Before I do anything else today, I need to publicly wish Stacy Kemp a happy birthday. I wish I was with her on her day and can only hope she has a great one! All my love to this terrific person. Happy birthday, Stace!
So, do you wonder why I fall of the blogosphere on occasion?
Well, aside from finding myself somewhat indifferent about the Huskies’ loss to BYU Saturday, I also had to pack up, get out of Seattle, back to Athens and get ready for my first day of classes, which was today. The first day of my Ph.D. program. In a word, “Wow.”
To be truthful, the Ph.D. classes aren’t any different than the classes I was taking for my Master’s — just more of them, and more specific in focus, I guess. At least, that’s why Ohio U. is attempting to achieve through their “concentrations” and such. While Journalism is obviously what I’m “doing,” my concentrations are shaping up to be Sports Administration (for sure) and possibly political science, or contemporary history. This way, I can sound really smart in both sports bars and in bars in which we’re NOT talking sports. 😉
But, alas, I didn’t get to recap the Huskies-BYU game for three reasons: 1.) I had to get ready for classes, make my syllabus and lesson plan for the class I’m teaching, etc. 2.) I had to travel and all the fun things that go with that, and, 3.) I wasn’t quite ready to talk about Washington’s 23-17 loss in Provo.
Now, with a little context, I am, though.
The game was dubbed as a breakthrough game for Washington and all the fans were beyond excited. It was a game in which Jake Locker was going to show why he was a Heisman Trophy candidate. And even though everyone is in love with coach Steve Sarkisian‘s enthusiasm, the way he is recruiting and building depth, and Locker’s physical talents, the truth is this: The Huskies — and Locker — are still a work in progress.
Two years ago, Washington failed to win a single game. That is, the Huskies were 0-12. Zero wins. They most would not have had zero wins had Locker stayed healthy, but those were the breaks and the realities.
Last year with a veteran offensive line, the Huskies offense started to take off. Sarkisian pulled the program out of the blackness, but the flashlight wasn’t blinding by any stretch of the imagination.
The truth is, the Huskies’ eye are still adjusting. This isn’t a team that is prepared to win the Pac-10. I’m sorry, it just isn’t. A program can’t go from not even sniffing its closest rivals (Oregon and Oregon State) the last four years to a contender. It just can’t.
But, it can climb. And, even though the Huskies lost, they are clearly on the climb.
Huh, you may ask? Did I see the bad snap on the punt that led to a safety? Did I see the muffed punt-return attempts? Did I see the personal fouls? Did I see the defense break down in the middle of the field on a critical touchdown?
I did. I saw all of it.
But I also saw this: I saw a terrific first offensive drive, and I remembered when two, three, four seasons ago when the Huskies looked lethargic to start games.
I saw a bad snap lead to a safety, but then I saw the Huskies defense turn around and hold BYU to a field goal after that gaffe. Then come back and score a touchdown two possessions later. Then hit an absolutely jaw-dropping 54-yard field goal to go into halftime up 17-13.
I, for one, felt pretty good for the Huskies at that point.
BYU went after the Huskies more in the second half, a key adjustment that really attacked the youth of the defense. BYU got rid of the ball quickly, but when it didn’t, it held off any semblance of Washington pressure. The cornerbacks are not primed still, and Nick Holt is probably thankful for a lot of a Cougar drops, too.
Still, it seemed like just some more growing pains for a program that really does need to just keep growing into itself. In December, I wrote in a post about Locker that as excited as UW fans are for this season, their pressure isn’t going to help.
The pressure was far too evident.
It was evident in Sarkisian’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the end of the third quarter when it was a no-brainer to kick it (especially after Erik Folk earned the right to kick away.)
It was evident in the way Locker pressed by trying to thread needles, overthrowing the long ball.
It was evident in the way the typically-sure-handed Jermaine Kearse dropped passes.
Even under that pressure, the Huskies didn’t have a turnover. The offensive numbers looked pretty good on paper. And even in the end, they had a chance to win.
Remember, too, that BYU is a well-oiled machine.While the Huskies floundered from 2004 until ’09 and finally only began to reverse a losing trend last season, the Cougars (since 2005) have had but one season in which they won less than 10 games. Under Bronco Mendenhall, the team is 49-15 because Mendenhall has a system that works.
I understand that die-hard Huskies fans are ready to pull their hair out. The loss was disappointing, but it should not have been stunning. There is some cleaning up to do on the team’s part for both players and coaches.
But I think after a little perspective this: Mendenhall isn’t the only one with something clicking. He is just five years in. The thing is, Sarkisian may just have system that works, too.
The problem is he is only one year — and one game — into it.