Petersen has Five More Weeks to Avoid a Winter of Fan Discontent

Due to a personal situation, I didn't attend last night's Husky game. And five minutes after kickoff, the power went out, plunging my living room into darkness.

I ended up listening on the radio. It reminded me of listening to the 1982 Washington-Arizona State game on the radio when I was a kid. That game was an epic battle between two top 10 teams. Bob Rondeau was doing the play-by-play. Dad and I listened in his den, and he smoked a pipe in those days and I recall the smell of tobacco in the air. I also remember my hands being sweaty during that tense fourth quarter. Arizona State was 9-0 and they had passed out roses to their fans before the game. But the Huskies won 17-13, knocking the Sun Devils out of the Rose Bowl.

It was a different storyline last night, of course. Bob Rondeau was still doing the play-by-play, but little else was similar. The mediocre Washington Huskies lost to ASU 24-10 despite a solid defensive effort. Due to the power going out, I wasn't able to see the game, and was denied a chance to see how freshman Troy Williams looked in his first start.

From listening to the radio, my frustration arose from the predictability of the playcalling. Rondeau would mention that Shaq Thompson was coming in, and it was obvious they were handing the ball to him. Rondeau would state that Jeff Lindquist had entered the game, and it was obvious we were going to run the wildcat with him into the line.

Over and over, I listened to Rondeau describe the setting and then I would know with 81% accuracy exactly what play the Huskies were running.

I did not get a feel for Williams in his first start, other than the offense sounded anemic and pitiful. And the windy conditions wreaked havoc with the offenses of both teams.

But all this predictability and bogging down on offense is becoming a big concern. Moving Shaq Thompson exclusively to tailback last night revealed the lack of faith the coaches have in their stable of running backs.         

A glance on the Hardcore Husky message boards reveals much blame being directed at offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith. But as I stated in a recent column, it's too early to dump on him for playcalling. I've give an example why.

When Mike Bellotti was coaching Oregon, he had Jeff Tedford as his offensive coordinator. The Ducks would constantly rack up big first half leads, then take their foot off the gas and go ultra conservative on offense. Over and over, their opponents mounted comebacks, before Oregon would eek out the win at game's end.

Behind the scenes, Tedford was quietly livid. When his offense was on fire, he would want to keep piling up the points. But through the headphones, Bellotti would constantly order him to go conservative with the playcalling.

On sports radio and message boards, Oregon fans widely blamed Tedford for lousy playcalling in the second half and sometimes called for him to be fired. Tedford grew frustrated by this, but there was nothing he could do about the fact that things were going on behind the scenes.

As my concern grows over the predictability and lack of progress by UW's offense, I keep in mind that the blame does not yet reside with Smith, the offensive coordinator. I keep in mind that it's difficult to judge a new OC until his second season with a team, when a new system is being installed.

The current blame, if it needs to be directed right now, resides with head coach Chris Petersen. He hired Smith after all. Yes, the lack of talent left for him by the previous coach is a huge reason why Washington is so poor on offense.

But as former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox used to say, "You've got to play the hand you're dealt." As of now, Petersen's offense is failing. It isn't showing any development or progress. He has five more weeks to make something positive out of the cards he's holding, or else we'll enter into an offseason winter of discontent.