Monday, October 08, 2007

The Monday Morning Wash

Washington heads into the second half of the season 2-3 which is about where people thought they would optimistically be. One problem though, UCLA's embarrassing loss to Notre Dame, and Stanford's upset of USC have Husky fans seriously wondering when Ty Willingham is going to get his first signature win as a Husky coach.

UW had both teams on the ropes the previous two weeks in the fourth quarter only to end up losing the game. They were even ahead of Ohio State midway through the third quarter only to have the momentum change in that one due to a couple of quick turnovers that gave OSU 14 points. Husky fans are shaking their heads this morning knowing full well that their team could easily be 5-0, or at least 4-1 at this point, and in the top ten nationally. The opportunity was there, and we just didn't take care of it.

This week the Huskies travel to Tempe, Arizona to take on the undefeated Sun Devils in a nationally televised night game. I watched the Cougars give ASU everything they could handle on Saturday and I came away very unimpressed with Erickson's team. I think it is a very winnable game for the Huskies, in fact I think they need to look at it as a must win game to set the tone for the stretch run.

One thing fans haven't debated yet is how Washington practiced during the bye week, but it is sure to be discussed next Sunday if the Huskies don't come away with a victory. UW scheduled only three practices during the seven day bye week. Willingham decided the best way to prepare his team for the stretch run was to let it heal, and take a good look at younger players during a couple of scrimmages.

Don James used to handle byes a different way, he basically reopened Fall camp and let his team hit. We will see on Saturday night if Ty did the right thing. One thing is for sure, Washington goes into the second half of the season as one of the healthiest teams in the Pac Ten.

One thing to seriously consider going into this one is UW doesn't match up well with Arizona State. Offensively the Sun Devils get by with a power running game, a mistake prone QB who is immobile, and very sackable. Defensively the Devils play man in the defensive backfield which allows them to stop the other teams running game by daring them to throw. That recipe has given them six wins this season against a schedule that can be fairly called cupcake up to this point.

Washington's defensive line has had a problem stopping the run, and putting pressure on the QB this season. UW needs to gamble a bit like WSU did to rattle Rudy Carpenter. The Huskies also need to burn the Sun Devils early in the passing game to open up the run. The big plays are there against the Devil defense if your QB can take advantage of it. If you are a UW fan you hope that Jake will grow tremendously over this two week period so he can start moving up to the next level.

UW is 2-3 right now simply because Jake Locker has not matured enough yet to take advantage of what the other teams have been giving him on a weekly basis. You can blame the coaching, you can blame Louis Rankin, you can blame the defense when they spend too much time on the field, and get tired, but the true fact of the matter is our QB isn't being productive enough for us to win at this point.

Jake has a lot to work on to become a winning QB. He is one of the best running QB's in the country, but his fakes, and pitches while on the run aren't fooling anyone yet which is surprising because he was a running QB in high school. From a passing perspective he has a great arm, but he hasn't shown much touch yet, our friend Jake is a serious work in progress.

I do want to point out one thing, and that is QB's probably benefit the most from a bye week from a learning perspective. There are lots of things he can work on without getting beat up to become a much better QB during this time period. Look for Locker to be a much better QB starting this Saturday in Tempe with a little rest, and some better technique.

From a defensive perspective I believe that hitting, and scrimmaging are the best way to improve tackling. Willingham is taking a gamble not lining these kids up the past week to run a gauntlet of tackling drills. On one hand he is keeping his kids healthy, and that is a true advantage going into the second half of the Pac Ten season this year, on the other hand if the linebackers don't start doing a better job against the run the troubles will continue.

Pac Ten Highlights

What a wild weekend in the Pac Ten. Stanford knocks off Southern California, UCLA loses it's QB's, and gives Notre Dame it's first victory. Arizona State holds on against WSU, and Oregon State thrashes Arizona to get back on track.

