First, my condolences to OSU fans. Tough way to end an undefeated season. I know that the last time you had a team that went undefeated this long, it ended in Seattle too. So I can imagine the bitterness. I'm a fan of Riley and glad to see that I was wrong about OSU this season because Riley needed a season like this to keep his job. Storm Woods is more than a player with a cool name, he's a good RB too. You have a solid defense, particularly the interior. Your backup QB seems pretty decent too. Best of luck to you guys the rest of the way. Your team had 4 interceptions and 3 turnover on downs and barely lost. Having watched UW play both OSU and Stanford, OSU looked like the more complete team to me.
The Shelton hit
What is the least popular rule in football? Probably the newer version of unnecessary roughness. The kind where a player gets penalized for making a powerful but clean hit that the recipient did not see coming due to his own lack of awareness. We saw that with Golden Tate earlier this year (which wasn't flagged), and now we've seen it in this game as well. Ten years ago, we'd be lauding Shelton/Tate for making great hits, and now we are penalizing them, either with a crucial penalty or a fine. I played football before those rule changes. I've taken some brutal "blindside" hits because I forgot to keep my head on a swivel. I've dished some out too. To me it's just part of the game, and my coaches were adamant in instructing to always keep your head on a swivel, especially on turnovers.
A popular talking point is how the NCAA and the NFL might be hurting the game to protect their players. That rule is the perfect example. It is very difficult to think about what is legal and what is not in the heat of the moment, especially when the rules have gotten so specific/situational.
So I hated seeing that penalty. The crowd REALLY hated it, and booed every play in succession for several minutes before calming down. It was the "correct" call, but that rule is 100% bullshit, in my opinion. The officials had a terrible game (blowing big calls both ways), but that call was actually correct. It's the rule that's dumb, not the officials. Still, I am ever thankful that it didn't impact the outcome of the game, but when it happened it seemed likely that it would. Even AFTER a huge win against an undefeated team ranked in the top 10, I was still fuming a bit about that penalty. It wiped out the coolest Husky highlight since the immaculate interception in 2009.
UW's DBs stand out
UW's secondary gave up two long passing TDs, each of which was a little embarrassing, actually. Otherwise, I thought they looked pretty dominant: 4 interceptions and about 5-6 PDs that I saw. All four interceptions were highly impressive, athletic plays; albeit the second one probably should have not counted when a clear helmet to helmet hit went uncalled, allegedly because of a NCAA version of the rule being different. UW's defense was terrible last year, but Trufant and Parker have always been talented and now Shaq Thompson is contributing as well. A huge part of UWs turnaround on defense is the physical and instinctive play of their corners under Wilcox. It just boggles the mind even more that Nick Holt had most of those same players playing in the softest zone coverage you'll ever see. Not to beat a dead horse, but man, Nick Holt keeps finding ways to surprise me with how horrible he was in his time here.
Sankey vs. Price
Back at the beginning of the season, I mentioned here that Bishop Sankey is an Oregon Duck type running back, and that he might benefit from playing in read option offense. A few weeks later (vs. Stanford), UW switched to a read option offense and Sankey immediately enjoyed a breakout game. He had 144 yards against Stanford and over 100 against Oregon, both very good defenses. UW abandoned the run against USC but Sankey was decent in limited reps. He had almost 100 against Arizona and was on pace for well over 100 at halftime vs. Oregon State. Clearly, the switch has benefitted him.
The only problem is that while Sankey has benefitted from the scheme change, QB Keith Price has tanked. Since switching to read option, Price has only put up one statistically above average game in five tries (USC).
In the first half of the OSU game the trend continued. Sankey averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Price had about half that many yards per attempt. Sankey looked great, Price looked like garbage. The discrepancy had perhaps never been more pronounced, and I'll be honest, I was starting to give up on Keith Price. Read Option is tailored to squirrelly QBs who can extend plays. Guys like Marcus Mariota or Darron Thomas or Matt Scott or RG3. Price may be mobile but he isn't that kind of QB- he's much more of a pocket passer. Every single time that Price rolls out, it seems destined that he will end up throwing the ball out of bounds.
Then something interesting happened.
UW, despite leading 10-0 at the half, changed their scheme and reverted to a pro style offense in the second half. The result- a mildly invigorated and confident looking Keith Price and an out of place Bishop Sankey. Sankey, who had 5.6 yards per carry at halftime, tanked his stats badly and finished with a final YPC of 3.7 for the game. With these two players it is crystal clear. Keith Price needs the pro style system to succeed, and Bishop Sankey needs the read option style to succeed. Can Sarkisian find a way to mix and match without getting predictable?
This is a problem. Sankey is UW's most talented running back, but guys like Kendyl Taylor have shown some decent ability in a pro style system (admittedly in very limited looks). If it were my choice to make, I'd just revert to a pro-style system and hope to revive Keith Price, even if it means Sankey's production vanishes. Maybe one of the backups could be a poor man's Chris Polk? The running game does not need to dominate, it just needs to compliment. If Price can be comfortable and if the defense continues to play pretty well, UW could potentially finish 8-4. UW's four remaining opponents have a 4-19 record in Pac-12 games.
Hopefully Sark sticks with his half time switch and runs out of the pro style the rest of the season. Going read option made sense a few weeks ago when the O-line was a nightmare, but now it's actually stabilized to an acceptably mediocre level and running an effective pro-style offense is possible again. I like Price, but he's proven to be a system QB. Unforunately, UW's RB is also a system RB, for a different system. If given that choice, I am scheming for the QB, especially when that QB set school records last year. Hopefully Sark feels the same way.