As I sit here and watch the recording of the UW-Stanford game for quite possibly the 4th time, I think to myself 1) Thank God Josh Nunes was at QB for the Cardinal that game, 2) We probably threw 50% of our passes behind the line of scrimmage this year, and 3) This season may have not been what we really thought it was. What do I mean by that, you might ask? “We beat two top ten teams, one of which won the Rose Bowl!”
This season was a mixed bag, to say the very least. The elation of knocking off top-ten ranked Stanford and Oregon State, to the dejection of getting decimated by Arizona and blowing a 18-point lead in the Apple Cup. This is probably why I have found this article to be such a struggle to write. What route do I take? Was this season a success? Was it a failure? The sour taste that still lingers with the result of the final two games may make me lean towards the latter.
I think we can all agree that the season did not finish the way we had hoped for. What was easily the worst loss for Steve Sarkisian since joining the Huskies in 2009, to a heartbreaking two point thriller down in Vegas, it was a tough pill to swallow at the end. But what went wrong? Why couldn’t the Dawgs reach that benchmark eight win club? Especially against the lowly Cougars!
A lot of the blame can be attributed to the offense. Keith Price of 2011 was nowhere to be found this year. Honestly, I can’t even remember a single half where we saw that form out of #17. He struggled mightily all season, throwing 14 less touchdowns than a year ago and seeing his QB rating plummet from 161.9 to 122.4. He displayed close to zero confidence on the field, and gave the ball up in crucial situations, most of them being plays that left you scratching your head wondering what you had just witnessed. I will concede, the loss of Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar proved to be very significant to the effectiveness of Price this season, but good QBs are able to overcome those obstacles, especially when you have arguably the best tight end in the country and a wide receiver that can play with the best of them in this conference. We expected Keith to be the leader and playmaker that we saw him become a year ago and it never came to fruition. This is unquestionably the most glaring reason as to why they Huskies finished this season with a 7-6 record and recorded some pretty dismal losses on the way.
On a more positive note, surprisingly the running game didn’t really miss a beat. We all assumed it would be near to impossible to fill the hole that Chris Polk left after a magnificent career in the Purple and Gold, but Bishop Sankey filled those shoes quite nicely. Early season-ending injuries to Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper squashed the “running back-by-committee” approach that the Huskies were planning to unveil. But Bish handled the added workload like a seasoned vet. Amassing 1,439 rushing yards (an amazing 5.0 ypc) to go along with 16 touchdowns behind a makeshift line, it was nothing short of incredible. He carried the offense multiple times this season and unquestionably gets my vote for offensive player of the year.
As noted earlier, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams were real talents for the Huskies this season. As basically the only two viable receiving targets for Keith Price, they saw the majority of the responsibility put on their backs. But in some cases, it was too easy for teams to throw double teams their way and take them out of games. The loss of James Johnson during fall camp with a dislocated wrist proved to be huge in the efficiency of the passing attack. The lack of a clear cut number two receiver doomed the Huskies for most of the year. Kevin Smith and Jaydon Mickens were thrust into the spotlight, but were just not good enough to burden the load of that magnitude, and it definitely showed. On the bright side, I believe that the struggles that they encountered this season will make them much better in the coming years. Getting back to ASJ and Kasen though, truly amazing seasons by both. ASJ compiled 852 yards on 69 receptions, and added 7 touchdowns. That was good enough for second in yardage and tied for first in receptions amongst tight ends nationally. And the great part is, we get him for at least another year. On the other hand, Kasen made defenders miss all season. His 878 receiving yards were sixth best in the Pac-12 and he also added 6 TDs. Look for the rest of the receiving corp to show their maturation next year, and with James Johnson returning alongside several talented newcomers, this could be an area of strength for the 2013 Huskies.
Now for the mixed bag of this mixed bag season: the offensive line. This unit was devastated by injuries early and it felt the effects all season long. To put it bluntly, the line’s pass blocking ability was flat out atrocious, but I think the following will be a reasonable excuse (and show that OL depth is crucial). Starting right guard Colin Porter was forced to retire from football before the season due to degenerative arthritis in each of his shoulders. In addition, starting left guard Erik Kholer only saw the field for a game and a half before he aggravated a kneecap injury from fall camp. He was also lost for the rest of the season. Colin Tanigawa added himself to the list the same week as he suffered a knee injury that also prematurely ended his season. And to top it off, starting right tackle Ben Riva broke his forearm week one and missed five games….in other words, we were extremely unlucky. To recap, three of five starters missed the entire season and another starter missed five games. If you told me that would happen before the season started I might have just chalked up ten losses and called it a lost season. But this unit seemed to find a way…sort of. Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Shane Brostek, James Atoe, and Mike Criste all filled in for the injured and did their best. Run blocking wise, they weren’t too bad. It might have been because of Bishop Sankey, but I’ll act like it was their work that got Bish most of his 1,400 yards. But, as I said before, pass blocking was a different story. They let defenders fly by them, getting to Keith at will. This too really made it tough for Price to find a rhythm in the pocket and make his reads. It also introduced us to the Huskies most popular play of the year: run to the sideline and throw the ball away. The coaching staff continues to disregard or whiff on the recruitment of talented offensive lineman and it is has been a blatant weakness for many years. That, with the addition of a slew of injuries, created a pretty awful offensive line unit. As of now, the OL class of 2013 doesn’t have any eye openers for the most part, so unfortunately, we may just have to bank on experience as opposed to talent…which is never the best.
Well, there you have it. The season recap of the offense for your University of Washington Huskies. Check back soon for part two where I will cover something that will be much more enjoyable to read about: the defense. As always, Go Dawgs!