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Mailbag: Fighting Hawks Edition

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Not to be confused with the Waltzing Hawks

Auburn v Washington Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Fun facts about North Dakota, Canada’s southern-most province:

  • ..........
  • ..........

And there you have it.



In last week’s mailbag you mentioned a “steep learning curve” for Spiker and Osborne.

While you meant for it to describe a difficult initial learning process and how it will take time for them to ramp up, that is not how it is intended to be used.

A learning curve is the rate at which skill is acquired, so a steep increase would mean a quick increment of skill. Thus if Spiker and Osborne had a steep learning curve, they would ascend the depth chart and see heavy playing time in the next week or two.

But do not despair! Practically every analyst or writer uses this term the same way you did, though my dream is that one day this nation will know how to use the term correctly.

UWDP: Yes, I know what it means, and you’re correct that I mostly used the phrase “on the steep part of the learning curve” as a colloquialism, but thanks all the same.

But it doesn’t come with any definition of when “success” (in this case, moving up the depth chart) actually comes, and that’s my point. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they won’t be “busts” because they are rapidly learning the substantial amount of information they need to assimilate in order to see the field, but it could theoretically take years to learn enough to move up the depth chart. It could come together next week, or not until far enough into the season that it makes the most sense to redshirt them, or not until next year. Even if they’re learning at an incredible rate.

Belgian Husky

If a pattern does emerge of slightly underperforming when the expectations & stakes are high, can this be attributed to coaching/culture, eg adopting the “underdog” mentality?

Prego is back, baby!

I’m sure you are going to get a lot of these types of questions. The Auburn game looked a helluva lot like the PSU, ‘Furd, Bama, and USC games (I think everyone knows which ones I’m talking bout). The staff has had three years and enough games that it feels like they should have figured this out by now. Where and what are the answers for playing big boy ball?

Bertolli smacks ragu up and down the field!

So...I am tempted to view our most recent disappointment as something resembling an affirmation that this team is built to play PAC12 football and any considerations of winning against non-PAC power 5 teams and styles of play are an afterthought. Does the UW recruiting footprint just not have the requisite players to truly compete on the national stage? and thus relegated to second tier status?


Going to have to face facts. We just aren’t good enough and I don’t see a path to getting to next level. We are a great team but not elite. Truthfully there are only 8-10 teams that can win playoffs and we aren’t 1. Unfortunately we are similar to Oregon.

UWDP: The Huskies lost to Auburn in what was basically a toss-up game. Husky fans will lament that they had “no chance because of” and then insert arguments about past losses, a QB that can’t win these types of games, history of games in the south, history of top 10 teams on the road, history of slow starts under Petersen, history of the milk in their refrigerator, the shape of the wart on their left foot, the booger they just picked, and the softness of their toilet paper. Washington couldn’t beat Oregon until they kicked the Ducks’ asses in 2016.

Fans like to see trends where they don’t actually exist, especially negative ones.

Clemson didn’t make serious noise until Dabo Swinney’s 7th season, and now if feels like they’ve been great forever.

I wonder if there’s a single team that has a better winning percentage against teams ranked in the top 10 than its overall winning percentage. Anyone want to take that bet? No? Okay. Unless you can tell me some sort of fundamental flaw in the Washington football program that precludes beating good teams, then maybe some of you are overreacting to small sample sizes....

Sam Anderson

Why is no one talking about how bad Browning is? He’s the reason we lost to Alabama last year and he’s the reason we lost yesterday!!

Kj Carta Samuels

How was I was beat out for starting QB job 3 consecutive years by Browning? That guys a bum!


I have my opinion on Browning, just curious about yours... what do u see from him going forward, in reality... not looking through rose colored lenses... I feel he’s topped out and we’ve seen his best, I hope I’m wrong... this isn’t a 1 game reaction, I’ve seen these games from him multiple times


Isn’t QB Browning Struggles with big teams? Isn’t His ball release not faster than Many other QBs in College Football?


Brad, you thought Jake’s numbers would look like this:

19-29, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. 4 carries for -1 yards.

His actual stats were:

18-32, 296 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT., 8 carries for -5 yards.

1. How could you be so far off the mark?

2. Do you think Jake had a good game?

UWDP: Jake Browning had an incredibly slow start on Saturday, especially for a four-year senior starter. The entire offense did (so did the defense), and if you want to blame that on Browning, that’s okay.

