BY Art Thiel 07:39PM 09/27/2014

Thiel: Huskies have a problem at quarterback

A fake punt and a choice on a penalty didn’t work, but they were signs of how desperate coach Chris Petersen was to cut down the touches by QB Cyler Miles.

Cyler Miles tried to hold himself in the pocket against Stanford’s pressure, but those moments were too few. / Drew Sellers. Sportspress Northwest

So meager was his confidence in Washington’s offense, Huskies coach Chris Petersen Saturday committed game suicide. He made two high-risk play calls that exploded on him and let 16th-ranked Stanford (3-1) sneak out of Montlake with a 20-13 win that easily could have been UW’s signature triumph of the season.

Although Petersen wouldn’t say so directly, QB Cyler Miles had such a bad game of decision-making and throwing accuracy that on two of UW’s final three possessions, the coach tried to put the ball, directly but awkwardly, into the hands of two game-breakers, WR John Ross and LB Shaq Thompson.

The Huskies came up with less than nothing.

“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Petersen said. “We have to get our quarterback some answers, for sure.

“We need to be able to run the ball better and figure out how we’re going to throw the ball down the field better.”

Other than that . . .

Even when they scored an offensive touchdown, they muffed the point-after conversion kick.

Miles was hardly alone in misdeed. His offensive line gave him spotty shelter from Stanford’s top-ranked defense, his running backs made few yards after contact, and receivers had a hard time time gaining separation.

The result was 179 yards of total offense, a year after Washington averaged 499.3. That group had QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, all of whom are playing pro ball. Their successors . . . likely will not.

Miles was 15 for 29 passing for a paltry 98 yards, the first time the Huskies have been under 100 yards since the 2010 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska. His longest completion was 25 yards, a touchdown pass to Jaydon Mickens early in the second quarter that provided false hope.

He rushed for 50 yards, which is another false positive. Several of his 14 carries were premature departures from the pocket at the first hint of pressure from the Cardinal rushers.

Surrounded in a post-game pocket by reporters, Miles stood his ground as best he could.

“Stanford has a really great front seven, but at times the pressure got to us,” he said. “I could have stayed in the pocket a couple times.”

Said offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith: “He played hard. He didn’t play perfect.”

The upshot was desperation. Tied at 13 early in the fourth quarter, a drive sustained by two Stanford penalties stalled pathetically at midfield. On fourth-and-9, Petersen bailed out of the option of having Korey Durkee, who was stellar all day, punting Stanford deep into its own territory and letting Washington’s impressive defense hold ground.

The Huskies snapped to upback Thompson, the do-everything defender. This time, he did nothing. Stanford was ready and held him to no gain. The Cardinal took over on downs and scored seven plays later what proved to be the game-winner, a five-yard naked bootleg TD by QB Kevin Hogan.

“That’s on me and not those guys,” Petersen said. “They can check out of it (to a punt). We needed to execute a bit better, but it was asking to get too many yards.

“I was trying to create something.”

The urge to create something overtook him again in the next possession. On the kickoff, Stanford had two penalties: Offsides and kicking the ball out of bounds.

The presumptive choice was to accept the out-of-bounds penalty, which provided a first down at the UW 35. Instead Petersen accepted the offsides penalty, which meant a re-kick that likely would put the ball in the hands of Ross, who already returned Washington’ opening kickoff 100 yards, only to be denied by an illegal block penalty.

As far as getting the ball to Ross, it worked. As far as getting anywhere, it didn’t. Ross was stopped at the 16, meaning a 19-yard loss of field position. Washington was out in five plays.

They got the ball once more at their own 48 with 1:49 and no timeouts remaining, and the drive reached the Stanford 28. But a sack of Miles and a penalty for intentional grounding doomed the Huskies, as Petersen feared it would.

Of his two foiled playcalls, Petersen said, “I was trying to get the ball in the hands of my playmakers.”

Put it another way, he was trying to keep it out of the hands of Miles. And remember, Miles became the starter in the season’s second game because Petersen needed to get the ball out of the hands of Jeff Lindquist, the opening-game QB starter in Hawaii who had a second half as Miles had against Stanford (8 for 20, 48 yards).

The two pieces of good news for the Huskies: The defense picked up three turnovers, scoring on one, and was sufficiently stout that it came close to winning the game on its own; and the Huskies have a bye Saturday.

“We knew we were in for tough sledding, but we thought we’d be better than that,” Petersen said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Perhaps that will include direct snaps to Ross and Thompson. Going through Miles may not be such a hot idea in Pac-12 play.


  • RadioGuy

    Definitely a long afternoon for Miles and the UW offense, but not a shocking outcome. This was still just the Huskies’ fifth game under Petersen and they were facing the nation’s top defense. Stanford is going to embarrass more teams before the year is over.

    Yeah, there should be concern about Miles because he seemed tentative and in a hurry out there. On the other hand, it’s one game into the conference season and too soon to panic. Today was a reminder that the Dawgs have to play UP to their competition now…preseason’s over.

    • art thiel

      Miles was tentative during the exhibition season. Not likely to work it out the season.

  • Duck fan

    This game showed that the Huskies are the 5th or 6th best team in the Pac 12.

    • art thiel

      Check back in mid-November.

