December 13, 2012 at 3:59 PM
It’s time for a special bowl game edition of “Five Questions, Five Answers” with an opposing beat writer.
As always, my questions and his answers:
Question 1: This is the third straight year Boise State is in the Las Vegas Bowl, so I guess an obvious thought from the outside would be that they might not be all that excited to be there. What is the sense there — is there any disappointment that this is where they are again or will the Broncos once again embrace it?
Answer 1: I don’t sense any disappointment inside the program. Unlike the past two years, this feels like the right spot for this team. The last two years, there was a sense that they should have been somewhere bigger — and even then the team showed up with the right attitude. Las Vegas is a good spot to be, teams always like to be done by Christmas, and Boise State only gets one shot a year at Pac-12 teams — so there’s no reason to be unhappy. … There are some fans who don’t like this game — because it’s three straight years and because of the matchup with Washington. I’ve heard some fans aren’t going to make the trip because they’re already planning to attend the 2013 game and don’t want to pay twice to see the same matchup.
Q2: How did the offense adjust this year to the loss of guys like quarterback Kellen Moore (now with the Lions) and running back Doug Martin (now with Tampa Bay)?
A2: Slowly. And you have to throw offensive coordinator Brent Pease (now at Florida) in there as well. So it took a while to get the chemistry. One of the wide receivers mentioned this month that last year the players not only knew the play call, but also how the play might change on the fly because they had spent so much time together. This year they had to rebuild all that. And the offense never has gotten to where it looks like a typical Boise State offense. There’s still a lack of playmaking in the pass game and a strange string of second-half lulls.
Q3: Can you tell us more specifically about the season quarterback Joe Southwick (pictured in an AP photo) had?
A3: Ugly at the start – Boise State didn’t score an offensive TD in two of the first three games. Inconsistent through the middle. And really good at the end. His rating for the last three games was over 170. He has taken a lot of heat from fans who got used to the silly production and consistency of Kellen Moore. And he made some costly mistakes, particularly against Michigan State. I also don’t think he got as much help from the receivers as coaches would have liked. Matt Miller is fantastic but the rest of the group hasn’t made many “wow” plays.
Q4: The stats show Boise State’s strength this year to be its defense. What have been some keys to the defense?
A4: The secondary is outstanding. The corners, Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins, have to be one of the best duos in the country. They don’t make major mistakes. The first-team defense only allowed a couple touchdowns longer than 8 yards this season. Opposing QBs have two touchdowns (the third was by a running back) and 16 interceptions. The front seven has taken some injury hits, most notably nose tackle Mike Atkinson going out with a torn ACL, but is solid. The ends are dynamic — sophomore Demarcus Lawrence led the Mountain West in sacks and freshman Sam Ukwuachu causes a lot of problems.
Q5: Finally, this is the seventh straight season Boise State has won 10 or more games, the longest active streak in the nation. What are a couple of the biggest reasons BSU has been able to be that consistent?
A5: Great coaching. Chris Petersen does a nice job getting his team ready to play no matter the opponent or situation and he has a knack for hiring talented assistants. If (current WSU assistant) Jeff Choate gets the DC job at UTEP, that will be seven of Petersen’s nine original assistants who are now head coaches (Sean Kugler, UTEP) or coordinators (including Justin Wilcox at UW). And then they’ve had terrific quarterback play, until this season, and since 2008 the defense has been a force. If your strengths are coaching, QB play and defense, you’re not going to lose very often.
December 11, 2012 at 1:35 PM
The Las Vegas Bowl is now just 11 days away, which means it’s time to get a little more serious about looking ahead to the matchup with Boise State (that’s the cover of the media guide for the game to the right).
So, with that in mind, here are five questions about the game. Admittedly, these aren’t the only five questions, just five that came to mind as I spent the morning doing some research for a few different stories.
1: How will Keith Price play?
How Price plays, and how that then sets up the quarterback competition for 2013, figures to be among the most-discussed aspects of this game among UW fans. As has been detailed often, all of Price’s numbers decreased this year from 2011, though as has also been oft-detailed, the reasons for that extend far beyond Price — massive changes in the skill positions and a rebuilt and still-developing offensive line to name the two most significant.
