Franchise Infidels, another disappointing game has come and gone. What at one point seemed like an upset to open eyes turned into a game of woulda, shoulda, coulda. Despite a hard-nosed defensive performance where the Husky defensive limited the #5 Stanford Cardinal to 4.57 yards/play, they were not able to overcome traditional Sarkisian sloppy play, poor special teams, and boneheaded play calling. To put into perspective how good the defense played (keep in mind special teams left them in a hole many times) the 4.57 yards/play allowed is the same yards/play allowed by the #18 defense of the UCLA fighting Jim Moras. The UW defense is actually third in the nation with an average of 3.94 yards/play on defense but that includes all the teams we've played - not just one of the best in the land. Our pass efficiency defense is also ranked third in the nation which helped keep Kevin Hogan down to a 29.9 QB Rating. It is well known that our defensive weakness is the line but Justin Wilcox has done a spectacular job of masking that deficiency with LB and DB support. Our back 7 are worthy of playing on any team in the country. Peters, Ducre, Parker, and Predator are all playing at an all-conference level. Peters in particular is an amazing stud and if he had come into the season more hyped I think he would be looking at all-American accolades. He is damn good. Peters even saved the game for us (which we went on to blow) when he shed a block to tackle Hogan on the third short where Hogan ran wide to try and scamper for a first down. That ended the Stanford drive and kept us in the game to give our offense another chance. Timu and Feeney are also playing at a high level and even Fuimaono and Shamburger are 100% serviceable and play like Pac-12 players. There is not a single linebacker or defensive back who is an embarrassment to UW. Hopefully Darrell Daniels can start transitioning to safety. We will need the help down the road and he is an absolute baller. Obviously we all remember him laying our some poor Stanford sap with a tremendous, yet newly illegal block.
It is actually really scary to think how good this defense would be if we had more quality linemen, particularly a second DT. Shelton is great and everyone knows it and Kikaha is decent but Hudson is a stop gap (and a damn good one considering he has been a TE for years) but Littleton just does not make the grade. He looks too slow for his size but ultimately his speed is about right and he is just undersized. Hopefully Lupoi can get whatever linemen we have in the pipeline up to snuff soon because our DL will continue to hold us back against the best teams. We have a defense that can shut down Oregon (yes, I said it) except for the defensive line. Accordingly without a defensive line I expect them to give our defense fits and end up wearing them out in the long run. Heyward and Sirmon are top tier coaches who need raises. I remember what we pay them now but it is not enough. I have no worries about our future at LB and DB as long as those two coach at UW. Unfortunately they may be gone sooner rather than later.
Wunderkind Justin Wilcox will be the head coach at some school really soon. I feel like he has some long term contract but I expect that to be bought out. He should be cutting his teeth at some MWC or MAC school but someone will take the risk on a talented young coordinator. I have no doubts Wilcox will be a great HC some day and if I wasn't sick and tired of coaches learning on the job at Washington I would say fire Sark yesterday and hire Wilcox on as full time HC. I want someone who will win today though so we need someone with a proven record. If for whatever reason our program sucks so bad that no one proven is willing to take money (and we better offer a lot to attract a winner as our next coach) to coach at a school primed for success then Wilcox would be my top choice of coordinators. He is a detail guy who only cares about football as far as I can tell. He commands tremendous respect and will keep our defense in tact. But enough about our AWESOME defense, our star DC, coaches and players. Lets talk about everything that is alright and everything that is wrong.
Our offense is alright. It manages to move the ball 6.553 yards per play which is tied for 19th best in the country with Maryland. However we are 34th in scoring per game (5th in total yards/game) so it is curious why we can move the ball but not actually FINISH. One obvious factor is penalties which I'll harp on in a bit but ultimately we do repeat a lot of ground. We are tied for 49th in turnover margin (+2 -> +.4/game) so we are actually doing pretty well on that front. In fact we are tied for 25th in turnovers lost so on the whole we really are securing the ball and not throwing it away too frequently. We are very middle of the road in red zone percentage with an 85.2% success rate, good for 54th in the nation. In 27 attempts we have scored 20 TDs (11/9 rush/pass) and then kicked three RZ FGs. None of these things directly point to why we move the ball among the best in the nation but don't score with the best. Maybe penalties do kill drives enough that our #19 yards/play turns into #34 points/game. All I know is that it isn't Keith Price's fault. He is a master of improvisation and showed against Stanford his ability to scramble when needed as well as his ability to keep his eyes down field and throw on the run (RIP Kevin Smith). His QB rating is 15th in the nation and this is all behind an offensive line that more resembles a turnstile than a barrier. Michael Criste in particular comes to mind. I saw one nice example of down field blocking from him but multiple instances of Stanford defenders blowing past him to harass Price.
