His statistics through two games don’t leap off the stat sheet so much as they hop. His deep balls often travel as though he is expecting DK Metcalf to track them down instead of a typical college receiver.
The running game still appears to be the pulse of the Huskies’ offense, and the defense the soul of the team. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of this Washington football squad, you have to be stoked about what freshman quarterback Dylan Morris has accomplished.
It wasn’t long ago that the public lacked a clue as to who would get the nod as the starting QB for UW. Morris was one of four signal callers vying for the job, and there was nary a hint on how he was faring compared with his competitors during fall camp.
And with a late injury to transfer Kevin Thomson, there was speculation that Morris earned the starting role due only to his teammate’s misfortune. Now? We might very well be looking at the starter for the next four years.
Perhaps that’s an overreaction given that Morris’ two games, both of which resulted in Huskies wins, came vs. two of the worst teams in the Pac-12. The season-opening 27-21 victory was against Oregon State, which the media picked to finish fifth in the six-team Pac-12 North, while Saturday’s 44-27 win came vs. Arizona, which has lost nine in a row and was picked to finish last in the South.
Still, the numbers have been solid, the mistakes have been minimal, and if not for a slew of dropped passes, we might be looking at one of the best starts to a freshman QB’s career in Huskies history.
Take the Oregon State game, in which Morris finished 14 of 24 passing for 141 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. First, the weather in that contest was atrocious. Cold. Wet. About as imperfect a set of conditions as one could get for a college debut. And yet, if Terrell Bynum and Puka Nacua don’t have drops, and Rome Odunze and Ty Jones are able to reel in catchable balls in the end zone, Morris would have been 18 of 24 with closer to 200 yards and two TDs.
The next week vs. Arizona, Morris finished 15 of 25 with 230 yards and two TDs, but Nacua had another drop (in addition to a 65-yard touchdown reception), and Jalen McMillan had a would-be touchdown pass bounce off his fingertips.
Add that Morris has not been sacked by an opponent (he did step out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage once, which counted as a sack) and that he completed the majority of his third-down plays and all his fourth-down plays Saturday, and you have a happy fan base and an even happier coach.
“So how about our guy Dylan Morris here? He’s just played his second college football game, his second start, and all he does is go over 50% on third down, 100% on fourth down, no turnovers, again, two games in a row and technically no sacks,” said Huskies coach Jimmy Lake, who during a Zoom call Saturday emphasized Morris’ ability to turn bad plays into good plays and “keep good plays on,” “I’m so excited for Dylan. He’s operating our offense, he’s executing, he’s a great leader for us. I’m excited to see his game continue to improve.”
How much Morris will improve really is the big question. Jake Browning, for instance, had a solid freshman year in 2015, when he threw 16 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions as the Huskies went 4-5 in the Pac-12 and 7-6 overall. The next year, however, he threw 43 touchdowns against nine interceptions, and earned Pac-12 Player of the Year as UW won the conference and made the College Football Playoff. Does Morris have that potential? We’ll see. But he has been everything the Huskies have needed him to be through his first two games, albeit against less-than-stellar opponents.
Thus far, Washington has four running backs who are averaging more than 5 yards per carry. It has a defense that shut out Oregon State in the second half and kept Arizona scoreless through three quarters. There is plenty to be optimistic about. But in the modern game, it’s hard to win repeatedly without an efficient quarterback.
Before the season, it was uncertain if one of those would emerge for the Huskies. QB is the most important, but also the most unpredictable, position in football. Two games in, though, it looks like Washington has its guy — perhaps for years to come.