But after the way the regular season ended in the Apple Cup, with Price’s interception on a pass he admits he shouldn’t have been thrown, all eyes will be on Price to see how he responds and what that will then mean moving forward.
Many have asked if the quarterback competition will be more open next year than it was this season. It undoubtedly will be, no matter how UW coach Steve Sarkisian phrases it publicly (fans probably shouldn’t expect some loud proclamation that the QB job is now wide open). But that’s not just because of Price but because of how the position is now stocked. This year, there really wasn’t anybody to mount a legitimate threat to Price with Derrick Brown the only scholarship quarterback that wasn’t a redshirting true freshmen.
But in the spring, UW will have not only Brown now being a sophomore, but also have Cyler Miles, who spent the year as the No. 3 QB working with the UW offense; and Jeff Lindquist, who generally worked with the scout team, off redshirt status and with a year of experience in the system. Troy Williams also plans to enroll early and will be on the roster for spring practice, giving him a better chance of being legitimately ready in the fall depending on how things shake out.
All of this assumes no changes in the roster, of course. But assuming everyone stays and Williams enrolls, that would give UW five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster next year and a much more realistic scenario for there to be actual competition.
A big game by Price, though, could go a long way toward quieting the talk about the QB spot for a while. That, however, leads us to question No. 2. ….
2: Will UW be able to throw a touchdown pass against Boise State?
In the most eye-popping stat associated with this game, Boise State allowed just three touchdown passes this season, the fewest in the nation. And one was tossed by a running back on a trick play.
I know the first thing everyone will do is question Boise State’s schedule and the offenses it played, and certainly the Broncos’ schedule wasn’t nearly as meaty as UW’s — though I also think at this point Boise State has earned some benefit of the doubt in that regard given its success the last few years against BCS opponents and in bowl games. That said, BSU shut down some pretty good offenses this year, such as Fresno State’s, and each of its starting cornerbacks — Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins — are regarded as potential NFL draft picks, especially Taylor, who is considered as possibly a second- or third-rounder.
Given UW’s obvious offensive struggles throughout much of the season, this matchup looms as one of the more critical and intriguing.
3: Can UW get pressure on BSU quarterback Joe Southwick?
In another eye-grabbing Boise State stat, the Broncos allowed just nine sacks this year, tied for sixth-fewest in the country. Again, we can all agree on the caveat of the strength of schedule, etc. Regardless, that number still speaks to fundamental soundness in protection and scheme to avoid sacks. And getting sacks was not one of UW’s defensive strengths this year as Huskies have 25, which ranks 53rd in the country heading into the bowl (not horrible, but at the moment basically similar to a year ago when the Huskies had 28 in 13 games in one of the few defensive stats that hasn’t show significant improvement).
4: Can the Huskies avoid another slow start?
In a trend fans found especially frustrating as the year wore on, the Huskies often had trouble getting quickly out of the gate. UW was outscored 69-54 in the first quarter this year, the most they were outscored by in any quarter this season and their second-fewest points in any quarter — the Huskies scored 52 points in the fourth quarter this year (you can find all the numbers here).
That’s a trend UW will need to break against a Boise State team that was exactly the opposite this year. The Broncos outscored their foes 91-24 in the first quarter this season and a whopping 144-16 in the second (UW outscored foes 87-78 in the second quarter).
5: Can the Huskies win the field goal battle?
In yet another Boise State stat that readily catches attention, the Broncos had just four field goals kicked against them this season, tied with Hawaii for the fewest in the nation. That came out of 12 attempts, and I don’t know if they were all just missed, or blocked, or what. Boise State, in fact, didn’t allow a field goal in the last six games of the season, teams going 0-4 against them in that time, all from 47 yards or closer.
Maybe that just means UW is due to get a few against Boise State. Field goal kicking, though, ended up not being a huge strength for UW this year as the Huskies (with Travis Coons getting all of the attempts) were 7-11, a percentage of 63.6 that was ninth in the Pac-12, while the makes were just 10th. At the moment, that’s the fewest field goals made by a UW team since 1975.
