BY Art Thiel 07:40PM 11/02/2019

Thiel: Huskies don’t measure up in Pac-12

The 33-28 loss to Utah, which had dropped 12 of its previous 13 against Washington, fell hard on QB Jacob Eason and his three turnovers. But his lack of help was familiar.

Aaron Fuller, the Huskies’ leading receiver, had a TD pass among his three catches, but not this one. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Last time the Washington Huskies met Utah 11 months ago, they won the Pac-12 championship, 10-3, without benefit of an offensive touchdown. So if the Huskies, aided by the presence of highly regarded QB Jacob Eason, knew early Saturday morning ahead of the rematch that they were about to put up 28 points and gain 369 yards against the still-formidable Utes defense, they would have demanded to know where to sign up for that worthy feat.

However, any reliance on comparative history would betray them.

Eason, it turns out, has more Jake Browning in him than anyone realized, at least on Saturday’s otherwise glorious afternoon at Husky Stadium. And his teammates collectively have a little less talent in them too, less than anyone has seen since coach Chris Petersen’s first couple of years at Montlake.

Just as they fell to Oregon 35-31 with a second-half collapse a week ahead of the bye, they failed after the bye in the second half against Utah. The 33-28 loss (box) to the ninth-ranked Utes (8-1, 5-1) was abetted by two third-quarter interceptions of Eason, including a 39-yard pick-six by CB Jaylon Johnson, plus a first-half lost fumble that led to Utah’s first three points.

The swoon that has left the 5-4 Huskies with four conference losses by November’s first weekend is hardly all on Eason. But by default, he’s the talent that has to carry his largely mediocre teammates. He’s not quite up for the rescue.

“I don’t know,” said Petersen about the back-to-back fades. “These are good teams
for a reason — they pour it on when it matters. They are playing better than us in the fourth quarter.

“It was self-inflicted wounds. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Eason also lacked any incisive wisdom, at least any he’d like to share publicly.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” he said. “Part of that is on me, being smart with the ball. I’ll take the blame there, and learn from it.”

In the other locker room, problems were few. The afternoon was a breakthrough milestone for the Utah program. In his 15th year at Utah — the third-longest active, single-school coaching tenure in NCAA football — Kyle Whittingham has eaten a lot of purple dirt. The Utes were 1-12 against UW, including the title loss and a 21-7 regular-season defeat in Salt Lake City last season.

“It’s up there for me,” he said of the road victory. “I’d have to go back and look at them, but it’s up there. It’s very, very satisfying, especially under the circumstances.”

Petersen was very unsatisfied, but suggested that the worthiness of the opponents should be taken into account.

“The last two weeks, we have played top-10 teams,” he said. “Those are excellent
football teams. We are not a top-10 team, but we are right there. With a few more plays, we could be a pretty good team.”

One of those plays was a curious failed choice, a turnover on downs, that was not the fault of the players, even if the result was a critical drop that turned the game’s emotional current.

Ahead 14-10 after dominating the Utes, Washington faced a 4th-and-1 at the Utah 45-yard line with 1:15 left in the half. Coming out of a timeout, Petersen decided against a dive by Eason and instead chose a pass play that began with Hunter Bryant, who moved into third place in UW’s list of receiving yards by tight ends (six for 106, 1,126 for career), in motion to the right.

Under center, Eason dropped straight back, backpedaling under pressure, and lofted a soft, catchable ball. It was directed not to Bryant but to TE Devin Culp. A 6-3, 262-pound redshirt freshman from Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, he may be a star of the future. But his moment was now, and he had yet to catch a pass for Washington. He didn’t catch this one, either.

Asked whether Culp was the primary, Petersen immediately said yes, without elaboration.

Eason, when asked if Bryant was the first choice, had another view.

“Yeah, off the jump,” he said of Bryant. “I don’t know if the (defender) was coming downhill or not. I went through my progression to the next option (Culp). I tried to give him a chance.”

Going to a rookie for the game’s biggest play to that point had a bad outcome. Even though just 1:09 was left, senior QB Tyler Huntley took the turnover on downs and moved Utah smartly over 41 yards in eight plays for a field goal at 0:00 to cut the lead to one and establish that Utah’s offense had found itself after the slow start.

