The UCLA Bruins will take on the #5 Washington Huskies this Saturday at 4:30 pm PT and I think it’s safe to say this will be a big-time coaching battle. UCLA head coach Chip Kelly is about to take on Husky head coach Chris Petersen, an opponent he faced while at Oregon.
Remember when UCLA supposedly tried to go after Chris Petersen and he was like “Nah, I’m good over here at Boise State” and then the next year he ended up at Washington? And, according to Scott Woodward, who was Washington’s AD at the time and is now at Texas A&M, Petersen went to them. Well, that hire panned out rather quickly. He’s got almost a .700 win percentage since 2014, which is actually a decline from his .885 percentage while at Boise State.
Many people remember the glory days of Boise State football, with Kellen Moore, bowl games, and national rankings. Petersen brought that success train to Washington in 2013, and hasn’t looked back. Back in 2008, the Huskies were winless under then-head coach Tyrone Willingham. Steve Sarkisian was then lured over from Southern Cal and he managed to bring some respect back to the team before moving back to coach the Trojans. Enter Petersen. The Huskies have seen nothing but greener grass. They were the Pac-12 North Champion and in the College Football Playoffs back in 2016. They are consistently in the picture when college football experts discuss the national championship. For good reason, his contract has been extended to 2023.
Bush Hamdan and Matt Lubick are splitting the offensive duties for the Huskies. Hamdan joined the UW staff in 2015 as an offensive quality control assistant, reuniting with his college football head coach. He remained with the Huskies for the next two years, but spent the 2017 season coaching Matt Ryan when he was the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan was sixth in the league in passing yards that year. Hamdan has now found himself back in Washington as the Huskies’ new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Lubick is now in his second year on the UW staff, after having served as offensive coordinator at Oregon. Before serving as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator in 2016, Lubick spent three years as their wide receiver coach and passing game coordinator. He brings 22 years of coaching experience and has coached outstanding players like Dante Pettis.
This is Jimmy Lake’s first season as Defensive Coordinator after working as Co-Defensive Coordinator since 2016. He is also the team’s defensive backs coach. He is working alongside Pete Kwiatkowski, who is in his first season as Co-Defensive Coordinator after having served the Huskies for four years as defensive coordinator. This team’s efforts catapulted the Huskies lead the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense in 2017. In that magical 2016 season when UW went to the playoffs, their defense once again led the conference in a laundry list of stats, including: total defense, scoring defense, first downs allowed, and third down conversion defense. These stats are what dreams are made of (or conference champions...).
While the Washington football team has had its share of success in the last few years, this year’s special teams have met with some criticism. During their September 1 game against Auburn, their first punt made it 43 yards, only to have Auburn return the ball 32 yards. Washington kicker Peyton Henry was two of three, missing a 40 yard field goal attempt. They are ranked 48th in the country in kick off returns, and an abysmal 105th in punt returns. I’m guessing they’re feeling the loss of Dante Pettis, who tied the Huskies’ punt return record in 2017. In addition to losing Pettis, kicker Tristan Vizcaino graduated.
The kicking unit consists of junior Joel Whitford, who is back as their Aussie rules punter at 25 years of age, alongside Henry, who is tied for 61st in the country with a 67% field goal percentage (please allow me to celebrate our own J.J. Molson, who is tied for the #1 spot).
Junior Aaron Fuller and redshirt sophomore Byron Murphy have been handling punt returns, with an average return of just over five yards. Senior Myles Gaskin, the #1 option for Washington, and sophomore Salvon Ahmed are the kickoff return team, with an average return of 22 yards.
Can we even stop the bleeding at this point? If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I thought Chip Kelly was a better coach than Chris Petersen, I would have told you yes. After what we saw at Oregon, there would have been no doubt in my mind. I know it’s kind of comparing apples to oranges, but it looks like Petersen is still moving forward as a coach, and Kelly may have been a mistake.
There are bright spots in the kicking game for us, but you can’t win a game with three-point field goals when you can’t stop your opponent from putting up seven-point touchdowns. I don’t see how we win this one, so it’ll be another week of just hoping to see some glimmer of the wins we might get down the road.