O’Neil: It feels good to be finding flaws in Huskies’ season-opening win
The quarterback didn’t look as sharp as expected, the running game never really got rolling and the defense was something short of impregnable.
And it was only when I paused to realized how underwhelmed I was by Washington’s season-opening victory at Rutgers that I realized how far the Huskies have come.
We’re back. Back to nit-picking double-digit victories on the road. Back to feeling that an opponent from a BCS conference isn’t much of a measuring stick. Back to expecting the best instead of fearing the worst.
Now granted, beating a Big Ten patsy like Rutgers on the road is nothing compared to the Cougars’ accomplishment over the weekend. Not only did Washington State win its season-opener for the first time in Mike Leach’s six seasons as coach, but the Cougars did it by winning at home against an opponent from Division I-AA or FCS or whatever they call the cruiserweight class of college football.
Oops. Sorry. There’s a little bit of that self-assuredness that can be mistaken for smugness. Actually, I’m not sorry at all because to be honest it feels pretty good to see room for improvement at Washington.
And the Huskies have some work to do. Let’s be clear about that. Rutgers outrushed the Huskies, which was something no one saw coming, and Jake Browning looked more like he did in the second half of last November than he did last September when he played his way into the Heisman discussion.
It’s probably not that big of a deal. He did absorb every ounce of the impact from a first-quarter blitz, which resulted in a fumble, and he could’ve been rattled the rest of the game. But it at least makes you wonder whether an injury to his throwing arm was the only thing that explained the decline of his success over the final month of the 2016 regular season.
Not that there weren’t plenty of things to like about Washington’s 30-14 victory.
The secondary is overflowing with talent even after having three players chosen in the second round of the NFL Draft last May. Byron Murphy picked off two passes while Myles Bryant had seven tackles, forming a combination that is going to twist the tongues of announcers and torment opposing offensive coordinators.
Myles Gaskin had more yards receiving than he did rushing, and while that’s not necessarily a great sign for Washington’s offense, he made two catches along the sideline that any receiver would have been proud of.
The Seahawks Huskies didn’t even have one of their very best players as linebacker Azeem Victor served a one-game suspension.
He’ll be back on Saturday when Washington plays its home opener against Montana, and the question isn’t whether the Huskies will win, but if they’ll win by enough to satisfy the suddenly hard-to-impress fans relishing the fact that the Huskies are back in college football’s upper echelon.