You didn’t hear from me much at all yesterday. I put up a quick morning post and then left my home in Bellingham to travel with friends down to Seattle, and then at around 4:30 we traveled to the stadium itself to take our seats in the Dawg Pack. Despite what was said about a new cell tower nearby improving phone service, I was not able to reliably send tweets from my seat, so Evan took over the twitter and also wrote the postgame wrap-up. What a guy. So I figured I’d throw out some of my observations from last night.
-I know everyone has said it a million times, but it has to be mentioned. The stadium is beautiful! While a great facility does not make a great team, you can almost feel how such an upping of the ante facility-wise is elevating the standing of the program. A return feels less possible and more inevitable. It’s just a matter of now or in the near future.
-Washington’s no-huddle offense is legit. I knew that Sark talked about wanting to run 82 plays a game (Oregon ran 79 last year), and I knew that practices had been very fast. But I wasn’t totally sure that we would see that level of breakneck speed against Boise on a consistent basis without sacrificing the ability to execute. Turns out it’s not a gimmick or off-season lip service, it’s a legitimate no-huddle attack that was putting up first downs and then snapping the ball for the next play before the band could play “Bow Down.”
-Boise State also chose to largely abandon the huddle, which meant a lot of plays being run right from the get-go. First the “first you, then me” interceptions from Price and Southwick to give everyone in the stands arrhythmia, and then both teams settled into a ridiculously fast tempo. For Boise, I think it helped to reduce the impact of Husky Stadium’s crowd noise. Even on third downs they often got lined up and snapped the ball before the crowd had time to truly build up to a roar. I’m not saying it wasn’t loud, but a Stanford-type offense might have felt the noise more by moving at a deliberate pace.
-Wide receiver depth was not exaggerated. Mickens and Ross were “or” starters at slot receiver and both of them made a serious impact, Mickens most of all with nine catches for 109 yards, by far his best college game after a so-so freshman year. Ross caught four balls for 39 yards. Both were moved all around the line of scrimmage, with motion taking place on almost every play. The majority of their catches were short passes at or near the line of scrimmage that allowed the two athletes to use downfield blockers to gain chunks of yardage. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith, who Sark raved about in camp and made a starter across from Kasen Williams, caught four for 69 yards including a big 42-yard deep ball reeled in during the first quarter. Kasen didn’t make a catch in the first half, but exploded with back to back big plays in the third quarter. With the score 10-6 Washington, he took a short pass 38 yards and then found himself nice and open for a 19-yard touchdown. Even Stringfellow caught a pass for a first down.
-Sean Parker may have saved the game. After the first-play pick from Price, the momentum was automatically with the Broncos. If they had driven down the field and scored, it’s impossible to know how drastically the rest of the game would have been altered. But Sean Parker made a fairly difficult sideline play on an iffy Southwick pass and he gave the Washington offense a do over. They responded with a touchdown drive.
-Washington’s defense had absolute zero pass rush. This was an issue last year despite the overall defensive renaissance under Wilcox, and it was an issue last night. Southwick was hit once or twice but never sacked. He wasn’t able to scramble as well compared to the Vegas Bowl, but overall he had a chance to make his reads and make the right throw, and that put a lot of pressure on the pass defense, which is replacing three out of four starters. Considering that, they did a pretty solid job. Southwick was 25-40 for 152 yards and a pick.
-Overall, the D bent to a combination of solid running from Jay Ajayi and 5-10 yard passes throughout the game. Boise State racked up a lot of first downs. But not a single Bronco entered the end zone, and Sark will take that every time.
-Hey, look at that offensive line pass protect! It was beautiful to see. Price was sacked only once and pressured only occasionally, and it was a big part of his success. He had time and he trusted both his receivers and his line. If that continues, success will likely continue.
-Some of Washington’s most valuable players were playing special teams, which I thought was interesting.