List of annoying things.

1. Seeing the bubbles but not getting a text. 

2. Your Peloton instructor screaming at you to “push it!” while he sits idle. 

3. Sports writers who think they know exactly what’s going on inside a head coach’s head. 

Yes, that third one is a preface. I’m not going to pretend to have access to a portal that can place me between Kalen DeBoer’s ears. I’m going to take the first-year Washington football coach’s word that, when it comes to Saturday’s season opener vs. Kent State at Husky Stadium, he isn’t concerned about anything but the W. 

However, I know that Huskies fans are curious to see what hand they’ve been dealt in DeBoer — just as I know that the Huskies dropped their should-have-been-easy opener to Montana last year before spiraling into oblivion. 

Excluding the forever-disgruntled fringe, a fan base’s satisfaction is generally the best indicator of a college football program’s success. So coach, how important is it for you to make a memorable first impression to the fans Saturday?

“Honestly, the No. 1 thing is just find a way to win. I mean that is the most important thing; just find a way,” said DeBoer, whose team is favored to win by more than three touchdowns. “We’re always going to respect our opponent and everything they have, but we’re going to believe we have what it takes. Respect all, fear none.” 


That response isn’t exactly out of the Mike Leach school of originality, but it doesn’t mean it’s insincere. Winning is all the Huskies have to do to keep their fans engaged; and if they do that, DeBoer has little else to worry about. 

But it’s human nature to want to impress the UW die-hards — whether they’re underclassmen or 50-year-long fans. We saw what happened to the last coach who didn’t — he got ousted before completing his first full season. 

The optimism surrounding Jimmy Lake heading into 2021 might have been guarded, but it was still high. His Huskies went 3-1 in COVID-shortened 2020, and entered the next year ranked in the AP Top 25. 

Then the Montana Grizzlies of the FCS beat them 13-7 at Husky Stadium, prompting a downward slope a Tour de France champ would struggle to scale. The delight fans felt toward Lake turned into doubt, which soon turned into disaster.

As most of you know, Lake was fired before the season ended as Washington finished 4-8. DeBoer is no less proven than his predecessor at the Power Five level — but can he offer some hope in his debut on Montlake? 

The 2022 Huskies, after all, are an inkblot at this point. They’re coming off their worst season since 2008, and their starting quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., has never played more than six games in a season over his four-year career. But when he was healthy, Penix set passing efficiency records at Indiana while consistently winning, and he has dynamic receivers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan as targets, and one of the country’s best left tackles in Jaxson Kirkland as protection.


There is also a loaded linebacking corps on defense, along with Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who was one of the Pac-12’s most unblockable pass-rushers before going down with an Achilles injury. Maybe this is why Washington placed sixth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll — a team whose ceiling could be as high as its floor is low.

But a loss to Kent State on Saturday would likely stir panic and cause fans to instantly think UW athletic director Jen Cohen again erred in her head football coach hire. Not trying to place any added pressure on DeBoer here — as if a newspaper column would do that to him at this point anyway. Just pointing out the reality that Huskies fans might still be spoiled from the Chris Petersen era, in which Washington won two conference titles and reached three major bowl games — including a College Football Playoff game vs. Alabama — from 2014-2019. Despite the proud UW football tradition, that level of success will be difficult to match. 

Speaking of Petersen, he and DeBoer seem to have established a close-knit bond. While thinking about the time that’s elapsed between his hiring in late November and now, DeBoer sent a text to Petersen on Monday morning that read: “Man, it’s gone really fast. But when you think about how much you’ve done in that time, it’s been a little bit of a grind, too.” 

The point was that DeBoer and his staff have put in the work, but game day has arrived with bullet-train speed.

Saturday’s contest against Kent State isn’t one the country or even the West Coast is particularly fixated on. But it’s a bigger test than the sportsbooks might say.

DeBoer has made a good impression in interviews and news conferences so far. But his impression on the field is the only one that matters.