Huntley passed for 240 yards in the second half to finish 29 of 34 for 284 yards, and converted on 10 of 17 third and fourth downs. He was the better QB Saturday, as Eason’s game deteriorated when the UW went pass-only. He was 17 of 35 in the second half  and finished 29 of 52 for 316 yards and the three turnovers.

He had his moments, including four touchdown passes, two to Bryant. The missed chance to get the ball to Bryant before the half was among the “few more plays” that Petersen referenced.

Dismal as was the outcome for UW, the Huskies have a short week before playing Friday night in Corvallis against an Oregon State team (4-4, 3-2) team that manhandled Arizona 56-38 Saturday with 572 yards of offense.

The Beavers are improved, but not a top-10 team. A Washington loss Friday blows away the Huskies’ final fig leaf that they are “a few more plays” from being a good team.

WR Jordan Chin put the Huskies up 7-0 with his second career touchdown catch. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


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YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    For their remaining games the Huskies objectives should be to score as much as possible in the first half because they won’t do much if anything in the second. And they’ll need a lot of help to make a bowl at this point. At least Coach Petersen isn’t blaming the scout team for not adequately preparing the starters.

    • Lightninbug

      My opinion: the team should vote among themselves to reject any bowl offered lest they by doing so they demonstrate to the country at large the canyon sized fissures in their play.

      • Husky73

        The chances of that happening are less than Trump being impeached.

        • Lightninbug

          I know. But I will add here that if I was the coach I would refuse any bowl game offered in the face of 4 and possibly more defeats in the Pac 12. This is coming from a Husky fan of 67 years, my father having taken me to games while he was in law school at the Udub in 1952.

          • jafabian

            Bowl games mean money for the athletic program. And possible draft position for the players entering the NFL draft, a first time bowl for freshmen and recruiting opportunities for the team. But I doubt they’re going to one anyway. Mike Leach smells blood in the water and is preparing for the Apple Cup.

          • Lightninbug

            I do understand all of the reasons for going to bowl games but the Dawgs just haven’t lived up to their early season hype in a big way. This is the first time that I have ever thought they should turn down a bowl bid. I guess I just don’t want them thoroughly pantsed in front of a national audience. That’s just how much faith I’ve lost in them this season. Won’t affect my devoted attention next year though.

            Seahawk game just ended and I am wrung out. Gotta go eat.

          • art thiel

            They will be playing against another 7-5 team, so a pantsing is unlikely.

          • Lightninbug

            Hoping you might be right, but they keep surprising me in the wrong way. Still, Chris Peterson is not the kind of coach to ever give up and I see the current circumstances not beyond his ability to resurrect, even if it is next season before we witness such a change.

          • art thiel

            Most schools most of the time at most bowls lose money, because they cover tabs for a large entourage. The meaningless games are a loss leader justified by alleged goodwill.

          • Husky73

            Wow. Truman was President! My first Husky game was 1959.

          • Lightninbug

            I was at the game where Hugh McElhenny ran from one end zone to the other. All I really knew at the time is that I’d never heard anything so loud as that stadium in my short life. Actually not sure if I’ve heard anything that loud since. Took me years to really understand the moment.

            Thanks for the discourse. I truly do hope the Dawgs may win out.

          • Husky73

            I bow down to your Husky-ness.

          • art thiel

            If you’ve been around that long, you should know that pride has no play whatsoever in big-time college sports.

          • Lightninbug

            Gee Art, you are usually better at this sort of rejoinder.

      • art thiel

        Rejecting an additional 15 practices would be a tad short-sighted, yes? Besides, bowl games are rewards for alums who help keep the joint afloat.

        • Lightninbug

          I’m just not a glutton for punishment. To each his own though.

    • art thiel

      Forgot about the scout-team excuse. Lambo, right?

      • jafabian

        Yep. The lamest most creative excuse in Husky football history. Even Neuheisel was more accountable.

