After dominating Boise State, 38-6 in week one, the Huskies have a bye right away in Week 2. The Dawgs only have two bye weeks during the year, the next one coming in Week 10 before facing the Colorado Buffaloes.
This is a rare opportunity to shore up some weaknesses they may have on offense, defense and special teams. If the Huskies want to make the jump and compete with the likes of Oregon and Stanford in the Pac-12 North, they need to use this time very wisely. Here is what they need to focus on:
Kasen can’t get contained: Did anyone else notice that Kasen Williams was pretty much shut down most of the game? He did have 68 yards and a touchdown, but besides those few outbreaks he was limited to three catches and wasn’t too much of a factor, because Boise State focused on bracketing him. Now, what the Broncos didn’t realize was that our receiver depth is so much better than they anticipated, and the Boise State back seven was not deep enough or athletic enough to deal with good secondary receivers since they pretty much just focused on Williams. However, Oregon and Stanford both have extremely talented and deep secondaries.
Williams cannot get shut down in those games. If he isn’t a factor against faster, bigger, stronger, deeper secondaries, our passing game won’t be what it was on Saturday. Of course, we will have ASJ back, which gives us a bigger edge, but he’s recovering from a broken pinky and with injuries you just never know when it could come up again. Williams needs to be able to beat the other team’s coverage consistently throughout all four quarters. He’s athletic enough to do it, and we will need him in big games.
Maturity on the O-Line: Our offensive line showed success, but against a so-so, maybe barely above average defensive line in Boise State. They are obviously miles ahead of where they were last year but they are still relatively young. With that youth comes mistakes. One of the only statistics that didn’t fall in Washington’s favor on Saturday: Penalties. Washington had eight penalties that took away 61 yards. Boise State only had two penalties for 19 yards. Most of the penalties against the Huskies were for holding and false starts. The Huskies were able to handle the penalties because they were able to dominate the Broncos defense, but against better defenses they won’t have as many opportunities to score, and those penalties can be drive killers. The offensive line is much improved, there’s no doubt about that. However, they need to work on neutralizing those penalties, and keep working. They won’t truly be tested until October 5th when they travel to the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
Pass rush: The only battle Boise State was able to win all day was its pass protection versus our pass rush. We weren’t dominated, we had a few pressures, but we were not at all consistent with the rush. Despite this, the Huskies pass defense was stellar, the defensive backs did a great job of not giving up big plays and locking down when they had to. I could gush all day, but back to the point, the defensive line has to be able to throw the quarterback out of their rhythm. The Dawgs will face much more dangerous passing attacks this year and they can’t rely on good coverage alone. It doesn’t matter how good the defensive backs are, if the opposing team has a good quarterback, he will get in a groove and just pick apart the back seven. Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, maybe even Kevin Hogan and – dare I say it – Connor Halliday will be able to do that with enough time. This is why the pass rush is so important. The Huskies have talent and depth on the line, they should have the ability to build some pressure. It needs to be worked on during the bye week more than anything else.
Manage the Hype: People noticed the performance Saturday. Everyone who is in tune with college football knows the Huskies aren’t mediocre anymore. They thumped Boise State and it made a big statement to the nation: that the Huskies can be contenders. They have the talent. They have the depth. I believe they have the coaching. But they need to have the motivation, and the right kind of motivation. Not ‘oh look, we crushed Boise State, we’re really good’. They can’t even hint at being content. They have to keep pushing, keep grinding, and get better every day. They don’t have the luxury of looking back at what they’ve done, and they can’t afford to look too far ahead either. They need to focus one day, one game at a time and ignore the rankings, experts, and scrutiny. They control their own ceiling, they have more potential than anyone thought they did. All they need to do is keep their heads down and focus on one opponent at a time. If they do that, this could be a special year.