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Mailbag: “Answering Your Questions” Edition

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Washington v Arizona Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Dawgmanic: Am I the only one that doesn’t feel relieved by the win in Arizona? I just don’t know how to describe my feelings, but it feels that, even with the score being 51-27, this game was more about how much Arizona did wrong than we did right.

UWDP: Can you think of a game where a team played great football and still lost by 24 points? Me neither.

What if we switched the first and second halves - if the team went in to the locker room up 38-10 behind a big offensive showing and coasted the second half to the 51-27 win?

That feeling you can’t describe - it’s probably due to expectations that are a bit out of whack for this team.

Warm Desserts: I feel confident we can keep The Green Down Under to the low-30s or upper-20s, but I worry about their new-found-D not allowing Eason time to play with his new-found-toys.

UWDP: Yeah, I’m not sure Washington’s offense can score 30 against a genuinely great defense, but Oregon’s offense isn’t actually much different than Washington’s. Without defensive or special teams scores, this is probably a game that needs to stay in the 20’s for the Huskies to win. The Huskies really need someone to step up and have a huge game catching the ball. Maybe it’s Puka Nacua, maybe it’s been a relatively quiet Hunter Bryant. Doesn’t matter who, but it’s pretty clear that the Huskies can’t survive throwing the ball if Aaron Fuller has 18 targets. They need options.

Witchy Witch: MY CURSE HAS BEEN BROKEN! The Huskies will now be allowed to flourish in the desert. Are you pleased?

UWDP: Hooray.

Why do you use the word “flourish?”

DropTheHammer9: Why on earth would Petersen/Adams play Baccellia over Nacua at this point?

You could see the frustration Eason had with #5 last game. He should be benched but will Petersen’s loyalty to seniors overcome his will to win?

UWDP: I’ve given up trying to understand what’s going on with the receiver rotation this season. Instead, I’m going to hope the guys that are on the field get the job done.

Frankly, I find the notion of “loyalty” being a factor in the receiver rotation to be fairly nefarious. I don’t think it’s actually the case. I believe Chris Petersen wants to win, and he’s doing what he thinks is best to achieve that end. His calculus might not be the same as yours, but he’s at practice every day, and has about a thousand data points on the receivers to your 7.

Bigred72: Now that we are seven games in, what is your guess as to wbho will red shirt this year?

UWDP: Trent McDuffie, Puka Nacua, Asa Turner, Laiatu Latu, Cameron Williams, and Tim Horn are all obviously not redshirting. At this point, I think the remainder of the class does.

DawgsFan12: I am glad we won but why did we give up at the end of the 1st half and not go for TD or FG? We had a 1:06 wit two timeouts.

UWDP: Chris Petersen handled that situation the way that most risk-averse coaches do - run a play on first down, see what happens, and then either hurry and go for a score, or just run out the clock and get to the half. The Huskies ran Salvon Ahmed for one yard, and rather than try to work through that starting on 2nd and 9, they played for halftime.

The odds of anything happening - good or bad - are pretty low with 1:06 on the clock. I’m not opposed to taking a real shot at making something happen, but I really don’t think it’s a big deal either way. It was an offense that needed to get into the locker room, too - nothing good was happening on that side of the ball.

Starrman: I felt some of the reason our offense did so well the second half against Arizona is their defensive gassed out. They were undersized and had less depth compared to us. That is partially why Auburn beat the ducks. What are the odds that will happen to our benefit against the Ducks?

UWDP: An underappreciated factor in why the duck defense wore down against Auburn is that they spent so much of the game celebrating every single tackle like a bunch of slavering imbeciles; they expending an inordinate amount of energy on the bravado in thte first half. Good news is that this is another “big” game, just like that one, with a crowd that (hopefully) helps to create a charged atmosphere. Bad news is that Oregon’s defense now knows they’re good, and they don’t need that type of hype anymore. We’ll see how much control their 15-year-old-in-a-50-year-old head coach can exert on Saturday.

OggyDawg: Two common critiques that UW fans have had over the past few seasons has been Special Teams play and offensive play calling. I would argue that Special Teams has finally been “fixed” this season and may actually be a strength. However, the issues with offensive play calling have persisted and even stretch back to the Jonathan Smith days. The 2nd half against Arizona looked like a completely different play book and approach. The strategy was more wide open and stretching the field vertically, rather than laterally (which also opened up huge running lanes). We also saw veterans get sat down in favor of more skillful youth (Nacua, Chin, Westover, Turner). So my question has 2 segments: #1. Obviously something significant transpired at halftime (as evidenced by Eason’s comments), do you think this was Hamdan finally taking the reigns of playcalling or Petersen re-asserting himself as the offensive mind? and #2. With what transpired in the desert, do you think this be the approach moving forward including the use of more talented youth?

