UW Football Season Recap: Part 1

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.

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Mackey Malarkey

Remember the days of Little League. The days where sunflower seeds were our currency. The days where you were only cool if you wore high socks. The days where we spent as much time perfecting the bend of our cap as we did our ability on the field. But with all that, there was something that always bothered me: All Stars.

It wasn’t the fact that I should have made the team. I was the Chone Figgins of my league when it came to batting. I lived at the bottom of the order for years and never really saw any improvement. I made my bread in the field, though. Third base. Hot corner. Ever heard of it? But that is beside the point. Every year there would be an all star team compiled of the best players in the league, and for the most part this was true. But every year I could not help but notice that almost every coach’s son made the team. Even the ones that just flat out sucked. I was always bothered by this, and was happy to see that go as I left Little League in fifth grade and went on to bigger and better things (not really).

On Wednesday morning I woke up and heard some news; news that could not help but remind me of those tainted all star teams of Little League. How outside forces and not on-field production and skill affected the selection. This news I speak of is the 2012 Mackey Award, handed out each season in college football to the best TE in the country.

Let’s do a quick exercise. I am going to list three candidates’ stat lines, without divulging their names or team, and you decide for yourself who should have won:

Player A: 66 receptions, 837 yards, 6 touchdowns

Player B: 66 receptions, 791 yards, 6 touchdowns

Player C: 44 receptions, 624 yards, 4 touchdowns

I think we would all agree that Player A had the best year, with Player B a close second, and Player C a fair distance behind the two (Here’s where my Little League analogy begins to make sense, I promise).

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UW Football Recruiting Update – 1/24

The recruiting process rolls on as we are only a week and a day away from Signing Day. The Dawgs have been quite active over the past week, attempting to play the part of the antagonist and steal recruits from various schools, specifically Cal. Here’s what happened since our last recruiting update:

  • Four star WR Jordan Payton (Oaks Christian HS, CA) took an official visit to UW this weekend and seemed to love what he saw on Montlake. His player host was Keith Price, so how could you go wrong. He was in attendance at the UW-Stanford basketball game at Hec Ed, accompanied by Sark and WRs coach Jimmie Dougherty to name a few. The Dawg Pack even helped by chanting his name during the second half. What was most encouraging though was what he said on his Twitter account: “Dawgs in the house”, “Let’s just say its a done deal now”, and the real eye opener, “I like the rain.” I would be very surprised if the Huskies don’t lock up his services at the end of this process, as most other recruiting analysts would agree. Look for him to make a decision sometime later this week, particularly during the Huskies in-home visit on Saturday.
  • The Zach Banner (Lakes HS, WA) saga continues as he took an official visit to USC this past weekend and claimed it to be the best one yet. At this point, his final three schools are Washington, USC, and Oklahoma. Banner will announce next monday and not on signing day as he had planned in order to ensure he doesn’t overshadow others who are also signing national letters of intent. On top of that, he also cancelled in-home visits with all three head coaches of the schools still involved. I tend to believe he’s leaning towards USC at the moment, but Sark is supposedly taking this recruitment into his own hands which is encouraging. Regardless, these are the kind of players that need to be locks for the Huskies. Sark was able to wrangle up the big in-state recruits last year, but this time around seems to not be the case.
  • Cedric Dozier (Lakes HS, WA), a teammate of Banner and another 4 star recruit, is still a commit to California, but is also considering WSU and UW. I would say at this point the Huskies are a long shot due to the fact they are recruiting him as a CB, whereas Dozier prefers Safety. He visited WSU over the past weekend and enjoyed the Pullman, but I don’t see it being enough to overcome the commitment he has to California. Continue reading

The New and Improved UW Coaching Staff

If you haven’t been following the Washington Football team since their Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor, boy have you missed a lot. After watching a whopping 123 combined points put on the board by the Huskies and Bears, you couldn’t help but wonder how Nick Holt would retain his job as Defensive Coordinator for UW. As expected, two days later Holt as well as Linebackers coach Mike Cox and Safeties coach Jeff Mills were relieved of their duties. But who did the university deem qualified enough to turn around a reeling defense that hasn’t seen success since 2003? Step in Justin Wilcox, former Defensive Coordinator at Tennessee.

Who is Justin Wilcox?

A 35-year-old native of Junction City, Oregon, Wilcox was (unfortunately) a graduate of the University of Oregon where he played defensive back for the Ducks from 1996-1999. Following his college days, and unable to make a final roster in the NFL, Wilcox became a Graduate Assistant on the Boise State coaching staff in 2001. After two seasons in Boise, he was offered the Linebackers coaching position by Jeff Tedford of Cal, which he accepted. Three seasons later, Wilcox found himself back on the “smurf turf,” but now as the Defensive Coordinator for Boise State. Four years at the helm of the WAC’s top-ranked defense, Wilcox alongside head coach Chris Peterson went 49-4 and captured the nation’s spotlight. In 2010 the Tennessee Volunteers came knocking and hired him as their new D-Coordinator. Two seasons in Knoxville and then here we are today, now the new DC on Montlake. Here’s what he said about his new job: “I’m grateful for this opportunity. Washington is a place where you can win big, and I’m excited to work with Coach Sarkisian in developing a championship-caliber football program. Our first order of business is hitting the recruiting trail, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Wilcox will look much better in the Purple and Gold.

