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Mailbag: “Road Dawgs” Edition

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Hawaii at Washington

Ratty Old Towel: Did Hawaii give WSU a template to beat UW?

UWDP: Unless I missed something, Hawaii lost by 32 points to Washington. WSU needs no road map to figure out how to lose by 32 points to the Huskies; instead, they like to blaze a new trail to that result each year. I can’t wait to see the new way they come up with to lose by 32 points in 2019, and if they decide that losing by even MORE this year would be even better.

The Air Raid and the Run-and-Shoot have some similarities and overlap, but there are also some very significant differences. Very generally: The Run-and-Shoot stresses a defense by giving wide receivers (and of course, the QB) the option to turn most any play into a deep shot, based on coverage. The Air Raid stresses defense by throwing short passes in space, and making the defense tackle over and over and over again, with the likelihood of creating a catch-and-run big play, or taking advantage of an overly-aggressive defense in a stop-and-go route. Or, of course, the good ‘ole four verticals, that’s a huge part of most every offense....

Short answer, no, Hawaii’s 4.5 TD loss to Washington isn’t likely to help anyone.

Dawgsfan12: What happened in the 3rd quarter?

MMM Dad Bod: It seemed like both the offense and defense died in the third quarter. What did you see? Did Hawaii make better half time adjustments? Did CP get out-coached again in the second half?

UWDP: It sort of started before that, as Hawaii put together a couple of sustained drives in the second quarter that ended in missed field goals before the long TD drive right before the half.

Washington was up 38-7 heading in to the 3rd quarter. While I guarantee none of the coaching staff was okay with giving up those scores, but it took Hawaii 12 minutes of the clock that quarter to close the margin to 18. As much as a lot of us Husky fans really don’t like it, Chris Petersen et. al. just don’t care much about the margin of victory.

The Washington offense, which largely dominated in the first half, had one possession in the 3rd, between those scores. It started with a holding penalty and the subsequent resulting huge hole on 1st down. The first down repeat was a dropped pass, and 2nd down was an incompletion that also should’ve been caught (which, I guess, makes it a drop...) for a first down. After that second Hawaii TD, Washington’s offense got right back to it with two straight TD drives to ice the game.

Bad quarter. Some credit to Hawaii. Tough to play a perfect game. I’m hoping that we saw “teachable moments,” not “flaws.”

Rockster: Can the defense find some linebackers that will play like Power 5 athletes? And why does Coach Lake allow so many open underneath routes with the soft zone D?

UWDP: Washington’s defense staff has thrived by consistently getting outsized performance from underappreciated players, but is now struggling to get consistent performance from its most talented roster.

The implication, if you got it, is entirely a joke.

Even though Brandon Wellington is a senior, he really hasn’t played that much football for the Huskies yet. Joe Tryon is only a sophomore. Neither is all that experienced. While that in no way excuses some of the lapses we’ve seen, this staff has a pretty good track record of getting guys to do the right thing.

The other option with coverage is to play press, with the risk of giving up a big one over the top of the coverage. Press coverage, with corners jamming receivers at the line, is sexy, but I can certainly see the logic in trying to make an offense execute a 15-play drive in order to score. Most teams fail on their own in that instance.

Gu1966: I’m confused- I thought SC was going to be very good based on their win over Stanford but UCF exposed Stanford as a shadow of the old Cardinal. BYU looked ordinary against Utah and got lucky against a poor Tennessee team but looked superior to SC. I think the Huskies actually have a bit more on both offense and defense than SC, but will this be one of those games where It will be on the offense to win the game?

ProvoHead, SeattleHeart: Due to BYU’s defensive scheme, Provo’s altitude, USC arrogance, other factors, or a combination of these, the Trojan advantages of talent and speed largely looked to be a non-issue in USC’s loss in Provo.

What does UW need to do to avoid the loss of these same advantages?

Starrman: What aspects of BYU, aside with how dangerous they can be at home, should be our biggest concern, and what are things about them we should be able to exploit?

UWDP: Washington has an advantage on both offense and defense. BYU has the advantage of the home field, some positive momentum, and a coach that wears his heart on his sleeve.