November 28, 2012 at 9:17 AM
UW is obviously off right now, so not much news on the Huskies to pass along. But here are a few other items. …
— The Denver Post says Colorado may first be looking at Utah State’s Gary Andersen.
— There’s also a report that Colorado may be talking to former Kansas coach Mark Mangino.
— Here’s Jon Wilner’s update on the Cal coaching search, which he thinks should begin with San Jose State’s Mike MacIntrye.
— The San Jose Mercury News says Hue Jackson and Chris Petersen may be first on Cal’s list.
— Rivals.com has a nifty coaching carousel tracker.
— Northwest SportsBeat asks five questions about UW in the wake of the Apple Cup loss.
— KJR-AM has posted post-game coverage of the Apple Cup.
— The 2008 Huskies are on Ted Miller’s list of the worst teams in Pac-12 history.
— Miller also has a long list of possible names for the Cal job, including Justin Wilcox.
— Stanford tight end Zach Ertz was among six Pac-12 players named to the AFCA All-American Team this morning. No Huskies are on the team. I point out Ertz since he and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are among the three finalists for the Mackey Award, which will be announced Dec. 6.
— Khalfani Muhammad, a four-star running back UW had also offered, committed to Cal yesterday despite the Bears having no coach.
— Here’s the Pac-12 Rundown from The Oregonian.
— Christian Caple also has lots of links around the conference.
— Here’s a handy guide to conference realignment.
— UW commit Troy Williams and Narbonne High are playing for the LA City Section title Saturday night.
November 22, 2012 at 7:27 PM
A couple more quick things to pass along. …
— First, here’s a “five questions” scouting report on UW that I did for Christian Caple of The Spokesman-Review.
— Next, here’s The Seattle Times’ poll for tonight, asking the question of which team will throw for the most yards in the Apple Cup tomorrow:
November 21, 2012 at 4:17 PM
It’s time for our weekly “Five Questions, Five Answers,” blog post, examining that week’s UW opponent with a beat writer who follows the other team.
Our guest this week is Christian Caple, who covers the Cougars and head coach Mike Leach (above in a Dean Rutz photo) for The Spokesman-Review. You can find his work regularly here and on Twitter at @ChristianCaple.
So here we go with my questions and his answers:
Q1: It’s often said WSU can save even the worst of seasons with a win in the Apple Cup. Do you think this is true for this team?
A1: It might be true for the seniors, some of whom have never beaten the Huskies (the fifth-year guys were obviously here for the win in 2008). But I think the general attitude within the athletic department these days is to focus a little more on the bigger picture. Bill Moos is an old-school Cougar, the kind of guy who knows how much it means to beat Washington.
Still, I think he’d prefer the emphasis to be on every game WSU plays, and not just one at the end of the season. And I don’t think Mike Leach is a guy who’s going to look any fonder on a 3-9 season just because it ended with a win over his team’s rival. That’s not to say this staff doesn’t embrace the thing. They do. But I don’t know that winning the Apple Cup is any more important to them than simply winning the football game they’re playing on Friday.
Q2: Any way to tell how much of a distraction all the controversy surrounding Mike Leach has been to the players?
A2: I think in an honest moment, some of them might tell you it’s a little distracting. I mean, the mere fact that there were Pac-12 employees on campus last week interviewing players is probably evidence enough of that. Everyone knows what’s going on. A lot of those guys are friends with Marquess Wilson. So I’m sure it’s not something they can just totally push out of their heads. But I also think that anyone who’s played any kind of sport knows that once you’re between the lines and the game starts, it’s hard to think about much else. And it’d be hard to believe that a WSU team could be all that distracted once the Apple Cup starts.
Q3: A lot of people thought this team had legit bowl hopes before the season began. In retrospect, was that too optimistic? If so, why?