Jake Browning threw the ball very well against Auburn, especially considering that he was working a lot of low-percentage routes (the deep shots he took don’t get completed that often, even against air). He also continues to have the same pocket problems he’s had since game one of his true freshman season, namely peeling out wide in the face of pressure instead of stepping up in the pocket (thus giving himself only half the field to work with), and this is exacerbated by the fact that he’s not rolling to his multi-receiver side except randomly. But worse, far worse, is that he still responds to phantom pressure a handful of times a game and leaves a perfectly clean pocket for no good reason. It’s like his internal clock tells him “there should be pressure on me by now” and he just leaves. Not all the time, but enough that it’s a problem. Still.

On the other hand, I wonder how many fans will notice plays like this:

Browning drops back, but doesn’t throw, and instead almost immediately looks to run. Nick Harris is downfield. Any throw (even a throwaway) that crosses the line of scrimmage is a penalty for ineligible man downfield. Any pass that doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage without a receiver in the area is a penalty for intentional grounding.

Yes, Jake Browning is what he is at this point. A QB that doesn’t have a huge arm that makes mistakes. He’s also an accurate passer who understands the offense extremely well, and a lot of the value he provides in that regard just isn’t obvious when watching a game on TV. At this point, it’s kind of a dead issue. I don’t think anyone’s mind is going to be changed.


Why did UW not use a timeout on 3rd or 4th down on the last drive?


What the heck was that last 4th down play of the husky offense? Did we not have a timeout? Peterson should have called a timeout. That falls on him and only him for not calling a TO...

UWDP: A timeout is a double-edged sword, because it also gives the defense a chance to rest, regroup, substitute, etc. The Huskies thought they had the players they wanted on the field, and thought they had the play called that was going to get them a first down. If you looked at the film study article we posted here yesterday (the last one), hopefully you can see why the coaches and players believed that. At that point, there’s a lot of logic in just lining up and playing football.

Raging Optimist

If you listen to some of the talking heads, this loss means UW (and the entire PAC-12 for that matter) are now out of the playoff picture. Really? I’m looking for a non-knee jerk take on UW’s playoff chances. What needs to happen at this point?

Ace Man

Moving forward, what is the probable marigin of error UW has to make the CFP. I’m would surmise 10-2 is ceiling.

UWDP: I don’t think this game has anything to do with the rest of the Pac 12. But it definitely makes Washington’s road a lot tougher. If the playoffs are important to you, then you need to root for Washington to win out (obviously), but also to pick up some big wins along the way. As things stand, the best chance for those wins would be Stanford and the winner of the Pac 12 South. USC has the most national cache; it’s a good thing if they win the south because voters will want to rank them highly if they continue to win games. And Washington doesn’t play them in the regular season, so the Trojans could theoretically enter the Pac 12 Championship game as an undefeated team, one that would almost certainly be top four and holding a playoff spot in its hand. That would be a huge win for Washington at the key time. If the winner of the south is Utah, the Huskies will already have beaten them (since winning out is a given in this discussion), meaning Utah is only “maybe” in playoff contention come title game time. So, best case is pull for USC to win out, Stanford to win every game except to Washington and USC, and of course, the Huskies to win.

It’s easiest to just root for Washington. The rest will take care of itself. Or, it won’t. Whatever.

I don’t know why Washington’s ceiling is below 11-1 for the regular season, Ace. That doesn’t mean they’ll get there, but it’s entirely realistic.


It appeared that Jones pushed off on all his catches and why did UW continue to rush between the tackles when they were getting nowhere?

UWDP: The officials definitely allowed quite a bit of contact between the DBs and receivers all game. Yes, Jones took advantage of that. That’s a good thing. All the receivers need to adjust to the way the game is being called and take advantage of what they can. DBs too.

Did you think they were having a lot of success running to the outside? I sure didn’t. Auburn’s rush defense is really good. The Huskies struggled to move the ball on the ground. That’s just the reality of facing a good defense.


It can’t be my imagination.... why are we so slow out of the gate? We spend way too much time feeling out our opponents

UWDP: I don’t have any idea, but I certainly felt a sinking feeling as Auburn was easily moving down the field on their second offensive series. I don’t know what would’ve happened if the Huskies had gone down 13-0 instead of 9-0 at that point, but it would’ve felt like a much bigger hole.

Maybe it’s the coaching staff, maybe it’s the players’ personalities, maybe it’s a lack of player leadership...I don’t know. Chris Petersen doesn’t either, obviously.


Am I the only one scared of Stanford now. Is there anyway our defense can stop passes to their fifteen guys that are like seven feet tall?

