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Dawgs lose bowl game, still alright

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Washington's football season didn't end the way it would have hoped, but it still learned a lot about itself and is on the right track. Sam Barbee says why.

Danny Shelton (55) and Colin Tanegawa are two departing seniors for the University of Washington football team.
Danny Shelton (55) and Colin Tanegawa are two departing seniors for the University of Washington football team.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You know, I'm actually happy with this Washington Huskies football season. I started with high hopes. Good returners on defense, a good, new coach, new uniforms, a new stadium to call home, and a new quarterback who showed flashes of greatness last season.

It didn't all turn out the way I planned out in my head, but that's OK. That new quarterback, Cyler Miles, struggled for most of the season for various reasons, including, but not limited to, missing spring ball and the first game against Hawaii.

Now, some of that could have had to do with no running game and no established receivers, but Miles did miss open throws a lot and sometimes did look like a deer in the headlights.

But that's all OK. I'm serious. He's a redshirt sophomore who only played against Oregon State's miserable defense last year. To think he was going to come in and set the world on fire wasn't fair to him or the program. I wrote in this space multiple times that learning a new system is hard, and learning that new system with new terminology and new expectations makes it even harder. That's part of the reason Oregon has had so much carry-over success from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich. It's the same system with the same terminology with the same expectations.

The bowl loss to Oklahoma State hurt. I won't lie. But it's not the end of the world. Hell, it's not even that bad of a thing moving forward. If the players aren't motivated now, after a disappointing loss on national television, then they shouldn't be playing top-level college football. If they aren't motivated to get over the stinkers they put up against Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA and the final two and half quarter against Oregon, then they shouldn't be playing top-level college football.

It really is as simple as that. And you can bet Chris Petersen, the new coach, will be on them like flies on manure to get them ready for next season.

I don't want to look too far ahead, so I'll be brief here. A full year in the program is now done. Petersen will have two recruiting classes, the quarterback won't be learning the system anymore, and they're motivated to improve on last (this?) year's season.

I'm excited. I think the future is bright.

It's weird, though. I might be alone. A lot of the stuff I've read seems to indicate the other way. People are saying that Steve Sarkisian left the cupboard bare, that the program is set back three, four, five years and the UW will waste away in mediocrity for the foreseeable future.

First of all, Sark didn't leave the cupboard bare. It's just that his recruiting style fits better at USC, where he can walk in, say "USC" and get a commitment. Washington used to be that way under Don James, but it isn't anymore. Petersen and Co. are used to the recruiting grind, and it'll show. Next week, I'm writing about Washington's class so far, and it's a good one. But I won't spoil anything.

Second of all, I have a hard time thinking eight wins is mediocre. Oregon State was mediocre. Washington is still a second-tier team. If they had beaten Arizona (should have), Arizona State (could have) and Stanford (could have), that's 11 wins right there. Oh, and Oklahoma State. That makes 12. The coulda, woulda, shoulda game can drive a person to insanity, but I'm just saying how close they are. The Dawgs will start winning those games maybe as soon as next year, because that's what good teams do: they win close games. And the Pac-12 is so good, that most games will be close. At least for awhile.

In closing, I like where the program is headed. Losing Hau'oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton, and, of course, Shaq Thompson will hurt, but that's OK. This is college football. Every team deals with some kind of attrition, whether it's transfers, graduation, or the NFL calling. The Dawgs will be alright.

Allow me to say the word I've been saying all year ... patience.