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Because we aren’t really here to use “words” to discuss “concepts” and “thoughts” about this “game” we call “football.” We’re really here to see what dumb, four-second clip from some unrelated TV show my dumb brain picks to represent Washington’s game in this dumb “article.”
Also, due to pure self-indulgence and the fact that my ADD-ass indecisive self can’t pick just one, I’m expanding Line of the Week this year to...
Me re: Chandler Cox, after Ryan Bowman made him his bitch and, in the process, subsequently made Jarrett Stidham poop his pants:
Jonathan Smith Bush Hamdan on that, uh, questionable option call on the three yard line:
Speaking of bad red zone showings, a live look at both Auburn and Washington fans but, let’s be real, especially Washington fans, each time their kicker lined up for... anything:
That’s it for this week.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.