I have something to admit:
Due to circumstances outside my control, I wasn’t able to watch this game.
That might make you go, “Wow, lucky you. The jealousy courses through my veins like the mighty Columbia,” but I have something else to confess:
What do Cal 2019, Cal 2018, and ASU 2017 have in common?
Yeah. Hi. Sorry. It’s my fault.
A 100% Accurate and 92% Sober Rundown of Everything
Okay, I’m gonna divide this into two sections: the suckage, and actual non-sucky things. And no, the second category isn’t just pictures of kittens, although that is a good idea.
To begin with — and there is no shortage thereof — the suckage:
Peyton Henry didn’t deserve this.
Like Tristan Vizcaino two years ago but times one billion, this should’ve been his redemption game. If one less pass is dropped, if one more tackle is made, if the defense holds the last minute and a half.
Unfortunately, the night before, I woke up and was unable to fall back asleep since my brain couldn’t help but to stress out about Chris Brown versus Washington’s linebackers. I’ve never been sadder to be right.
To clarify, the following suckage is by no means comprehensive.
Other than the senior receivers being inept, that is, because there’s not much to say there other than the first six words of this sentence.
The thing that, offensively, nagged at me the most was: you’re playing at midnight, against an offense that, until they randomly figured it out, really really had not figured it out. I don’t care how good Cal’s defense is, nobody can hold up forever. Why... why isn’t the offensive focus to run it with Newton and Ahmed, force Cal to make the tackles, and play a field position battle that, in the first half, would’ve had a clear winner and physical implications for their defense for the rest of the game? Senior receiver ineptitude notwithstanding, the whole concept of pass versus run comes down to who’s being forced to make the play — any pass is offensively unsuccessful until it isn’t; any run is defensively unsuccessful until it isn’t. Sure, that’s reductive, but it is the core truth of your options. When the circumstances are what they are... why did the offensive gameplan become so impatient?
Here are Cal’s offensive drives in the first half: 30 yards, -11 yards, 4 yards, -2 yards, 69 yards (ending with a field goal and their only points of the first half), -3. Equally as important, they lasted 5 plays, 3 plays, 3 plays, 5 plays, 7 plays, 3 plays. There is zero reason to not take advantage of that. Especially given that Cal’s secondary is the monster that they are. Especially given that the senior wide receivers were liabilities.
On a related and ultra-specific note — on the last drive for Henry’s woulda-been game-winning kick: what on Odin’s sweet Earth was that deep bomb for? Best case scenario you get a touchdown and give Cal two minutes to drive back down the field which they had proven at that point capable of doing. Worst case scenario you blow a down, are behind the chains, and then can’t run it. That was an integral down just... wasted.
I guess this comes down to the fact that I’m a firm believer that between 90-99.99999% of “but the playcalling!” criticisms are piles of horseshit but dude there was some fat screw-ups in this department. Don’t get me wrong — execution was by far the biggest culprit on both offense and defense, but it certainly was exacerbated there.
Lastly on the suckage front: hello, this was a reminder of why redshirting matters.
Why? Because if Ben Burr-Kirven is on the roster, Washington wins.
How many extra games did Washington win due to BBK playing in 2015? None.
I’m sure most of us know the concept of the fWAR metric in baseball and, while not as clear cut in other sports, it’s still qualitatively relevant here. For all but the most extraordinary talents or programs in the most extraordinarily poor circumstances, the WAR of a true freshman is negligible. Or, more likely, nothing. Or, more likely still, negative.
In a vacuum, that same player, five years later, is so. Much. More. Valuable.
The 2015 Huskies wouldn’t miss 18 year-old Ben Burr-Kirven. The 2019 Huskies miss a 22 year-old BBK a lot.
Unless someone’s an extreme talent (hi, Latu and Nacua) or at a position that’s the victim of roster mismanagement (hi, Calvert-before-getting-injured and also Nacua #thanksBrentPeaseyouturd), redshirts are your friend.
Also holy crud I just looked up BBK and forgot how awful his mane and facial hair was. Thank God for haircuts and razor blades.
Unfortunately, there was barely more than zero things about this game that didn’t suck. Fortunately, there’s more reasons than not to not freak out about this season in its entirety.
