There's a feeling in these parts that the No. 1-ranked University of Washington football team is toying with an identity crisis.
The Huskies are 6-0 heading into a three-game, Pacific-10 Conference home schedule and were elevated to the top ranking in today's Associated Press poll. So you'd expect Coach Don James' team to be a balanced blend of near-perfection.
Wrong. Washington's success has come largely on the strength of an opportunistic defense and a sophomore kicker named Jeff Jaeger, who undoubtedly will become one of the school's all-time leading scorers. Aside from Jaeger, the offense has staggered.
Before Saturday's 37-15 victory over Stanford, the Huskies were first in the country in scoring and total defense. Washington has forced 31 turnovers in six games.
Stanford Coach Jack Elway, whose team lost to Oklahoma, 19-7, in its season opener, said last week that he didn't think he was going to see a defense as good as the Sooners'. Then he saw the Huskies' "Stop" unit.
"I've changed my mind," Elway said.
While Jaeger and the defense have excelled, the offense has been an enigma.
It has talent, led by flanker Danny Greene, a preseason all-America candidate, and tailback Jacque Robinson, who was the first freshman to win Rose Bowl MVP honors (in the 1982 game). Both are seniors, as are most of the offensive starters.
The offense has decent size, speed and depth. It also, seemingly, has the potential to be an equal to the defense.
So far, though, the offense has been sporadic. It has produced the big plays that have helped Washington remain unbeaten, but it has not really been tested by a strong defense. On national television for instance, there was a 73-yard touchdown pass from Hugh Millen to Mark Pattison against Michigan.
Some believe the offense may not come of age until near the season's end. The unit is directed by Gary Pinkel, a veteran assistant coach under James but a new offensive coordinator. It may take a while for the players to get used to his methods and his offense.
Quarterback Millen, a redshirt junior from Seattle who transferred from Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College, needs more experience running the offense.
Against the relatively weak schedule to date, the rushing game has been unimpressive. Meanwhile, Millen has passed inconsistently despite one of the more talented groups of receivers in James' 10 seasons at Washington.
Too often, Washington has relied on Jaeger, who has made at least one field goal in 15 straight games and has scored 155 points in 18 games.
Other times, the defense has been the difference. Led by hard-hitting cocaptains Tim Meamber and Jim Rodgers, the defense revels in its accomplishments.
"One of our team goals was to help score 35 (points a game) and not give up more than seven," said Meamber, a linebacker. "We've got 11 guys willing to die for the cause. This club doesn't even care how we're ranked. We just want to win."