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Mailbag- “Field Goals on the Farm” Edition

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More talk about the offense plus...UW maybe having to root for Oregon later this year if they spring the upset this week (barf)?

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Did Stanford do the Huskies a favor by calling a timeout with 26 seconds left? It was third down and the Huskies had no timeouts. I have to think that the Huskies would have tried the field goal on third down with the clock ticking. - Gou Wei

I actually think it was a vey smart move by David Shaw to call the timeout there although ultimately it may have bitten him in the ass. Let’s say that Shaw doesn’t call the timeout. In that circumstance Washington with no timeouts left almost certainly spikes the ball with less than 5 seconds left and attempts a 39-yard field goal as time expires. Henry had already made field goals of 32, 35, and 37 yards. Granted a 39-yarder is harder that a 30-yarder but Henry for his career was 18/21 (86%) between 30 and 39 yards. Let’s take that down a bit for the extra distance and say there’s about a 75% chance he makes the kick and Stanford loses on the spot.

By taking the timeout he introduced a few new possibilities. The first is to hope that John Donovan was an idiot (no comment) and choose to run the ball with confidence that the Huskies could pick up 2 yards. If they got held short it becomes 4th down and Washington doesn’t have enough time to get the field goal unit out and Stanford wins in regulation. But more than likely Donovan was smart enough to know that the only sensible option was to throw the ball and specifically throw it past the sticks. Now Stanford also wins in regulation if they manage to get a sack, force a fumble, get an interception, or force a completion of less than 2 yards.

Let’s say instead of throwing a touchdown that UW had instead hit Cade Otton on a 5-yard hitch route and spikes the ball with 3 seconds left. Now you introduced the possibility of making a defensive play but the odds of the Huskies making the field goal are probably only 5-10% higher. It was a bad situation for Stanford no matter what. And obviously giving up a touchdown and a 2-point conversion and having to go 75 yards in 20 seconds with no timeouts just to reach overtime was the worst case scenario. But I think Stanford and Shaw played to their outs at that point as best they could and fortunately UW didn’t mess it up.

It seems like the coaching staff doesn’t trust their QB to throw, for most part, this seems like a problem right? - DawgFan12

It’s tough to say that you’re wrong about that and it does in fact seem like a problem. Running the ball more than throwing it wasn’t exactly a bad strategy against Stanford. The Huskies gained at least 4 yards on almost two-thirds of their rushing attempts and only were held to a loss or no gain on 7% of attempts. Similar to how most opponents feel going against the UW defense, running the ball 3 times seems like it almost always resulted in a 1st down.

That being said it certainly felt like on the occasions where Morris did get an opportunity to throw the ball that they weren’t exactly calling plays that required a high degree of difficulty on the QB’s part. 64% of Morris’ passes were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and Washington unsurprisingly averaged 4.5 yards per attempt on those plays. When you’re getting 2 yards per carry then those quick throws to the perimeter give you a chance to pick up positive yardage on first down but UW was actually doing worse on those plays than they were running the ball on the night.

Morris this season has had 2 games with an average depth of target below 7.0: Oregon State and Stanford. Those 2 games were 2 of the 3 times this season he has finished with a yards per attempt mark below 6.0 (Montana was the other). It seems like there has to be a middle ground between Morris hanging on to the ball too long and constantly getting sacked/throwing the ball into traffic and only giving him easy throws that don’t even give the receivers much of a chance to make plays after the catch without breaking multiple tackles. Unsurprisingly, the coaching staff hasn’t found it yet.

Gary Patterson for Husky OC? Brilliant? Or so not gonna happen that the question is beyond stupid? - High viscosity magma

Patterson is known as being a defensive mastermind and that’s how he made his calling. There were certainly some high powered TCU offense during his tenure, particular the 2010 edition with a senior Andy Dalton that went undefeated. If anyone had any interest in hiring Patterson as a coordinator it would certainly be on the defensive end. But in addition to the mismatch of skillset there’s also the matter of Patterson just seemingly being done with modern football. He has railed in the last year against both NIL and the transfer portal and very much seems to be someone who doesn’t want to adjust his ways for the new modern environment. That’s not exactly what the Huskies need right now unless it’s going to be as an analyst who doesn’t have to worry about recruiting in any capacity.