If the game goes chalk, the Huskies win because they’re the more talented team, and they have the better coaching staff. If the defense does stupid things like give up containment to a quarterback that can make or extend plays with his legs, or the offense continues its disturbing trend of only catching SOME of the perfect passes, it could get way too interesting, and we could see the game hinge on crazy things like momentum, a big special teams play, or a coach that wears his heart on his sleeve.

With a young defense that’s going to be champing at the bit to make plays and get on the right track, it’s critical that the staff has them ready for the road, and the inevitable big or trick play that BYU is going to try and make early.

It’s fair to say that Washington hasn’t “won” a game because of its offense for a while (maybe Stanford last year - maybe), so this would be a great time for the team to find its groove on that side of the ball. Something like 37-20 with a lot of rushing yards sounds nice. As for what happened to USC, don’t forget to add “luck” to that list of things. It’s a very underrated aspect of the outcome of football games.

Texas.Dawg: In 1985 I road tripped to the BYU game with my roommate, only to discover we couldn’t buy Coke (or any caffeinated cola) in the stadium to mix with our Bacardi 151. My question is, what would you do if faced with this same dilemma?

UWDP: From Bicardi’s own website:

Fresh and tart, lemonade combines with BACARDÍ Limón rum for a truly invigorating drink, a worUWthy companion for those long hot summer afternoons.

While I doubt you had the lemon rum, I’m sure you would’ve been able to muddle through....

Water, straight, anything else....these all seem like options that would work for football game libations, in my experience.

UW2016: Are there still bad feelings toward BYU for the 1984 season?

UWDP: If this is a serious question, then you drop the UW in front of your name this instant, mister.

Less BYU as an institution, more the idiocy surrounding the vote, BYU fans that still refuse to bow to our obvious superiority (no matter how hard or how many times it bashes them over the head), and of course, Brigham Young University. But above all else, UW fans that say things like “BYU was the national champ in 1984.” Looking at YOU, Ragu....

mikrons: Can the Inside Linebacker play be fixed?

UWDP: It can be a lot better, but “fixed” is sort of subjective. It probably won’t be as good as it was the last few years. But better, yes.

Nick: With how aggressive we came out offensively in the first quarter against Hawai’i, why wouldn’t we continue to do that in every single game? It seems like when we struggle to teams such as Cal, that we press on offense and never can find a consistent rhythm. And we have to rely on the defense to win a low scoring game. With teams like USC, Utah, and Oregon I feel like we would set ourselves up much better if we came out very aggressive such as we did against Hawai’i and just play more loose, but the staff seems to tighten up the play calling against more notable opponents and I’ve been wondering why it’s like that for years now.

UWDP: I don’t think we’ve actually seen significantly different game plans in terms of how aggressive the offense has been from week to week; I think we’ve seen different results mostly based on how good the defense they’ve played each week. The Hunter Bryant TD in the first quarter against Hawaii turned into an interception against Cal. The Sean McGrew TD run on the second drive turned into a gain of 2 (or whatever).

I totally agree that the Huskies have struggled to get into a rhythm against better defenses the last few years. The things that worked against Hawaii didn’t work against Cal, specifically in the passing game; Eason didn’t have the open receivers to deliver those passes, or he didn’t have time to find them when they did get open. And he missed some, too. The running game was generally effective, but this is a team that needs balance for the most part; the passing game adds to the effectiveness and vice versa.

I don’t really believe there’s magic in play calling against a defense that can just shut down one half of your offense the way the Bears did.

Mike Pitzler: Is it because Provo is far enough east that they get noon kickoffs?

UWDP: It’s not just Provo itself, but the stadium is situated in the eastern part of the city as well. Maybe, I don’t know if that’s actually true.

Starrman: BYU was more physical and tough than USC on both sides of the line. They were generally tougher all around. How will they stack up in terms of physicality against the Huskies?

UWDP: I agree, but I wouldn’t really say that USC is known for its physicality and toughness over the last few years, would you? I’d say it’s been more the opposite, and teams have beaten USC regularly by being the bigger, stronger guys on the field.

I give credit to Kilani Sitake; he’s done a really good job so far this year of making the Cougars in the image of the scrappy group that wins on heart and toughness. It’s tough for that to overcome talent, though, especially when talent is able to physically dominate. Washington’s offensive line should be good enough to control the line of scrimmage, and the Husky offense should be in a position to give the defense a two-score lead at some point - enough to keep BYU offense off-schedule and gradually making them more and more one dimensional as the game wears on.

