Huskies make the grade at mid-term exam

  • John Sleeper / College Football Report
  • Thursday, October 12, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

The hand-wringing around Montlake about the Washington Huskies’ inconsistencies isn’t happening without good reason.

When the offense hits on all cylinders, as it did against Oregon State, the defense takes a siesta. When the defense rises – see Colorado – the offense goes south. And special teams. Ugh.

Yet, the Huskies are 4-1 at roughly the midpoint of the season. Before the season, if someone predicted the Huskies would be 4-1 at this point, considering games against Miami, Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State, who wouldn’t have wanted that?

The fact that the Huskies haven’t put it all together yet is both good news and bad. Good, because this team could be very, very attractive once it corrects some issues. Bad, because the question of ‘will it?’ hangs.

So in the interest of higher education, let’s issue a mid-term report card.

Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo’s numbers are down, but he hasn’t gotten much help. The running game, save for the Oregon State game, has been spotty, receivers are dropping balls and there’s a tendency to rely too much on tight end Jerramy Stevens.

Still, the Huskies lead the Pacific-10 Conference in total offense, so how tragic can it be? Tuiasosopo is a magnificent leader, and there are signs that the run game is coming around. Todd Elstrom is emerging as a fine receiver. This grade figures to ascend quickly.

Nose tackle Larry Tripplett looks to nail down a first-team all-conference berth, as do free safety Hakim Akbar, cornerback Anthony Vontoure and linebacker Derrell Daniels. Pay no attention to the team’s last-place standing in rush defense. That happens when you face Miami, Oregon, Colorado and Oregon State. Still, Washington has just one interception. OSU showed the Huskies were vulnerable against the deep pass. And the rest of the line has to step up to relieve pressure on Tripplett.

Young coverage teams have yielded masive yardage. After an early-season spate of forced turnovers, there’s been nothing. After a great freshman year, placekicker John Anderson has missed three PATs, although he’s made five of seven field goals. Ryan Fleming is last in the Pac-10 in punting, although he has stuck six kicks inside the 20. Freshman returner Derrick Johnson is brilliant one moment, a freshman another moment. This is an area that figures to improve, considering the athletic talent and youth. It had better.

So what’s it all mean? Washington should be favored in the rest of its games. Say the Huskies falter in one. Hey, 9-2 isn’t bad. It isn’t rosy, but it isn’t bad.

Few should be surprised with a return trip to the Holiday Bowl. And considering the team’s obvious holes, nor should they be disappointed.

Here’s a look at Saturday’s games.

  • Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

  • TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net (cable), KOMO radio (1000 AM).

  • Stars to watch: Washington – The Huskies’ two-headed tailback of Paul Arnold and Rich Alexis (or is is Paul Alexis and Rich Arnold?) ran up more than 200 yards on Oregon State. It takes a lot of pressure off quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who had his best game of the season against the Beavers. Tight end Jerramy Stevens is Tuiasosopo’s ace in the hole in clutch situations. Nose tackle Larry Tripplett is having a great year, despite frequent double-teams. Free safety Hakim Akbar and linebacker Derrell Daniels both are in the top three in the conference in tackles.

    Arizona State – Injuries and illness have hit then ASU backfield, but true freshman Mike Williams is seventh in the Pac-10 in rushing. Quarterback Griffin Goodman threw for 394 yards on just 11 completions against Cal. Tight end Todd Heap’s numbers are down, but only because he’s attracting attention from two defenders every time he runs a pattern. Linebacker Adam Archuleta is small (6 feet, 208 pounds), but may win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

  • Breaking down the game: Washington figures to pound the middle and try to take advantage of superior size up front. ASU’s defense puts severe pressure on the passer via the blitz, so watch for screens to Arnold and quick, three-step drops for other short patterns. ASU has made its reputation as a big-play offense. The Huskies’ secondary has to be better than it was against Oregon State.

  • Bottom line: Washington has yet to put together a complete game, so this might be closer than the Huskies would like. The difference is the Huskies’ re-established running game, which ASU won’t be able to deal with.

  • Pick: Washington, 24-21.

  • Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday.

  • TV/Radio: KJR radio (950 AM).

  • Stars to watch: Washington State – The Cougar offense lives on the talents of quarterback Jason Gesser, who has been intercepted just twice in five games and hasn’t been picked off in his last 103 pass attempts. Wideout Milton Wynn is second in the conference with an average of 98.2 receiving yards per game.

    Arizona – Quarterback Ortege Jenkins is coming around after a horrible start. But the Wildcats have been doing it with defense. They held USC to 10 rushing yards, sacked Carson Palmer five times and forced five turnovers. Anthony Banks and Bobby Wade are 2-3 in the conference in punt returns.

  • Breaking down the game: If Gesser can somehow avoid the furious UA pass rush, the Cougs can score enough. The question is whether WSU, last in the conference in total defense, can stop Arizona.

  • Bottom line: Too many positives in the ‘Cats favor. Watch for Gesser’s streak to snap. Several times.

  • Pick: Arizona, 30-28.

  • UCLA at Cal: No getting around it. The Bears are bad. Flatlined offense. A pass defense that ASU simply ravaged. The Bruins may be coming around, despite having lost DeShaun Foster with a broken hand. Pick: UCLA, 34-10.

  • Oregon at USC: Two programs going in opposite directions. The Trojans’ coaching staff should be packing their bags after last week’s 31-15 devastation at home to Arizona. Pick: Oregon, 28-17.

  • Stanford at Oregon State: The Beavers showed their mettle with their win over USC and a narrow loss to Washington. Reser Stadium is starting to be a snakepit. Despite a game effort against Notre Dame, the Cardinal doesn’t have the guns for this one. Pick: Oregon State, 35-31.

  • Oklahoma at Kansas State: Sooner fans are going gaga after OU blasted Texas. Yo, guys. You did nothing Stanford didn’t do. Pick: Kansas State, 28-24.

  • Texas at Colorado: The Buffs finally let Craig Ochs play a little quarterback and they came away with a win at Texas A&M. Give credit to Gary Barnett. Eventually, he sees the light. Is it too late for CU to nail down a bowl berth? We’ll see. Pick: Colorado, 27-21.

  • Sleeper pick of the day: Northwestern 34, Purdue 31.

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