A3: I was one of them, so I’m tempted to say it wasn’t too optimistic. But yeah, in retrospect, I think maybe people were a little too willing to overlook some of their deficiencies because of how successful Mike Leach had been at Texas Tech. But there was reason to think his offense would work from the start — WSU was ninth in the country in passing offense last season and that was without Jeff Tuel for basically the entire year, plus the little we saw of Connor Halliday last season seemed to indicate that good things were ahead. But the installation of the new system obviously didn’t go as smoothly as anyone would have liked, and the mental toll of losing 40 games in four seasons was ultimately too much for Leach to shake out of them. I would say that losing all those linebackers didn’t really help, either, but that group has actually been relatively solid this season. That’s what’s kind of odd — everyone figured WSU’s offense would be this sure thing while the defense would struggle to stop anybody, but the defense actually wound up being a little more reliable (though still pretty inconsistent).
Q4: Any way to tell what kind of attendance there will be for the game? And what’s been the general reaction to the change of the date?
A4: Well, WSU said 850 tickets remained as of Monday, but I’m not sure if that includes the 1,600 or so that were reportedly returned by UW. And then there’s the question of how many students will end their Thanksgiving break a couple days early to come back into town for the game, as well as how many ticket-holders won’t bother with the drive that close to a holiday. Even if you’re only coming from Seattle, that’s still a long drive to make on Friday morning, assuming you want to spend Thanksgiving with your family. So you can imagine the reaction hasn’t been great. Nobody likes it, but at WSU it’s especially appropriate to remind folks why this is all happening — if you want stadium renovations, if you want to be able to pay a top-tier coach, these wacky TV schedules are going to be part of the deal. I think that’s something people understand, if begrudgingly.
Q5: Finally, UW is as much as a 13.5-point favorite as this is written, and will likely be expected by most to win the game. What are a couple of things that the Cougars could do to make this a game?
A5: They need to force the Huskies into one of their patented slow starts and take advantage of it — score early, build some offensive rhythm and get the crowd going. WSU has been a lot better at pressuring the quarterback this season than in years past — it’s tied for 11th in the nation with 32 sacks — which is obviously something the Huskies offense has struggled with a little bit. And the Cougars have had a couple really, really good games against top-flight running backs — Stepfan Taylor and Johnathan Franklin were pretty much non-factors in WSU’s games against them — but they’ve also gotten torched at times, too, so containing Bishop Sankey is both a possibility and a concern. It’s also probably more imperative than usual to keep Jeff Tuel from getting hit. WSU has allowed more sacks (53) than any team in the country, and Tuel has obviously had a couple health issues this season. But it looks as if Halliday won’t play this week — as of this writing, he hasn’t practiced — meaning WSU’s backup would be David Gilbertson (Keith’s son), who hasn’t taken a snap this season. If the Cougars can run the ball a little bit — they’re also last in the country in rushing yards — that could help offset UW’s pass rush.
November 14, 2012 at 5:01 PM
For our weekly “Five Questions, Five Answers” blog entry examining Washington’s opponent — which Saturday is Colorado in Boulder at 10:30 a.m. Seattle time — we turn to John Henderson, who covers the Buffs for the Denver Post. He can also be found on Twitter at @JohnHendersonDP.
Q1: Expectations weren’t high for Colorado but this seems worse than people thought. What are a couple of things that have gone wrong that weren’t expected?
A1: I think across the board they are worse than everyone thought and expectations were really low. I picked them to go 3-9 and I struggled to find a third win after Colorado State and Sacramento State. But when they lost to Sacramento State I knew this team was going to be awful because they not only got beat, they got pushed around and they have not gotten better as the season has gone on. They are very, very young. They only have eight seniors and they have like 15 true freshmen. But these guys are not getting any better. The coaching staff says they are improved but I don’t see it and that’s what concerns a lot of people is this coaching staff doesn’t seem to get them to improve week to week.
Q2: The quarterback situation has been kind of a merry-go-round all season. Where does it stand right now?
A2: They brought in Connor Wood, who was fourth-string at Texas last year in fall camp and he transferred to Colorado. He beat out Nick Hirschman for the job in the spring, or at least it appeared that way to everybody. And then Jordan Webb (pictured above in an AP photo), who was told by Charlie Weis at Kansas he wouldn’t play this year, he graduated so he could transfer to Colorado and immediately won the job. He started nine games and wasn’t very good, mainly because he has nothing around him. He has possession receivers at wide out, he’s got a converted high school fullback who is a true freshman at tailback (Christian Powell), he has no weapons. So he wasn’t productive and last week they opened up the competition again between the backups, Hirschman and Wood. Hirschman won the job last week and then had a concussion-like symptoms and so I don’t know who they are going to start this week (as of Tuesday).
