BY Art Thiel 08:53PM 10/11/2014

Thiel: Miles gets it together in Huskies’ triumph

While the defense had its way with Cal, Cyler Miles delivered a much-improved QB effort in a 31-7 triumph. Now he has to do more than repeat it Saturday in Eugene.

Cyler Miles had a breakthrough day in Berkeley against Cal. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

The bet going into Strawberry Canyon Saturday afternoon was for magnum weirdness. But no one figured weirdness to go so . . . weird. The offense that scored 164 points in the past three weeks scored seven, and the offense that couldn’t find the ignition sent sparks everywhere.

At least there was one predictable thing that provided a handrail through the tumultuous Pac-12 Conference football season  – Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson did something stupendous.

His 10o-yard return of a goal-line fumble by Cal’s budding star QB, Jared Goff, not only opened the scoring, it deflated the Golden Bears so abruptly they never recovered.

After the 31-7 rout by Washington at half-empty Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, an argument could be made that Cal’s 4-1 seasonal start was rich with smoke and mirrors. But a more convincing argument was that halfway through the season, the 5-1 Huskies not only have a win, but a leader and a direction.

Dramatic as was Thompson’s play on Cal’s third possession, the breakthrough of Cyler Miles as a quarterback capable of playing steadily enough to win on the Pac-12 road that was more substantive.

The object of much criticism two weeks earlier in a 20-13 loss to Stanford at Husky Stadium, Miles responded to a slimmed-down playbook by completing 22 of 29 passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.  Granted, it was against a defense ranked 121st among 125 FBS teams. But two weeks earlier, he faced in the Cardinal what was probably the nation’s best defense.

Last week’s bye apparently was put to good use by Miles and the coaching staff.  Miles stayed in the pocket and patiently waited for the open man instead of running first. His improved efficiency at midseason made a larger point that Miles’ six-month suspension from the program for a campus altercation cost him developmental time that neither he nor the staff wanted to admit.

“The last two weeks he really studied and improved his game,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “He really showed progress.”

The renewed confidence was apparent on the Huskies’ first scrimmage play. Petersen ordered up a go route to WR John Ross, who would later blow up the game a couple of times, but on this occasion simply out-ran the throw and had to slow up to help avert an interception.

“We got the look we wanted and we had it,” Miles said, lamenting. “Sometimes I forget how fast he really is.”

Miles made up for the miss on the next possession, which came after the defense recovered the first of three fumbles lost by Goff, who was under big pressure all day from the Huskies’ front seven. Miles hit Josh Perkins, who caught his first pass of the season and only the second by a tight end, for a 25-yard touchdown and 14-0 lead.

Perhaps the signal achievement for the offense in 2014 came in the second quarter. Starting from their own 12, the Huskies rushed 10 times, and Miles completed three of four passes, including the final 11 yards on a TD pass to DiAndre Campbell, to go up 21-0. Those 88 yards over 5½ unspectacular minutes couldn’t be repeated the rest of the game, but its efficiency and balance proved this group could sustain it on the road in the Pac-12.

“I’d like us to be more effective in the run game,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how to take next step. We’re inching slowly but surely ahead.”

The transition between Petersen and his predecessor, Steve Sarkisian, has been a little lumpy, in no small part because of the drop from three-year starter Keith Price to Miles, who missed all of spring ball. But the Huskies are 5-1 ahead of the game of the year Saturday in Eugene against the Ducks, and seeming to get the hang of Pete-ball.

The Huskies, as many purples are painfully aware, are 0-10 vs. Oregon. In his coaching career at Boise State, Petersen was 2-0. He knows something.

What Petersen would like to know is if his quarterback can know what he knows about moving the ball. Petersen knows Miles is careful — the Huskies have turned the ball over once the season, while the defense has hawked 15 — and he’s about to find out whether he can be dynamic.



  • Jamo57

    I’m glad I’m not a bettor. LOL A friend of mine is and he said last night the Dawgs cost him some $$$. Not sure if he took Cal or the over. I think I’ll put my money in pork bellies. More predictable. Ha!

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Most of the time its a sure bet to pick Oregon in this weeks match up but as Art Alluded to Coach Peterson is the X factor going into this one. I think Oregon isnt as invincible at home as they have been in years past but the dawgs will have to play one hell of a game to put that 0~10 skeleton back in the closet for a season ….but hey?Halloween is close make no bones about it so(why not) redirect the skeleton , Washington!. Hopefully Coach Pete has something dusted off from his Boise state playbook for Oregon…he befuddles the feathered ones and we win on a late field goal. Thats if they play inspired. If they play as uninspired as the Seahawks did over the weekend it wont go well. Go Huskies!

  • jafabian

    The team and coaches seem to be getting more and more in synch every week with each other and the play calling. I’m still not sold on Miles but this was a solid game by him and a great confidence booster overall for the team. I agree that Oregon isn’t what they used to be. Not going to predict an upset but it’s certainly believable.