UWDP: The special teams has been fantastic this season. I don’t know Tim Horn’s touchback percentage, but it’s very high. The punting is solid, the coverage is good. Peyton Henry is rock solid as a kicker. Aaron Fuller has been a bit more dynamic as a punt returner. Huge improvements all around.

I think the biggest factor by far in the offense in the second half was that the plays started working. It was the same stuff that they’ve called all season; there really wasn’t any sort of departure from what we’ve seen. But calls look better when they work, and that’s all fans really care about. With the synergy of Washington’s running and passing attacks, when one works well, it typically makes the other work, too. I give the credit to the players in executing well - the guys you mentioned, plus the offensive line (and a sidenote on the line - I think part of their struggle in the first half was that Matteo Mele really struggled with Arizona’s undersized, quick nose tackle in the first half; I don’t have any way of knowing how he did with the line calls, but it’s not unreasonable to think that could’ve been an issue as well. He played better in the second half, but we should be massively concerned if Nick Harris is out again.).

I think halftime adjustments are significantly overvalued. When they exist, they’re small, and they’re within the context of the game plan usually, not massive departures from it. The team got fired up and focused, and came out and played much better in the second half.

Rhaego: My feelings would like me to believe that CP was too stubborn to recognize that our younger, bigger receivers are ready to carry the torch. Would you kindly support or eviscerate my emotion-based beliefs?

UWDP: You’re faced with a situation that your plebeian football brain can’t quite comprehend, and instead of using logic to examine the situation, you project yourself into it and use emotional responses to create a story that fits the narrative you seem to most like, or be most capable of understanding.

Ragu: How should McGrew and Ahmed be utilized from here on out? What types of plays and yards-to-go situations fit these two disparate runners?

UWDP: I would say they are almost carbon copies of each other, not disparate runners. They are both capable between-the-tackles runners, but both “flourish” (heh) on the wider outside zone and stretch plays. They don’t necessarily “run” the same way, but they both run best behind the same blocking schemes (which is what’s really important when determining sameness of runners). It’s a little surprising that we’ve seen so little of Kamari Pleasant in the game-and-a-half since Richard Newton’s injury. Well, maybe not; he might not have been “ready” to step in to the downhill runner role at a moment’s notice against Stanford, and Arizona was just a very different animal. Like Stanford, Oregon’s defense dictates more of a north-and-south rushing attack, one that needs a back like Newton. It’ll be interesting to see how Washington uses its backs on Saturday.

Oregon Dawg: Every house has a foundation, and the 2019 husky foundation was our experienced O line. We thought, we have a new QB and RB, but our line is awesome so no problem. We thought our defense was young and inexperienced, but our offense could put up enough points, so no problem.

At Arizona we failed to get two red zone TD’s in the first half. The O line seems unable to create enough push for a 2 yards gain when needed. At Stanford we allowed a lot of pressure on Eason and he looked rattled most of the game. Is our line (and foundation) weaker than thought? Or is it the play calling the cause for our poor red zone performance?

UWDP: I’m not really sure about the offensive line. I was a little bit surprised at the praise heaped on to it heading in to the season, to be quite honest. I think it does well leading the way in the rushing attack (generally), but might have schematic limitations in pass protection (slide protections have struggled against exotic rushes and the insistence on short-setting from the offensive tackles creates a lot of short edges for rushers). Eason has played some role in the pass protection with some less-than-great pocket awareness on occasion, but the fact that receivers just don’t get open is a huge factor as well. There’s a lot of interconnectedness in the passing game, and there’s blame to go around.

As for the red zone, I think it’s a lack of weapons. Fans love to shout “Pound the rock!”, but it’s not realistic to go from being a balanced, inside/outside zone team between the 20’s to a north-south mano-a-mano run team in the red zone. You can’t really be both (which is why precisely zero teams are); there are personnel differences on the offensive line and there are only so many hours to practice in a day. Washington struggles to throw the ball in the red zone. That’s a huge problem. I don’t think the issue is play calling, but I know I can’t convince the people that believe otherwise.

short_guy: Ahmed got lots of love for his 3 touchdowns. But I though McGrew looked better in general (and his ypc showed it). Was the difference in their results a function of how each is used? Should McGrew get more carries earlier? Should Ahmed only get carries outside the tackles?

UWDP: I thought they both played well, which is great news pending Newton’s injury. Washington is going to need them.

I think the bulk of the difference is this: Outside the one long run, the bulk of Sean McGrew’s carries came in the second half, when the team simply played better. Salvon Ahmed looked like a better runner in the second half as well. Both did the bulk of their damage outside the tackles, so I really don’t think it’s a function of play calling or how they’re used.