GaryfromMI: When the defense is called for a neutral zone infraction when is the offense allowed a free play

UWDP: The play is whistled dead if the defense makes contact, and the refs will frequently stop it if the defender’s illegal jump gives him free run at a ball carrier or quarterback with the opportunity to deliver a hit that he wouldn’t have been able to make without the infraction. It’s a player safety issue (in the NFL, they might call it “offsides, unabated to the quarterback”, but I honestly can’t say either way if they do in college). It’s a subjective determination. The play that was whistled dead against Hawaii was borderline, for sure.

Woof there it is: Through these last 3 games, what grade would you give Kyler Manu?

UWDP: I don’t think he’s provided a tremendous benefit to the defense, and I don’t think he’s been the weakest link. He’s pretty average. A “C”. I hope the team can get a lot more out of the position moving forward, whether it’s Manu stepping up his play, or someone else getting more snaps.

OregonDawg: What surprised you most about the BYU upset over USC?

UWDP: That it happened at all. I sort of expected USC to be able to reinvent itself as an Air Raid team, and that the defense would get some inspiration out of it. The Trojans, they still just aren’t very good. They’re a talented team, but even that isn’t what it needs to be. Hard to see them having the same coach beyond the end of November.....

Concerned: UW fans leave at halftime, and are more concerned about the group chat then the 4th and 9 with a struggling defense. No one can complain about the teams performance because our performance as a fan base is as equally soft.

If we want to compete with SEC then start acting like the the games actually matter, or we can accept being a school from the Bay Area. It’s obvious this team is lacking confidence and leadership but why don’t we support them with a positive energy instead of leaving at halftime and complain of a start time. Game days are an all day event and if you think otherwise then stay home and watch the game on replay.

Do we want to have similar environments to Stanford and Cal or do we want to be a top notch environment to play in?

Do we want the elite athlete then the fans need to bring the environment. Game days should shake these kids from the inside out.

UWDP: Yeah, it’s not been as great as you’d hope to see so far this year.

In fairness, though, it’s not unique to Washington, or the Pac 12. Alabama is struggling with it - they’ve started tracking the student section to see if they stay in the stadium the whole game. Teams with long streaks of sellouts have taken to giving away tickets or manipulating sales in order to maintain those “streaks” even as the actual attendance makes a mockery of them.

The desire to watch sports in person isn’t the same today as it was two decades ago.

Mountain Man: It seems like the majority of “neutral site” games that the pac12 plays in are anything but a “neutral site.” Is there any talk of perhaps having some west coast neutral site games -- maybe CenturyLink? The new Vegas stadium?

UWDP: The thing about those neutral site games is, short of an absolutely bonanza matchup, you’re always going to see one team that’s relatively close to the venue in the game in order to boost ticket sales. So, a matchup on the west coast means a team that’s likely from the Pac 12 against another team think the SEC is coming out west? The ACC? If they did, do you want that game anywhere but Husky Stadium? The B14G would probably do it, but again, I want that game in Husky Stadium. There’s no teams out west other than in the Pac 12 that merit that type of “big game” hype so that doesn’t work.

I’ve never heard any talk about Century Link. I’ve heard talk about Vegas, but have no idea if it’s legitimate or just fan stuff. I’m sure those stadiums would be willing to host a game, but getting someone willing to promote it and put it together is going to be a challenge. I don’t think the venue is the issue, it’s the team pairing.

Squatch: Just like our troubles in the desert, it seems proverbial wisdom that the Huskies struggle on grass. Does that hold up to more rigorous analysis (yes I’m asking you to do my homework for me)? And if so, what is the issue and how might the team fix it?

UWDP: I believe the Huskies are 7-7 on grass since Chris Petersen has been here.