I guess the immediate question is are we going to get past Utah, but I digress.

UWDP: Yeah, I’m concerned about those guys too, because they aren’t just tall, they’re really big, strong guys that use their bodies well to shield off defenders. They killed the Huskies with that in Palo Alto last year.

I honestly can’t figure out what makes JJ Arcega-Whiteside such a great deep-ball receiver. He’s big, but he just seems “average” athletically - speed, jumping, strength. I could very well be wrong on that, though. He’s got great hands, and great concentration, and a lot of confidence that he’s going to make those catches. Except in games against the Huskies, I think he’s really fun to watch, and he was one of the more undervalued players in the conference last season.

Stanford worries me. Their defense doesn’t look great, but I’d wager they get better. Bryce Love isn’t going to be held down the way he was in game one (even though he also won’t replicate what he did last season, either).

But yeah, beat Utah first. That’s going to be a fun game for sure.


Do you think they will take the leash off of Salvon sooner than later?

More touches for Ahmed

Is there a reason why we aren’t getting more touches for Ahmed? He is too dangerous of a player to only be getting 7 touches in the Auburn game.

UWDP: I’m not sure that I want Myles Gaskin to get fewer carries so Salvon Ahmed can have more. Gaskin only had 17, and frankly, I think he’s the better back at this point. Maybe give two of them to Ahmed.

Probably the bigger surprise was that the Huskies didn’t look to get him the ball more as a receiver. He didn’t have nearly as many catches as one might guess last year (only 13), but it’s a good way to get him the ball in some space. The lateral passing game was entirely absent on Saturday, though.

On the other hand, it’s possible that Ahmed is a better “power” runner than Gaskin is, because there’s just really no dancing when he gets the ball. It’s up the field in 8th gear. That hurts him sometimes in the zone attack, but in a hit-the-hole gap attack, it’s exactly what you want to see.


There was a potential TD pass to a wide open Baccellia tipped away at the last moment by the Auburn LB or DB (not sure). Wondering if that was a great defensive play or pass was late, too flat or something other that caused the ball to drop harmlessly in the end zone?

UWDP: There were some things the Huskies involved with the play could’ve done to turn it into a completion, but I think that was mostly - overwhelmingly, actually - a fantastic defensive play. Tip of the cap to that guy.

Jay Burmester

Do you wonder as I do if the refs were blind to the targeting on Jake by that big lineman in the fourth quarter?


Did Jake undergo concussion protocal after that helmet to helmet? He looked a little woozy even after the game. It made me sick that the commentators mentioned that 2 refs were looking right at that play

UWDP: That seemed to me like exactly the reason the targeting call was created - to protect defenseless players. And then why the rule was amended to let officials in the booth make the call, even if it wasn’t done so on the field. The guy came in high and late, and dipped his head to initiate helmet-to-helmet contact with a quarterback that had just thrown the ball. I don’t know why it wasn’t called.

To make matters worse, the refs didn’t even have to go the extra step of booting a guy out of the game there - they could’ve just called “roughing the passer,” given the Huskies the 15 yards and the first down, and let the defender keep playing.

I don’t know, man. I don’t love the targeting rule by any stretch. But if it exists, it’s tough to see why that play wasn’t called. And even if it didn’t, that was roughing the passer. Textbook.

OL concerns

How would you evaluate Nick Harris’ performance against Auburn? He’s gained weight and was moved to center to mitigate some of his shortcomings, but him getting pushed back brought back nightmares of Jonathan Allen throwing him around 2 years ago.

Poulsbo Dawg

How do you think Jaxson Kirkland looked in his first game, against possibly the best D-linemen he’ll see this year?

Thomas C

We were surprised to see Hilbers and Kirkland starting and playing the whole game. What happened to Roberts and James who were running with the ones all spring and Fall camps?


Brad, what is your evaluation of the Oline play against Auburn. Who played the best (McGary?), who struggled ( Harris & Wattenburg?), what grade would you give their overall performance?


How big of a factor in the loss was Trey Adam’s absence from the OL?

UWDP: The offensive line has been physically overmatched in games like this in the past, with Alabama being the shining example, and the USC and Penn State as well. On Saturday, the Tigers were the stronger team, their two defensive tackles will be in the conversation for lots of post-season honors. Big ones, even. Auburn’s front seven won the line of scrimmage, decidedly even, but Washington wasn’t run out of the stadium. The offensive line is making progress, a fact that’s even more notable because it includes one of the young guys and one of the reserves (or at least a guy that used to be a reserve).