Why does UW always have a problem with Stanford’s Tight Ends? - GoDawgs!

The simplest answer to this is that Stanford tends to have really good tight ends that give a lot of teams problems. The following former Stanford tight ends are all in the NFL: Zach Ertz, Austin Hooper, Dalton Schultz, Kaden Smith, and Colby Parkinson. All of those players were drafted and 4 of the 5 were in the first 4 rounds. Those guys are good and even if you gameplan for them they’re going to make plays.

Beyond just the baseline answer there are a few reasons. Washington plays its base nickel defense and Stanford likes to put their tight ends in the slot. That means that over the last decade we’ve seen a lot of players in the 5’9 height range having to guard 6’4 to 6’6 tight ends. Budda Baker, Myles Bryant, Elijah Molden, and now Brendan Radley-Hiles were/are all great defensive players. However when you’re giving up around 9 inches in man-to-man coverage you’re going to be susceptible to the occasional jump ball.

When the Huskies don’t play man-to-man they tend to drop their inside linebackers into a soft zone coverage about 10 yards deep. That leaves open room for a tight end to get behind them in the intermediate 15-20 yards deep area in front of the safeties and before the linebackers if your QB is able to float the ball into that zone. And floating the ball in becomes much easier when your target is 6’6 rather than 6’0. Washington’s ILBs haven’t exactly been ridiculous athletes in recent years capable of showing off a 40-inch vertical leap to bat down those passes.

Put it all together and there are reasons UW has struggled within their specific scheme but putting Jackson Sirmon in man coverage in the slot didn’t exactly seem like it would’ve been a winning strategy either.

It appeared to me that there was a lot more use of pulling linemen in the running game. I don’t know enough about it to know if this was in fact true. Was it? If so, this seems like the coaches finally got back to playing to the strengths of the talent on the O line and it worked. It seems to my untrained eye that this is part of the fatal flaw that Donovan and Lake both have. They don’t seem to be able to accurately evaluate their own players talent and repeatedly try to fit round pegs into square schemes. Is that in fact what you think is happening? - Mikesbike

You aren’t the only that noticed that. I also felt watching the game that it seemed like we were getting more guards pulling and specifically Henry Bainivalu. Per Sports Info Solutions we had a backside pulling lineman on 11 runs and averaged 7.6 yards per carry. The rest of the season we had gone with that scheme about 7 times per game and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Cam Davis was 6 for 61 yards against Stanford and had been 3 for 5 yards the rest of the season combined.

Part of that is Stanford has a really bad run defense and so any play was liable to be better against them than it had against nearly every opponent. But this is definitely something that our own Coach B has harped on numerous times. Washington has seemingly prioritized offensive linemen who are quick on their feet and can succeed in space pulling. Yet by far our most common run has been inside zone which has averaged just a tad over 4 yards per carry.

Part of being a great play caller/offensive coordinator is coming up with plays that will scheme up anyone to get open against certain defensive looks. Part of it is also putting in plays that will put your specific players in a position to succeed by playing to their strengths. Is the former an issue? Yes. Is the latter an issue? Also yes. There’s a reason Donovan is on the hottest of seats.

When do we back up the Brinks Truck to bring back Coach Pete? - UWFan88

I’m not sure they make Brinks trucks big enough. There are head coaches who I never believed for a second when they took the studio gig and said they weren’t interested in going back into coaching (see: Urban Meyer). I believe Petersen when he says he’s burnt out from coaching and doesn’t want to get back into it. He has made a lot of money in his career and unless an immediate family member has a terrible gambling problem that necessitates him coming up with several million dollars in short order...I don’t think he’s coming back to the profession in the near future.

And even if he does come back it wouldn’t shock me if Petersen decided he wanted to go find his new Boise State and build it up rather than return to the power conference grind. He doesn’t really need the money at this point and is in tune enough with his mental well-being that he’s not going to sacrifice that aspect of his health for a bigger pay day.

