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Huskies plan to use bowl loss as motivation

Washington quarterback Cyler Miles had good numbers this season, but his eyes will be on incoming QB Jake Browning. (Associated Press)
Washington quarterback Cyler Miles had good numbers this season, but his eyes will be on incoming QB Jake Browning. (Associated Press)
Christian Caple Tacoma News Tribune

TEMPE, Ariz. – After he dressed at his locker following one of the Washington Huskies’ most disappointing losses of the 2014 season, quarterback Cyler Miles reflected on a frustrating end to a frustrating year.

UW’s 30-22 loss to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl ended a rocky, disjointed season in which the Huskies’ defense made more big plays than most teams in the country, but the offense made so few and the defense failed often enough to contain the Pac-12’s more high-powered offenses that UW failed to defeat a single FBS opponent with a winning record.

The entire team looked unprepared for Friday’s finale – the 24-0 halftime deficit proved as much – which has to be particularly disconcerting for coach Chris Petersen and his staff as they enter the offseason coming off a mediocre 8-6 record in their first season at Washington.

“We were just too relaxed,” Miles said. … “We were kind of back on our heels, kind of just going with the flow, kind of like it was practice. All of us. I’m not singling nobody out. All of us were too relaxed in the first half and as you saw, we can’t do that.”

They now must combat the negative energy that could accompany them during winter conditioning workouts and spring practices.

“We’re going to have to use that as a chip on our shoulder, without question,” Petersen said. ”We’ve got a lot of work to do. The guys know that. You know, it will be a tough, hard process going through that. But we’re going to use it as a positive in terms of, like, how we need to play, what we need to do to be able to compete.”

There are plenty of personnel concerns to address, too. The Huskies’ only returning starter on the offensive line will be Dexter Charles, who will be a fifth-year senior. The four players who comprise their starting defensive line have reached the end of their eligibility – including All-Americans Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton – and their two most productive linebackers, senior John Timu and junior Shaq Thompson, are also on their way out the door (Thompson said he hasn’t decided if he’ll declare for the NFL draft, but a wise person would not bet against it.)

There are perhaps more questions, though, about the quarterback position, despite the fact that Miles started 12 games this season and will be back as a fourth-year junior in 2015. His numbers suggest efficiency – he completed 66.6 of his passes and threw 17 touchdowns to four interceptions – but he too often scrambled when he could have completed a pass to an open receiver, and seemed to lack the arm strength needed to make throws downfield to allow a more diverse passing attack.

Miles could have competition next season from incoming freshman quarterback Jake Browning, who during his four-year career at Folsom (California) High School set the national record for career touchdown passes with 229, will enroll at UW in the coming days and participate in UW’s spring practices.

Browning guided Folsom to a 16-0 record and a CIF Division 1 state championship.

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