Towards the end of the game I noticed Price seemed to be abandoning the pocket even if he wasn't pressured after a couple of seconds which I attribute to a fear of imminent sacking. There is literally not a senior on our OL thanks to stupendous recruiting when Sark first started at UW so we will be looking at the same set of guys next year. Hopefully they can improve but ultimately with the same coach as ever I don't see why anything would change. Apparently some ASU fans want to lure Cozz away from UW to which I ask, "how can I help?". We apparently got a highly rated OL teenager to commit to leave us at the altar in February. I am sure he was lured by the promise of playing time and a career ending injury as a freshman. Our offensive losses at skill positions will include KP, which is big although we have a number of QBs who should be good waiting to compete as his replacement. We lose Kevin Smith who I think is highly underrated. We notice when he drops the easy passes and catches the hard ones but in my opinion he is a great blocker. He makes a lot of players work for us on offense. He does not get manhandled like our WRs of the past decade. If he gets more consistent I expect him to get a shot in the NFL. Right now I think he is a late round draft pick at best and more likely an undrafted free agent but he has real potential. ASJ on the other hand seems to be hemorrhaging potential and gets slower and less physical every game. ASJ has a huge size advantage over most mere football players but he really hasn't been using it this year. Everyone has noticed his decline this year and whether he has gotten lazy and complacent or if this has to do with his DUI or something who knows - but he has definitely lost his first round draft pick at this point. As ever Sankey had a great day on offense and I am happy his grandfather could see it. Like that was a cool story and while that sort of stuff is not a replacement for good football it is a good supplement to hear things like that.
Finally onto everything we do wrong. Hi Sark! While ultimately everything rests on the shoulders of the head coach, the areas we are deficient in are much more directly related to Sark than, say, our WRs have a case of the dropsies. As listed before our special teams, our discipline, and our play calling are ridiculous. Starting with play calling since that is the shortest and most rehashed point, Sark out-thinks himself multiple times a game and inevitably calls stupid plays. Perhaps the stupidest this week was the short kick to end the first half which allowed Stanford to come back and score with little time left. You do things like that when there are 7 seconds left so the ace return man doesn't take it to the house - not just to mix things up. If Sark wants to blame things on the kicker then he either shouldn't be playing injured players or should be recruiting kickers who can kick the ball into the endzone.
Penalties have been highly emphasized so far and are perhaps the crown jewel of all sloppy play statistics. The Huskies lead the nation in penalty yards/game at 91.8. Something that does concern me about the messiah is that UCLA is third in the nation. It is year two and crap like that should be getting under control. I hope to see a drastic improvement in that statistic by the end of the year, for both teams. I am not optimistic about the odds of the Huskies improving because when Sark called Pete Carroll asking for advice (ok, that is good to reach out if you can't figure it out), Pete told Sark to not worry about it and that is just how they coach their players to play. I think that is complete crap and that players can be fast and free without breaking the rules. Penalties kill drives. For example:
3rd and 5 at STAN 39 Bishop Sankey rush for 4 yards to the Stanf 35.
4th and 1 at STAN 35 WASHINGTON penalty 9 yard Holding accepted.
4th and 10 at STAN 44 Travis Coons punt for 29 yards, downed at the Stanf 15.
2nd and 8 at WASH 32 WASHINGTON penalty 5 yard Illegal Motion on Psalm Wooching accepted.
2nd and 13 at WASH 27 Keith Price pass incomplete.
3rd and 13 at WASH 27 WASHINGTON penalty 18 yard Illegal Block accepted.
3rd and 31 at WASH 9 WASHINGTON penalty 4 yard Illegal Touching accepted.
4th and 35 at WASH 5 Travis Coons punt for 53 yards to the Stanf 42, no return.
2nd and 3 at WASH 18 WASHINGTON penalty 5 yard False Start accepted.
2nd and 8 at WASH 13 Keith Price pass complete to Kasen Williams for 7 yards to the Wash 20.
3rd and 1 at WASH 20 WASHINGTON penalty 5 yard False Start on Colin Tanigawa accepted.
3rd and 6 at WASH 15 Keith Price pass incomplete.
4th and 6 at WASH 15 Travis Coons punt for 37 yards, fair catch by Barry Sanders at the Stanf 48.
(drive summary from ESPN)
It really concerns me that PC may have convinced Sark that those results are acceptable. Sark has plateaued as a coach if these issues don't get fixed. Championship teams do not shoot and/or kill themselves in the foot.
