Huskies’ Cyler Miles tunes everyone out, good or bad
The Washington quarterback helped direct his team to a stellar win over Cal Saturday afternoon.
Seattle Times columnist
Cyler Miles by the numbers
273 Passing yards for Miles on Saturday, a career high.
22 Completions, out of 29 attempts, for Miles, also a career high.
3 Touchdown passes for Miles, tying a career high. He also threw three against Georgia State last month.
86 Yards on his longest completion, which went to John Ross III for a touchdown in the first half.
The negative noise clanging around Cyler Miles in the two long weeks since the Stanford game might have overwhelmed him. If he had been listening.
In the wake of a particularly lackluster effort by the Washington quarterback, in a season mostly lacking sizzle from the offense, many Husky followers were beginning to openly question if he was the right person for the job.
But Miles made a decision at the beginning of the season: He was going to tune out the media – social and traditional. No articles, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Facebook.
For a college student these days, that might be the ultimate sacrifice. But for Miles, considering the turmoil he’s faced, it was a wise decision.
“It can’t do anything but hurt your brain,’’ he said.
Miles says that his vow holds for both good times and bad. But if he were to sneak a look at the media Sunday, Miles would see a lot of positive reviews.
Certainly, much of the accolades will be rightly aimed at Washington’s defense, which held the Bears – the No. 2 scoring offense in the country — to 53 points fewer than they scored last week against Washington State.
And within that group, a large bouquet of praise will be headed to Shaq Thompson, whose 100-yard fumble return in the first quarter – just when Cal was on the verge of scoring – provided a stunning momentum swing that held up for the next 52 minutes.
“There wasn’t a better play than that all game, in terms of when it came,’’ Husky coach Chris Petersen said. “Shaq just has got the football ‘it’ factor. Certain quarterbacks have that. They can sense things.”
It’s still an open question if Miles can eventually develop that same quality. But his performance on Saturday provided hope that he will be able to lead the Huskies where they want to go this season.
Miles completed 22 of 29 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in a clinically efficient performance. One of the TD strikes was a 86-yard screen to John Ross, who did the bulk of the work with his blazing speed.
Asked when he knew the play was going to break, Miles said aptly, “As soon as I saw the Cal defender chasing him from behind. No one is going to catch him.”
It wasn’t a dazzling display by Miles, but he appeared much more confident and in command than he had been. And that’s what the Huskies have been waiting to see. Miles has yet to throw an interception this year, but in previous games that was as much a product of a cautious game plan than anything else.
In this one, facing one of the more porous defenses in the country, the Huskies opened things up a bit more for Miles. And he executed the game plan with precision, hitting Joshua Perkins on a 25-yard scoring strike and DiAndre Campbell for an 11-yard TD.
“I saw a poised quarterback,’’ said wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, who caught a career-high 10 passes. “When things were not going right, and he was getting sacked, they were bringing the blitz, he stayed poised, stayed focused. He was delivering balls right on the money. He did a phenomenal job.”
Miles and the Huskies were particularly efficient on a run-heavy, 14-play, 88-yard drive in the second quarter that seemed to sap more of the will out of Cal, though Ross said the biggest surge of confidence for the entire offense came on Thompson’s runback.
“He’s not normal,’’ Ross said of Thompson.
“There’s really something wrong with that kid. He’s really great. Honestly, in my opinion, he’s my favorite college player. That sparked the plug to let us understand we got it in the bag if we keep executing and keep focusing.”
Both qualities — execution and focus — were exhibited by Miles, for whom the two-week break was a mixed blessing. It allowed him, of course, to hone his craft. But it also provided an extra week to stew and agonize, if he were so inclined. Which he, again, insisted he wasn’t.
“Honestly, going into my first game, with everything that’s happened this past year, I just made a promise to myself to not look at the articles and stuff,’’ he said. “There’s no point. I used to be a guy who was always into that. I’d look at pictures of myself. That’s what we all do. I didn’t see how that could help.”
Instead of reading tweets, he studied the playbook, and Petersen could see the difference in his quarterback.
“I’m really proud of Cyler,’’ he said.
“The last two weeks, after the Stanford game, he’s been studying, working hard. All these guys – they came to work every day.”
It was the first signature win of the Petersen era, and the first shining moment of Miles’ stint as starting quarterback. Not that he’ll be soaking up the accolades.
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.