“Dylan Morris is our starting quarterback.”
Jimmy Lake said it twice, so you know he’s serious — even after everything that happened Saturday night. Even after Morris — a 6-foot, 200-pound redshirt freshman from Puyallup — completed just 58.7% of his passes in Washington’s humiliating home loss to FCS Montana. Even after he failed to score on his team’s final 12 offensive drives. Even after he was sacked three times. Even after he threw three costly interceptions, the last of which effectively ended the game on the Grizzlies’ 43-yard line.
Granted, the fault does not — and should not — fall exclusively on Morris.
Lake, for one, was perfectly willing to parcel out the blame.
“Again, I go back to me and us as coaches, we’ve got to make sure we give him and everybody a better plan so they can operate,” UW’s second-year coach said Monday. “It always comes back to coaching first. And that’s how I always think of this: If they’re making mistakes out on the field, it comes back to coaching. We’ve got to make sure they’re not making those mistakes.
“And so, after looking at the film, Dylan — he got hit a lot. He got hit. Our quarterback cannot get hit that much. He got hit a ton. They called the (roughing the passer) penalties, but that takes a toll on a quarterback, and it takes a toll on him being able to set his feet in the pocket and successfully deliver a throw. So they did a nice job of hitting him a few times, and the penalties were thrown, and then they sacked him a few times.”
In between, Morris threw for 226 yards and scored a rushing touchdown — but he managed just three completions of 15 yards or more. He also passed on several opportunities to scramble, despite Lake saying his most mobile quarterback is “completely free to run.”
Instead, he attempted a career-high 46 passes — an especially odd number for an offense missing its most reliable wide receivers.
“It’s all about we’re trying to win the football game,” Lake said. “It’s not about, ‘Hey, we need to get this many (pass) attempts.’ If he has five attempts and we rush the ball 60 times and win the game, I’m going to be happy and so is he. If he has 46 attempts and we put up a bunch of points and we win the game, then we’re going to be happy. The volume doesn’t hurt his arm. It was more the circumstances of the game and what we were trying to do at the time when we weren’t getting our running game going.”
Like Lake said, UW’s running game (and supposedly stout offensive line) certainly struggled, and its top four wide receivers — Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk — missed most or all of the ensuing abomination.
But would Washington’s other scholarship quarterbacks — sixth-year senior Patrick O’Brien or five-star freshman Sam Huard, who were listed as co-backups on last week’s depth chart — have given the Huskies a greater chance of success in the second half?
“Reps are earned during practice,” Lake said, when asked specifically why UW didn’t turn to the inexperienced but uber-talented Huard. “We want to see who is ready to go — who knows the playbook inside and out, all three phases, who gives us the most confidence to go out there and make plays. As the game progressed, Dylan still is going to give us the best chance to win that game.
“He’s the one during the whole week of preparation, and then obviously in training camp and all that, who knows our playbooks, knows our adjustments, knows how to lead the offense. Dylan Morris is our starting quarterback. So obviously he didn’t play his best game. We didn’t coach our best game. So that falls back on us first. Dylan Morris is our starting quarterback. We have to give him a better plan to go out there and be successful.”
This weekend, they’ll have to do it in the first road game of Morris’ career, against a Michigan defense that allowed just 191 passing yards and 54% completions in a 47-14 win over Western Michigan last week. They’ll have to do it in a “Maize Out” at Michigan Stadium, with 109,000 hostile fans decked out in a hideous yellow. They might have to do it without Bynum, Odunze and McMillan, each of whom are listed opaquely as “week-to-week.” Polk, meanwhile, is out for the regular season because of a chest injury sustained on the first offensive play against Montana.
Regardless, Morris remains UW’s starting quarterback — despite throwing just four touchdown passes with six interceptions in five career starts.
And according to his favorite target, the Huskies have faith.
“We’ve had a ton of reps together over the past year and a half, and obviously last week was a tough one,” said tight end Cade Otton, who caught a team-high eight passes for 82 yards. “But … we’re moving on. Everybody knows last week wasn’t good enough, from all of us. We all take accountability. No one’s pointing fingers or anything. We all move on. We all want to learn from last week and keep working hard and getting better.
“So I know D-Mo’s going to do that. I’ve seen him do that a ton. I know all the guys in the locker room have faith in him.”
For now, at least, Lake certainly belongs on that list.