I seriously subscribe to the theory that the Huskies beat up the Trojans enough last week that they were only mere mortals against Stanford on Saturday. That is only part of the story, the other part is the Trojans simply expected that all they had to do this week was show up, and win. Even against a team like Stanford that is a dangerous game to play when you have so many front liners injured on the sidelines.

Blame the Trojan coaching staff for not preparing well for the Cardinal, and building proper respect for their opponent. The Cardinal scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and moved 45 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown after USC's John David Booty threw the third of his four interceptions. The Trojans rolled up 459 yards to just 235 for Stanford. But USC's five turnovers and Pannel Egboh's block of USC kicker David Buehler's point-after attempt early in the game proved decisive.

When you turn the ball over five times in a game it really doesn't matter who you are playing, chances are you are going to lose, and that is exactly what happened to the Trojans who lost at home for the first time since 2001 to Stanford team who was then coached by Ty Willingham. Stanford historically has no problem getting up for USC, while the Trojans tend to take the Cardinal way too lightly.

Clover Park's Tavita Pritchard is obviously the star of the week in the Pac Ten even though he had the so-so numbers of a kid in over his head during his first start. In the fourth quarter, when it really mattered, he was able to make the plays that brought home the upset.

This was a big win for Jim Harbaugh who has to recruit nationally to find the type of scholarship athletes who can get admitted to Stanford. Look for Harbaugh who has proven to be an excellent recruiter to bring in an exceelnt class. Also look for the Cardinal to beat Notre Dame later this year. You beat USC, and Notre Dame in the same year you really have something to hang your hat on.

UCLA's loss to Notre Dame was equally disappointing since the Bruins on paper are a much better team than the Irish. The loss of Ben Olson early in the game sealed the Bruins fate since they simply ran out of quarterbacks. Walk on RS QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson struggled in relief. The inexperienced signal caller completed just 12-of-28 passes for only 139 yards. He also threw four interceptions and was sacked four times. The Notre Dame defense forced seven turnovers as used a 34-yard fumble return by Maurice Crum to defeat the UCLA Bruins, 20-6.

Oregon State had no problem with Arizona as they ran into a QB who is as troubled as Sean Canfield. Yvenson Bernard accounted for 164 total yards and three touchdowns, lifting the Oregon State Beavers to a 31-16 victory over the Arizona Wildcats. Bernard carried 32 times for 140 yards and two scores, in addition to catching five balls for 24 yards and another touchdown. Sean Canfield completed 17- of-30 throws for 139 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Arizona was held to just nine rushing yards on 27 attempts which was the key to the victory for the Beavers.

WSU had a better effort this week taking #18 ASU to the last seconds of the game only to "Coug It" in the end. ASU beat WSU on a 37-yard field goal by Thomas Weber with 50 seconds to play, but the Cougars had a chance to tie. They moved the ball 51 yards to the ASU 29, but Romeen Abdollmohammadi's 46-yard field goal attempt was wide left with 12 seconds to play.

If you are a UW fan the game gives you plenty of hope for next week when the Huskies take on ASU in Tempe. The Devils look very beatable to me if Jake Locker can get his game straightened out. Undefeated ASU doesn't seem to be in the same class as Oregon, Cal, and USC, but anything can happen on a week to week basis in the Pac Ten.

The Fan Boards

The fan boards over at Dawgman really turned my stomach this weekend. The natives are getting seriously restless, and letting negativity overcome them. It was tough for them to watch USC, and UCLA lose to a couple of the nations worst football teams after UW lost in the 4th quarter to the aforementioned on two consecutive Saturdays going into the bye week. My advice to those fans is to focus on Jake Locker. When Jake starts playing consistently the Huskies are going to start winning, and they will keep winning till he moves on to the NFL. We are very close, and these are very tough lessons he is learning, but it will start paying off soon.

Husky fans, take some solace in the fact that we crippled the health of UCLA, and USC enough that they became very vulnerable last week. Pat Cowans injured knee is going to cost the Bruins more than a few wins now that Ben Olson is no longer healthy. As for USC we put half of their starting lineup out of the game against Stanford.

