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Mailbag: “Overtime of My Life” Edition

Unlike the Husky offense I decided not to mail it in during the 2nd half (but maybe with similar results anyway)

NCAA Football: California at Washington Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Why is Morris throwing away so many balls when there are open receivers and/or little pressure? - Mountain Man

When I was starting my re-watch of the game after being there in person on Saturday night this was my #1 priority from the get-go. I took notes on all 7 of the throwaways to try to get a sense for what should take the biggest part of the blame. First though let’s do our due diligence and see whether this was as big of a change as it seemed at the time. Pro Football Focus had Morris credited with 7 total throwaways in the previous 3 games this season. It also had him down for just 2 in the 4 games last year. Against Cal on Saturday? 7 of them. Pretty clearly a dramatic uptick from just over 1 per game for your career to 7.

Some other interesting notes on the specifics before we get into the individual plays. 6 of the 7 throwaways happened in the 2nd half and 5 of them happened across 2 drives. Also 5 of them occurred on 2nd down and 3 of those were on 2nd and either 5 or 6. Morris was much more prone to throw the ball away when the Huskies still had a decent shot to eventually get a 1st down on the drive despite the incompletion.

Throwaway #1 (2nd and 5 at Cal 31 yard line 11:09 1st quarter 0-0): Washington lined up in 11 personnel with Culp at TE but out in the slot rather than in tight. Cal blitzed and the running back didn’t stay in to pass protect so it was 5v5 with the offensive line. It looked like both Culp and McMillan were open or about to become open when Morris got rid of it and he wasn’t under imminent pressure. Morris gets the blame here.

Throwaway #2 (2nd and 6 at Cal 34 yard line 11:16 3rd quarter 21-10): This time Cal decided to drop 8 in coverage so there were only 3 rushers against 5 blockers. The extra defenders helped as Cal had the receivers pretty well blanketed. It looked like McMillan might’ve been able to get a few yards on a curl route along the sideline but there weren’t any obviously open receivers. This is pretty much neutral as Morris could’ve tried to extend the play but there also wasn’t much there.

Throwaway #3 (2nd and 10 at Cal 20 yard line 9:44 3rd quarter 21-10): Washington had Culp as the lone tight end in tight with the OL. At the snap McGrew ran a wheel route along the left sideline and was pretty clearly Morris’ 1st option. He never looked anywhere else and launched it over Sean’s head when he was covered well by the defense. There weren’t many obvious misses but Morris wasn’t under pressure and Bynum had settled down for what would’ve been probably a 4-6 yard gain. Blame is on Morris for the decision.

Throwaway #4 (2nd and Goal at Cal 19 yard line 8:21 3rd quarter 21-10): This time it’s Mark Redman in as the TE in 11 personnel and Washington has a trips formation to the right with Redman plus 2 of the receivers. Cal rushes 4 and Kamari Pleasant is open and ready as a checkdown if Morris doesn’t like what he sees downfield. There’s a little bit of pressure but Morris had time to check it down but instead rolls and throws it out of bounds. Again I’m putting this one on Morris.

Throwaway #5 (1st and 10 at UW 41 yard line 4:36 3rd quarter 24-10): Culp is back in the game as the lone tight end in tight to the left of the OL. Cal goes with a standard 4-man rush against 5 blockers however right tackle Victor Curne is beaten almost immediately. McMillan was open on a little 5-yard hitch route in the middle of the field but Morris didn’t see it quick enough and threw it away as he was being tackled. There’s a chance another QB would’ve gotten a completion on this play but I think the fault here lies mostly with Curne’s pass blocking.

Throwaway #6 (2nd and 6 at UW 11 yard line 6:47 4th quarter 24-17): For the first time in this sequence UW is in 12 personnel with both Culp and Redman in tight. Both run routes though and it’s a 4-man rush against 5 blockers. Morris gives a pump fake and out of the corner of his eye sees that LG Buelow is losing his block. Culp is wide freaking open for a 12+ yard gain to Morris’ left and Buelow is pushing his man right. If Morris slides left and sees Culp it’s a catch and run opportunity and a clear first down. Instead Morris starts to bail right and Cal has 4 defenders for 3 receivers on that side of the field forcing him to throw it away. I think 80% of college QBs aren’t able to find Culp on this play given the pressure so I’m calling it neutral with a slight lean toward blaming Buelow.