Q3: The defense right now is the worst in the nation. What has happened to make it worse than expectations?
A3: It is worse than it was last year and we don’t know how because they were so young in the secondary a year ago. But they recruited true freshmen who were better than last year’s and they are getting torched and it has been a continual cycle of missed tackles and missed assignments week in and week out. And this past week they faced a Zone Read offense (against Arizona) and they cannot figure out how to defend it. They had no clue, and they were getting gashed. The holes that Ka’Deem Carey ran through (in rushing for a Pac-12 record 366 yards) were big enough for some of the dinosaurs to run through. They were massive. I wrote that he would have gotten that many yards if they were playing flag football. He wasn’t touched. He’s a good back but he was just not being touched. The defense has given up more yards (505.0) and more points (47.2) per game than any defense in school history and it’s not really close.
Q4: Given the struggles, is there any thought that second-year coach Jon Embree is in trouble?
A4: No.The athletic director, Mike Bohn, and Embree both agreed when he took over it was going to be a three- or four-year project. They are not going to fire him after two years, they just won’t do it. Bohn swung and missed with (Embree’s predecessor) Dan Hawkins and he’s not going to admit he made a mistake on this one so soon. It’s easier to make changes in the staff than the head coach. The only thing that could change is if they get a 53-degree day and sunny Saturday and they get under 20,000 attendance then less for Utah (the following week) and get blown out two more times and they have some inner turmoil on the team, I can’t rule anything out. But right now I highly doubt they will pull the plug after two years.
Q5: UW is a 21-point favorite, the most points by which it has been favored on the road since 1997 (23 points at Oregon State). Is there any chance Colorado can win this game?
A5: The way Colorado has played this year, I don’t see it. Especially the way Washington is playing well. Washington is playing really well and I really believe with Justin Wilcox, his defense is going to be good for years to come and it’s really starting to come around the last three games and their running back (Bishop Sankey) I think is too good for Colorado to handle. The biggest problem, hard to tell if it’s defense or offense, but they have just not been competitive with anybody other than Washington State and I don’t see them winning a game where they are so downtrodden against a team that is playing so well in an atmosphere that is going to be anything but hostile toward Washington. There’s not going to be very many people there and it’s not going to be very loud. I’ve been following the Pac-12 since 1964 and this is one of the three worst teams in conference history. I think the Oregon State team in 1980 (which went 0-11) might have been worse. One of the amazing things is Colorado has had no injuries. They lost receiver Paul Richardson, who might have been their best player, to a knee injury in the spring. But other than that they have been pretty healthy. They just don’t have any playmakers.
November 8, 2012 at 9:24 AM
To begin, a notice that we’ll hold our weekly live chat today at noon.
Now for some links. …
— Steve Kelley columnized today about Bishop Sankey (right in a Dean Rutz photo).
— And in our weekly look in the paper at the opponent, Percy Allen writes about the conundrum of whether to kick it to Utah’s Reggie Dunn.
— ESPN.com’s Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell each pick UW to win.
— ESPN also ponders what UW should do about Dunn.
— ESPN.com’s Mason Kelley writes about Thomas Vincent.
— CBSSports.com breaks down the game and picks UW.
— All four experts for Athlon’s pick UW, several by big margins.
— In this ESPN.com Insider piece, Travis Haney rates the top 10 head coaches and assistants who could be candidates for head coaching jobs elsewhere. UW’s Justin Wilcox comes in at No. 10 on the list of coordinators, with Haney writing:
Wilcox might be an intriguing name to consider a year from now. Washington’s defense is so young, and subsequently pretty poor, that he is not going to get rave reviews in his first season at U-Dub. But if he can turn it around in the near future, the affable 35-year-old should soon be a candidate for some West Coast positions.
— The Deseret News offers five questions on UW football with Chris Fetters of Dawgman.com.
— And here’s a Q-and-A I did for the Salt Lake Tribune.
