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Why the UW Lost to Montana and Beat Arkansas State, Similar Teams

The Huskies had dramatically different results against similar lower-level opponents.
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This might just be one man's opinion, but the talent level for Arkansas State and Montana appeared remarkably similar. Had they played each other, here's guessing the outcome might have been close. 

For the University of Washington, one  brought a breezy 49-point victory, the other a shocking 6-point loss.

How do you explain that?

For three weeks now, media members and team followers have dissected everything about the Husky football team and its early stumbles down to the flavor of Gatorade used. 

The spectrum of amped-up observations: The Huskies weren't physical enough. John Donovan doesn't have a clue. O-v-e-r-r-r-a-t-e-d. On and on and on.

Winning at Michigan was never a given because, well, it's Michigan. Yet not treating Montana like Arkansas State with a punishing welcome and send-off at Husky Stadium will go down as an archeological mystery for decades to come.

Unless you consider the following breakdowns or trends:

Coaching

In achieving drastically different results against ever comparable teams in Montana and Arkansas State, put it squarely on Lake. The young coach didn't come properly prepared for the opener. His inexperience showed.

It appears he got caught up in the bravado of thinking his team could run the football down everyone's throats — by the way, has anyone seen that infamous hat of his lately? — when he really doesn't have the personnel to do that. 

Lake's Huskies were far too predictable. Montana got a gift. The young UW coach didn't realize it until too late, that he had given the overly surprised Grizzlies an unexpected opening to pull the upset.

"Sometimes you have to go through hard things to find out who your are," Lake said. "And that's what we're doing right now."

Details

For all the incessant hammering on Donovan, did anyone notice that the Husky offensive coordinator was the architect of four consecutive first-half scoring drives from 70 to 93 yards against Arkansas State, which is impressive against anyone?

Donovan made two notable changes to quiet the visiting Red Wolves and the hometown wolves at his doorstep: He moved to the press box for a better vantage point and he finally instructed the UW for the first time in seven games to throw the ball downfield.

How Donovan thought he could introduce a new offense from the Husky sideline is nothing short of mind-boggling. Lake said his coordinator needed to get to know his young quarterback Dylan Morris under fire and make himself readily available for consultation.

Two things: That's what practice is for and here's an invitation to go watch the next UW game from ground level. While you can feel the emotion and hear all of the clever swear words, you can't see anything. Not a damn thing. 

As for finally throwing the ball to the wide receivers for five plays of 30 yards or more against Arkansas State, refer to the "Run the Damn Ball" note. 

"One of our goals as an offense was to run the ball, but we also had to throw to run the ball," Morris said.

Lineups

The Huskies originally returned 20 of 22 starters from last season's team, so the idea was this group would be overly veteran and know what it was doing at all times. However, the transfer portal, injuries and competition have proceeded to reduce the ranks to just 13 of those previous 22 starters from 2020.

Which makes it almost a completely different UW team, somewhat inexperienced here and there.  

While some changes have brought upgrades, the loss of Zion Tupuola-Fetui and inability to settle on first-team defensive tackles and safeties — the UW has started four of each — from week to week have been drawbacks.

Since the Montana opener, the Huskies have swapped out four of the 11 defensive starting positions alone for performance or injury, which is roughly 30 percent of the talent.  

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