If you look at the history of Husky football we have always been known for toughness, and the one thing we have lacked since Neuheisel arrived was that type of toughness. We didn't get a couple of wins we should have the last two weeks, but we are knocking the snot out of our opponents physically, and that has always been a sign that the victories are starting to get very close.

Once Jake starts throwing the ball with some consistency this team is going to go on a long streak of success, and it just may start this week in Tempe.

Pac Ten Power Ratings

1. California.......The Golden Bears are now in the drivers seat for the title. Cal is also very beatable. It will be a very interesting second half.

2. Oregon..........The Ducks are still in this one, but they need somebody to knock the Bears off twice since they failed to do it when they had a chance. Oregon is probably the best team in the conference right now, but those 4th quarter mistakes against Cal will haunt them.

3. Southern Cal...The mighty have certainly fallen, and everyone around the conference enjoyed watching Pete Carroll get a lesson in humility. The Trojans are way too talented to fall out of the race.

4. Arizona State....Quickly, and quietly Dennis Erickson has put his team in a spot where they can go all the way in his first year. UW will be the best team they have played all year.

5. Washington....The Huskies actually move up a spot during the bye week because they have one thing a lot of other teams don't have and that is a healthy lineup to start the second half.

6. Oregon State....Mike Riley had a terrible start in 2006, and he is matching it in 2007. Last weeks win against Arizona may mean he is priming for another strong finish. Sop the run and you stop the Beavers. Get a quick lead and make them pass and you beat them. Let them get ahead, and Yvenson Bernard and their defense take over.

7. UCLA....The Bruins are down to one quarterback, and he is a walk on RS who played miserably against Notre Dame last week. How do you only have two scholarship QB's on your roster? The Bruins can beat anyone on any given Saturday if they have get a signal caller back.

8. Stanford....The Cardinal makes a big step out of the basement with a historical win at USC. I want to see them win two in a row before I get too excited.

9. Arizona....One week after looking like an emergent team against WSU they get their lunch handed to them in Corvallis.

10. WSU....Valiant effort in a down to the wire loss against ASU, but this season is getting away from the Coug's pretty quickly.


dcdawg said...

It seems like UW is acting like a meat tenderizer, beating the snot out of opponents but not quite winning -- but the opponent is so beat up, they don't fare well in their next game. I'm still optimistic, and will remain so pretty much whatever happens this season. The program remains a work in progress, but is clearly improving. I like the toughness. I also like seeing Ty smiling on the sidelines, which as I think Bob Condotta suggested last week, means that Ty knows things we don't.

The recruiting class currently being assembled is crucial.

Health Insurance Expert said...

That used to be a trademark of Owens, James, and Lambright coached teams, that was Husky football, win or lose, the other team often lost the next week.

I think it is a very good sign that we are returning to that.

The wins are going to come once Locker gets comfortable. I think the other components have been stepping up better, but he needs to get them the ball in amore consistent manner.

The recruiting class they are putting together right now is the linchpin class of Ty's tenure. they are off to a decent start, but they need to finish strong.

When it comes to recruiting Washington historically makes it's mark in December. Anything that is done in January is usually pretty dicey. I expect UW to have around 20 or so verbals if they are doing well by Christmas. If UW only has 14-15 by the holiday you know they are scrambling and not doing well.

You save those last 4-5 for the Kavario Middleton's who may take it to the last weeks, and of course your plan B guys.

Ty by the way has done pretty good in plan B. A couple of recent examples are DT Kosub, and C Sedillo. Both of those kids have the talent to start next year.

I think Ty smiling on the sidelines means he is loosening up and feeling comfortable. Ty knows football, and he also knows how close this young team is to breaking through. What Ty knows is that once Jake Locker settles down his team is going to start winning a lot of games and competing for championships.

Name one other QB in the country that you would rather have as a RS Frosh than Locker?

I am optimistic about the present, and future.