Throwaway #7 (3rd and 6 at UW 11 yard line 6:42 4th quarter 24-17): On the very next play Washington has gone back to 11 personnel with Culp in tight to the right of the OL. Cal blitzes an extra rusher and Kamari Pleasant stays in to pass protect. LT Jaxson Kirkland got beaten off the left edge immediately but gets just enough of him to keep Morris from getting sacked. However the defender still gets a fistful of Morris’ jersey causing Dylan to flee the pocket. At that point there’s no one open so he throws it away as he rolls to his left with rushers in pursuit. The O-line and particularly Kirkland get the clear blame.

Add it all up and I think 3 of the decisions can be considered Morris’ fault, 2 of them were clearly on the offensive line, and the other 2 were part-Morris and either partly the blocking or receivers not winning matchups.

It’s really impossible to say on those 3 that were mostly on Morris what the reasoning was. I’m sure at least part of it was Jimmy Lake telling Morris that they really needed him to cutback on the interceptions the rest of the year. Part of it is likely that he doesn’t have a ton of confidence in his offensive line at the moment and wants to get rid of it quickly. And part of it may be just deficiencies in getting through his progressions. Regardless, you can be sure that Jimmy Lake and John Donovan are going to tell Morris that there needs to be a middle ground between throwing 5 picks in 3 games and throwing away 6 balls in one half. Between aggression and caution.

Please explain the 3rd & 2 play call to go deep after finally remembering this team can run the ball…Sometimes… - Beachdawg

As with any play there’s the difficulty of assessing the actual play call with the decision that the QB opts to make. There were 4 receivers running routes on this play and Kamari Pleasant was leaking out after seeing that a blitz wasn’t coming to make it 5. Morris threw to McMillan pretty clearly as his 1st option. Given how the connection between Jalen and Dylan looked against Arkansas State I understand why Morris had confidence in a 1v1 outside matchup. It also both wasn’t a high percentage look or the only place to go with the ball.

Apologies for the lack of pixels in the image but here’s the full field at the moment that Morris lets go of the ball (there’s also a single high safety near the center of the field who wasn’t close enough to McMillan to challenge that potential completion):

It’s harder to tell in a freeze frame but Taj Davis is running from the bottom of the frame towards the top and #21 for Cal on the 40-yard line is responsible for guarding him. Terrell Bynum is running a pick and has shoved his defender into the path of the defender while Culp is running another crosser towards the screen to occupy his guy and make it even harder for #21 to get over in time. It certainly looks like if Morris gives a pump fake then quickly checks down to Davis that he not only has the 1st down but a chance to run for 10+ extra yards after.

To be fair on Morris, the defender on Culp is looking at the QB. If Morris doesn’t let that ball go there’s a chance Culp’s guy peels off and makes a play on Davis. But his momentum is carrying him the wrong direction and I can’t see him reacting that quickly. The pocket is also clean as Buelow pancakes his guy and Wattenberg soundly wins his block. Bainivalu’s rusher gets carried inside so there’s a wide open throwing lane exactly to where Davis is running.

We’ll never know if McMillan’s route was the true option 1A on that play or if something pre-snap told Morris to make that his first look but I don’t blame Donovan on this one. Lake clearly covered for Morris in his press conference when he put the blame on himself on this play because Davis would’ve had a clear 1st down if Morris had gone there instead.

Back in the day when there were complaints about UW offensive coordinators the Dawgpound comment always was “This is Chris Petersen’s offense.” So is this Jimmy Lake’s offense? What’s the difference? - Gu1966

The primary difference is that Petersen was an offensive coordinator before he became a head coach. He spent 4 years as Boise’s OC before taking over and beginning his magical run with the Broncos. The offense run while he was a head coach at both stops and when he was an offensive coordinator looked pretty similar regardless of who the OC was on the org chart.

Jimmy Lake was a defensive coordinator and so the assumption is similar for him on the other side of the ball where Bob Gregory is largely calling the defense that Lake already was running. Now Lake still gets part of the blame. If he hated everything about what Donovan wanted to do then he wouldn’t have hired him in the first place. And if he hated everything about what Donovan was currently doing (process not results) then he would’ve made it clear that Donovan’s job is on the line if he doesn’t change things (and it’s possible that conversation has happened behind closed doors).

