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University of Washington Huskies Football
Sports >  UW football

Halfway through a season that was expected to be successful, the UW Huskies simply aren’t talented enough

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 17, 2021

Washington coach Jimmy Lake, center, stands on the sideline during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Seattle. UCLA won 24-17.   (Associated Press)
Washington coach Jimmy Lake, center, stands on the sideline during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Seattle. UCLA won 24-17.  (Associated Press)
Matt Calkins Seattle Times

We are halfway through a season that began with such hope and optimism. The defending Pac-12 North champions have logged six games against opponents of all different talent levels.

There have been moments of joy and occasional causes for celebration. But the reality is this: The Huskies just aren’t a very good football team.

Saturdays’ 24-17 loss against UCLA was another reminder that Washington simply doesn’t have the firepower to make a dent in the conference this season. The Bruins — as so many foes have done to UW this year — ran the ball with almost no resistance and finished with 237 rushing yards on 40 carries.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson gaining eight yards on a crucial third and 5 with 2:04 remaining epitomized the Huskies’ woes against the run. It was the story of the game, and in many ways, the story of the season.

A week earlier, the Huskies gave up 242 yards on 50 carries in a loss vs. Oregon State. In Week 2, the Huskies gave up 343 yards on 56 carries in a loss to Michigan.

This was a program that recently prided itself on the ability to shut down opponents defensively — a team that regularly led the conference in total defense and points allowed. Now it appears they’re dealing with a problem with no solutions on the horizon.

“We definitely gotta do better. We gotta do way better,” said Washington coach Jimmy Lake, adding that the run game is evolving among teams across the Pac-12. “It starts with us coaches making sure these guys are in a good position to stop the run.”

Unfortunately for the Huskies (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12), this isn’t the only area in which they’ve struggled. In fact, with its overtime win against Cal and a blowout victory of sub-par Arkansas State, it’s hard to say Washington has had a truly impressive performance so far this season.

And it brings up questions. Questions like — should Dylan Morris remain the starting quarterback?

The redshirt freshman has been productive in stretches this season but hasn’t been consistent. He entered Saturday with six interceptions against seven touchdowns and was picked off twice vs. UCLA.

The first came on the Huskies’ opening drive, when he threw into a sea of Bruins after being hit on the pass. The second came in the fourth quarter, when he underthrew an open Jalen McMillan, who likely would have scored if he made the catch.

After the game, Lake said he had no plans on replacing Morris with five-star freshman Sam Huard. He added that Morris has regularly thrown “dimes” throughout the season and in practice.

But it’s clear something isn’t working for the Huskies offense.

Which brings up another question: What does the future hold for offensive coordinator John Donovan?

That query seems to be a weekly theme for the embattled OC. To Donovan’s credit, the Huskies did bounce back after an abysmal start, scoring a touchdown on their final drive of the first half and opening drive of the second.

But the inability to move the ball plagued them for most of the game. Washington finished with just 83 rushing yards on 31 carries (although they did lose 25 on a snap that flew over Morris’ head.) And aside from Morris connecting with Rome Odunze on a 26-yard TD pass in the second quarter, the deep ball was lacking, too.

The Huskies will likely put up points Friday against winless Arizona, which lost to Colorado 34-0 Saturday. But you have to wonder about Lake’s patience with the offense right now.

This has been a rather stunning start to the season for UW, which was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 North by the media before the year. And between the Huskies’ inability to stop the run and run the ball themselves, the same shortcomings seem to haunt them each week.

After the game, sophomore defensive back Trent McDuffie was asked how he can help the team stick together after such a frustrating start.

“I think it just comes back to keeping guys heads up,” McDuffie said. “It’s a long season, and I know a lot of guys are disappointed because we have a lot of talent and we know we hoped for a better season.”

The season isn’t lost quite yet, but a lot needs to change. The question is if the Huskies are capable of making those changes.

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