After a second straight 7-5 regular season, it clear that though the team and the program have changed in the last year, it cannot really be said that overall progress has been made. Sure, the defense is better in nearly every way. More and more talent is being recruited. Better assistants have been hired. But there is a huge lack of discipline that has been made apparent by a high number of penalties, one of the main reasons for a loss in the Apple Cup, the passing game and even the offensive line have taken steps back, and nothing even close to consistency has been developed.
In my mind, the single greatest mystery of this year’s team. I don’t care if the defense has had some late games issues this year, they have still played so much better than last year’s unit. If Price had thrown for 29 touchdowns in the past 12 games, like he did in 2011, that level of defensive improvement would have allowed for a lot more than the same 7 wins.
Whether it’s Price’s own issues, the loss of Aguilar, Kearse, and his offensive coordinator, or the struggles of the offensive line, it is easy to see that Sark’s inability to repair his team’s ability to pass the football efficiently has been responsible for such a dip in offensive production from 2011 to 2012. Kudos to the coaching staff and to Bishop Sankey himself for so completely replacing Chris Polk’s production with that of the true sophomore, but it just isn’t enough to make up for Price’s decline.
Every week I have no idea what Husky team is going to take the field, and after four years, that lack of progress under Coach Sark is disturbing. A lot of it has to do with whether Washington is playing home or away. At CenturyLink, the Huskies were somewhat consistent in their competitiveness and hard-nosed defense, but the lackluster win over SDSU and the loss against USC contrasted with wins over at the time top-10 Stanford and Oregon State show that very different performances were still possible from week to week. On the road, there were blowouts at LSU, Oregon, and Arizona, the two wins over Cal and Colorado, and then the close OT loss to WSU. The team that eked out such a gritty win over a Stanford team that went on to lose once more to undefeated Notre Dame and then beat Oregon just seems to have so little in common with the team that was destroyed by a 7 win Arizona team and coughed up an 18 point lead.
It’s normal for teams to change and evolve, but to take such wild swings in quality and competitiveness just isn’t positive, especially not in the 4th year of a coach’s tenure.
It seems that every time a team commits too many penalties, it is labeled as a discipline problem, but in this case, it does seem to work. Whether it’s been bone headed personal fouls or an inability to avoid pass interference flags, what started as a nuisance early in the year only worsened until it became the single biggest issue for Washington in the Apple Cup. The outrageous number of penalties this year seem to point to the idea that Sark doesn’t have an ability to influence his players to play smarter, and that worries me.
These are just three big issues. There are more. I am not trying to say that the football program is doomed, or that Sark should be fired this year. What I’m really trying to say is that the progress so far has been pretty much unsatisfactory because the big jump from 6-7 wins to 9 or 10 wins just hasn’t been made. In my view, next year is the year. If Sark comes out with 7 or 8 wins next season, when a lot of the current talent on the team will be peaking, I think it will be time to seriously consider moving on to a new coach. For now, he needs to start things out well by showing that he can improve on these issues before the bowl game. A win there would mean 8 wins, a slight improvement over past years, and could set up decent momentum for 2013. If he can’t manage that, next year just becomes all that much more important.