  • DawgDave

    Really Art, “has more Jake Browning in him”? Frankly, I wish he did. Jake beat Utah when it mattered. Jake hung 70 on Oregon and looked brilliant doing it (‘the point’ is my screensaver and I gave 500 for Jake’s penalty on that one as well, the food bank appreciated the penalty :-), Eason managed to choke against them. And Jake won ten games last year with the same “mediocre talent” at receiver that Eason has running routes. The one thing Browning didn’t do is spin like Russell Wilson every time the pocket starts to collapse. More mediocre talent on the line…. oh wait, minus McGary it’s the same unit that blocked for woeful Browning last season. Isn’t it a good idea to keep your eyes downfield when you’re a quarterback? Those constant spins should be corrected by coaches, why aren’t they trying to fix that? And Eason, despite his “NFL body” is nowhere near as capable at quarterback sneaking as Browning was. Check the stats going back. And when the pressure is on Eason, he throws harder. Check all the drops against Cal and today against Utah (and all season for that matter if you’d like to be an ‘investigative’ sports reporter) and you will find (sorry for the run-on sentence) that everyone of them occurred in critical pressure situations. He throws harder when it really matters and the receivers are expecting the same zip. They dropped less against Utah than Cal because as mediocre as they are, they’re realizing he throws harder when it’s a tight game and they’re starting to adjust. Thank god Eason doesn’t perform like he does if he had Russell Wilson’s body or he’d be another mediocre talent. Then again, maybe he just is…….. A Lamborghini body with a 1970’s Chrysler drive train.

    • Husky73

      The Huskies lost their all time leading passer, their all time leading rusher and nine defensive starters from last year. Plus, they lost Ty Jones. I predicted 8-4 for this season, and that isn’t looking too good right now. They really have a hard time finishing. Eason has “arm talent,” but he’s not a good game manager (yet). Browning was like a coach on the field, and Gaskin could find a way to make a lot out of a little. It’s just a down year. It happens to just about every team. Schools with decades of success have down years– including Miami, USC, Texas and Florida State. The Huskies have lost two one-score games to top ten teams (each with only one loss), and a very close game to Cal (again). The Stanford game was a non-starter (“Kid, it’s not your night.”). Who would have thought Oregon State in Corvallis would be looking like a toss-up? The Beaver believers will be fired up.

      • art thiel

        The team’s biggest talent shortcoming is at linebacker, where none are P12 average, and at receiver, with the exception of TE Bryant. You’re right — nearly every program will fall off from time to time. Remember, these are kids, albeit poorly paid kids.

        • 1coolguy

          I’d take the free tuition, free food and free living any time.

    • Bruce McDermott

      Lots to agree with here, but if you don’t remember the “Browning spin” you are blocking out a LOT of plays over Jake’s career…especially the last two years. He would spin his way to huge losses depressingly often.

      • art thiel

        Browning’s shoulder injury limited him a little, and I think fear of re-injury helped inspire the happy-feet syndrome.

    • art thiel

      We need to introduce you to periods and paragraphs.

      Some fair points here, but you completely overlooked Browning’s frequent, futile spins from pressure that were his biggest limitation. That said, Browning was a good, not great, college quarterback. Same for Eason so far, but he’s not a choker and McGary is a big loss for this O-line, which has disappointed too.

  • Alan Harrison

    Sorry, but I’ve been listening to folks rave about Jacob Eason for years now. But the eye test tells me he’s Dan McGwire – great if no one rushes him, horrible if anyone does. He doesn’t do basic things, like stepping up in the pocket. I pity the poor NFL team that wastes a high draft pick on him in the spring. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/636ec5835dca1df68a133763a6d9493dcc24eae385de0fd3816df3ff4dd8fb6f.jpg

    • art thiel

      Harsh. Eason has way more ability than McGwire. But Eason does need to learn to step up instead of spin out of the pocket. I do think he’s falling out of the first round, but he’ll go high.

      • 1coolguy

        Hey, if you had Bush Hamdan as a coach, would you be any good? Look at Browning’s time under Hamdan – his worst. Until CP gets off his ass and hires the right OC, the Dawgs will be offensively walking in the dark.
        If I’m Eason, I’m gone.

  • ReebHerb

    We saw the game. The other UW quarterback, Brock Huard, made it tough to listen. Can the guy just shut up sometime? Huard knows the game but as the TV color analyst do we really need to know the inner mind workings of the coach, quarterback, and mascot for each play and situation?

    • Effzee

      Brock is completely aggravating in his color commentary.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        To be honest I think Huard is Joe Buck, you’ve never seen them together. I just can’t listen to either one. Nails on a chalkboard.