It’s a small distinction between this being Jimmy Lake’s offense and this being an offense that Jimmy Lake rubber stamped but it still exists. Whereas under Jonathan Smith and Bush Hamdan the assumption was largely that they called the plays but the general structure of the offense was either what Petersen had created himself or had brought with him from other places.

Max, what do the analytics say about Morris’ four games from last year versus his four games this year? - RockDawg

Let’s take a look at a few sources to find out. First of all we have the stats that are more advanced than just TDs and INTs but aren’t really all that advanced. Morris is averaging 7.3 yards per attempt this season in 4 games compared to 8.2 YPA last year. It’s worth noting that Morris has been dropping back to pass more than 12 extra times per game this year than last partly due to game script and partly due to the ineffectiveness of the run game. That means Morris’ counting stats are higher across the board even if his efficiency isn’t.

Pro Football Focus loved Morris last season even with fairly underwhelming raw stats (225 passing yards and 1 TD per game). He finished with offensive grades of 74.2, 75.6, 65.4, and 86.5 in 2020’s 4 games in that order. This season it was 54.3 and 52.6 in the 2 losses and 78.7 and 73.3 in the last 2 wins. In the games against Montana and Michigan PFF agreed with our eyes. Morris was much worse in those 2 games than he was in any single outing from the previous season.

Given that Morris was sacked 7 times in the first 2 games and 1 time in all 4 games of 2020 it’s tempting to say it’s all because Morris has been constantly under siege. Stunningly though Morris actually was pressured on 33% of dropbacks last year compared to only 30% this season. The difference is last year only 2.6% of pressures turned into a sack and this year it has ben 17.6%. Those data don’t tell us if that’s because the OL have just been beaten much more soundly this season or if Morris just has struggled to find his outlets this year.

Drops can be blamed both seasons just about equally as 10.1% of passes this year haven’t been hauled in by receivers compared to 12% in 2020. Because of that Morris’ adjusted completion percentage (completions+drops/non-throwaway pass attempts) is almost equal at 72.8% compared to 73.5%.

That win took grit. I think we’re going in the right direction. Question: what is up with the seemingly paired rotation at inside linebacker? Seems like Danny the hammer and Tafisi go in for a couple plays. Then Eddie and Sirmon replace them for a couple. That is most likely over simplified; however, I’m certain it’s happening with some degree of regularity. - Otis

No comment on the first 2 sentences. This isn’t anything new for how UW generally rotates their inside linebackers. I looked back at 2019’s first 4 games when Brandon Wellington and Kyler Manu were the 2 starters. Washington played both starters together on 69% of defensive snaps, 0 starters on 23% of snaps, and mix and matched with just 1 starter on only 8% of snaps. I’m not doing the snap-by-snap defensive charting this season so I can’t look at exactly what the patterns were. But the snap counts for the ILBs from Saturday were: Ulofoshio- 60, Sirmon- 48, Tafisi- 29, Heimuli- 20.

Since there were 80 total defensive snaps it certainly seems like Ulofoshio and Heimuli never played together and there were about 9 snaps where they went with the Ulofoshio/Tafisi combo and other than that stuck to their pairings. Which would have left 3 snaps where presumably in a dime defense look they took a 2nd ILB off the field.

Why did they change the OT rules? This was the first time I heard of the 3rd OT rules with only 2 point plays. That’s pretty stupid. Play your hearts out for 3.5 hours only to settle it in a 2 point dual? What’s next a punt - pass - kick competition? - TOMDAWG

EDIT: I got this wrong in my initial response. The OT games I have watched this season only brought up the change of moving forward that teams have to go for 2 after a TD starting with the 2nd overtime (previously the 3rd OT). I somehow also totally missed that starting with the 3rd OT that teams just trade off on tries from the 2-yard line instead of the 25.

I would be totally fine if they just said starting from the get-go you have to go for 2 if you score a TD and it doesn’t have to be a battle of 2-pointers. Nominally the reason for doing something like this is to both speed up the game for TV windows as well as keep players from playing 20+ extra plays. I guess they’re counting on teams really only having 3-4 really good 2-point plays but I don’t love it either.

Thank you Dodger of the Sun for the correction.

