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Coach’s Corner: One Step Forward...

...Two Steps Back

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday Husky fans!

There. That was all the optimism I can muster for this week’s Coach’s Corner. Out of fear of killing everyone’s attempt at a good start to the week, I’ll be keeping this brief.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Not to beat around the bush, I think we’re all ready to see some significant change with this program. The magnitude of that change, and how that change manifests itself, is up for debate, but now is the time. There is no reasonable excuse for us to have headed into halftime down 0-13 against an Arizona team that hadn’t won a game since the last presidency and lost to Northern Arizona, a team whose existence I only discovered when I saw that they beat Arizona.

Our team came out flat, without a good game plan, and seemingly unprepared for what they were facing. How in the world did we let Arizona sack Morris 4 times (3 times in the first 3 possessions and twice in a row on one possession)? It looked almost as if we completely forgot that their DC was Don Brown, one of the most notoriously blitz-heavy play callers in the game. It would be one thing if we were simply man-handled in pass protection 1v1s, but we were consistently left without good answers against the blitz, and we left pass rushers unblocked right up the middle. This is something that you’d think could be schematically solved mid-season.

That isn’t to absolve Morris of his own short comings. He had a hand in many of the pressures he faced through his skittish-ness in the pocket and also his indecisiveness with the ball. What we are seeing before us is a real-time development of a QB who see’s “Ghosts in the Pocket”. I think that Morris is still salvageable, but the staff is doing him a huge disservice by leaving him out there with such a dysfunctional system.

On that note, we finally saw some of Sam Huard. Granted, we only saw him attempt 1 pass for 0 yards on 1 possession in relief of a bloodied Morris, despite rumors all week that Lake wanted to get Huard live snaps to get his feet wet. It’s obvious that the staff doesn’t trust Huard to sling the ball around the field just yet, but I don’t trust the staff to actually put him in a position to succeed. Given the seeming regression from Morris, I don’t want to see Huard’s talents wasted by throwing him into a situation where he’s destined to fail. That puts me in a weird position as a fan. I want to see Huard get a shot at truly succeeding, and if Lake is going to burn one of Huard’s redshirt games, then I want him to get a real shot at live reps. However, I think that the staff is making a hash of this and not sticking to any coherent plan.

Huard using one of his 4 redshirt games for all of 1 pass and a bunch of hand offs that O’Brien or even Sirmon could’ve handled wasn’t the only decision that I questioned. Our play calling has again regressed to an overly repetitive and predictable series of inside zone runs and fade balls on the perimeter. A lot of the varied play calling that I thought was an improvement in the UCLA game couldn’t be found against Arizona. Our substitutions were also an oddity that I disagreed with. Being down 5 key players due to injury (Kirkland, Williams, Newton, Eddie, and Taki), I’m not surprised that the staff went with a deeper rotation to fill-in those spots. What I was surprised with was how we went about that rotation. In particular, I’m confused as to why we subbed in Matteo Mele in at RT in place of a healthy and fairly consistent Victor Curne (who actually graded out as our best offensive player according to PFF) when Fautanu was having a few fits at LT. Mele had been groomed for LT prior to his short stint at center last season, and considering that Curne was pretty steady at RT, I would’ve much rather seen him rotate in at LT to keep as many pieces on the OL as consistent as possible.

Overall, I think there’s a lot to consider when deciding if we’re being lead down the right path while heading down the stretch. Stealing a line from The Athletic’s Andy Staples, what must be done eventually, must be done immediately.

The Kids are Alright

Arkansas State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Just so you don’t think I’m a complete Johnny Raincloud, I do want to give a shout out to a number of the younger players who stepped up this past weekend. Guys like Carson Bruener, Daniel Heimuli, Asa Turner, and Dom Hampton all stepped up, and some with short notice. Bruener and Heimuli again looked solid with extended playing time (Heimuli was our top rated defensive player according to PFF), and both Turner and Hampton played admirably in the absence of both of our starting safeties. With both Williams and Cook out for the foreseeable future, Turner’s gradual improvement is a welcomed sight. I appreciate that he’s a willing tackler near the LOS, and I think that having the combo of him and Hampton or Irvin could be a very physical tandem that should be a boon to our run defense.

Other Ramblings

  • As if this article wasn’t enough of an indicator of what I thought of the state of UW football, at work, I’ve started a weekly satirical power ranking of collegiate and HS football programs in the state of WA that my co-workers have some affiliation with. The power ranking originated as a means of light-heartedly making fun of the state of our program around the office after the loss to OSU. Since then, I’ve had to repeatedly add teams to the rankings to keep UW out of last place (I have a policy of new teams starting at the bottom). However, we’ve gotten to the point where I might need to change that policy. I don’t want to have to add another 5 teams to the rankings...

WA State Power Rankings (Week of 10/25):

NCAA Football: Montana at Eastern Washington James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

1. Eastern Washington Eagles (7-1, 4-1)

T-2. Lincoln (Seattle) Lynx (7-0, 5-0 to complete an undefeated regular season)

T-2. Royal (Royal City) Knights (8-0, 2-0)

4. WSU Cougars (4-4, 3-2)

5. Central Washington Wildcats (5-2, 3-0)

6. Whitworth Pirates (6-1, 3-1)

7. UW Huskies (3-4, 2-2)

8. Pacific Lutheran Lutes (2-4, 1-3)

9. Puget Sound Loggers (0-7, 0-4)

  • Speaking of the HS programs, I want to give a shout out to the Lincoln (Seattle) Lynx for completing an undefeated regular season this past week in just their 2nd season of varsity football. Some locals and old-timers may remember Lincoln HS, located just off of 45th Ave in Wallingford, which was the neighborhood HS until the 80s when the school was closed. It’s since reopened, and the class of 2022 will be its first graduating class in over 40 years. I’ve given shout outs to the Lynx a few times in the past, and I’ve had the pleasure of following the team since their first varsity season this past spring as a member of the team’s support staff. Despite initially being out of of contention for Metro League Playoffs due to their pre-season competitive standing in the league, their undefeated season has convinced the league to give them a shot at a play-in game against Roosevelt HS this Tuesday, 10/26. In a pretty bleak Husky football season, the Lynx have been a feel-good football story for me, and I want to send some positive vibes their way ahead of their playoff run.

For those interested, Lincoln’s game can be livestreamed at the link here.