That said, Washington lost the battle up front. There’s work to be done that’s all about what happens in the offseason, training and recruiting.

Nick Harris was mostly non-existent as the center, which is a good thing. No bad snaps. He battled and lost, and got back up and went at it again. He won some, too. Just not enough times.

Jaxson Kirkland is a big strong freshman. He wasn’t asked to pull too many times that I can remember, so it’s not clear if that’s in his repertoire or not. And like Harris, he lost more times than he won. But with the “for a freshman,” “for a first start, and on the road” qualifiers, his debut was successful.

I don’t know about anyone else, but hearing that Adams wasn’t playing was a gut punch Saturday morning. I didn’t expect him to be 100% given his recovery from the ACL surgery, but he still seemed like the best option at the premier offensive line spot. Jared Hilbers seemed like an afterthought; I expected some rotation that put Luke Wattenberg back at tackle and brought in a new left guard, or some such machinations. But I think Hilbers played well, full stop. No qualifiers needed. I don’t think any part of the loss had anything to do with Trey Adams not being in the lineup.

Luke Wattenberg struggled a lot of the afternoon with at least one costly penalty, and a few missed assignments, and then that last offensive snap....

Kaleb McGary probably had the easiest job matchup-wise on Saturday. He was solid, with a few exceptions. He also appeared to take a friendly fire shot to his ankle midway through the game, and I noticed him hobbling on it off and on the remainder of the day. Hopefully he’s okay.


Just curious as to who you feel played the best at TE for us ?

UWDP: In all honesty, I think I was more disappointed with the tight ends as a group than any position on the offense. We’ve seen Drew Sample and Jacob Kizer play better. We’ve heard a lot of good things about Cade Otton. I think they all have a lot of room to turn in better performances on Saturday.


How many times did Browning bail out of a clean pocket?

UWDP: I’d bet it was about five times that he left the pocket with zero pressure. One of them was by far the most critical - it was the last 3rd down play of the game. He had no reason to move. As I mentioned, I think this is his biggest fault - over-response to phantom pressure. Second is peeling wide instead of stepping forward in the face of real pressure.


which of the position coaches are likely to be future head coaches?

UWDP: Bush Hamdan on offense, Jimmy Lake on defense. Nobody else really seems to have that potential trajectory. I’d bet Lake gets a shot within the next five years, at a relatively big program. Hamdan will probably have to start a lot lower on the food chain, if he gets the call.


There was a debate last week on the ‘eye test’ of heights and weights of SEC teams and our ‘fragile, finesse’ teams in the PAC. Watching the games Saturday, what really seemed to stand out was the size of Auburn’s skill position players - WR, RB, H-back, compared to ours...wondering if this could be analyzed for accuracy.

UWDP: Anyone that wants if free to do so. But those receivers were definitely big guys.


Any chance David Crisp gets bumped from the starting 5 if Nowell proves to be a better ball handler/offensive facilitator? Move Matisse to the two spot and either Naz or Dom at the 3? Any word on his or other players’ summer development?

UWDP: Even if Jaylen Nowell is better, is that how you want to use him?

I think it’s an interesting thought, but it seems like you risk losing some of the really good things about Nowell’s offensive game if he’s the primary ball handler.

If anyone knows anything about the basketball team over the summer, please share in the comments.

Purple & Proud

How do fans think Tony Castricone did in his first game following Bob Rondeau?

We thought he did well. The only criticism we had was he seemed to get a little too excited when Auburn did good things. (Rondeau had that tendency as well.)

Given that he’s our play-by-play guy, I think announcements of the opponent’s scores, etc. should sound like a station break on C-SPAN: monotone, little excitement.

UWDP: I didn’t hear him, so I can’t say. Hopefully people can chime in below.


So if we dont make playoffs is season a disappointment?

UWDP: Too many variables to give this a yes-or-no answer. My plurality answer is “no” because yes is too knee-jerk.

I’d need a lot more detail to answer. And frankly, we’re one game into the season. I’d rather enjoy some football first.


What happened to Chico? Going into the game I thought he was going to be the difference maker.

A-town Dawg

Why did we not see more of Chico McClatcher?

UWDP: Chico McClatcher had two touches on offense, for a combined zero yards. Over the summer, we learned that his injury situation was a lot worse than we knew, and that he’d been playing for a while with some ligament damage to his knee, in addition to that gruesome broken leg.

The coaches all know what he can do. My guess is that he’s simply not ready for a heavy workload at this point. And even with the magnitude of the game last Saturday, there are upcoming ones that are more important, frankly. It’s better to have him for those ones.


