To know former Husky Matt Rogers is to love a guy with unbridled optimism. Especially in regards to Husky Football. Then sometimes that optimism runneth over into jaw-dropping irrationality. Want an example? Two years ago, during a podcast that he did with me and former teammate Kyle Benn, it came time for predictions. The Dawgs had just eeked out wins against Eastern Washington and Hawaii. A game at Nebraska was next. Kyle and I quickly predicted a Cornhusker victory. But not only did Matt pick the Huskies to win, he picked them to win rather easily. And he backed up his boast by offering up his house as collateral.
Nebraska plungered the Huskies into oblivion the following Saturday. And the joke became that Matt had to dumpster dive on University Avenue in order to feed his family. Kyle and I had some fun with that one.
But Matt’s relentless optimism is in maximum overdrive these days, and for good reason. In Washington’s season-opening win last week over Boise State, the Huskies played a spectacular game against a ranked opponent. The reality show host and country singer was watching on TV from his home in California.
“Watching the game, I was getting so excited that tears were rolling down my face,” Rogers said. “I've never been that excited before. I kept telling my wife, ‘I can't believe we're not at Husky Stadium!’
“I have watched them religiously since 2001 back when I played”, he said. “For me, I have not seen a Washington team look that good in the past decade.”
Rogers cited three things that stood out from the 38-6 win over the Broncos.
“The thing I was most excited about, because we talked about it so much in our podcast last year, was the offensive line,” he said. “I thought they did a phenomenal job. And for the last 12-13 years, we've always had a crappy defensive backfield. Just always been bad. And I thought they did great against Boise State. And third, our tackling was off-the-charts fantastic.
“That's the best I've seen the defense in a long time,” he added. “They just seemed more sound and aggressive. And dude, how exciting was Husky Stadium now? It's kind of like feeding off the Seahawks' 12th Man. Now it's like, hey is Washington a tough place to play now? Because that place seemed to be rocking!”
Rogers asked me my thoughts, and I told him my mood was best described as cautious optimism. We’ve been down this road in years past, I said. We’ve gotten excited over a Steve Sarkisian win before, only to see the team relax and then do a face plant. Rogers temporarily acknowledged my viewpoint.
“My biggest concern is can we do this again?” he said. “Can we keep this up? I've never seen them play this good, so it's like you're waiting for them to screw it up.
“Even during the Boise game, when Price threw the interception right off the bat, I'm like AW CRAP! HERE WE FREAKING GO AGAIN!
“But then, that was it,” he said. “It never happened again! There weren't any dropped balls. There weren't any missed tackles. There weren't any stupid turnovers. There weren't any missed blocks. And I was like in shock, like dude is this happening? Because I'm not used to it! And so my biggest concern is, hey is it going to last? Because it's so good.”
Rogers and I went on to discuss QB Keith Price and how happy we were that Price looked so confident and capable again, after a tough 2012 season. Rogers cited his former teammate and current UW quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo.
“One thing I've got to do is give my boy Marques props,” Rogers said. “Price looked really smart throwing the ball away instead of scrambling and trying to make something happen and getting hurt. He didn't have any unnecessary runs at all. I don't remember him scrambling and taking any sacks.
“Price just looked sharp. We just looked sharp all across the board!”
And then, in typical Matt Rogers style, the Enthusiasm Express left the station for good. It was soon barreling down a steep mountain grade like a runaway locomotive.
“I've said it from the beginning and now my confidence is even higher,” he said with his voice rising. “I'm predicting either 8-4 or 9-3. I feel confident we will be 4-0 heading into Stanford. And if we can get that upset, dude now we're looking at Oregon at home, in a battle between 5-0 vs. 5-0.