In this edition of Better Know a Foe, we asked longtime Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports journalist Jim Moore to tell us about the Washington Huskies.
Vandal Nation: After 15 straight losses, what’s the mindset of Huskies fans?
Jim Moore: Husky fans think the losing streak will end tomorrow. They don’t think Idaho will be much of a test. That’s the feeling I get around town. It’s pretty much based on the impressive performance they turned in during a 31-23 loss to LSU last week. People figure if they can hang with a team like that, they should be able to crush a team like the Vandals. I personally hope that’s not the case.
Is anyone on the Husky side predicting that it might be a close, hard-fought game, or is everyone dismissing the Vandals offhand?
I saw that a couple of guys at Dawgman.com, one of the main Husky fan websites, picked Washington to win but not cover the 21-point spread. And Bud Withers of the Seattle Times took Washington to win 38-20. I’m hoping for a 38-35 Idaho victory with Robb Akey leaving the field on his players’ shoulders but feeling like Washington will probably slop out a 14-point win.
How could the Huskies turn the game into a blowout?
They’ve got one of the best players in college football in my opinion in Jake Locker, who might throw for 300 yards and run for another 100 against the Vandals. He’s super fast for such a big kid. And James Johnson is a true freshman who’s an extraordinary receiver. The Huskies also have a game-breaker in RB Chris Polk. If the Vandals win, it’ll probably be in a high-scoring shootout.
How could the Huskies blow it?
I like answering this question better than the previous one. How can the Huskies blow it? It would be beautiful if they did, and it’s certainly possible. A team that has lost 15 in a row surely could lose 16 in a row. They haven’t proven that they know how to win.
I think a big key, and it’s probably cliche to say this but is really huge in this game, is for Idaho to win the toss, take the ball and score on its first drive to take the win-starved Husky fans out of the game a little bit. I tend to think that the atmosphere might be a little overwhelming for the Vandals unless that happens.
Then the Vandals need to just hang around. If they’re in the game in the fourth quarter, either within seven or tied or ahead by three, anything in that ballpark, the Huskies might start feeling like they’re going to blow it again. That would work to the Vandals’ advantage, and that’s what I’m hoping will happen.
How much of a sea change is Sarkisian from Willingham?
It’s night and day. Willingham closed practices and was tight-lipped about everything. He was quiet and stern and boring. Nice man though, just inflexible when it came to coaching. Sarkisian is out there, in your face, and if you don’t see him, he’ll make sure that you do – he tweets, he blogs, he’s Coach Sark. Everywhere you go, he’ll be there too, front and center. The guy drives me nuts. But I sure as heck would want to play for a coach like him if I were on the team. He’s a motivator and a go-getter who looks like he’s about to turn this team around.
Who will be the key Huskies to watch on offense and defense?
I guess I’ve already mentioned the biggest play-makers on offense. Johri Fogerson is another guy the Vandals need to keep an eye on – he’s a running back who can do a lot of different things, he’s great at catching balls out of the backfield and turning them into big gainers.
On the other side of the ball, the linebacking crew of Donald Butler, Mason Foster and E.J. Savannah is said to be solid. DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim is the best player on the line. I’d rather talk about the UW weaknesses – if I’m Idaho, I’d take downfield shots at their secondary. They’ve had personnel shuffles there this week, and CB Greg Walker was beaten twice for touchdowns by LSU.
What’s your predicted outcome?
Washington, 35-21. But I love Akey and want him to leave Husky Stadium as the winning coach in the worst way. As I mentioned, I want to see him on his players’ shoulders, pumping his fists in the air to Vandal fans in the end zone as the Vandal band plays the fight song. If the Vandal band is there anyway.
Not to sound like the bitter old guy that I am, but doesn’t UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt have it coming? For the way he left the Idaho program five years ago? I don’t know, maybe I should be a bigger man than I am, but it bothered me to hear about the circumstances in which Holt left the team five years ago. And it bothered me even more when Dennis Erickson left the way he did, all that B.S. about going full circle and feeling indebted to Idaho for taking him back again. Then bolting for ASU. I root against the Sun Devils every single week.
How cool would it be if the Vandals rose up and shocked the Huskies? Very cool, very cool indeed. If karma has anything to do with football games, it will happen.