Special third teams is our third important focus for Sark. He blamed the suckiness on a new scheme which was conveniently rolled out to be tested against one of the best teams in the country. New schemes should be tried out in fall camp and against the ISU Bengals. Stanford will exploit all the failures in your newest brain child and it will cost you the game. I don't know if this was Sark's idea or Nansen's, but whoever it was needs to be fired (I know that because they both need to be fired). What does Nansen even bring to the table? He is our connection to Long Beach Jordan highschool which is nice for recruiting purposes. I don't really see any other value to him though. He has never really coached a particularly successful unit at UW and all of our coaches need to be carrying their weight. Our RBs are good right now because they had the benefit of Joel Thomas previously. Dwayne Washington is just a redshirt freshman so he will likly be evidence of Nansen's ability to coach or not at RB. Smart money is on not.
Sark put his foot in his mouth a number of times this week. He blamed the loss on the refs for one. Guess what Sark - if your all American TE catches a perfect pass on the previous play, none of this happens. If one call costs you the game then you didn't DESERVE to win. We had so many short comings last week, so many individual botched opportunities, that the refs did not cost us the game. Good teams find a way to win. We beat ourselves last week. Another nice Sark accusation was Stanford faking injuries. Sure, it is true. They have a bunch of soccer players at Stanford and it is pathetic. It is not something you can do anything about though so just stfu and focus on what you can control. Oregon had to deal with it (Hi Tosh!) but they went on and dominated anyways. I agree it is a cheap, pathetic, lame tactic and is MAYBE worthy of being addressed. Like if someone is so hurt that they need medical attention and/or help off the field then it is in their best interest to not be playing right away. Something like 15 minutes of gametime out of play would surely curb any more diving (at least by starters) and would be in the best interest of the athletes' health. Again, out of Sark's control and thus something not worth wasting breath on to the media.
So in the end, even though the team is playing well, Sark is not fulfilling his obligations. A team is judged on their win-loss record. At 4-0 you can't ask for more of the team - they pass. The coach is judged on so many more factors (and I am not just talking about handling the media and that stuff) but he is judged on HOW the team plays. If you win but don't play well then there is reason to believe you won't win in the future. A coach is judged by whether or not he has the team on the right path, not just the short term record. Sark's past is not stellar. Anyone thinking he is a stellar coach is basing that on things Sark has never shown. Despite his inadequacies though Sark has managed to compile a collection of quality players and coaches which has resulted in a decent team. I do wonder how he pulled that off. I supposed his personality and politicking has paid off in recruiting efforts (except for linemen, the less flashy players) and hiring. Our players look damn good and our assistant coaches are clearly doing an excellent job on the whole, particularly on defense. We nearly have a complete staff assemebled that I would endorse for long term contracts. Sark gets the right guys in which is good, the problem is just that Sark is not good at doing the things he is accountable for other than delegating. If Sark passed off the play calling to his OC that would solve some of the problems. I am not sure he can delegate the culture of sloppiness that results in penalties but he sure can find a new coach to make sure special teams are actually special.
A number of people have offered Sark advice over time and I have included some of that advice here.
“We are really competing against ourselves, we have no control over how other people perform.” - Peter Cashmore, CEO of Mashable
“High expectations are the key to absolutely everything.” - Sam Walton, CEO of Walmart
“Leaders get out in front and stay there by raising the standards by which they judge themselves – and by which they are willing to be judged.” - Frederick W Smith, CEO of Fedex
“Surviving a failure allows you more self confidence. Failing is a great learning tool, but it must be kept to an absolute minimum.” - Jeffery Immelt, CEO of General Electric
You do what you can, there is no house money, you don't pass on the blame, and you learn from your mistakes. Here we are five year into Sark and he has not mastered these points. How much longer will he be training for his job?
Evens & Ends
Last week we scored half of our points in the 3rd quarter and allowed 45% of Stanford's points in the first quarter which continues the previous trend. Our DEFENSE has still not allowed any first quarter points and discounting that special teams gaffe that puts the Stanford scoring offense at 58% in the third quarter. Such a strange trend? Is this representative of half time adjustments fixed by the fourth quarter? We are hosting Gameday so make sure to bring your plungers to wave for ESPN. It sounds like the coogs will be out cooging it en masse. I am expect several dozen flags. I would live vicariously through UW too if I went to WSU. Their dream of Gameday at Pullman just isn't going to happen. Pullman is a worse destination than Fargo.
Georgia was gifted a win over the same Tennessee team that was plungered by Oregon. Does the transitive property apply? Oregon looks damn good as ever. Florida State demolished Maryland. I still maintain that Edsall is the new Willingham. Auburn struggling with WSU looked bad week 1 but they are looking better all the time now.