— The Trib also looks at how the roles of some Utah assistants has changed and also asks whether Aaron Roderick, who was on Steve Sarkisian’s initial UW staff for a week or so, has ever had second thoughts about how that unfolded.
— The Deseret News also looks at the change in the Utah offense since coordinator Brian Johnson moved to the field.
— Jon Wilner rates UW 7th this week in the Pac-12.
— Wilner also breaks down how the TV draft order worked for this week’s games.
— FootballStudyHall picks UW.
— Here’s a story on safety Max Redfield, expected to take an official visit to UW this weekend.
— Really good story by former Seattle Times staffer Greg Bishop, now with the New York Times, on former Utah QB Jordan Wynn.
— Strange story out of USC where a Trojans manager has been fired for under-inflating the balls during the first half of the Oregon game. ESPN.com’s Miller with more on that story. And USA Today’s Paul Myerberg also takes USC to task.
— I forgot to link this the other day, but here’s the SI.com story on USC’s troubles that quotes an NFL exec saying Sarkisian is a better coach than Lane Kiffin.
— WSU has apparently backed out of a home game with BYU next season.
— Washington isn’t the only Pac-12 team dealing with a lot of penalties. Here’s a look at Arizona’s struggles.
— Arizona is also really young on defense.
— SI.com’s Stewart Mandel examines how Oregon’s running game has gotten better and Oregon State’s Rose Bowl hopes, among other things.
— Lots of links a round the conference from Christian Caple.
— And here’s the daily links from the Pac-12.
— Finally, here’s the Husky Honks on KJR-AM Wednesday:
November 7, 2012 at 10:50 PM
It’s time for our weekly look at UW’s opponent, which this week is the University of Utah. So for our Five Questions, Five Answers blog entry, we turn to Lya Wodraska, who covers the Utes for the Salt Lake Tribune. And you can follow her at @LyaWodraska.
As always, our questions, her answers:
Q1: It looks from afar like Utah is coming together and rallying a bit in the second half of the season as it did a year ago. Are there some similarities there and what is Utah done better the last few games?
A1: Utah has streamlined its offense which has not only helped the players but also first-year offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. Johnson said going into the season he wanted an offense that utilized all the players’ talents, but what I believe happened was the Utes tried to do too much and the result was poor execution and no identity. The Utes have simplified things and are focusing on getting the ball more now to running back John White, which has helped. Having passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick in the booth has helped, too. He has been there the last two games, with Johnson going down on the field, which has resulted in a better tempo with the offense. Roderick sees things very quickly.
Q2: How has freshman quarterback Travis Wilson begun to adjust to being the starting quarterback and has the offense changed much around him?
A2: I believe the two wins have helped Wilson more than any other player. Granted the competition wasn’t the elite of the Pac-12, but Wilson now has more confidence and really was able to get into a groove against Washington State. The outcome was decided early, so he could focus on getting his feel for the offense in a ‘real’ game, even if the Cougars weren’t much of an opponent.
Q3: Going into the season, many talked about Utah having maybe the best defensive front in the conference. Has it played like that so far?
A3: The defensive front did struggle early, particularly with the Utes’ inability to get to the quarterback. However, defensive end Joe Kruger is healthy now and is coming off his best game. The Utes had six sacks against Washington State and will want to see that kind of pressure the rest of the year. Star Lotulelei had some high expectations coming into the season and the tackle has lived up to them. He is a beast in the center of a very good line.
Q4: Reggie Dunn (pictured above in an AP photo) has had three 100-yard kickoff returns in the past two weeks. How has that happened?
A4: Dunn has a history of being good on kick returns and has ranked high in the Pac-12 in that category the last two seasons. But he is on a roll now, really feeling it. No way Washington should kick to the guy.
Q5: Finally, Utah is in its second year in the Pac-12 Conference. It sounds like some down there are thinking the adjustment has been a little rougher than might have been expected. Is that an accurate perception, and if so, are there any reasons for that?
A5: I do think some fans though the Utes would come into the Pac-12 and immediately compete for a league title. That would be expecting too much though and coach Kyle Whittingham has said all along this is a multi-year process. This team needs time to grow and time to recruit Pac-12 talent and depth. Give them two or three years to get up to speed.