Trying to think of those losses....There was a Rose Bowl, a Fiesta Bowl, and whatever bowl it was in Petersen’s first year against Oklahoma State, I think. I don’t think the field played a role in any of those. ASU twice, one of which was a huge upset (in 2017), but that was a great job by the Sun Devils and horrible effort by the Dawgs, maybe the worst loss of Petersen era. Stanford twice, once when the Cardinal was pretty dominant and the Huskies had a backup making his only start as a Husky (in 2015) and then in 2017. That game in 2017, I don’t want to blame it on the field, but I think that was the only time I can think of the Huskies actually looked “impacted” by the turf; they just seemed somewhat out of sorts running around that day. It wasn’t the difference in the game, but it didn’t help.

I think that’s all of them?

The Huskies don’t have a grass practice field. And they don’t have access to one that I know of, don’t travel offsite to practice at some local high school in weeks leading up to games on grass, etc. They have three turf fields on which they practice - Dempsey, the stadium and the field behind the stadium with The Zone. They obviously aren’t putting grass in Husky Stadium, nor in Dempsey. Since the overwhelming majority of games are on turf, changing the East Practice Field to grass is a bigger commitment than is necessary. They need to be able to practice on grass, but the answer is an entirely new field somewhere on campus or some other field off campus.

While I think it’d be a good thing, I also don’t think it’s that big an issue; I don’t think practicing on grass would’ve made a bit of difference in any of their losses.

Mountain Man: It seems that UW runs really hot or cold -- and has for some time. 1st half of the Rose Bowl versus 2nd half. Quarters 1, 2, and 4 against Hawaii versus 3rd quarter. The Cal game(s). etc. Do you think UW actually struggles more than a typical team with highs and lows, or does it just feel that way because we’re fans of the team and therefore may be more sensitive to it?

UWDP: I think the overwhelming majority of football fans think their team is the most inconsistent, gets the worst calls from the refs, loses all the close games, etc.

We’re far more acutely aware of those things when they happen to our own team(s).

OsidePup: Coach Pete is pretty “even-keel” and keeps his emotions in check on the sidelines. I am assuming he’s that way also in the locker room. I believe he wants his team to be similar - not wanting them going into a game too filled with emotion, nor being too calm. He wants his players to be assignment sound and efficient , and has concerns they may be prone to making mistakes if they are sky high.

Is this the best approach, long term, against the better teams the Huskies will play, both in the Conference and during the post season? Is the team at a disadvantage - i.e., not playing at the same energy level - against their opponent if the other team is sky high and the Huskies are not?

UWDP: Emotion can be a good thing, but it’s probably overvalued a bit; it’s something that’s going to last for a few plays, and after that, it’s up to the other things you can bring to the field, like talent, execution, etc. I tend to think it can be manufactured and forced and fake at times, too. Did you watch the Oregon-Auburn game? Oregon’s defense was so sky-high at the beginning of the game that they expended a lot of energy beating their chest, slapping teammates’ helmets, etc after every play. That may have played a role in their wearing down late in the game.

How they play when all jacked up varies from player to player; some play well, some start making dumb mistakes. I certainly don’t want my QB to be headbutting teammates, he needs to be calm in my view.

I think it’s a fine line. I also think that it’s easier to consistently be more even-keeled than to depend on being emotionally charged in order to play (from a psychological standpoint); it’s tough to generate enthusiasm on demand.

I tend to think that “playing flat” is a catchall for playing badly, too. And I think it’s different than momentum as well; Cal wasn’t sky-high because of some “win one for the Gipper” speech, it was because they were beating a ranked team, as one example.

Free Tibet: Which unit will likely struggle the most from the road atmosphere on Saturday?

UWDP: BYU is at home, so it’s going to be tough to blame their struggles on the venue on either side of the ball. Or special teams for that matter.

Simulation Theory: Here’s a crazy thought that I’m sure you’ll annihilate: What if some of the great coaches of a few years ago, namely CP, Chip Kelly, and David Shaw, what if they are struggling to evolve/adapt to today’s game? Ok, tell me it’s a dumb thought. Be nice.

UWDP: Before I can answer this question, please define the game when those coaches dominated, define it now, and give detailed descriptions of how it is different.

Plaids, stripes, patterns, etc.

Darin Johnson: What’s your over/under on the year by which the UW will recognize its 1984 national championship?

UWDP: Doesn’t matter the year, the answer is “the over.”