For those of you who, like me, still feel like you’ve been walloped in the sternum by a kettlebell two-and-a-half days later, here’s some things to remember that might help:
We knew this year’s Washington was extremely high variance
Of the Pac-12 contenders, Washington is the only one with this much core inexperience. That’s where the lows come from, but it’s also why we were (and continue to be) so excited. There’s a reason Utah and Oregon were narrowly picked as more likely to win the Pac-12 by preseason media: simply put, they return what the French would call “a shitload.” It means both those teams have a high, stable floor for their seasons barring catastrophic injury. It also means we know their ceilings, and they’re pretty close to maxed out. In other words, yeah, Saturday(/Sunday, technically) sucked hard, but it was also darn close to the absolute floor of this team. Moreover, it’s these kinds of profiles that — under good coaching staff — improve and change the most over the course of a season. And we know Coach Pete and Co are a good coaching staff. Whenever you feel like a no-anesthetic tracheotomy would be a welcome distraction from the gloom of this week, remember that.
This is almost certainly the best defense Washington plays all regular season
It feels weird saying this about any team not named Utah, but their loss of Marquise Blair and Cody Barton, plus Cal’s vat of experience within their starters and whole two-deep changes things. The Golden Bears gave up 28 yards of total passing and seven whole regulation time points in their clusterfork of a bowl against TCU despite spending preposterous amounts of time on the field.
This was also, circumstantially, one of the weirdest games I’ve ever seen
No, I’m not gonna pull a Coug “We would’ve won if it hadn’t snowed/Falk hadn’t been injured/Falk had been injured/who even knows.” For as weird as this was, Cal too had to play this garbage game, so props as hell to them. Certainly, their offensive game plan adapted better to the whole “it being midnight” thing. But I think most of us would be lying if we said we haven’t thought extensively about whether this could’ve gone different under normal weather and body-clock circumstances. To be clear, this isn’t an excuse for the performance, just a reminder that said performance probably isn’t predictive of the rest of the year since few — nay, no? — remaining games are likely to go so late that, by the time the clock hits 0:00, we’re officially in the Sabbath.
It’s not inconceivable that Cal’s turning the corner before our eyes
I’d gone on record many times this offseason about how this was the one game that freaked me out the most, and how it came down to whether their offense could be half-decent. With Chris Brown carrying the load, Marcel Dancy sharing the burden, and Chase Garbers doing just enough to complement them, it looks like they may have figured it out. It’s not like Cal’s a NY6 team, but I think a lot of us got used to Cal being an easy out the last decade-ish which makes the sting that much worse. Defensively, they’re overachieve-y as heck, and the whole question this offseason had been if their offense can be just decent enough to not waste said defense. They’re never gonna go full Sonny Dykes potency on offense again but, other than their first quarter of the season, it doesn’t look like they’re gonna be total ass either. If I were a gambler, I’d say Washington isn’t the first team they’ll spoil this season.
Back to the first point: this team’s composition means they’re gonna be very different by the end of the year
I touched on it there, but it’s worth focusing on: because of the youth on defense — and God-willing with the young receivers and Richard Newton — there’s gonna be a more significant difference between this year’s Washington in week 10 versus week two than we’ve seen in a UW team since 2015. This is a good thing and a reminder that the Chernobyl-esque performance this Saturday is far from a final destination. This is also why the previous point rang so true in my mind; it wouldn’t be worrisome to play Cal in November, but Washington in week two is practical children.
In my opinion, seasons like these are a bizarre combination of the most fun and the most frustrating. The latter sucks but, in my experience, ends up more fun than seasons where you enter knowing exactly where your limited ceiling is. (Yes, this is a subliminal plea to apply this philosophy to the receiver room.) So, next time you find yourself throwing full wine bottles at your TV during game time, maybe those thoughts will help.
Or maybe not in which case that’s cool too everything sucks and then we die woooo.
Lines of the Week
Ugh. I hate doing these for soul-smashing, tear-your-stomach-out-and-crush-your-heart kind of games.
Everyone to the senior receivers each time they dropped a pass:
Also, me at Brent Pease and Matt Lubick for one being absolute trash at recruiting and one being complete garbage at coaching, respectively, so we now have to feel the effects this long afterwards:
And once more, mostly everyone regarding the seniors at receiver and linebacker:
Does that burn too hard?
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.