November 1, 2012 at 8:41 AM
Time for our weekly look at UW’s opponent, which this week is Cal, a game that kicks off Friday night at 6 p.m.
Our guest this week is Jeff Faraudo, who covers the Bears for the Bay Area News Group. You can follow him at @CalBearsBANG.
Q1: The perception from afar is that the Bears are falling apart after their loss at Utah last week and may not have much left in the tank for this week’s game against UW. How does it look from up close?
A1: Without question, they have played very poorly the past two weeks. So far, at least, I don’t think it’s due to a lack of effort. Jeff Tedford (pictured at Pac-12 Media Day in July) is unhappy with execution and consistency, but has no complaints with his players’ commitment. I would expect them to be fired up for Washington because they are buying into the notion they still can qualify for a bowl game. In that quest, of course, the Huskies may be the least of their worries, with games ahead vs. Oregon and Oregon State. But until they are mathematically finished, I don’t expect them to wave the white flag.
Q2: There seems to be lots of talk about Jeff Tedford’s job being in danger. How realistic is it that there could be a change?
A2: I think it’s a very real possibility for a variety of reasons. Cal has won just 15 of its past 36 games, and 11 of those 21 losses were by 17 points or more. This season, however, is far worse than any Tedford has had — they could finish 3-9. On top of that, Cal got a very poor graduation report last week, and recruiting is not going well. But the overriding factor is financial. The athletic department faces a huge burden following the renovation of the stadium and construction of the high-performance center. Paying down that debt depends on the sale of high-priced seat endowments, and Cal cannot afford an apathetic fan base at this moment. Athletic director Sandy Barbour has been supportive of Tedford, but this has become more than purely a football question. It will cost a lot to fire him, but some fans believe it could cost more to keep him.
Q3: What are 2-3 things that you think are most responsible Cal’s slide the last few years under Tedford?
A3: I’m not sure this can be properly covered in 2-3 items. The Bears have struggled with quarterback inconsistency pretty much since Aaron Rodgers left. Their offensive line play wasn’t great last season, and is worse this fall. They haven’t fared well on the road and they don’t deliver predictable performances from one game to the next. For most of a five-year span from 2004 through 2008, Cal was a top-tier program in the conference. That’s no longer the case.
Q4: Everybody appears to be saying all the right things about Tosh Lupoi and Eric Kiesau and their return to Cal this week. Do you think there is any real lingering bitterness about that?
A4: Tedford and his players also are downplaying this, but it’s a real subplot to the game. The issue for Cal fans — and even players — is not that Lupoi left, but the circumstances and timing of his departure. There is a strong belief, especially among Old Blues, that Lupoi was working both sides of the recruiting fence as he shifted allegiances from Cal to UW, almost overnight. The players will be busy playing on Friday night. But fans at Memorial Stadium are almost certain to let Lupoi know how they feel.
Q5: Finally, what are 1-2 keys for Cal against UW in this game.
A5: When Cal has started fast, it’s been fine. But too often the Bears get stuck in the starting blocks and have a big hole to overcome. They trailed 42-6 at Utah before revving up a little. They didn’t score touchdowns against either USC or Stanford. The key all season has been the play of the offensive line. When the Bears are able to run the ball and give quarterback Zach Maynard time to throw, they have been productive. Too often, that hasn’t been the case.
October 25, 2012 at 4:47 PM
Dave Hoffmann, who was a standout linebacker for the Huskies from 1989-92 and a team captain as a senior in 1992, is one of six former UW athletes who will be inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame this weekend.
Here are details on the Hall of Fame.
Hoffmann is also the subject of a new book called “The Husky Hitman” by local author Derek Johnson (available in hardcover, Kindle and Nook, at www.derekjohnsonbooks.com).
Hoffmann will be in town this weekend for the induction ceremonies, so I thought it appropriate to ask Johnson about the book project and Hoffmann’s UW career. So here are five questions, with Johnson’s answers:
Q1: What led you to do a book on Dave Hoffmann and why now?