As a Husky fan, you should be excited about this hire, as Wilcox has shown a lot of success with little to work with. Perfect fit, right? Last season he led a Vols defense that ranked 28th nationally in yards allowed (340.5 yds/gm). That’s 85.8 yards better than the sorry excuse that the Huskies fielded. Just for a little perspective, the last time the Huskies held their opponents under that mark was way back in 1996, when Jim Lambright’s defensive prowess was on full display. To make it even more impressive, Wilcox was able to accomplish this with all three starting linebackers being freshman.

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Worth the Watch

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts on my part over the past couple weeks. With Thanksgiving and now Finals, it has been a struggle to find the time to give SS&O some attention. But have no fear, with break almost upon us, SS&O will move back onto the front burner (even look for a post about English soccer, as I will be taking one in while in England over break). Anyways, this is just a short post to let people know that Coach Sark and his staff have come out with the “Husky Football 2011 Season Recap Video” and it is probably the best fifteen minutes you can spend on YouTube. Without further adieu…

Unhappy in Happy Valley

In what is thought to be the biggest sports scandal since the OJ case, it is official: Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach for the Pennsylvania State Nittany Lions. After holding the position for forty-six years and working for the team for sixty-six, Joe Pa will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the situation, news broke late last week when Joe Pa’s former defensive coordinator and right hand man Jerry Sandusky was charged on 40 counts of sex crimes against boys. He was then arrested the following day. But how does this involve the iconic coach? In the Grand Jury report it states that in a 2002 incident involving Sandusky and a 10-year old boy, Joe Paterno was notified of the situation by Mike McQueary, who was a graduate assistant at the time. The key part of this whole scandal is not what Paterno did; it’s what he didn’t do. Instead of immediately going to the police, he went to Athletic Director Tim Curley where long story short, nothing was really done to resolve the problem. On top of that, Paterno and the rest of the athletic office allowed Sandusky access to the campus, even giving him his own office after his retirement in 1999.

As a long time sports fan, this whole situation is very bothersome, both on the level that nothing was done to stop these terrible wrongdoings from continuing and the fact that one of the greatest coaches in sports history is now tainted…forever.  Joe Paterno was college football, and he always has been. At least in my lifetime. Coming from an outsider’s perspective, there was nothing about the guy that you couldn’t like. He was the best of the best. An icon that was unmatchable. To watch a man like that be stripped of all of the accumulated respect and accomplishment in a matter of a few days is tough to handle. I am not saying that Joe Paterno was wrongfully fired and was not to blame, because he was just as accountable as the next guy. All I am saying is that it is deeply saddening to see such a revered sports figure fall so far.

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UW vs. Cal Game Recap

In the fourth game of the season for the Huskies they began conference play against the California Golden Bears. In another close game, the Dawgs were able to pull out the victory, improving to an impressive 3-1 record on the season. As selfish as it may sound given the state of this team a few years ago, the win was a little bittersweet.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited about where the Huskies are right now in the season. You really couldn’t ask for more in the win/loss column. We all knew traveling to Nebraska was going to be a daunting task, and we performed valiantly in defeat. What irks me though, is once again the performance by the defense…excluding anyone named Cort Dennison. The Washington defense gave up 400 yards for the third time this year. Some may point out the fact that they held the Bears to only 3 points in the second half. Yes, that is a sign of improvement, but when we face the likes of Oregon, Stanford or even Utah, we won’t be so fortunate. Cal was unable to finish their drives, and give some credit to the Husky defense especially their goal line stand at the end of the game. That’s the kind of swarming defense I want to see for four quarters, and we have yet to witness that performance. Was the Holiday Bowl a fluke? Why can’t Alameda Ta’amu be that force in the middle that made Taylor Martinez scared for his life last December?

Nick Holt continues to give me reasons to yell his name angrily from the upper deck of Husky Stadium. It seems as though he is just learning what a Nickel package is. He stubbornly stays in his base 4-3 defense as we continually get torched through the air as the opponent throws out of three and four wide receiver sets. Now I will admit, I don’t know everything there is about X’s and O’s in the game of football. One thing I DO know is a linebacker on a wide receiver is considered a “mismatch,” and this has yet to be noticed by the Washington defensive coordinator. When I see two wide receivers being covered by our outside linebackers and continuously beating them in coverage, I begin to question his play calling. It would be one thing if Gilliland, Fuimaono, or Timu were able to cover wide receivers, but they sadly can’t. Hey Nick! Get Ducre or Gobern in there. That’s what they are on the team to do!

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