Great game for McGrew, no doubt. While people want to point to the BYU game as a reason he should get more carries, you need to keep in mind how completely pathetic BYU’s rush defense is. Against better defenses, Ahmed has been the more dangerous runner. That’s not to say anything about McGrew, but when this debate comes up, BYU isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison (since Ahmed didn’t play).

They need both moving forward. Starting this week. The guy with the hot hand, and the one capable of protecting Jacob Eason more effectively, is most likely to get the carries.

way_to_positive: The game thread was way to negative in the first half. Can I have access to the UWDawgPound writers chat? It seems like there would be more useful discussion there than the complaining that happens in the game thread.

UWDP: The writer’s chat is mostly Landon pimping his line of hair care products, and Max yelling at everyone to get their assignments done. It’s not pretty.

Game threads....they are what they are.

highdesertdawg: Husky run defense: Reparable or lost cause?

UWDP: Very repairable, but it might not happen this year. We have a bit of an issue in ability at some key spots, and we have a little bit of a scheme-personnel mismatch this season. Maybe the answer is to change things for the short term benefit even if it’s not beneficial for the long term growth, maybe we suffer in the short term for the health going forward. Cue the “adapt to the personnel” brouhaha below....

MontLakeJake84: If Breeland is out this game, how does it affect Oregon’s passing attack? Do they have other receivers that could create a mismatch against our DBs? He was their receiver I was most concerned with.

UWDP: As we’ve discussed many times around here, he’s the type of player that seems to do the most damage to Washington’s defense - a big, talented receiver working out out of the tight end position or the slot. It’s a big loss for Oregon. I don’t know who steps in for him, but it’s not like they’re going to be playing with 10 men in his absence.

Justin Herbert with a clean pocket” vs “Justin Herbert under pressure” is one of the biggest disparities you’ll see from a “future first round QB” in college. He’s great with time, and looks sooooo incredibly mediocre (at least consistently) when he has to move. “Pressure” doesn’t necessarily even mean sacks, it just means making him uncomfortable enough to spray the ball all over the field....

MontLakeJake84: Is this game against Arizona a turning point where this team plays up to it’s REAL potential? This team has the ability to be FAR better than what they showed vs. Cal and Stanford. Here’s hoping it is.

UWDP: That’s the kind of question you can really only answer in hindsight, but it has the potential to be, sure. It’s great to hear about players asserting themselves, that could be a huge boon moving forward. We’ll see.

Mike Pitzler: Are we watching a young team maturing every week?

UWDP: Sure. But, 1. Progress isn’t linear, and 2. The real dividends of this season might not be seen until next year.

Gu1966: Did Jacob Eason just go rogue, ignoring Bush Hamdan’s pedestrian scheme? It seemed that instead of throwing those maddening three yard crossing routes, he decided to go deep come what may.

UWDP: Do you actually think that Jacob Eason just decided to ignore the coaching staff? No, that’s not at all what happened.

Those three yard crossing routes have a deep option to them, virtually all of the time. Most routes have options like that (shallow, intermediate, and deep). The play call is never “throw the three yard crossing pattern,” that’s the decision that Eason makes that we see. He had time in the pocket, he had open receivers, and he threw really nice passes. That triumvirate is something we don’t always see (but see quite a bit). Eason throws deep every game, including Stanford. He completes some most every game (also including Stanford).

Victoria Husky: 2 questions

1- it appears to me that Petersen has cooled on Ahmed, featuring Newton before he got hurt and in my estimation favouring Mcgrew on Saturday in Tucson. Does this trend continue?

2- As much as I respect and appreciate Eason, will we ever see Petersen use a dual threat QB. I would love to see it both for effectiveness and entertainment. I get he runs a pro style offence but he also maintains he adjusts to particular strengths of his roster.

UWDP: Chris Petersen doesn’t really decide the running back rotation, that’s running backs coach Keith Bhonopha’s job. The game plan against Stanford featured more downhill run attempts, which is definitely Newton’s strength.

Ahmed had more carries than McGrew in the first half against Arizona on Saturday, and he had more in the second half as well. I don’t really agree that McGrew was “favored” by any stretch. In games in which Ahmed has played, he’s led the team in carries every time except Stanford.

It’s funny - I’m glad we focus on pocket passers, both for the effectiveness and the entertainment.

I don’t see him looking for a QB that’s a running threat specifically for its own virtue, but if a QB that can run can also run Petersen’s offense, then sure. Maybe we’d see more effective zone-read action if the QB is a threat to keep. Personally, I think the threat of the pass is much greater, and I’d rather see the zone-read decision be to hand off versus throw the quick-hitters over the middle.