A: Late in the 2011 season, Washington closed out the old Husky Stadium by getting whipped by Oregon on a chilly November evening. Featured that night, however, was the 20th year reunion of the 1991 National Championship team. They were introduced to the crowd during the game — and the fans responded with seismic gusto. For me, it was bittersweet, in seeing those old guard Dawgs that we all loved back in the day, while simultaneously watching the modern day Ducks run over our Huskies like a mere speed bump on their way to the Rose Bowl.
Early the next week, the idea of writing a book with Dave materialized in my mind. He and I had known each other for seven years and had become good friends. I knew he had a unique worldview and possessed a vigorous use of language. I also knew that he didn’t mince words in depicting the violence and grittiness of football in the trenches. He’s also a very humble guy and I figured we would work together smoothly to produce a unique book about football.
When I asked Dave about it, he prayed on it for a day and then said something like “Let’s get after it!” We began work on it right away. God, it was a lot of fun.
Q2: What was something you learned about Hoffmann that hadn’t been known prior?
A: I never knew that he had a stammering problem growing up. What was interesting was Dave’s belief in how that stammering problem gave him no choice but to become supremely confident in himself. A lot of people in life would view a stammering problem as the root cause and an excuse for lacking confidence. But not the case with Dave.
Q3: Was there anything you learned about what made those 90-92 defenses so good?
A: Before this book, I assumed that those Husky defenses were simply supremely talented and highly motivated. But I became acutely aware of another key dynamic. More than anything, there existed a culture of absolute commitment to domination and success, predicated on supreme love and trust for teammates. Dave talks about it all the time… being in a culture where each team member gives every ounce of effort everyday, in order to constantly to prove to the other team members that they could be counted on in the heat of battle during game day.
To illustrate the point, here’s a quick sample from the book, when the Huskies trailed the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half in Lincoln, Nebraska, in September 1991:
The Husky defense returned to the field and the intensity felt there was a screaming crucible. The coaches signaled in the play to Hoffmann and he turned toward his teammates to give them the call. “The huddle was a cherished place for me,” Hoff says. “We were all prepared with our game plan. All tuned up physically and mentally to destroy an offense. The tension was big time. To be perfectly mentally clear in the middle of a violent battle is something I love. To make crystal clear, lightning-quick decisions while about to snap into a 315 pound lineman is awesome. Our huddle was a brotherhood of locked-on warriors who were away from the coaches, sideline and crowd– it was just us. The discussions in our huddle were always about giving each other confidence. Pumping each other up and reminding ourselves not to worry because we had each other covered. We had a bead on Nebraska’s offense and each of us were beating the guy across from us. We felt urgency to find a way to win. I believed in my heart we were going to win. We were going to show these guys what we were all about.”
At one point in the third quarter, the Huskies trailed Nebraska 21-9. But they rallied to win that day, 36-21.
Q4: Where do you think Hoffmann deserves to be placed in the history of UW linebackers?
A: At least in my lifetime, Dave would have to be in the top five. When I interviewed Don James for the book, he said, “As a football coach, you would love to have 100 Dave Hoffmanns on your team.” That spoke not only to Dave’s ability at linebacker, but also to his absolute dedication to success, fanatical loyalty to teammates, and impressive levels of toughness on the field.
Dave was the only finalist for the Butkus Award. But among the other great UW linebackers would be the likes of Dan Lloyd, Michael Jackson, Joe Kelly and Mark Stewart. If we’re talking about pass rushers, no list would be complete without Donald Jones. And if my Dad were looking over my shoulder as I typed this, he would be quick to clear his throat and remind me that Rick Redman was a monster at linebacker in the mid 1960s.
Q5: The book pretty much ends with the end of Hoffmann’s UW career. But he’s had an interesting post-playing career in the Secret Service. Is he still doing that? What is he doing these days?
A: Yes, he’s been with the Secret Service since 1998. For various reasons, we left references to that out of the book. He obviously can’t talk about a lot of it, but he’s had an interesting career and met intriguing people. In fact, one day while working on the book I was trying to get a hold of him. He emailed me saying he just got home from George Clooney’s house doing a protection assignment for the President. Good times.