Justiss Warren in the red zone? Never saw him....could have been lead blocker or receiving option.

UWDP: There are at least three tight ends in front of Justiss Warren, and the team never used a fullback. Maybe he’ll get some time as a lead blocker down the road, but in terms of the tight ends/H-backs, I’m more concerned with the guys in front of him right now.


We were having success against Auburn when we went with a more up tempo offense. Is there a reason why we got away from that? Jake also mentioned how one of his difficulties from last year was overthinking. Would playing a more hurry up no huddle offense potentially mitigate this?

UWDP: Petersen and Jonathan Smith both said they liked to use tempo on a drive after picking up the initial first down in 2017. Petersen said that he’ll use tempo this season at times as well.

But outside that one drive, we didn’t see it on Saturday. And that drive, those four plays, were beautiful. There are a lot of examples of Browning doing well playing with tempo over the last three+ seasons. I agree with your thought in part at least that it keeps Browning from thinking too much.

I’d like to see it more. Petersen is obviously a pretty cautious guy, though.


How will they improve LB depth this year? Warren a two way player? Play the freshmen? Wellington gets helathy? Manu/Wambaugh develop with game reps?

UWDP: Justiss Warren never made a dent in the linebacker depth in two seasons there, so no, it’s not likely he’s a part of the solution.

Getting Brandon Wellington healthy is probably the best bet. Kyler Manu and Jake Wambaugh both played quite a few snaps on Saturday. Neither was great, but neither was an obvious liability, either.

Where was Tevis Bartlett? How many snaps did he get on the inside?

Amandre Williams got quite a few snaps, Ariel Ngata got a few.

The Huskies need to get better at linebacker, especially the guys getting after the QB.

I thought this might’ve been Benning Potoa’e’s best game as a Husky. Very solid.


I thought we were ditching Nike??? I was looking forward to being rid of the crappy sleaves and four tone colors and going back to a traditional look. What happen?

UWDP: This is the last season with Nike. Adidas rolls out next year.

Traditional, with Adidas? Maybe. And maybe you should look at what they’ve done to college football uniforms, and not hold your breath....


Is anyone else tired of hearing national media talk about Peterson and his propensity for razzle dazzle? I haven’t seen much of that since the statue of liberty against Oklahoma. Saturday’s play calling was about as conservative as it gets. Is there any chance that we see razzle dazzle again?

UWDP: If you don’t remember anything since that play against Oklahoma a dozen years ago, then you’ve missed quite a few. Dante Pettis and Andre Baccellia combined for six pass attempts the last two years, for example.

The reputation is overblown. But it happens.

Goal Line

Are the Huskies a bend but don’t break defense?

UWDP: Yes, mostly. I’d say it’s a really, really aggressive bend-but-don’t-break defense.


A player has the following stat line: 8 tackles 2 TFL 1 sack. Does he have 11 total tackles or 8 total tackles

UWDP: He had 8 total tackles. And he had two tackles for lost yardage, with one of those being a sack (he didn’t have three tackles for loss).


When Wambaugh (53) and Mano (30) came in, it looked like Auburn ran a couple RPOs where they ran the outside receivers on a short post and hit the pass behind the linebackers that jumped up. What nuances are they missing that pulled them forward and left them vulnerable in zone?

UWDP: Experience, mostly. I think that Ben Burr-Kirven and DJ Beavers got burned by those plays a time or two as well. They’re exceptionally difficult to stop when executed well.


Does the fact the the Huskies are 1-9 against SEC teams concern you? Me neither. Nevertheless, I think it is a pretty bad idea to go Down South and play ‘em unless they are going to come Out West, too. Which they aren’t. So, don’t go Down South. This is not a question.

UWDP: Then I won’t answer, I’ll nod along silently over your shoulder and try to look intimidating to the people that might disagree with you.


Any QB post 1991 for one red zone play? One quarter? One season? Coach Peterson is still in charge....

I go Locker, Tuiasasopo, and B Huard.

UWDP: For one play, I’d probably take Marques Tuiasosopo. I’d probably take Chris Chandler before Locker or either Huard (and even with that play against Oregon in 1994, I’d probably take Damon over Brock’s sophomore or junior season). And Keith Price.

Tough to answer, I think there are a lot of past QBs that would’ve looked great in this offense that didn’t have the stats back in their day. Cody Pickett, Warren Moon, Chandler, etc...

All for this week, lords and ladies. Be there this Saturday, and