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The Ironies feeding spring football at UW
RicHard Linde, 25 April 2010

The sky was woefully blue, as in the blue screen of death.

Irony: "Incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result."

I think it was ironic last season that although Jake Locker led the Pac-10 in total offense, this coupled with TB Chris Polk's rushing for over 1000 yards, that the Huskies finished seventh in the conference in total offense. Furthermore, the eighth and ninth teams in the conference in total offense, UCLA and Arizona State, respectively, both beat Washington. That's because the Bruins and Sun Devils had better defenses than the Huskies.

In the UCLA game, although the Dawgs won the turnover battle, 1 against 5, outrushed the Blue, 152 yards to 85, and committed fewer penalties, 4 against 6, their defense yielded 455 yards, while UCLA limited the Dawgs to 387 yards. UCLA QBs Kevin Prince (PE, 188.87) and Kevin Craft (PE, 176.11) combined for a passing efficiency of 183.11. In contrast, Locker had a so-so rating of 118.35. Washington's pass rush was woefully lacking, giving Prince and Craft zillions of time to throw.

Which brings up another irony. Although the Huskies improved on total defense last season when compared with the 2008 team -- which went an ugly 0-12, as we all remember -- last season's pass defense gave up more yards per game than the 0-12 bunch, 240.7 to 211.2 yards.

Pass defense?

The Dawgs lost the ASU game when quarterback Danny Sullivan connected with Chris McGaha on a 50-yard touchdown pass with 5 seconds left to give the "Stun" Devils a 24-17 victory.

Although the Huskies' defense kept the ASU offense in check for much of the game, the final minute or so was decided by what turned out to be the skinny on the two teams, the game being billed as a matchup between ASU's dominating defense and UW's feckless one, with the offenses being fairly even.

This spring head coach Steve Sarkisian has been experimenting with his offensive line, mixing and matching players.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times recently wrote, "Part of the mixing and matching is to increase the physicality of the line, which was a particular emphasis on Tuesday when the team had a full-padded practice. Asked how that practice looked on film, Sarkisian said: 'I thought they tried to be physical. I don't know if we necessarily knocked them off the ball and did everything we wanted to, but I thought we tried to be physical. And in turn it created some big plays for us, because when the defense allowed it to be there, we were able to knock guys out of gaps to create a couple of big plays. I think it's coming, but it's still definitely a work in progress.'"


In the second quarter against UCLA, down 14-10, the Huskies were goal-to-go on the Bruins' two and had to settle for a field goal, the running game stopped twice after a failed pass attempt.

Against Notre Dame, the Huskies failed to score on three rushing attempts from Notre Dame's half yard line. Although the Dawgs got a new set of downs when Notre Dame was called for roughing the snapper on the ensuing field goal attempt, they couldn't score on the next three plays either, with Locker finally being stuffed for no gain from the 1. Erik Folk kicked a 24-yard field goal to cap the 19-play drive and Washington took a 27-22 lead with 3:04 left in the game. The Irish won in overtime.

We won't know whether Washington has ironed out its two ironies from last year -- on total offense and pass defense -- until the Huskies play BYU in their first game on September 4th. After all, the Huskies are just playing themselves this spring.

In this vein, the Huskies need to run the ball better than last season (seventh in the conference) and play better pass defense (seventh in the conference).

On the micro level, they need to improve their offensive line's push off the ball -- show some physicality, as Sark said -- and improve their pass rush on defense. Sounds simple, but it won't be, considering that the Huskies' offensive and defensive lines are thin on personnel -- and, in the latter case, on quality. Replacing Donald Butler and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim off the front seven will pose more than a challenge for defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

We fans all have our hopes for this upcoming season; maybe a bowl is in the offing. Hyperbole is running rampant this spring. But ...

The problem is that although the Huskies are steadily improving, their chief competitors in the conference are as well, namely, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, Stanford, and Cal. Unfortunately, all of them have excellent head coaches -- maybe the best five in the nation when taken as a group. With a promising smile, Sark is still being fitted for braces. 

For the Huskies to emerge from the middle of the Pac-10 and contend with the three teams at the top -- USC, Oregon and Oregon State -- the Huskies must first dominate their five rivals in the second tier of the league. That's a fact, not an irony.


Coaching ironies at UW:

-- Although Gil Dobie said he didn't condone Bill Grimm's cheating on the test, it's ironic, when considering his boot-camp practice methods, that he offered an excuse for his player, where in practice, most likely, the military response -- "No excuse, sir" -- to a player's running amok was expected from him.

-- While Jim Owens took over a program on probation for slush fund irregularities, he is the only Rose Bowl winning coach at Washington who avoided NCAA/conference infractions and sanctions during his tenure.

-- The much maligned, former Husky coach Rick Neuheisel is the only head coach currently coaching in the Pac-10 to have won a Rose Bowl game.

Chemical symbols (RicHard Linde):

I have six chemical symbols in my first and last names: I Iodine, C Carbon, H Hydrogen, Ar Argon, Li Lithium and N Nitrogen.

Six chemical symbols appearing in the Periodic Table are in the word Huskies : H Hydrogen, U Uranium, S Sulfur, K Potassium, I Iodine, and Es Einsteinium.

You would have thought that Washington fans would have reached their breaking point in the 2008 season when their team went 0-12. Maybe they have more Tungsten than other metals in their bodies.

Note that in terms of statistics Tungsten is the hardest and strongest metal; this is because of the amount of energy / pressure that is required to scratch and break it. Fittingly, Tungsten's chemical symbol is "W."


Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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