Oregon St. and Beaver Nation make the trek north on I-5 to Seattle this Saturday, to take on Washington, and their Dawg Fans.
It's not been quite what either fan base had hoped for this season, but this Saturday is a bowl play-in game, in that the winner gains bowl eligibility either way. Oregon St. comes in off their biggest win in over 6 years, though they had lost 4 in a row right before that. Washington has lost 2 in a row, and 4 of their last 5, but are still playing for a 9 win season.
We got together with Anthony Cassino, one of the big dawgs up at UWdawgpound, to get a scouting report on the Huskies under first year head coach Chris Peterson.
Andy: When Oregon St. fans last saw Dwayne Washington in person, he looked like he was headed for a huge season, at least based on what he did against the Beavers. And though he finally had a huge day, albeit in vain, against the 'Cats, this season has been a big disappointment to say the least. What happened? And is it relevant to this week, or is last week's game the better indicator of what the Beavers should expect Saturday night?
Anthony: Dwayne Washington was splitting carries with Lavon Coleman early in the year, and looked decent when he got in, but the larger issue that he faced was that the line blocking in front of him was poor. There was also no vertical passing game, so the run game struggled. Then he missed the past month or so due to injury. I wouldn't call his season a disappointment so much as he's just been a victim of circumstance. Now that he's getting the most carries of any UW back and is healthy -- and the line is playing much better -- he sure looks a lot more like the back we expected to see coming into this season.
Andy: Washington has struggled with penalties as well as execution issues on offense this season. All coaches demand excellence of execution to some degree, but few moreso than Coach Chris Peterson. Coach Sark obviously hates, and hated mistakes too, but seems to "get over" those mistakes pretty quickly. Could it be that the tremendous implied pressure from Coach Peterson inadvertently has actually increased the number of mistakes, due to increased pressure?
Anthony: I think that the penalties have been due mostly to a few factors. Firstly, it's the Pac-12 refs, and calling UW for what seems to be a lot of phantom calls in big spots. Two is the adjustment of the players to the new system. And three would be the adjustment of the new staff to new officials.
Andy: Pac-12 officiating being an issue. Where have we seen that before?
Shaq Thompson has suffered no ill effects of anything that's happened around him this year. How will Washington use him to get the most production out of him down the stretch, and especially against Oregon St.?
Anthony: With Washington coming on so strong at running back, I'd expect to see Shaq Thompson at linebacker for the rest of the season -- which will be the rest of his UW career. He may get a few spot snaps at RB, but it won't be anything like the three game stretch he had this season where he was taken off of defense to play offense.
Andy: How would you deal with Danny Shelton? Should Oregon St. try to double team him, or are opponents better off trying to isolate or influence him to a location out of the way from where they are going with a given play? And how does that affect what Hau'oli Kikaha does?
Anthony: Both Shelton and Kikaha have outgrown the college game. There aren't more than a handful of college players who can block Kikaha one on one, and there may not be a single player who can block Shelton. The problem with gameplanning against one of them is that you have the other. You can't double team both of them, and if you go away from one, you're often going right at the other. If you can go away from both of them, UW has another potential All American in Thompson that you have to deal with. There's no real good or right way to deal with them.
Andy: What is it that concerns you most about what Oregon St. does? Is there a specific matchup that stands out either way as the one that's most likely to make a difference in the outcome?
Anthony: The biggest concern has to be Sean Mannion's ability to throw the ball at UW's young secondary. Because Oregon State's attack is more traditional than many in the Pac-12, the Huskies will need to utilize Kikaha in a pretty traditional pass rushing role and get good pressure from him while the guys on the back end minimize big plays.
Andy: Both fan bases have endured seasons that have been less than what they had hoped for, and now we are headed for a late, cold, and probably wet night on the lake. Beaver Nation got a shot of energy after last week's upset of Arizona St., at least the half of the crowd that stayed with it, but Husky fans got only a nice trip to the desert, but no W, last week.
It's the last game of the season at Husky Stadium, and therefore senior night for some special departing players, but will that be enough to make the place the house of loud horrors it so often has been in the past, even after losing 4 of the last 5 games?
Anthony: It's never easy for any opponent to come in to Husky Stadium and win, and this Saturday should be no exception. Even though the Huskies didn't win at Arizona last week, it was one of the better games they've played this year. The Dawgs seem to be improving and peaking at the end of the season as the players and coaches get more comfortable with each other and the system. Which has encouraged the fans.
Thanks, Anthony! Always good to catch up with you.
The last 4 games have all been surprising in their outcome in some way, and this could be another very interesting chapter in the Beaver-Husky rivalry.