This post is not a preview of what I think will happen this season. It is a detailed post of what could be possible. This was inspired by Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing.
Looking back, maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. We all thought this team was one year away from the big-time national scene. We could settle for another trip to the Holiday Bowl, or, dare I say it, the Sun Bowl, this year if it meant bigger things next year. Us fans knew that the Dawgs were young and expecting too much felt somewhat unreasonable. Now, we see that the phrase ‘Next year’ may be uttered far too often in Seattle sports.
Before I get too far ahead of myself though, the Alamo Bowl still isn’t out of the question. In fact, it’s a very strong possibility. Tomorrow, the 30th of November, the Huskies will play USC for the Pac-12 championship. If they lose, another trip to San Antonio is likely. If they win though… Man, if they win.
Back to the expectations at the beginning of the season. Sometimes, I don’t think we allow ourselves to dream quite enough. But, the early season didn’t give us many reasons to.
While the Huskies won fairly easily in their opener against the Aztecs, the game didn’t provide many answers to questions. The defense allowed too many yards. The running game didn’t amass as many yards as we hoped. Keith Price just made plays, which is what Keith Price does. But, one man can’t win every game and we saw that the next week. LSU brought pressure off the edge and sacked Price 6 times. The defense, while improved, just didn’t make enough stops and the SEC proved dominant, once again, as our Dawgs lost by 17. It wasn’t a catastrophe but it wasn’t the statement we wanted.
An easy win against Portland State followed but Portland isn’t even a state. Then came a Thursday night game against Stanford, who came in with a record of 2-1 (the loss being to USC). People talk about turning points in a season all the time in sports. After years of observation, I’m not a real believer in them. Sure, sometimes it feels like all momentum shifts to one team and that team is unbeatable. Remember the Mariners 8 game winning streak way back in August? But, most of the time, I think turning points are an easy way for the media to write a story. I don’t know what exactly happened on September 27th, 2012 but it changed the Huskies season.
The team had of course been blown out by Stanford the previous years and, while this game wasn’t a blow out, the Dawgs still lost. They weren’t physically dominated like before and the defense had obviously made improvements. The Huskies lost by seven but if there ever was a loss to feel good about, it was this one. Right when Husky fans had made up their minds about that, reports started to surface about yelling in the team locker room. Sark had evidently got after the team pretty good and said, “I don’t care if that’s better than we did last year! Losses aren’t acceptable. They won’t be tolerated anymore.” And then, they weren’t.
Of course, this all seemed ridiculous. It seemed like coach speak, at best. Playing at Oregon was up next on the schedule and that was followed by USC. Most fans, including myself had losses penciled in on the schedule. I don’t need to recount the Oregon game play by-play. You all have heard about it enough by now. Keith Price scrambling for a touchdown with 36 seconds remaining and Sean Parker’s clinching interception 3 plays later. Those were plays that will be held in Husky lore. Eight years of torture were ever.
USC came to town next and were ranked number one. They may not have looked as amazing as everyone thought they’d be but they still hadn’t lost a game. This was the week the Clink went from being a temporary home to a gathering pl ace. Yes, home field advantage was present in the three previous games but once the sell-out was announced on Tuesday of game week, there was a buzz in Seattle that we don’t hear unless the Seahawks are in the playoffs.
The whole game was a party. Although it was a fairly close game, it felt that the Huskies had control of it the whole way through. Winning by 14 felt easy. There were Keith Price’s 3 touchdown passes compared to Barkley’s 2. There was the defense causing 3 turnovers. There was the Josh Shirley sack on the first USC offensive play in the second half that let us know that our team wasn’t letting up. Then, there was the Shaq Thompson kickoff. For years, it has felt like USC has been having those kind of special plays against us, with their superior athletes, now it was our turn. On that day, we were better than USC. USC hasn’t lost since then and looks to claim a spot in the national championship with a win tomorrow. They’re good. But, maybe we’ll be better again.The rest of the season felt euphoric. UW – 45, Arizona – 28. UW – 49, OSU – 24.
The showdown in Berkeley on a Friday night, on national TV was another highlight. California had been talking all week long about Tosh Lupoi and how payback was going to be sweet. Shaq Thompson stuffed the box score (1 interception, 1 sack, 2 tackles for a loss, and 7 tackles total) and shut up Cal. UW- 35, Cal -17. The defense had improved emphatically. They weren’t your dad’s Huskies but they were good in a conference of bad defenses. A day later, USC beat Oregon in a barn burner.
Utah caused the biggest scare, the rest of the way. The whole game, they stuffed the run and made the Huskies one-dimensional. At this point, Sankey and Callier both had gone over 500 yards on the season and made up a balanced offensive attack. We found that Keith Price couldn’t do it all even if he had to. But, the thing about memorable teams is there’s always a unit that steps up. In this game, it was the defense. Nate Fellner and John Timu bottled up John White, thanks in large part to Danny Shelton and Semisi Tokolahi. Desmond Trufant showed why other quarterbacks never throw to his side of the field, as he collected 2, of his season total 5, interceptions. The safeties proved why they were all conference. The team held Utah to 17 points and as Keith Price took over on the Huskies 30 yard line with a 1:26 remaining, he was smiling. He marched down the field to Utah’s 12. Perfect passes to Kasen, Smith, and Mickens. Heck, even Bruns had a first down catch. That set up for Travis Coons game-winner that barely made it inside of the upright.
As the Huskies played Colorado, and proceeded to blow them out, most Dawg fans had their eyes on the Oregon-Stanford game. For once, we were all Duck fans and for once they did what we willed them to. Oregon beat Stanford easily and the Huskies controlled their own destiny in the Pac-12 North.
Wazzu was next and that didn’t prove to be much of a challenge. There was much hoopla leading up to the game but it was mostly due to the Huskies being on the verge of clinching a spot in the Pac-12 championship. While it was clear that the Cougars had improved as the year went on, their defense was put to shame by the Huskies attack and the Dawgs won 52-28. Purple flooded the field in Pullman and now we’re here. A day away from the most important Husky game in 11 years.
Sark’s boys have moved up to number 7 in the BCS. But, the rankings don’t really matter. If the Huskies win they’ll be in the Rose Bowl, if they don’t it’ll most likely be the Alamo. I don’t know what will happen. No one predicted that this was how the season would turn out so there’s not much point in predicting how tomorrow will go. Yes, we beat USC once but it will be tough to repeat the Huskies most complete performance since 1994. I hope, I pray for a win.
I guess the moral of this year is that maybe we should stop thinking about next year. Oh, next year will be great. While Price won’t likely win the Heisman this year, next year he comes in as a top 3 favorite. The defense will be one year older and only graduates 3 starters. There’s a top-15 recruiting class coming. The future is lit up, but how dumb would it be to dream of 2013 when we’re a 60 minutes away from grabbing roses. We don’t know if Justin Wilcox will be here next year. We don’t know who will be injured. So, instead of next year there’s tomorrow. Who could ask for anything more.