Every year, upon restarting this, I’m so out of it that invariably I have to go back to old Stuffs and Shenaniganses with the question “Wait... what was my heading called again?”
A 100% Accurate and 86% Sober Rundown of Absolutely Everything
First thing’s first: Congratulations AJ Carty on being the quickest winner of The Jake Eldrenkamp Award in the history of The Jake Elrenkamp Award. AKA, as I said in our writers’ group chat after the game: “someone calm jaden green down jesus christ if our long snapper is gonna be effing up punts we r fukked.”
I can say that last word on here — a family website — because if you spell it with two k’s it’s not technically a swear word. Or, something.
Shall we talk about the defense first?
Namely, that there’s not a whole lot to talk about since they looked so similar to last year: a lot of good components that were just being undermined by a couple not-so-good things.
Trent McDuffie is a god, Elijah Molden is primo, Eddie Ulofoshio was the 3rd best linebacker in the Pac-12 per PFF, Sam Taimani was one of PFF’s 10 best interior linemen in the conference, Zion Tupuola-Fetui stepped up big time after being thrust... thrusted? Thrast? Whatever. After being made to start in Latu’s place.
Also just like last year: I love Josiah Bronson’s story and, presumably, leadership... but on the field he’s just not at a level you need from someone in his position on a defense of this caliber.
And in the inside linebackers, while Eddie U has decreased last year’s issue (“they are terrible”) by 50% with this one trick (“being not terrible”), that still leaves 50% of the starting linebackers being the weak link of this defense. That is, as of last week, Jackson Sirmon is just one step too slow in diagnosing and reacting to plays. He’s still an upgrade over Wellington and Manu last season — but that’s not exactly the standard for Washington’s defense. It looks to me like he doesn’t quickly process what’s going on other than that which is right in front of him. Full credit to Jermar Jefferson for being the human version of the bleep button — but Sirmon did little to help during that OSU sequence where Jefferson single-handedly made the Dawgs’ defense look like Belgium circa 1914, nor during the sequence where Jefferson single-handedly made the Dawgs’ defense look like Belgium circa 1940.
I haven’t given up on him yet — it is, after all, just the first game of his redshirt sophomore year, during a pandemic that means he has three seasons of eligibility left to improve — but it feels like it’s an uphill battle for Sirmon to reach a point where he’s not a relative liability. I feel this especially given that quickness, instincts, and awareness aren’t necessarily the easiest thing to coach up.
So until then, my brain keeps wandering — what would things look like with a naturally quicker human in his place like Heimuli? Or even with players closer to his profile that might just have one step on him, like Tuputala or Tafisi the thumper? Per our manager gamecharter extraordinaire Max, Tuputala played more as the game went on — is that a sign of things to come?
But to end the defense on a high note: Seriously. Very excited by how well ZTF stepped up. In the words of Strong Bad: “Holy crap. That guy...”
And now, to the offense.
First off, I don’t hate the fact that UW’s gameplan pretty much was just “horny for running.” If you told me before the game that the Dawgs would run it an amount that scientists refer to as “a crapton,” considering Oregon State’s defensive weaknesses, my response would be two thumbs up and a request for another beer. (The beer part is unrelated to the gameplan.) Throw in that it was a first time quarterback and a classic PNW rainy night, and that makes sense. I also felt like the sequences themselves were more unified than Bush Hamdan’s offense, where it at times felt like he just rolled a dice with a play on it instead of using sequences to build upon each other and be situationally sound.
But let’s back up to what we knew about Oregon State’s defense:
- They were butt against the run versus WSU.
- They were butt tackling in space against WSU. (Not to be confused with butt-tackling.)
- They were butt tackling running backs. In space. Against WSU.
So on one hand, you have UW taking note of Rule #1 and running it a crapton. On the other very large important neon sign of a hand, why would you be so in tune with one half of their weakness while simultaneously ignoring the other half? Because while the Dawgs ran it a crapton, they went out of their way to not actually do what makes OSU so bad against the run; the Beavs were terrible against WSU when they had to spread their defense out pre-snap in response to the offense’s formation, making it easy for the running back to get to the second level with lots of space around him, where OSU’s linebackers then had mega-difficulty tackling well enough to finish the job. The basis for WSU’s ground success against Oregon State was the naturally-forming running lanes and space that result from running out of wide passing formations. Sean McGrew and Cam Davis would’ve thrived. (Speaking of: less Pleasant, more McGrew please.)
