Oklahoma, Oregon, Brigham Young. They're gone. Only one of those losses counts in Pac-10 football. With the Pac-10 season nearly in full swing, I examine what is ahead and find reasons for the Purple and Gold flags to fly high again around Montlake.
Here are Five Reasons of Hope for the rest of the season for the Washington Huskies.
1. The Best Defense Is a Good Offense—Time of Possession Critical
In the first three games, Jake and Co. have shown the ability to produce long, time-consuming drives. If the Huskies intend to keep other teams close, they need to protect the defense's health by NOT producing a bunch of quick strikes.
Here’s a breakdown of the Husky scoring drives in the first three games.
13 plays, 60 yards, 4:54
11 plays, 63 yards, 6:23
Seven plays, 66 yards, 3:52
Seven plays, 79 yards, 3:25
13 plays, 65 yards, 7:22
17 plays, 76 yards, 3:29 (two minute drill)
15 plays, 83 yards, 8:05
11 plays, 70 yards, 1:47* (two minute drill)—missed field goal
Seven plays, 80 yards, 3:14** (backup QB-led drive)
Those drives were all against quality defenses, but what's especially encouraging is the two instances where the Huskies were under the gun and ran the two-minute offense to perfection. Clearly against some of the elite defenses the Dawgs have been able to produce points.
What’s equally important is that the defense has the opportunity to sit on the bench and go over things with Ed Donatell and catch their breath so they have energy in the fourth quarter.
Although the Huskies are second in the conference in TOP, the opposite has been the case. The defense is giving up quick strikes and the offense has had many short drives. Let's hope for some more sustained drives to keep the defense fresher for longer.
2. Speed Thrills—Fastest in the Pac-10
On paper, it appears that Ty Willingham has recruited a nice blend of size and speed. The young receivers for the Huskies are the fastest in the Pac-10. Take a minute to think about that. I assumed that USC was bigger, stronger, and faster, and Oregon too.
However, I took a look at the top three receivers for each team in the Pac-10, took the average 40-yard time, and was surprised with the results. Washington leads the pack with an average of 4.41 with UCLA bringing up the rear with a 4.55. While the separation was not massive, it does show the team to be heading in the right direction.
The Huskies are in the middle of the pack with the average height of top three receivers averaging just over 6’1”. Throw in Locker, Kavario Middleton, and Jordan Polk's speed, and this could be a lethal offense.
I hope that with Locker’s improving accuracy in the mid-range routes, turning this Seattle slew loose could provide some quick strike capabilities when needed.
3. Getting Healthy—A Week to Lick Their Wounds
After taking the best shots from some of the best teams in the nation, the Huskies have the chance to heal both mentally and physically. The defensive backfield, thought to be a strength before the season, has been ravaged by injuries and has been exploited early and often. Hopefully they can take the two weeks off and get healthy.
4. Crash Course—Adjusting to the Speed of College
Youth has been served. All the young pups from the last three recruiting classes have had the opportunity to see three elite teams already. They can see how fast the game moves and how small errors in fundamentals and technique can produce some drastic results. Let's hope the brutal early schedule helped to bring the youngest guys up to speed.
5. Husky Justice—A Bonding Moment
On a false start penalty, Oklahoma Sooner Marcus Granger knocked Casey Bulyca, who was still in the crouch position, five yards backwards and flat on his can. On the subsequent play Granger was triple-teamed by Bulyca, Jordan White-Frisbee, and Juan Garcia.
In the fracas Granger was injured on a legal block. However, there appeared to be a few punches thrown on Granger but appear to not have landed on anywhere but Granger’s helmet. Now, while I’m certainly not condoning this action, I hope that it served to bond the offense.
Let’s hope the old saying that they're too naive to be rattled is true. Let’s hope that all the pressure produces some diamonds. Let’s hope that the Huskies can rise up to the challenges ahead of them and give the Husky fans a reason to howl again.