Jonathan Smith is becoming the fall guy, and that's not right

It was exactly one year ago (October 20, 2013) that Washington got routed by Arizona State 53-24 while news spread that former coach Don James had died. What a mournful night that was.

After that game, KJR's Hugh Millen set aside his usual support of then-coach Steve Sarkisian to lament: "There's nothing positive to take away from this game. It feels like we've gone all the way back to square one."   

Last night, watching Oregon drub our Dawgs for the 11th year in a row was disturbing, difficult and deflating. Seeing the talent differential between skill players from our team and theirs, was demoralizing.  

Going into the game, I didn't expect the Huskies to win. But I did feel like new UW coach Chris Petersen had been here long enough to influence this team enough to withstand the Autzen onslaught with grace. Oh, how naive I was.  

In so many ways, it feels like we are back in 2009. It feels like we are back at square one.

I sense readers out there muttering to themselves, "what the hell are you talking about Derek? You're comparing us to the team coming off the 0-12 season of 2008? Why don't you give Sark credit for building the program back up to respectability? Look at the guys we have on defense! Shelton, Peters, Thompson and Kikaha. Those guys are future NFL players."

Yes, the Huskies have talent on defense. But so did the 2009 team. After all, Donald Butler, Mason Foster, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Alameda Ta'amu were all Willingham recruits from that season who went on to play pro football. That whole team comparison thing is a wash, with the exception that the '09 squad had tailback Chris Polk, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, and Jake Locker at QB. This current Husky team has none of that type of talent on offense.

Do you see what I'm saying now?

Watching the Oregon game last night wounded my soul. To see that after 11 years of lopsided losses, we're still getting battered and can't be competitive, is the apex of frustration.

Some of the blame must fall on head coach Chris Petersen.

But more and more fans are blaming offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith for our woes. He's steadily becoming the fall guy for Husky failure, and that isn't right. It's too convenient.

Smith showed creative new wrinkles in the game plan yesterday, in trying to utilize what limited firepower he has. The problem was that he brought a butter knife to a sword fight.

I don't like calling out college-age players. These are good kids in the spotlight and it's not their "fault" to have been recruited and signed by UW. But when Sarkisian bolted for USC last December, he left behind a sketchy stable of quarterbacks and Ivy League slow running backs. To be brutally honest, these players probably don't belong on Pac-12 rosters.

When your running game doesn't have the blocking or speed to get outside, when your flailing quarterback feels panic the moment defenders apply pressure, and when your receivers drop key passes or can't make the clutch play to help out their teammates, what's a new offensive coordinator to do?

And so we're stuck in this maddening world of Gridiron Groundhog Day: Blowout losses to Oregon for 11 consecutive years. Already out of the conference race by mid-October — again. Looking like the five years Sark was here did nothing to progress this program.

Husky Nation remains mired in the world of "Wait 'til next year." There are plenty of reasons to believe Chris Petersen is the ideal leader to forge a new, winning culture. The ideal person to stock the roster with guys his staff can develop into worthy competition for the likes of Oregon.

But for now, waiting is all we can do. The waiting is the hardest part. That's the most demoralizing thing to realize when you're stuck back at square one.


Derek Johnson's articles appear on Hardcore Husky by each Sunday night.