So naturally of course you want to line up in 22 and 21 personnel and/or with your receivers tight to the offensive line so that the Beavs have everybody and their mother in the box with just about zero atoms’ worth of space for running backs to torch their blatant weakness. Broadcast much?
That makes sense.
Narrator: It did not make sense.
And this is coming from someone who really is down with fullbacks and tight ends and using your thicc boys to crush opponents and also passing out of 12 personnel and other Bonafide Thicc Dude formations — but why on our sweet lord’s Earth would you be gifted a free, gaping weakness by an opponent and go “Nah I’m good.”
Related: You can’t play the field position game when your special teams is so, um, special. Nor when your defense is getting gashed by Jermar Jefferson.
A couple other less-than-positive, half-finished thoughts include me hoping that the sloppy mistakes, dropped passes, etc. were just the result of not having played in almost a whole calendar year, and also that some of the red zone playcalling didn’t make sense just on, like, a mathematical level. For example, if you’re at the seven on 2nd down, just probability-wise you’re giving yourself way better opportunities if you throw twice from the seven yard line than run once, gain three yards, and then have one passing attempt from the four that’s arguably even more difficult than from seven... I’m not an advanced stats analytics nerd, but that’s just basic intuition about giving your players and quarterback the most opportunities for success.
But let’s end on some good notes:
Trent McDuffie showed a punt return like Dawg fans haven’t seen since Pettis, the receivers reminded us you’re actually allowed to break tackles and get yards after the catch, and the offensive line didn’t suck, save for a couple sloppy penalties.
Ane then there’s Dylan “Literally Jacob” Morris, who I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned yet. He looked genuinely good; for example, high enough velocity that gave his mid-range throws a shallow parabolic trajectory — something that became an issue with Jake Browning as his career went on after his shoulder injury, and the importance of which I talked about two years ago here. Yet despite being able to put some zip on the ball, he also had better anticipation than what you often see with players that have the natural insane arm talent of someone like Jacob Eason, since those freak talents grow up being able to just firebomb passes into tight windows and don’t have to learn how to do more until it’s much harder to do so.
It was also wildly entertaining seeing a redshirt freshman hard count like that, although the impressiveness of that acting job was offset by the fact that DMo’s play-action acting needs to improve.
But the thing that delighted me the most, I’ll illustrate through this short screenplay:
Dylan “Literally Jacob” Morris takes the snap.
Me: I like football. I wonder what is about to happen.
Dylan “Literally NOT Figuratively Jacob” Morris drops back to pass.
Me: This is sports. Sports is fun. This is fun.
“Just Straight Up Jacob” Morris senses pressure. He shuffles sideways and backwards, away from where he’s looking to throw.
Me: I hate this. It is no longer fun.
Jacob Morris continues running-ish in the wrong direction.
Me: WHY DO WASHINGTON QUARTERBACKS DO THIS SPORTS ARE STUPID.
All appears destined for failure that will leave you texting expletives and lords’ names in vainses to your group chat. But then something magical happens. Morris stops. He shifts back into the right direction, steps up into the pocket, and throws a very pretty pass to Terrell Bynum, who gets many yards after the catch.
Me: I once more like football. It will never hurt me, and only good things will happen in my life ever again. Let’s test that out and text my lecture crush from seven years ago.
Fade to black.
Seriously, I don’t know if the last five years of Washington’s quarterback room was cursed or whatever, but I for one was getting tired of getting heartbeat malfunctions watching Browning and Eason run backwards and diagonal. Seeing Dylan “Really a Jacob” Morris process the rush and his reads while staying impressively calm in his first college game was... dare I say incredible? Or is it just that our standards in this realm have been shredded to bits the last five years? Either way, I like.
But most importantly, can someone here confirm or deny that DLJMo’s mom got his first touchdown ball?
So we all agree DMo has to give that TD ball to his mom right? https://t.co/M3UQspEbQX— Gabey Lucas (@Gabeynotgabby) November 15, 2020
Lines of the Week
My and I assume your feelings when Dylan “Real Life Jacob” Morris looks like he’s gonna do the classic UW QB Backwards Run move but then takes a deep breath and makes The Right Decision (which is to not do that):
Me at Jimmy Lake when it turns out Bob Gregory’s still handicapping the team by being incapable of fielding a non-sucky kick coverage team:
UW’s defense against Jermar Jefferson:
All of us when the Dawgs almost blew it but then didn’t at the last minute:
Til next week and as always: do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.