  • dharmabruce

    I don’t get our coach, man. I watch this USC game and I miss the old band so much. Marcus, at least, belongs here. Yet I’m still interested in and bought in to the new band. You respect them on so many levels and then a fake punt on fourth and nine? OK you’re not just a conservative play caller, you’re spicey. But then you decline the penalty to get the ball on the 35? You sir, you sir, I do not ubderstand. Your cajones are not connected to your mind, man. A broken down ex-high school nothin knows that ain’t right. That ain’t knowin the odds nor your team. Dang!

    • art thiel

      As the column said, he was desperate to get the ball in a playmaker’s hands, and hev owned up to being wrong.

  • Matt712

    Not a big Miles fan. Decision making will continue to be a concern. He may have emmmense athletic ability but I don’t trust him, and apparently neither does his head coach. I think Lindquist is a kid that will learn and get better. I don’t trust Miles to do the same. That said, given the stats, the game was won and lost at the line of scrimmage where the Cardinal were simply better on both sides of the ball. Huskies beat the spread by half a point. Funny thing about those point spreads…

    • art thiel

      Miles didn’t have any turnovers. Those mistakes will cost a QB his job. Lindquist may be a two or three series option.

  • Marc S

    Why exactly is Miles the starting QB? He has a wet noodle for an arm and they bring in Lindquist to run at the QB position. Biggest mistake Peterson made was letting Tui go in favor of Jonathan Smith. His play calling is atrocious.

    I didn’t have a problem with having Stanford kick again, I figured they would just kick it out of bounds again, but I think with how the offense played all day that you have to take the chance on having the ball in Ross’ hands. The fake punt on the other hand, some one should get fired for making that call.

    • Tyee Club member

      Coach Pete is the Special Teams coach. Can’t fire him.

      • Marc S

        Then he needs to find some one to keep him balancef and ask, “Do you really want to do that?” He is an experienced HC, he can’t be making that mistake.

        • art thiel

          Might be worth a re-visit in the offseason

      • art thiel

        Please. No firing talk. So radio-talk-ish.

    • jafabian

      Coach Pete did make an offer to Tui. Tui chose to go to USC on his own accord.

  • jafabian

    Can’t really argue with this game but I will. Though the Cardinal are annually one of the top teams in the nation the Huskies stayed close however this was a game they could have won and it was on their home field no less. Too many costly penalties, including one that nullied Ross’ TD. I’m wondering if instructing Miles to stay in the pocket made him think too much? He seems to be a QB in the Colin Kaepernick mold and needs that freedom to run in order to let him be the QB he’s capable of being. Lindquist might be the better pocket passer but he doesn’t seem ready for that quite yet.

    • art thiel

      Miles trusts his legs more than his arm or the protection. It will be hard to change midseason. They could go QB by committee, but that means real desperation.

  • Diamond Mask

    Very frustrating to watch and listen to. No offense at all. This is not Peterson football.

    • art thiel

      These are not Petersen players.

      • Matt

        Be that as it may, did you expect this blending of Peterson/staff and players to be as painful as it is appearing? On paper the Dawgs have the talent to win their way through this transition and play better than they’ve looked

        • Effzee

          4-1 with a whole new staff and system, and the staff and system working with not-OKG’s, playing Stanford down to the final minutes in the first PAC-12 game of the new regime seems pretty acceptable to me. Sure, there are some concerns, but I can absolutely promise you that we would not have won all 4 of the “Preseason” games if Sark was still here. I am optimistic.

  • Effzee

    The only thing worse than the passing game yesterday is that atrocious uniform. :

    • srich

      Oh, so agree. Not that it has anything to do with wins and losses.

    • art thiel

      They can change the uniform. QB?

  • Big

    Both teams offenses looked sluggish, slow, boring and vulnerable. QB’s play poor to average. The Trees look slow at running back and the passing attack needs a better thrower. Miles misses not having good receivers. Stanford played bully ball and barely won. The Dawgs I believe have a brighter future and in time will have a more open and successful offense than the Trees.

  • paul

    UW Defense looked solid. From the stands it was hard to tell whether the offensive problems centered around QB or rather the lack of pass protection, running game, open receivers. I’m inclined to give this kid from Colorado a break. He seemed to be running for his life most of the day.
    And the penalties. oh dear.

  • 3 Lions

    It wouldn’t appear decision making is Miles strong suit given he decided to wear Broncos clothing on Greek row the night of the SB win… Perhaps he is great at practice & Pete’ doesn’t seem to have any confidence in Lindquist. It is hard to watch.
    Most surprising is the play calling. To go for it on fourth from that position, at that time of the game, not utilizing the strength of our defense & giving away field position was mind boggling. Somewhere, Sark & Neuheisel are smirking & DJ is rolling over in his grave.

  • David Michel

    with a bye coming up, they need to get this figured out real quick. I would open it up to all 3, including Troy Williams. Miles takes way too long to make a decision, and way to long to get rid of the ball. I would be real tempted to start Troy Williams in the next game, if he practices well.

  • srmark

    Why are you pointing all the blame on Miles? He didn’t throw a pick or call a stupid fake punt. He can’t be successful if he’s being rushed & sacked most of the time.
    No, the Huskies have a problem with a weak O-line, inconsistent defense and poor coaching decisions. I’m rather disappointed with Peterson, so far, as are many others I’m sure.