Contributed by Danny Davis
I never thought I would say this, but University of Montana football fans need to start acting more like country music icon Tammy Wynette.
In other words, they need to start standing by their man.
And by their man, I mean UM junior quarterback Jason Washington.
In three starts thus far, Washington, who transferred to UM after two years at Bowling Green, has completed 38 of 69 passes for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Washington has led Montana to an early 2-1 record with the lone loss being against Oregon, in a game that UM probably wasn’t going to win even with Jesus under center.
Although the Griz are tied for the best record in the conference, Washington’s numbers (which place him second-to-last in the conference in passing) and play have been considered sub-standard by many Montana fans who have let their voices be heard. During the defensive struggle that was UM’s 7-0 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday, the Washington-led offense was booed several times and there were various chants of support for backup quarterback Cole Bergquist to get into the game.While the fans at the game may have been callous, many online Grizzly fanatics have been straight up ruthless. In eGriz.com’s online forums, one fan questioned Washington’s ability to improve as the season progressed while another chatted about Washington’s “abysmal passing mechanics.” After the Oregon shellacking, one poster stated that Washington would never know what it felt like to hit an open receiver, while one poll had 71 percent of the 100 that voted in favor of Bergquist starting the SDSU game.
Washington says that he is not fazed by the scrutiny and understands that the criticism is just part of the game.
“That’s just the nature of the beast, the nature of the position. Every quarterback in the NFL, every quarter ball in college football, every high school quarterback has to take the scrutiny. It’s nothing new or unexpected. It’s kind of in one ear and out the other.”
That being said, Washington also understands that these armchair quarterbacks are indeed just that.
“People that are in the crowd, they are in the crowd. If they really knew what they were talking about or if they were coaching, they would be on the sideline,” he said.
Washington had the dubious task of replacing Craig Ochs, who as a senior last season led Montana to the national championship and signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers in the off-season. I am sure that George Bush and his posse would attest that replacing a legend is no easy task. Mistakes are going to be made, and although Washington isn’t going to be allowed five years to figure things out, he is making progress.
“It’s going pretty good,” said Washington, who had to learn a new offense while adapting to life in the Treasure State. “I think I’ve made the transition real well and it’s going well for me.”
Dave Dickenson. John Edwards. Drew Miller. Marty Mornhinweg. Brian Ah Yat. Ochs. Washington acknowledges that he is following in the footsteps of a long line of great Griz quarterbacks and aspires to be one as well. What many of these Griz fans stricken with selective amnesia may have forgotten is that Ochs and Edwards both began their UM careers with sub-par starts. Like Washington, both Edwards and Ochs went 2-1 in their first three starts under center with Edwards tossing two touchdown passes and two interceptions, while Ochs threw for four touchdowns and three picks.
As I am sure most true Griz fans know, Edwards went on to win a national championship that season, and Ochs led the Griz to Chattanooga in his second season in Missoula.
In addition to adapting to a situation at quarterback, UM’s offense is adapting to an inexperienced and young receiving corps which, besides senior Jon Talmage and junior running back Lex Hilliard, doesn’t have a receiver that had 10 catches in 2004.
The point here is that UM is 2-1 this year and more than likely well on its way to another conference championship. Montana fans need to settle down and let Washington and the offense adapt, and things should be fine. Washington seems to have a death grip on the starting job and the football brass don’t seem to have any desire to make a change.
In essence, UM fans have two choices: either accept Jason Washington as the Grizzly quarterback or see if there are any season tickets left in Bozeman.
Stand by your man Montana, stand by your man.