I have to be honest. If Washington State's loss to Portland State last week didn't make me at least a little nervous, then I had to stop paying attention. Washington hasn't exactly been juggernauts in the FCS games they've played recently (see: Eastern Washington last year), and the opener against Boise State wasn't exactly super encouraging.
But Washington showed up to play. Jake Browning looked like the mega-talent that was hyped from the recruiting process, the run game showed up, and the defense pitched its first shutout in two years. It really couldn't have gone much better. The Huskies thoroughly dismantled the Sacramento State Hornets, slowly picking off each of its collective wings and watching it writhe.
I know, I know. It's and FCS team, you'll say. They're supposed to win big, you'll say. Washington hasn't proven anything yet, you'll say.
You're correct on all accounts. But this is a program that's been, pardon the cliche, mired in mediocrity. Not many wins in the past half decade have been clean, purely feel-good wins. Most are like bad relationships: great immediately, but then reality sets in and you realize what's really going on.
It may take a little longer for the sheen to wear off this game. Browning probably should have had an interception, but instead it turned into a 78-yard touchdown, his first in Husky Stadium and first as a Husky. Browning finished 17 of 24 for 326 yards and two touchdowns, and came a blade of fake grass away from maybe scoring his first rushing touchdown, too.
He looked crisp, confident, decisive. His passes were accurate and his decisions were sound, for the most part. It was a far cry from the inaccurate, unsure obviously 18-year-old a week ago. (Let's be honest for a second, though. Look at that picture. Tell me he doesn't look a day older than 16. Did he just win his first FBS game or get his driver's license?)
But he had help. It wasn't just him out there like Cyler Miles effectively was last year.
The running game showed up like the one expected guest at a party. Freshman, and Seattle native, Myles Gaskin had 104 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns, and Dwyane Washington had two touchdowns, and Lavon Coleman carried six times for 44 yards.
Am I overblowing this? Am I getting too excited about a should-be-sure-win over a team with obviously less talent? Are you sure?
OK. I'll tone it down. I just agree with what head coach Chris Petersen said after the game.
"I think it was jut good for those guys to go out and score some points," Petersen said. "Confidence is just everything in this game. It just really is. So we gained some confidence today, I know that."
I'm with you, Chris. For a team that hasn't had this kind of result in a while, it's good to look at the scoreboard, at the box score, at the film and see that you're team scored a lot of points and the other team didn't score any.
Washington gets an interesting Utah State team next week, then the brutal Pac-12 schedule begins with four of the next six games coming against ranked opponents. That's why I was droning on about confidence and seeing points on the board.
They can't go into that stretch still finding themselves and building their foundations. They have to have the walls up, at least, before they play at USC, Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, and Utah in that order.
I didn't even mention the defense. But that's becoming more of a constant and less of a talking point. That's a good thing.