Why can’t we be more like Clemson?: This year has been a disappointment. Is it fair for me to blame the couches? In 2016 with Sark’s player and a young Team Petersen did an amazing job. This year we had a favorable schedule to possibly do similar things like 2016 but sadly we wasted it.

People on this site often compare us Clemson but the major difference I am realizing differences is likely the coaches. At the beginning of the season I saw some stat that showed teams with the most 4 star players and Washington actually had more players rated higher vs Clemson. Now one thing that stat likely does show us is that Clemson likely have higher rated lineman and in college football that’s the only position that really counts. Alabama won a lot of national championships without a great quarterback.

I must admit that some of Clemson success is playing in a weak conference at this time. Well Washington is in a weak conference and unlike Clemson we only have one blue blood team. Has our coaches lost their edge? The 2nd half of the Arizona game is what I believe this team should be doing to the rest of the pac 12 but we seemed to keep playing down to our competition. Petersen used to be calm now he looks like Rodriguez and Graham on the sidelines. We used to be one of the less penalized team in pac and we’re near the top this year. What’s wrong with our coaches and team? Why can’t we take advantage of a down pac 12? Years ago Oregon took advantage of the pac when USC and Washington was down. Clemson is doing now while FSU and Miami are down.

UWDP: I highly doubt that Washington’s roster has more blue chip talent than a Clemson team that has been in the top 10 average per player each of the last five seasons, but even if it’s true, I wonder how the comparison would look if you just took the upperclassmen on each roster.

Washington might have the most talented roster top to bottom it’s had since the early 90’s, but there are a lot of really young guys making up that talent right now.

It’s disingenuous to compare Clemson today, in Dabo Swinney’s 11th season, to Washington in Petersen’s 6th. Swinney broke out in year 7, and was 57-20 prior to that. Petersen is sitting at 52-23 right now - pretty similar.

The point is never to make a direct comparison and plot one team or coach against another. But the model - steady progress - is very similar.

Washington has won the conference two of the last three years, so what’s your real question?

Idaho-Portland Dawg: A crystal ball question. Conference realignment: Should the Pac-12 aim to poach Boise State and (insert other worthy MWC team here) in the next few years? Do you see any major conference shifts transpiring in the next few years?

UWDP: If the Pac 12 is thinking about poaching teams from the Mountain West, then the entire conference out to give up big-time football and simply merge with the Mountain West. We could be the MWC - Coastal Division.

Boise State offers no value to the Pac 12 in football. They would have one of the smallest revenues in the conference, and would be a net taker, not a positive addition. And they’re the cream of the MWC crop, it only goes downhill from there.

Nice team, nice story, cute blue turf. But nope. Emphatically so. Zero value to the conference.

Realignment means undermining the unstable Big 12. Topple that conference, and go after Texas and Oklahoma. That’s worth doing. Texas is a huge prize and would be welcomed anywhere, so that’s not a gimme. But go after Oklahoma, that would make the conference fold. Then convince the Longhorns that academically, athletically, they’re most alike the teams in the Pac 12, and hope it works.

If I didn’t make it clear, that’s a big N-O on the Mountain West.

Pdawg: My dog has separation anxiety - guessing it’s not the same thing as what our receivers are going through. Talk about separation - is it routes, talent, better defensive schemes? Thanks

UWDP: I have three dogs, and thankfully only one of them cares when we leave. Unfortunately, it’s the little yipper puppy we got for my kids when we moved, so he basically runs the show right now...

It’s route running, and speed. It’s reading the defender’s alignment (inside or outside shade, depth, etc) and adjusting routes and choosing options on the fly.

On a very basic level, the common pass routes you see by every team mostly start out the same, with a “stem” of a few steps straight off the line of scrimmage. The short stem should be the same for all short routes, so the offense isn’t tipping the defense off right off the bat. Same for the deeper stem - all of the routes should look the same to the defense up until a certain point.

Yes, it’s talent, it’s speed, it’s the threat of going deep, it’s size so that “separation” means less to a bigger guy that it does a smaller one. It’s also the QB’s ability to fit the ball in to small windows.

Montlakejake84: How good is Oregon’s defense? I Know they lost to Auburn and are allowing less than 10 points per game. But they have not played a “dynamic” pac12 offense, which ours can be at times.

UWDP: It’s legitimately one of the best out there right now. No, they haven’t played a great offense, but Washington’s offense doesn’t exactly meet that criteria. It’s probably the best Oregon has faced to date (especially given how raw Auburn was in that first game), but Oregon’s defense has the edge on Washington’s offense. It’s going to take a huge effort, and a big step forward from the Huskies.

That’s it, I’m out of here.

GOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

HUUUUSKIIIEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!!!