How we suffered through our ungame against Idaho State. We can play 12 opponents each year (13 if you are in the top 58% of teams and 14 if you're pretty good). You would think with such a limited number of games each year teams wouldn't want to waste any of them, but that is exactly what playing the likes of ISU is. Sure, you get a free win for a few hundred thousand bucks but it really, really sucks. The stats mean nothing unless you're terrible (read 16000 penalties) and it is a big middle finger to the fans who want to at least play a comatose FBS team - not some pulseless FCS patsy who can only hope they don't suffer any long-term injuries. Playing Cyler Miles was good I guess but is he really facing better competition than he gets at practice? Were these meaningful live snaps? I am doubtful of that. He probably could have gotten some benefit playing Idaho or Boise State. I imagine if we would have played Boise State even BSU would have taken the opportunity to play their back up if the game was a blow out.
To touch on penalties again lets look at what 98.3 yards/game means. If you take our #12 in the country defense (which is an inflated stat due to the lack of competition) and add 98.3 yards/game to our 279 yards/game (since we are effectively giving our opponent free yards each time we commit a penalty... sure splitting this between offense and defense would be better but too much work for the $15/month I pay to write this) then our defense moves from #12 to #59 - middle of the pack. Not like you can follow that last sentence since it was super long, but the point is we commit so many penalties it can turn a good team into a mediocre one. If we are only a mediocre team then I posit this many penalties would turn us into a bad one. What will Sark do about it? What can a coach do to stop penalties from occurring? Surely the players know the rules so what is causing this? If this is some cultural thing then I don't think it will be changing over night. With simplified schemes our players should be committing fewer penalties. I am not sure the root cause but I think it starts at the top and I don't think it is going away overnight.
The real game that mattered to us last week was Fresno State versus Boise State. Fresno State showed that Boise is just another team and our once magical victory that heralded our arrival was nothing more than a mirage. We looked forward to winning that game to show some form of incremental improvement and then we arrived and there was nothing there for us. Basically we are still the same team as ever until we prove otherwise - and if there is anything our game against Illinois showed us, it is not otherwise.
So our first real game is next week. What makes it real is not that it is some sort of benchmark, but that it actually counts towards the Rose Bowl. If we don't win then this should take us back to October 27, 2007 when Arizona beat UW 48-41 - a game that was the tipping point for so many - the eye opener that showed that there was nothing left to play out and Willingham had to go.
Which brings us to the theme of the week - LIFPO vs TSIFO. Not to rehash the debate, but for those who only visit this site for the articles we are talking about Let It Play Out vs The Season Is Over. I have the answer to this polarizing topic and I don't mean to cop out when I say the answer is both. The season is over. We have seen at this point that this is the same team as ever. We are sloppy at times and while we have a simplified offense that is actually a much better scheme than the hodge podge we used to run, we aren't able to translate our big yardage totals into big point totals like a team that could truly execute and finish would do. Our defense is better, incrementally - they can tackle in space and our back 7 actually belong in Husky Stadium (for the most part). We are in year five though and this team still isn't a Rose Bowl contender. We are a third place in the North, middle of the road Pac-12 team. Those simply are not acceptable standards. It would be counter to all evidence thus far to see Sark turn things around. Isn't insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Thus the season is over. We must let it play out though. If we fire Sark now, or after Arizona (win or lose), Stanford, Oregon, etc we are just setting Wilcox up to take over as interim HC and potentially convince people he is worthy of the full-time gig with a multi-year contract. Anyone who can't see that hiring an unproven coordinator as HC is a recipe for failure needs to get their eyes checked. We don't need more growing pains, learning curves, or staff building. We need someone with a proven track record of success who has the experience to handle everything they run into here since they have seen it before. There are a lot of people out there though who would probably happily hire Wilcox as HC after he wins some games in the softer half of our Pac-12 slate. I am sure Woodward would love to hire him as a bargain HC. Someone with Jim Mora's credentials would cost a lot more money for example. We need to let it play out so we can reach the end (or last week or two) of the season with Sark so we don't fall into the Wilcox-trap. If he cuts his teeth coaching for some other school, learns the ropes and comes back here to be a successful coach for us by replacing which ever screw up we hire next, that is great. We simply can not cut to the end of the season now because even though it is over, if we don't let it play out we may well end up with Sarkisian 2.0. A slight upgrade with many new and unexpected bugs. Wait until the season is over... tock... tock... tock... and then go after someone who has a CONTRACT.
Evens & Ends
Penn State is getting some schollies back... guess that is fair... no one else seems to get punished for anything (and I am not talking about Oregon... I mean they just can't do a proper investigation and actually punish the multitude of offenders out there). Lane Kiffin may have taken the lead in the race to get fired first by barely eking out a win against Utah State. It will be interesting to see WSU play Stanford. I don't expect WSU to win but this will be a chance to see if Leach is making progress or incremental progress. What a lousy week of football. Not much to talk about for UW or across the country.