Saturday was a day that needs no intro. So here’s our lack of intro:
A 1% Sober and 100% Accurate Breakdown on Absolutely Everything
This game was “your drunk uncle” drunk. Just... so, so drunk. Does that make it entertaining for neutral observers? Sure, I assume so. Did it cut off five years from my life? Also yes.
To the takes!
First off, the biggest props in all the land to the offensive line, who is as much responsible for this whole season as anybody not named Michael Penix — and arguably they are just as responsible as he is given that his every year at Indiana ended with one or more limbs being broken. Penix happens to have his first complete season and that season happens to be his most electric yet? What a coincidence!
And as far as I’m concerned, this was their best game all year. For one, Wazzu’s defense was clearly one of the best they’d seen this season and they still kept Mikey P more-or-less safe.
Mostly, though, it felt like the best game all season for offensive linemen’s favorite job: Roundhouse kicking dudes in the face. (This is how I think of the OL’s job as run blockers, because it feels like an apt vibes-based comparison but also because the mental image of Corey Luciano roundhouse kicking a Coug in the dome is objectively very funny.)
Anyways, even taking away Tauladaddy’s 40 yard game-icer, he averaged more than seven yards per carry. Meanwhile Cam Davis averaged 5.8 when you remove his longest run of 26. And just discounting stats, you could just see the line get better push and create clearer running lanes than they had all season. Personally I’ll put that down as their most complete performance yet.
Which brings us to...
Scott Huff: Come on down.
Huff might be the poster boy for “A good coach constrained by variables outside his control can falsely look bad.”
And when those constraints come off? Well this sure is fun, isn’t it?
Now, I can’t take credit for predicting this level of turnaround. But it had been in the back of my mind all offseason that maybe, just maybe, all of the inputs Huff himself could control in the past five-ish years actually were a net positive. Considering the offenses’ struggles in multiple facets under Pete — and disaster level under Jimmy — it wasn’t unreasonable to consider that the input variables Huff contributed produced, all else held constant, better results than a replacement coach would have done.
In other words: Sure, Huff’s lines were less than the sum of their parts under Pete, and they were a flaming tire fire the size of Alsace under Lake, but was it possible they would’ve been a tire fire the size of Canada without him?
And now here we are about a year after I and probably many of you posed that question to ourselves, with a definitive answer: Oh yes.
So way to go Scott. I for one am delighted that the voice in the back of my head going “But he’s such a good recruiter, can’t we keep him for one year just to make sure he sucks?” was onto something.
Build me up, buttercup
What does that bangin’ tune have in common with Washington’s offense and defensive line (with emphasis on the edge players)? Foundations, of course! *Pause for laughter*
No but seriously, if you look at the foundations of this team now and moving forward, it’s easy to get jazzed about how strong a base that is. If you can’t win the trenches then the rest of your units have to operate at such a significant level so as to make up for that deficit. Do that for one game, or even most of them? Sure you can pull out the win. But when was the last time we saw a team be able to do that every game for a whole season? (Not very often. Or, uh, ever?)
So then moving forward, think of this from the point of view of any opposition:
You’re playing a team where you’re constantly getting thumped back on your defensive line, and while your offensive line can get some push in the interior, almost all dropbacks have your quarterback under significant duress, forcing him to think extremely quickly and then execute off-balance, and do so with compounding stress effects over the course of the game. Oh, and you probably are gonna have to score 40+ points in these conditions to win.
That is a really, really hard thing to do.
And that’s why I don’t expect a Lake-ian secondary (although if Washington ever did build that position back up to that point, holy cheezus). They don’t need one — just an average secondary.
But in my opinion it’s not even improving the pass coverage that’s the key here. I mean sure, that would extremely rule, and as I’ve made clear I hope the coaching staff invests in some improvements in the offseason. But while I’d love the secondary to improve just a wee bit, that wouldn’t even reeeeeaally be necessary — if the whole team improved tackling across the board.
Halftime thought: For as much fun as this team has been this season, the tackling is collectively as bad as it was under Gilby, which is saying something.— De UW Dawg Pound (@UWonSBN) November 27, 2022
Fixing that ~needs~ to be a priority for DeBoer this offseason, otherwise it will limit their ceiling year-by-year til then
Also once more adding: Former rugby player here saying they should return to the rugby(-ish, let's be real) tackling practice Pete did.— De UW Dawg Pound (@UWonSBN) November 27, 2022
Even better bring in @AtavusRugby & Serevi to drive it home
Seriously: If you took this team and made their tackling sound, the Apple Cup isn’t close, Oregon doesn’t come down to the last drive, and they presumably beat at least one of UCLA and *wretching noises* ASU (although as we’ve discussed I was professionally engaged for half of the UCLA game and was distracted by the Mariners’ Comeback For The Ages during ASU, so unlike the previous two statements I can’t say that with certainty).
When you consider how crucial tackling is, it’s kind of nuts that this team whipped as much ass as they did while being so below average at the most fundamental skill in the game.
So take these foundations and improve the players’ ability to tackle and baby, you got a stew goin’.
Like a real, CFP-level, Carl Weathers-endorsed stew. The kinda stew where you come in from the snow and can’t feel your fingies and then you eat the stew and damn that’s a great stew right there, you are dang warmed up because of that stew, you’re just demolishing that stew so much you kind of forgot what the metaphor was and why you’re rambling on about stew in the first place.
Fingers crossed? Fingers crossed.
Lines of the Week
Kay, before getting to the dumbest part of every S&S, I do have one little note. That’s that for the last seven seasons (holy shit time flies amirite) I’ve written this extremely dumb column-y thing for at times no money and at other times almost no money. Now as a writer of lots of crap I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is pretty much just how things work across the board now for anything involving bylines, which sucks, but whatever.
As a result, most of my money comes from copy- and other writing for other businesses. It’s not particularly inspiring, but I don’t suck at it, which as it turns out is more than can be said for most business owners.
But I digress. The end result of the last seven years is that every fall I lose money writing this because every fall I put an amount of time into UWDP that significantly takes away from the time I can put into work that, ya know, actually pays. I’d like to continue S&S in the future and hopefully will be able to, but as you may have noticed I already did have to quit the defensive previews this season after six years because I couldn’t financially justify it.
So because I A) would prefer to be able to pay rent but also B) would prefer to not have to sacrifice S&S and my work at UWDP to do so, I set up a ko-fi to which you can donate in case anyone would like to throw like, $3 my way. You should by no means feel obligated to do so, nor am I expecting anything really. But if you’d like to lose a buck in exchange for reading my mostly-stupid crap the last seven years, I will not stop you!
Anyways, that’s that finished. On to:
Every GD time Cam GD Ward was in the clutches of a defender:
Seeing Ryan Grubb turn the dial up to “double pass to Michael Penix touchdown”:
Dear the trash-ass ESPN commentators who took a break in the middle of an extremely tight rivalry game to cut away to their playoff picks:
Wayne Taulapapa seeing the red sea parting in front of him to ice the game:
Ya know, in hindsight writing a thing that amounts to “Hey wanna give me money to ensure this doesn’t go away?” and then continuing on to “this” being a bunch of gifs that could easily go away and your life wouldn’t suffer probably wasn’t the greatest sales pitch...
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.