If Pete decided tomorrow that he felt completely recharged and was ready to go back to coaching a major college football program, I still don’t think it would be UW. Can you see Cohen coming to Pete and saying, “Hey, are you willing to come back if we fire Jimmy?” and Pete saying, “Yep, go ahead and axe him so I can step over the body on the way in.” If Jimmy got fired and then replaced with a totally new coach who also got fired then maybe in 5-8 years we could see Petersen return. He’s shown too much loyalty in his career to make me think he’d want anyone to think him returning caused Jimmy to be let go even if the firing and the coaching search/re-hire of Petersen were completely independent processes. But that’s just my opinion.

August 2021: You can only beat one: Oregon or Montana. Which do you choose? - God

It’s always Oregon. People care more about big wins than bad losses especially when that win is over a rival. If UW wins on Saturday then the fanbase gets 300+ days of the satisfaction that they knocked Oregon out of the CFP and have reclaimed some handhold in the s***-talking. Yes, the loss over Montana sucked. But how many Husky fans out there have Montana fans all over their asses lording the win over them?

I realize this question presupposes us making the decision before the season started but you have to start getting into which do you pick, 11-1 with a loss to Oregon or 1-11 with a win over Oregon territory before the answer is willingly picking a loss to Oregon.

Let’s have fun with percentages: -Percent chance UW runs the table? -Percent chance UW fans will be forced to “root” for Oregon to win The Civil War (or whatever they call it now)? - Al Michaels

I will admit that this wasn’t at all on my radar as the remotest possibility before now but the more I worked on it the more intrigued I became.

I don’t love FPI as a ranking metric compared to others that are out there but it’s readily available with a % chance to win for the remaining schedules so we can use it. FPI gives UW a 37% chance against Oregon, 55% versus ASU, 70% versus Colorado, and 70% in the Apple Cup against WSU. If we want to figure out the chances of going undefeated in those games we just need to multiply those percentages together which gives us almost exactly 10%. I might go a little bit lower since I’m less optimistic about this week than 37% but in that 5-10% range seems reasonable.

Now in order to root for Oregon to win the Platypus Bowl that means we would need to be in a situation where we win the division with an Oregon win but lose the division with an Oregon State win. The potential scenarios may make your head spin but try to stick with me here. The Huskies lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Beavers so UW don’t want to finish in a 2-team tie with OSU. However, if Washington was in a 3-way tie that involved either Oregon or WSU as the 3rd team then they could potentially win that tiebreaker. In a scenario where the Huskies beat both Oregon and WSU in order to end up in the 3-way tie then it looks like the vast majority of the time UW ends up coming out on top since we would only have 1 divisional loss versus 2 for everyone else.

Based on all of that we would be “rooting” for Oregon under the following scenarios (all of which assume we have beaten Oregon and will win the Apple Cup):

—Washington is tied with Oregon State and only Oregon State in the standings going into the final week (i.e. UW and OSU are both 6-2 in Pac-12 play, Oregon/WSU no better than 5-3)

—Washington is one game behind only Oregon State and tied with Oregon in the standings (i.e. OSU is 6-2, UW is 5-3, Oregon is 5-3, WSU is 5-3 or worse)

—Washington is one game behind only Oregon State and tied with only Washington State in the standings (i.e. OSU is 6-2, UW is 5-3, WSU is 5-3, Oregon is 4-4)

If we work our way backwards, that last scenario would require Oregon to lose the next 3 games which has a 3% chance per FPI. It requires UW to beat Oregon then lose only 1 of the next 2. It requires Wazzu to lose at home to Arizona after beating Oregon. Put it all together and let’s call it a 0.25% chance.

More likely is scenario #2 where UW wins this week and again loses to only one of ASU or Colorado. Oregon rebounds from the loss to Oregon by beating the Cougars then falls at Utah. And finally Oregon State wins their next 3 games (22.2% chance per FPI). You put all of those individual results together and it still is only about a 0.5% chance.

Finally we have scenario #1 where UW and Oregon State both win out. There’s about a 10% chance of UW winning the next 3 and FPI gives OSU a 22% chance of winning their next 3 so put all 6 of those results together with no cares for the rest of Oregon/WSU’s schedule and we’ll say 2%.

We add all of those together and have come up with about a 2.75% chance that we enter Thanksgiving week needing an Oregon win and a Husky win in order to secure a division title. So you’re saying there’s a chance...