It's Called Math

Forget the odds, forget the doubters; Washington had a monster chance to win a road game against a ranked opponent for only the second time in 22 chances Saturday in Tucson, and they blew it. And for all of the Huskies' excellent play for 58 minutes and 30 seconds, it was that last 90 seconds that will haunt Chris Petersen and his staff for quite some time - and should.

Because the eventual 27-26 loss could have been avoided. It could have been sidestepped by any matter of means - but the easiest way would have been through simple math. Now don't get me wrong - I understand coaches are trying to make split-second decisions in a very high stress environment along the sidelines, and that late into a game a million things are going through their heads. That's why they apparently have charts they rely on upstairs to tell them all the computations for when they should go for it, whether or not to go for two, if they can kill a drive, etc... - thus taking out any on-the-fly guesswork.

As with everything else in life, math has the answers you need.

Apparently there's charts for all sorts of things when it comes to UW Football, like seating charts instead of depth charts. They might even have a chart that acts as a primer to make sense of all the other charts, which would make sense since Petersen is a stickler for detail.

So why would the Washington coaches need charts? There was roughly 90 seconds left to play in the desert, and Washington had been clinging to a two-point lead for the better part of a quarter. Sidney Jones had just come up with his second interception of the day - a feat made even more amazing by the fact that he got toasted early in the game by a play that led to Arizona's first score - and it was up to Cyler Miles to salt the game away with UW's version of a four-minute offense.

The Washington offense, much maligned throughout the year, came up trumps - twice. The first was on a Miles pass to tight end Joshua Perkins, and the second on a perfect playcall; a well-executed triple-option that is almost impossible to stop for less than a couple yards. Miles got four on third and three.

Then the clock ran. And ran. And with 1:33 left at the UW 44, Miles handed the ball off to Deontae Cooper. And Cooper, who to my knowledge hasn't ever fumbled a ball in a UW game before, fumbled the ball.

Two things: 1) Cooper didn't need to run the ball; and 2) Perkins recovered the fumble.

But let's not get hung up on number two, because if we do we'll be called communists for believing something was rotten in the state of Pac-12 officiating. But we'll revisit this thought in a second closer to the end of the game.

Let's get back to No. 1 - Cooper didn't need to run the ball. Nope. In fact, no one had to run the ball at all. Cyler Miles could have sat on it four times and the Huskies would have come up with a famous win, so far removed from pundits' expectations as to create wonder as to where had that performance been hiding? And could it come back for the final two weeks of the regular season?

But the chart said otherwise. The chart said UW needed another first down. The chart said the offense still needed to play offense.

The chart was dead wrong.

The ubiquitous Husky fan base could be heard screaming through their televisions and radio sets, with a din almost as loud as the clank made by Cameron Van Winkle's field goal attempt in the first quarter that hit the right upright - YOU DON'T HAVE TO RUN THE BALL.

The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer spelled out as likely a scenario as any, with Miles snapping the ball with only a couple seconds left on each play clock, the Wildcats eating their last time out with roughly 1:25 left in the game, and then the Huskies milking said clock until it got down to within :05 remaining at worst. And best case, they don't have to run a play on fourth down at all.

But if they did have to do something on fourth down, Miles could have quick kicked it. Hell, Korey Durkee could have come in and squibbed something meaningless down the center of the field while the clock expired, or bombed one high and deep. Either way, even if Arizona got decent position, say their own 40 if we're feeling extra generous, they'd have to Hail Mary it just to have any chance of scoring any points in that situation.

Either way, let's move on. It's Arizona's ball at the UW 45 with 1:23 remaining - and Washington still has all three of its timeouts available. Much like the Jake Locker drive at USC in 2010, Lane Kiffin and his staff had a chance to burn timeouts while Locker and Chris Polk ran wild. Kiffin did the exact opposite, keeping all three in his pocket while Steve Sarkisian ran the clock all the way down to the point where a field goal try would be the last play of the game.

The Huskies won that game, and Kiffin left the stadium that night with three useless timeouts and a supersized helping of second guesses - probably not unlike what Petersen is experiencing this very minute. In what could only be described as a Mountain West Bambi meets Pac-12 headlights moment, Petersen froze. He let the clock wind down, doing nothing until Arizona had a 47-yard field goal attempt to win it all.

While the clock wound down, the second hand took away any opportunity Washington could have used for one last gasp effort to win the game. And yes, it would have been the longest of shots - but as Mr. McLean, my 10th grade math teacher (and unabashed Notre Dame fan) would have been sure to remind me - some seconds are better than no seconds.

Then Petersen acted. He froze the Wildcats' kicker - but not until that same 'Cat got a hold of a freebie while the time out was being called. It went wide. The one that actually counted went right down the middle.

"I don't want to call a timeout and let him kick it," Petersen said after. "I told the guys I was going to call time out and I called it twice before they called it. It is what it is; that's on me. I should have made sure it was not going to be snapped. Should have made that perfectly clear."

Apparently when you're standing next to a Pac-12 official and you're yelling in his ear those very same instructions, it can be hard for them to understand. But again, if you're a Washington fan you don't have any choice but move past it because two bucks and Pac-12 officiating incompetence will still only get you a slurpee at 7-11. It certainly won't get Chris Petersen back that kick.

And in those final 90 seconds went not only a game, but a reputation. A reputation for detail, for organization, a knack for nerve and verve in the critical moments. A reputation that netted 92 wins in eight seasons.

All that is now gone in less than a year.

Now standing at 6-5, Petersen has obliterated any marks he had at Boise State for losing. His worst conference record was 6-2 during his final season. Right now he's 2-5 in the Pac-12 North. And Pete's right about one thing; winning in this conference is hard. Just ask Arizona State, who lost to Oregon State late Saturday night - a loss that just turned the Pac-12 South into one of the bigger hot messes you'll see in college football this year.

A thousand pardons for the cliche, but upsets can, and do, happen on any given Saturday. I guarantee you Rich Rodriguez was looking at the Washington game as a trap game, the pundits be damned. And he was right for thinking that way. The Huskies dominated the 'Cats. It was UW that accounted for over 500 yards of total offense. It was UW that ran more plays than the high-octane Wildcats, 90-80. It was Cyler Miles who out-dueled Anu Solomon. It was Dwayne Washington that out-ran Nick Wilson. It was Kasen Williams that went toe-to-toe with Cayleb Jones. It was UW that held Arizona to just 20 offensive points, over two touchdowns below their season average. They avenged, in part, a rivalry that, at least at Arizona Stadium, was starting to slowly venture into Oregon/Arizona State territory.

But with all that also went wrong Saturday - the fumbles, the botched snaps, the blown special teams plays, the short fields surrendered - the Huskies still stood on first down at their 44 yard line with 90 seconds to go, and the Arizona Wildcats were down to their final timeout.

And Washington lost.

Using simple math, it should have been addition by subtraction.

In clock management terms, it should have been straight subtraction. But instead, Petersen started with a chart malfunction, added his own inability to act, and the result was all too predictable.

And it wasted one hell of an effort.


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