The University of Washington Huskies narrowly escaped a big upset at the hands of the Eastern Washington University Eagles on Saturdayby pulling out a 59-52 victory. I highlighted this matchup as a potential upset earlier this week, correctly predicting a close game while clearly believing too much in both defenses.
A key storyline on Saturday was the return of Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles, who missed all of spring practice and the first game of the season after being suspended for disciplinary reasons. Could Miles make an instant impact after missing so many reps in practice? Would he be able to ignite an offense that opened the season with a disappointing, 17-point effort against the University of Hawaii?
Miles quickly answered the question by completing a 67-yard opening drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown, his first of three rushing touchdowns on the day. The Huskies would only punt the football twice all day while racking up 536 total yards. Miles was an efficient 14-24 passing on the day for 180 yards and a touchdown in addition to the 58 yards and three touchdowns that he picked up on the ground.
Although his numbers were overshadowed by Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who torched the Huskies defense for 475 yards and 7 touchdowns (seriously, not typos), Miles played well on Saturday. He understood and executed the game plan by making safe throws and getting the ball to the Huskies playmakers in space quickly, maximizing their athletic advantage against an overmatched Eagles secondary. Miles is also savvy with the ball and a threat on the run, his ability to sell the read option consistently resulted in huge running lanes for both himself and the stable of Huskies running backs as Washington piled up 356 yards rushing. With the Huskies defense surrendering 52 points, Washington football needed Cyler Miles, this would have resulted in a disappointing loss without him.
So, who is Cyler Miles? You can preview him by his measurables: an athletic 6’4”, 225-pound frame, light feet and a quick release. You can judge him by his accomplishments: 4-star recruit, participant in the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition out of high school, and now, University of Washington starting quarterback. You can even evaluate him by his numbers: in three games where he has received substantial playing time, Miles has led the Huskies offense to 31, 69, and 59 points while posting a 2-1 record. He has accounted for 856 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions.
But another factor that Miles brings to this Huskies football team is more difficult to quantify: Cyler Miles provides Husky football with hope. Hope for a 10 win season heading into a bowl game. Hope that the Huskies can compete with Stanford and Oregon in a loaded PAC 12 North division. But most importantly, hope that Miles and head coach Chris Petersen can lead a proud Washington football program back to prominence.
Former coach Steve Sarkisian may have left for USC a bit unceremoniously, but he helped return Washington football to respectability. The Huskies had a habit of beating the teams that they were supposed to beat, while losing to the true contenders of the PAC 12 (upsets against Stanford and Oregon State in 2012 aside). To take the next step the Huskies need to compete consistently against the elite teams: no more blowouts and no more excuses that the team is not ready.
And to take that next step, Cyler Miles is going to have to bring it.