Besides Culp, what is the Tight End depth after Otton and Westover? Did Quentin Moore play against Cal? - Mossyrock Fan

On the official depth chart it lists Otton as a starter with Mark Redman or Quentin Moore as the backup and Westover or Devin Culp as co-starters as the 2nd tight end. However Quentin Moore still has yet to appear on the field this season. He was injured for portions of fall camp and it’s unclear if his absence now is because he just missed too much time to have confidence putting him out there right now or he’s still banged up a little.

Despite the designations on the depth chart I think most fans would consider Westover as the blocking tight end among those 5 with Otton as an all-around with Redman as his backup and Culp as the receiving tight end with Moore as his backup. That’s on the basis of skill set and body type. However, when Washington was down Otton, Westover, and Culp at one point on Saturday we still didn’t see Moore and the Huskies went almost exclusively with Mark Redman in 3 WR sets.

We did also see the first 3 snaps of the season from Javon Forward this season lining up as a FB when Washington was in the I formation. Forward played running back in high school before walking on at Washington and appears to be the backup to Westover when the Huskies are in 22 personnel.

Has JD heard the term “2nd half adjustment”? - LiveInHoth

Imagine going back in time 4 weeks and telling yourself that you’re more worried about the Huskies scoring points in the 2nd half than the 1st half. In the final 2 games of last season the Huskies were completely inept in the 1st half before bursting out and scoring 24 and 23 points in the 2nd halves. This year they’ve scored 0 and 3 points against Montana and Cal respectively which cost them 1 game and nearly cost them a second.

I don’t think the problem is a 2nd half adjustment or lack thereof. The problem is being unable to get the offense to perform for 4 straight quarters. In the majority of games in the Lake/Donovan era the offense has had at least one half where they appear completely incapable of getting out of their own way. Sometimes it has been the 1st half and sometimes it has been the 2nd half.

And as much as I love me a JonDon pile-on sometimes the offense stalls regardless of what the offensive coordinator does. Washington had 6 possessions in the 2nd half.

#1- Huskies were about to have 3rd and goal from the 3 yard line but a holding penalty instead left them with 2nd and goal from the 19 and they settled for a field goal.

#2- Washington gained 16 yards on the first play of the drive. Then Morris had one of his throwaways that was seemingly all on him. On a manageable 3rd and 6 Washington had 6 blockers for 6 rushers on a Cal blitz but Sean McGrew completely whiffed on his block and it was a sack/fumble that Morris managed to hop back on top of.

#3- Washington picked up a first down and were on the edge of field goal range when Kamari Pleasant fumbled on 1st and 10 recovered by Cal.

#4- After a 25 yard gain on the first play of the drive Sean McGrew had a solid gain to make it 2nd and 5. Then Morris’ check down pass for McGrew was batted down at the line by Cal to force an incompletion (although McGrew probably wouldn’t have gained much if anything had he caught it). On 3rd down Morris had multiple players open and chose to go for the more difficult throw to Bynum downfield and it was a little too high and he could only get 1 hand on it for an incompletion. Henry then missed the field goal.

#5- After a McGrew run brought up 2nd and 6 this is where Morris threw his consecutive incompletions backed up near our end zone for a 3 and out. Both times a UW offensive lineman blew a block in a 1v1 scenario without any trickery or stunting from the Cal D-line.

#6- Finally the last possession in regulation is the infamous 3rd and 2 deep shot where Taj Davis was open for a 1st down.

I’m sure there were plays Donovan could have run that would have set the players up for better success and would’ve constituted a 2nd half adjustment. At the same time 2 of the 6 drives were derailed by a holding penalty and a fumble. 2 of them when faced with a 3rd and manageable saw Morris choose the lower percentage option with a 1st down seemingly quite available to him if he checks it down to a wide open receiver. And on the other 2 in a 3rd and medium there was a player in position to make a 1v1 block and they couldn’t get it done.

This isn’t meant to excuse the decision making from the offensive coaching staff but the best way to make it seem like you’re making adjustments is to prepare players for every scenario so they can succeed in pressure-filled situations. In my mind that was the biggest indictment of the offensive coaching staff this past Saturday night as many of the offensive players led by Morris seemingly got away from the fundamentals as the game got tighter and tighter.