BY Art Thiel 07:15PM 09/06/2014

Thiel: Huskies’ victory was one nobody liked

Broken tackles, blown coverages and foolish penalties by the defense made the home debut of Chris Petersen an awkward one, but not disastrous.

Kasen Williams made a one-handed grab of Cyler Miles’ two-point conversion pass. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

A little nervously, Chris Petersen looked upon the media horde in the Husky Stadium team-assembly room. After his first home game as University of Washington football coach, he smiled the awkward smile of the soup-slurper at a state dinner.

“Did you like that?” he said, more hopeful than curious. Big-city media protocol demands neither yays nor boos. But silence would have greeted him had he hosted several generations of UW fans, who prefer their football circus when it features elephant acts instead of clown cars.

Saturday afternoon, the calliope roared.

Perhaps LB John Timu had a better handle on the moment.

“It was a win,”  he said, “but we don’t want to win like that.”

Endlessly, it is said that there are no style points in football, or anywhere in sports outside figure skating. It’s always true. It is also true that the Pac-12 Conference isn’t the Big Sky, or Mountain West or Western Athletic or any other outfit that plays 52-card pickup and tries to call it poker.

Washington beat Eastern Washington 59-52, but it felt as mindless as reality TV. Really, the story would have been better had the Eagles won, because an FCS school vanquishing the big-brother BCS school would have had great underdog storylines of disrespect, fulfillment and joy — you know, the full Pete Carroll.

Instead, the Huskies, who blew a 21-0 lead at home to trail 45-44 entering the fourth quarter, came up with a rare turnover deep in their own territory to change the game. There was no joy in victory, and little solace for Eastern, which beat Oregon State last year and was on the verge of planting a territorial flag in its home state against the program that most all of the players wanted to attend.

“You’re on the road in a Pac-12 stadium and things don’t go well early,” said coach Beau Baldwin. “I was most proud of where we fought our way back to take the lead. That says s lot about our mental makeup and our toughness.

“It would have taken just one or two plays there.”

That’s about it — one or two plays separated the proud tradition of Washington and the big city from the small-town college in the wheatfields. Eastern has been near the top of the smaller-school division for five years, and after Saturday, they probably won’t get another big-boy game for 25 years (“best pound-for-pound fighter . . .”).

The Huskies defense was nearly helpless against QB Vernon Adams, a six-foot, 200-pound junior from Pasadena who danced around rushers and looped passes over defenders in one of the greatest opponent days in UW history — seven touchdown passes and 475 yards passing. Only the six sacks by Washington thwarted him and staved off the upset.

“He stayed in the pocket when he had to, and ran when he had to,” said Timu, shaking his head. “He’s really good. But our defensive technique . . . we just fell apart.

“If you don’t have the right mind-set, that will happen. We didn’t have the right mind-set.”

That is probably the most damning thing for Petersen and his coaching staff: For all the credit they have received for detail and precision, of which there were glimpses in Hawaii, the defense couldn’t play man or zone, didn’t know when to blitz or drop, and worst of all, couldn’t behave themselves.

The most critical of the 10 penalties for 100 yards against Washington were on defense, none worse than in the third quarter when UW was up 44-38 and appeared to have stopped Eastern on a third-and-9 at their own 36 with a sack of Adams by Shaq Thompson. But CB Marcus Peters, one of the team leaders, was busted for taunting. The 15-yard penalty restored the drive and led to a touchdown and 45-44 lead that went on TV screen crawls across the country and caused a seismic drop of jaws.

The foul caused Petersen to bench Peters for the rest of the game and leave an already infant secondary even more embryonic. He didn’t blink at banishing his best pass defender.

“That was easy,” Petersen said. “I’m not into stupid penalties. That wasn’t even a decision (to bench Peters).”

The decision was not fatal to the day’s events because the offense, behind a dynamic day for starting QB Cyler Miles, rescued the defense. After special-teamer Brian Clay recovered an onside kick at the Eastern 48, Miles took Washington nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown, which he scored on an option keeper from five yards. A two-point conversion pass to Kasen Williams made it 52-45.

Then the defense finally had a little payback. Eastern reached the Washington 32, from where Adams completed a 16-yard pass to WR Terence Grady. But Timu reached in and knocked the ball out and into the arms of teammate Travis Feeney, whose 19-yard fumble return set up Washington at the 35.

Thereafter, Washington ran the ball 11 times in the next 13 plays, including the final three by Miles for the touchdown that finally broke Eastern.

It was part of a 356-yard rushing day. Freshman Lavon Coleman did most of the work on the drive and the day, putting up 118 yards and a touchdown. The seven scores on the ground tied for the second-most in school history.

The rushing game was one positive for Washington, which included LB Shaq Thompson for all three plays in a second-quarter series, the final of which went 57 yards for a TD.

The game may have been a clown car, but it was not with some virtues for Washington. Yet for a second week in a row, the mysteries outweigh the majesties by a considerable amount.



  • Effzee

    That defense is simply not going to cut it against conference opponents.

