Huard: Why UW Huskies, WSU Cougars are both back on rise

Sep 19, 2022, 11:43 AM | Updated: 11:03 pm

The UW Huskies are 3-0 and ranked No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 college football poll after trouncing then-No. 11 Michigan State on Saturday. The WSU Cougars are also perfect through three games after knocking off then-ranked Wisconsin in Week 2 on the road and taking down Colorado State in Pullman on Saturday.

Yep – college football is back in a big way in the state of Washington.

UW Huskies move into AP Top 25 at No. 18 after beating Michigan St.

It’s been a rough go for the state’s two biggest football programs in recent years, with the Huskies just about hitting rock bottom under Jimmy Lake in 2021, and the Cougs having to rise under Jake Dickert late last year after the midseason firing of previous coach Nick Rolovich.

Coaching is reason No. 1 that both teams are early-season surprises in 2022, as FOX Sports college football analyst Brock Huard explained Monday morning on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. He gave the credit to Washington finding Kalen DeBoer and WSU making Dickert the full-time coach after his successful interim period in 2021 to the school’s athletic directors.

“Kudos to Pat Chun over at Wazzu, kudos right now to (Washington’s) Jen Cohen,” Huard said. “It’s been an up and down journey for Jen as AD with some of these hires. But both of those people in that position – and people will tell you and this is true – your most important job as an athletic director at the Power Five level, at the collegiate level, is the hiring of your football coach. That is the engine that drives the rest of the department, that is the engine that drives the revenue and the ratings. And Jen Cohen did not go splashy, big name, ‘been there and done it before at the highest level.’ She found a quality human being who would hire a terrific staff around him and knew exactly what he wanted.”

It’s certainly been night and day for the UW Huskies in particular compared to last season. DeBoer’s Dawgs have won this season by the scores of 45-20 (Kent State), 52-6 (Portland State) and 39-28 (Michigan State). Under Lake in 2021, they scored at least 39 points in a game just once (52-3 vs. Arkansas State).

“He’s a tremendous coach,” Huard said of DeBoer, adding that the staff he has built around him since coming from Fresno State in the offseason is a stark contrast to his predecessor’s. “… Jimmy Lake hired a horrendous staff, one that he could puppeteer and control, and it blew up in his face.”

Washington State has had a similar positive change under Dickert, who Huard said has less in common with former longtime Cougars head coach Mike Leach than Rolovich did.

“Nick Rolovich, a little bit from the Mike Leach school of thought, very hard-headed. Jake Dickert, not that way,” Huard said. “(Dickert) hired a D-coordinator he had one year of relationship with (Brian Ward). Hired an OC he had zero years of relationship with (Eric Morris). But he knew they were quality coaches who could help his staff, could bring it together.”

“These ADs in the Pacific Northwest right here with the Cougs and the Huskies hired terrific human beings,” continued Huard, “who are great husbands, who are great dads, who care about the people – and who then ultimately surrounded themselves with terrific staffs. And you’ve watched your teams go out and ball here in the month of September.”

You can listen to Huard’s full thoughts in Blue 88, which is the final segment in the podcast at this link or in the player below from Monday’s edition of Brock and Salk. Blue 88 airs daily at 7:45 a.m. and features three football questions asked by Mike Salk and answered by Huard.

UW Huskies make statement, beat Michigan St. | Ward throws 4 TDs, WSU beats Colorado St.

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