HRsportsfan: Our RBs have only 7 receptions total after 3 games, 5 for Ahmed and 2 for McGrew. This seems low to me. If the receivers aren’t getting open (another question) shouldn’t we be checking down the RBs more?

UWDP: It’s low, I agree, but I wouldn’t read too much into it quite yet. I don’t think Hawaii or Eastern Washington are terribly representative games, and against Cal, the running backs were mostly asked to block. The wheel routes to Myles Gaskin and the swing passes to Salvon Ahmed were mostly evolutions as the season wore on last year, not staples right out of the gate.

HRsportsfan: I’m not convinced that our receivers aren’t getting open. There were several times in the Hawaii game where there was space and the receiver just wasn’t spotted in time. Maybe they were later in the progression? Is it possible that Eason is spending too much time on his first or second option?

UWDP: I’m sure they’re open at times. Moving quickly through progressions is one of the most difficult things for a QB. Yes, Jacob Eason may be spending too much time on his first or second option, at times. But they also may be coming open after he’s moved past them, for example.

Jacob Eason has not been perfect but I certainly don’t think he’s the weak link in the passing game, or “a” weak link whatsoever. In fact, his first three games as a Husky are as good as anything anyone could realistically hope to see. I think he has a distinct lack of weapons on the field, and my concern is that he loses confidence in them as the season wears on.

Otis: Is it just me or does Eason feel pressure that isn’t there? Seemed like he left a perfectly stable pocket multiple times. I know, it’s nit picking.

UWDP: Yes he most definitely does. It’s not really nit picking, it’s a very important quality for a QB. That said, the ability to stay comfortable with so many bodies around you and no receivers coming open is rare, and Eason is probably better than most even as it is. As I sort of alluded to above, it’s something that frequently gets worse over the course of a season as a QB suffers some wear and tear on his body, and moreso with a passing game that isn’t clicking the way it should due to things outside the QB’s control.

MontlakeJake84: Eason’s finger, what’s the status on that? There were many close ups of it during the game. Hope it’s ok.

UWDP: Yeah, he spent a lot of time looking at it. The throw on the screen to Aaron Fuller at the goal line that was ultimately called incomplete sure looked bad coming out of Eason’s hand. It could’ve been as the result of an injury, or the ball could’ve just slipped on the tape he was wearing. I’m sure he’ll be okay, but I don’t have any idea what’s going on right now.

Kirk: Three games in what are your thoughts on the running back rotation? McGrew looks pretty good in my eyes, showing some vision and more toughness than you might expect from a runner his size. Newton looks like the next primary back once Ahmed moves on. And Ahmed looked good against a legit Cal defense. The odd-man out appears to be Pleasant. As we get deeper into the season do you expect Ahmed’s share of the carries to increase or do you foresee more of what we saw vs. Hawai’i?

UWDP: The running back rotation has been pretty liberal with Petersen and Bonapha over the years in the “gimme” portion of the non-conference schedule; Myles Gaskin never really carried the ball a ton until conference play started. I think the Cal game showed what to expect as things get more serious - Salvon Ahmed is the main guy, and Sean McGrew and Richard Newton are going to share the backups’ carries depending on matchups, momentum, gut feel, health, etc.

What’s going on?: In the third quarter, Cal and Hawaii scored a total of 27 points combined. Sadly we only put up 3 points. This week Petersen didn’t seem to concern about it. In regards to trend he said “Not that we can put our finger on. They kind of executed their plan pretty well.” I remember when we used to shut teams out in the second half of games. We used to be a pretty good second half team with adjustments. What happened? Is Jimmy Lake falling asleep in the second half? Should we be concerned even though Petersen isn’t concerned about this trend. I think last year was the same thing in regards to being out scored in the 3rd quarter. Games last year that we got out scored in the 3rd quarter were ucla and Stanford.

UWDP: I think there’s lots of danger in overreacting to small samples.

I’m also not sure how many fans would agree with the notion that the Huskies usually come out and dominate in the 2nd half - I personally think they’re a team that builds a lead, and then holds on by trying to shorten the game as much as possible after halftime.

Right now, I think the problem is that we’re seeing a defense that just needs to find its footing overall, regardless of quarter.

All for this week, Dawg girls and Dawg boys. Go Huskies!!!!