Huskies walk into a blowout against Eastern Washington, and a shootout breaks out
For those who are purveyors of stout defense, well, you would have been better served to sit this one out. What might have looked like a cream puff for the Huskies turned instead into a tense battle by the Huskies to avoid a shattering upset in Petersen’s home debut.
Seattle Times columnist
Chris Petersen gave a wan smile, and began his postgame media session with a question of his own.
“Well,’’ he said, “did you like it?”
Lots of ways to cover that one, Coach – if I may use the word “cover” without having you break out in a cold sweat.
For those who are purveyors of stout defense, well, you would have been better served to sit this one out. What on paper might have looked like a nonconference cream puff for the Huskies — at least to those unaware of Eastern Washington’s pedigree, and its stupendous quarterback — turned instead into a tense battle by the Huskies to avoid a shattering upset in Petersen’s home debut.
For those looking for pure entertainment on a postcard day at Husky Stadium, it was a spectacular success. As shootouts go, this one didn’t quite reach the shellshocked pinnacle of Washington’s 67-56 loss to Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the 2011 Alamo Bowl.
But with Vernon Adams Jr. playing the role of RGIII, albeit in a losing effort, it was an offensive explosion of compelling proportions (propped up by Husky defensive breakdowns of Holtian proportions).
Eastern belied its stature as an FCS (what used to be called Division I-AA) school to play nearly even on the road against a Pac-12 power.
“I don’t think that was a fluke,” Petersen said. “I think they’re that good.”
As for how good the Huskies are, we’ll have to get back to you on that one. Petersen has often been likened in style and substance to Don James, the highest praise possible for a Huskies coach. In squeaking out two narrow wins in his first two games, at least he’s ahead of the Dawg Father, who lost his first two games (against Arizona State, then a WAC team, and Texas) en route to a 6-5 debut season.
But each of those victories has come with the realization the Huskies were exceedingly lucky to escape against opponents they figured to dominate.
“I know everybody is going to be ‘defense this,’ and ‘defense that,’ ’’ Petersen said. “But hey, it was a heck of a football game, and at the end of the day, the Dawgs figured out how to win.”
There’s something to be said for that, on a day when Adams threw more TD passes than any quarterback has against UW, at least since those statistics began being officially recorded.
And there’s something to be said for the fact that the mismatched reality of the afternoon — the Huskies rolling up 536 yards on offense, but giving up 573 to EWU — didn’t lead to any finger-pointing from offense to defense.
“There was nobody arguing, there was nobody yelling at each other,’’ said Husky running back Lavon Coleman. “It was more trying to get everybody on the same page. We all came together. There’s no such thing as fighting against each other.”
Coleman ran for 118 yards and one of Washington’s seven rushing touchdowns as he continues to emerge as the likely go-to back in the Huskies’ crowded stable of running backs. The Huskies finished with 356 yards on the ground and needed just about every one of them as Eastern kept matching them score for score.
“It was by committee, and those guys are a great committee so far,’’ Petersen said.
Cyler Miles, coming off his one-game suspension, couldn’t help but admire his counterpart, Adams.
“He lit it up, man. He lit it up,’’ Miles said. “He played great. His football was on the money, man. He made some gutsy throws — two fourth-and-(longs) on the last drive. Crazy. My hat goes off to him. He played a heck of a game.”
But Miles, taking over for Jeff Lindquist — but more accurately for Keith Price — showed some promising signs for the future.
“Smooth. It was smooth,” Coleman said of the transition to Miles. “Both quarterbacks are great guys. I love both of them; both of them are my friends. But with Cyler back there, everything is a lot calmer. Everything runs a little smoother.”
Getting back to Petersen’s initial question, the fact that UW is 2-0 — after the avoidance of the upset that hung in the air all afternoon — was the most positive spin available, at least from the Husky angle. It was either that, or dwell on a defensive performance that makes for a scary future, if not cleaned up.
“We’ll just breathe, come back in Monday, and work a little harder,’’ said receiver John Ross.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.