    Two things I really like so far:

    1) Coach LOVES to run the ball.

    2) We scored 17 and then 59 points, winning totally opposite kinds of games to go 2-0.

    Maybe coach just knows how to win.

    • art thiel

      He’s got four decent RBs, plus Shaq Thompson, and a veteran line. The decision is nearly made for him until Miles gets better. And as far as winning, consider this exhibition season.

      • Effzee

        Don’t scare me, man. I want to believe he wants to run. We’ve had almost 15 years of stupidness masquerading as highfalutin passing attacks. Just let me hold on the my fantasy for a little longer. :p

        • art thiel

          All I can say is on the first play of his Washington home opener, he ran a flea flicker.

  • Big

    Art we all know how the Clown Car Act ends eventually.

    • art thiel

      You walk away smiling?

      • Big

        Yes, the Dawgs will improve and go bowling. Unless all the luck has been used up in the first two ball games.

  • ll9956

    Although a win is a win, after this game I was a nervous wreck. It’s hard not to blame the coaches, particularly the defensive backs coach, for the virtually complete absence of pass defense. Giving up 475 passing yards is a pretty clear indication that the pass defense was beyond abysmal.

    To their credit, the Dawgs stayed with it, never gave up and did come away with a victory. Whew!

    • art thiel

      In the secondary, UW started a freshman (Baker), a redshirt freshman (Kelly), sophomore (Beaver) and a junior (Peters) who was benched by Petersen in the third quarter.

  • Da Kid

    Man, what an f’ing train wreck! I sat up there in Section 213 and watched no fewer than THREE Eastern TDs perfectly thrown to the end zone corner directly below me. FIVE of their TDs were scored that way. Who the bloody mariah is supposed to be in charge of DEFENSE on his team?? Where were the halftime adjustments??

    And the stupid penalties didn’t stop with Peters. There were repeated, critical, 15-yard personal foul calls, including three for “Hands to the face,” whatever that is. 100 yards in UW penalties to Eastern’s 51! I thought all those flags in the past were due to Sarkisian’s poor prep and sloppy discipline, but clearly the problem is endemic.

    The Huskies were lucky to escape with a win. If they don’t start playing some real defense, and stop making stupid, flagrant mistakes, they’ll be toast once they hit conference play.

    • art thiel

      Budda Baker will be fine, but the UW secondary is so inexperienced. Then Peters, the anchor, gets his butt benched, deservedly, in the third quarter. If this D didn’t have Danny Shelton (four sacks), it would be Cougar-esque.

      But I’ve seen enough college ball to say that improvement can happen quickly within a season, especially on defense.

  • Jeff Shope

    somewhere nick holt was giggling this wasn’t rg3 or a bowl caliber team doing this

    • jafabian

      The problems that began under Sark on the defensive side continue. Could say they started under Gilby and have kept on going since.

      • Effzee

        Nah. The Weasel started that.

        • art thiel

          Tru dat.

    • art thiel

      Nick has his own problems at Western Kentucky.

      • Jeff Shope

        Is that where he is?

  • RadioGuy

    I watched Arena football all summer and liked it because no lead is safe if there’s time on the clock in that league. It was a little sad to see the AFL season end but as long as I have games like this to watch, there’ll be no withdrawals…The only thing missing were the dasher boards and kicks being played off the nets. Was that the Eastern Washington Eagles the Huskies survived or was it the Spokane Shock?

    • Talkjoc

      The shock play better “D”.

    • art thiel

      No doubt that if you are dazzled by the noise and flash of a quality pinball machine, you’ll like Arena ball and Big Sky ball. It’s not that I’m against them, it’s just that the Huskies were not built for it and were suckered into a style that they don’t fit.

      • RadioGuy

        I was being a little facetious, although I DO remember a pinball game called Xenon from a visit to Pullman in the 80’s that was fun. I’m a Montana Grizzlies fan, too, but I’ll save that for The Missoulian’s website.

    • Jeff Shope

      seattle mist

  • NoD

    That pic is of Kasen Williams not Shaq. “look closely”

    • art thiel

      Fixed. Good catch by you and Williams. Haste makes fools of us all.

  • Talkjoc

    What I couldn’t understand is why we rushed just 3 for most of the game. Zone D won’t work against Adams. Lucky to get a win.

    • art thiel

      They also rushed four and blitzed. Few worked. Too many kids in the back.

  • PokeyPuffy

    wow the huskies must be the worst 2-0 team in Division 1

    • art thiel

      Check back in November.

  • 3 Lions

    “We didn’t have the right mind set” Timu
    Really? What mind set do you need?
    Opening day at home in Husky stadium w a new coach on a beautiful day & your not ready to play? It looked like the Dawgs thought they could just show up & Eastern would fold but the reality was we were incapable of stopping them & unable to make the adjustments within the game. That would appear to be a little more than having the appropriate mind set.

    • art thiel

      I suspect that minds have been on the Pac-12, and they’re taking the first four games as exhibitions. A mistake, but I was 19 once too, and found it hard to pay attention.