    • Lightninbug

      I had the exact reaction to Huard who, it seems to me, has deteriorated immensely in his broadcast career. And, if you didn’t know better, you’d have a hard time telling that he was once a UW quarterback. I realize he can’t exactly be a ‘homer’ in the broadcast booth, but the occasional hint of Husky pride used to be a feature and now it is a bug.

      • art thiel

        I think networks should ban broadcasters from doing alma mater games. Puts too much pressure on them to either suck up or go overboard to prove independence.

        • Lightninbug

          Gotta agree with you there, though I do think it possible for alma mater announcers to find a proper balance and I have actually seen Huard do so in the past.

    • coug73

      Better than his brother 2X.

      • Effzee

        No way.

    • art thiel

      I was there, so I heard nothing. But I’ve heard him on other broadcasts and I think he’s very well prepared and knowledgeable. But yes, he does psychoanalyze too much.

      • 1coolguy

        He adds more color than most – At times he’s a bit much, but WTH? He knows more than us!

      • Effzee

        He can’t help it that he sounds super preachy. It’s who he is, but it’s annoying for football commentary. Seems like he’s trying to pull off the Hugh Millen football geek, deep-dive thing. The difference is Hugh has a good personality and seems like the “smart” friend of the group, who you want to hang out with. Whereas Brock is kinda like listening to John Lithgow’s character from Footloose talking about football.

  • Effzee

    In a season where we lost 9 of 11 defensive starters, and four-year starters at QB and RB, was Eason supposed to be some kind of badass who was going to help offset those personnel losses with his arm? I see a strong arm for sure, but I don’t see a lot of mature quarterbacking. If he’s really gone after this year, what a waste. Could not Sirmon (or any of the QBs who left because of Eason) be 5-4 at this point, while getting a year of playing time under his belt and preparing to return next year?

    • art thiel

      Well, you made my point. Lots worse than Eason have been taken lots higher, including Locker. Purely from a development standpoint, nearly every QB benefits from a full four years, but the financial risk outweighs the rewards.

      • Effzee

        I can understand that, and I don’t know the inner workings of the program or recruiting…. But it seems like a Chris Peterson team should/would have a QB under development, ready to take over for the guy who’s leaving. I can’t help feeling he screwed this up a tiny bit.

  • wabubba67

    If there is any good news this year, it is that Eason will probably be back for his senior year before turning over the reins to Sam Huard. The freshmen WRs, LBs, and DLs will be sophomores that will be more talented than this year’s group of seniors. Not sure that Bush Hamden is the guy that Petersen and our QBs need, though.

    • art thiel

      I’d be surprised if he came back, barring serious injury. His arm strength alone will get him drafted.

      • yoryboy

        Me too. I don’t see any way Eason comes back. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he decides to sit out whatever middle-of-the-road bowl game Washington gets.

  • coug73

    I think Jacob Eason deserves to be cut some slack. The media and fans have over hyped this kid who has athletic skill but not much experience as a game day college QB, especially with the Huskies system. For a fact, the whole Husky team has been over hyped, I understand enthusiasm but game day is the reality. Eason would benefit with another year of Husky football, technique improvement, improve decision making, better coaching, and greater leadership/confidence.

    • Effzee

      Indeed.

    • Joe_Fan

      Eason, and the Huskies, would definitely benefit from another year in the system.

      • art thiel

        Good luck getting him to buy in. He’d be a fool to risk the extra year.

    • art thiel

      All true. This is his second year as a starter, and he has one tight end that can make him look good, and almost nobody else.

  • Husky73

    I have looked at six or eight Husky boards in the past 24 hours. It is astonishing how many people want Chris Petersen fired, and he and his entire staff taken to a North Korean prison camp.

    • art thiel

      Stay away from that stuff. It will rot your brain. I mean, more than already. :)

      • Husky73

        covfefe

  • 1coolguy

    This season is all about 9 defensive starters, several NFL draft choices, graduating. Eason is not ready to be a savior, a la RW, and add in the lame play calling and clear inability of UW coaches to adjust after halftime and we have the mess this season is.

    • art thiel

      Mostly true. Most surprising is the poor production from an experienced O-line.

  • Science4all

    This coming weekend will the Huskies once again lose to the Barney Fife of college football?

    • art thiel

      You’re going back deep. But I was there. This is different.