Without a doubt, Washington’s 48-13 drubbing of Rutgers was an absolute disaster on multiple levels, which Jim Hoffman covered so well here. Every fan has a right to be supremely disappointed by this dreadful season opener, which was the worst start possible for the Ash Era. However, it’s important everyone remain calm and not exaggerate the impact of this loss. It’s a game Rutgers was almost four touchdown underdogs in and they lost by five.
Was it miserable to watch, if you were even able to? Absolutely. Did Laviano struggle at times and turn the ball over twice? Yes, yes he did. Was the play calling on offense too conservative at times and forced too many third and longs? For sure. We waited all this time for this performance? Awful.
The defensive line struggled getting consistent pressure and the secondary surrendered deep pass plays for touchdowns. Special Teams allowed both a kickoff return and punt return to go the distance for scores. So what was any different about today versus the blowouts from last season? The staff that is in charge is far superior to last season, a true reason to be hopeful for the future, but that doesn’t mean they can work miracles.
For one thing, Washington might just be that good. After being lauded as a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 title and a trendy pick to make the CFB Playoff, they performed up to expectations. They were fast, executed well, and capitalized on every Rutgers mistake. That’s what really good teams do, and Washington very much looked the part of the 14th ranked team in the country.
Although Janarion Grant struggled to ever really get going, he still finished with 85 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown on 15 touches because the staff made him a priority. He had six carries, taking the snap directly out of the wildcat formation, reminiscent of Mohamed Sanu. Washington simply had the speed and talent to minimize his effectiveness and keep him in check most of the game. However, last year we would have seen the play calling give up on Grant too early, or worse, not even attempt to make him a focus at all. Grant is too talented a player not to be, and he will be a very productive player this season based on the fact the coaching staff will give him the opportunities. Progress.
It was disappointing to see the defensive line fail to put consistent pressure on Jake Browning, who looked like Joe Montana behind center today. However, it’s possible he is the best quarterback Rutgers will see all season, with the exception of J.T. Barrett. There is only one way to go from here, but realize it’s going to take time.
I thought all along Rutgers would start the season 2-4 with this difficult of a schedule in their first six games. In fact, our entire staff predicted Rutgers would lose today. We all hoped they would play much better than they did and Rutgers certainly lost far worse than expected. However, it’s time to focus on games Rutgers must win, and realize this game will be used to make this team better.
Although, improvement needs to happen quickly. New Mexico is no pushover and beating them is a necessary step for this team to move forward. They really need that win to gain confidence ahead of Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan. We need to see progress each week, and that’s the key. Can this coaching staff develop these players as the season goes on, and will it reflect on the field? That is what fans need to focus on.
The bottom line is this roster was recruited for a completely different offensive system, and the defense has a long way to go. The team was off balance the entire game, as all three units let the others down at times, never able to capitalize on the precious few positive plays that did happen. How this staff adjusts and regroups this team is the key to the season.
I understand no one will be happy if another season of four to five 30+ point blowouts occur, and I won’t be either. But this is just one game against a team we were expected to be blown out by. It will be interesting to track Washington this season, as we will learn whether Rutgers was just that bad or are the Huskies really one of college football’s best?
The learning curve is significant for this team, playing for a new coach with a different philosophy in pretty much every aspect of the program. Positive changes have been made with strength & conditioning, nutrition, and accountability. The long view is needed, and we should be confident in the fact Ash has proven quickly he can recruit at a higher level than the program has the past few years. The talent will improve, and the foundation is being set now. Fans need to let it settle, and trust it is being laid the right way. We have a coach who has experience at many successful programs and knows what needs to be done. Patience is needed. It’s okay to be very disappointed by this result, in fact we all should be. We expect a lot better, but we need to give this rebuild a chance before panicking. The second half of the schedule gives this team an opportunity to end the season strong. This is not 2015. Be thankful for that and believe in the future, something we had little reason to before Ash arrived.