I have not been afraid to admit during my short time as editor of the Husky Haul that I am young. I don’t say it as an excuse, or a cop out. I am confident that I have the ability, and the unique perspective, to write content worth reading. I bring up my youth so that you, the readers, understand that I am very aware of the fact that I still have much to learn. I may be well informed on college football as it exists today, and especially the Huskies as they exist today, but I have not been watching Washington play for 30 or 40 years, and so every single game that I witness provides lessons not only about the team on the field, but about myself as a writer covering that team.
That being said, last night’s upset win over #8 Stanford was as valuable a learning experience as I’ve ever had, and here are some of the lessons I’ve taken from the game, both about myself and about the team.
1.) College Football Teams Change
I picked the Huskies to lose 35-17. Thing is, I correctly predicted Washington’s offensive output, but I made the mistake of vastly overrating the Stanford offense and seriously underrated the UW defense. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I look back at the article I wrote about how Justin Wilcox had been doing a great job rebuilding the defense, and I see that perhaps I should have had a little bit of faith in the rising-star defensive coordinator and the athletes he coaches. But instead, I largely based my analysis on the logic that Stanford overpowered the Huskies last year to the tune of 65 points and that the 2012 Stanford team had looked terrific running the ball on USC. Well, I should have realized that things change quickly in college football. The Stanford team that was defeated last night is wildly different than the one that scored those 65 points on Washington last year, and is even different from the team that defeated USC, just as the Washington team that was stomped out in Baton Rouge is obviously a shadow of the (soon to be) ranked squad that stands before us today.
Sept 27, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian gets the attention of an official during a timeout against the Stanford Cardinal in the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Washington defeated Stanford, 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
2.) Players Are Capable of Suddenly Stepping Up
In this instance, I’m mainly speaking of Bishop Sankey. Heading into the game, I certainly hadn’t given up on Sankey as a starting back, but I had no faith that he would be able to establish the run and average over 7 yards a carry on 20 carries against Stanford’s front seven. Not only had Sankey struggled against every team but Portland State, but his offensive line was banged up all to hell. They still are! But somehow, the big guys up front rose up and got some push (though they did struggle to protect Keith Price) and Bishop ran like an every down back. And I’m not just speaking about the huge, momentum turning 61 yard touchdown run to end the 3rd quarter. I’m talking about the 5 and 6 yard runs that sustained drives. At time, the 200 pound sophomore did his best 230 pound power-back impression, lowering his shoulder to gain extra yardage time after time. In what was largely a battle of field position in the first half, those extra yards were an essential help to the Husky defense.
3.) Coaching Can Make All the Difference
Think about it. The defense is not, personnel-wise, all that different from last year’s team. Of course, players like Tre Watson and Shaq Thompson are here, and those that are returning are a year older, but it isn’t as if the entire roster has turned over. And yet, a team that gave up 65 points (yes, I know I keep saying that) to Stanford and finished the season by allowing Baylor to rack up 777 total yards just held Stanford without an offensive touchdown. That simply would not have happened last year. Not a chance. I have to say, in the end, the single biggest factor in that transformation has to be none other than defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Not to rag on Nick Holt, but he just didn’t know how to make a plan to exploit a team’s weaknesses, and then adjust that game-plan as necessary throughout the game. Now, the single biggest worry I have about the defense is whether or not Wilcox will leave to take a head coaching job after this season. That is impressive.
Thanks for reading. More on this game throughout the weekend, so make sure to check in.