Tough day for Dawgs in Oregon

The weather was dreary and cold to start the day at Autzen Stadium in Eugene and the day didn't get much brighter for the Dawgs as the day progressed. They Huskies gave it their all, but they just couldn't stick with the more talented, high-flying Oregon squad.

It didn't appear that the day would be all that bad for the Huskies, as they couldn't have asked for a better start. On Oregon's first two offensive plays, the Huskies benefited from two Duck miscues.

On the first offensive play of the game, Oregon QB Kellen Clemens hit WR James Finley, who promptly coughed up the ball while being tackled by Husky SS C.J. Wallace. CB Matt Fountaine recovered the fumble, but the Husky offense was unable to do anything with it, but they weren't without their chances. QB Isaiah Stanback barely missed Craig Chambers for what would have been a long touchdown as the ball was just barely out of the sophomore wideout's reach.

Following a punt that put the ball at the Oregon 20, Clemens faked a handoff to RB Terrence Whitehead, but on the fake, Clemens fumbled the ball and NT Wilson Afoa recovered the ball and the Dawgs were in business at the Oregon 18.

After a holding penalty and two short gains, Stanback found WR Anthony Russo on a beautiful pass down the middle that saw an Oregon defender's path blocked by the back judge. The Huskies will take any luck that comes their way and they were quickly up 7-0 only three minutes into the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Ducks were penalized on a holding call, putting them deep in their own territory, starting the drive at their own 14. But when in doubt, put the ball in your senior quarterback's hands and that is exactly what Oregon did.

Clemens hit six different receivers and the Ducks also benefited from a late hit penalty on Washington LB Evan Benjamin. Eventually, the drive would end up being an 87-yard touchdown drive, as Clemens hit Demetrius Williams on a one-yard fade route over Husky CB Josh Okoebor.

In the Huskies fourth drive, something that is becoming a painful trend reared it's ugly head yet again. On first down, with the Huskies positioned on their own 41-yard line, Husky offensive coordinator Tim Lappano made an excellent play call. Stanback handed off to RB Kenny James, who then pitched back to the junior signal-caller. Stanback launched a beautiful pass down the seam to a wide-open Sonny Shackelford who was 10 yards behind the Duck secondary. Shackelford, however, let the opportunity literally slip through his fingers and the Huskies drive stalled and with it, any chance of sticking with the potent Ducks.

"I was very disappointed with our team today," Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham said following the game. "I thought we had some opportunities today that we didn't cash in on. We didn't play like we expected to play."

On the next Oregon drive, the Husky defense was shredded by Clemens again for passes of 33, 14, 14 and a beautiful 8-yard TD pass to Jaison Williams that was just out of the reach of LB Scott White.

Whenever UW tried to establish a running game they were stymied by big Haloti Ngata. On almost every play Ngata was double-teamed, but he was rarely moved off the line. Senior C Brad Vanneman had his hands full all day with the big man from Salt Lake City.

On the next Oregon drive the Husky secondary suffered their second setback as SS C.J. Wallace was taken off the field with an injury – Okoebor left the game earlier with a leg injury – and Clemens riddled the deep patrol yet again. Clemens hit five different receivers on an 11-play 82-yard drive ending with a 30-yard pass to Demetrius Williams and the Ducks had a seemingly insurmountable lead.

"It's always tough when you lose players," defensive coordinator Kent Baer noted regarding the thin ranks in the secondary. "You've just got to line up with who you've got and that's never fun because we don't have a lot of depth anyway."

Willingham echoed Baer's statement, but was more emphatic about his expectations when the Huskies lose a player to injury.

"We've been thin in our secondary," Willingham said. "It's been our Achilles heel all year. We have one expectation. When a guy goes in he makes the plays and we didn't do that."

Wallace returned in the second-half, but there was a noticeable drop-off when he left the game.

During the next Husky drive, Stanback began to show his immaturity as a signal-caller missing a blitz from his open side and taking a sack, then getting sacked again on third and long. He continues to improve his decision making skills, but it is evident he is still a ways away from leading this team to where they want to be – the endzone.

P Sean Douglas had a monster game punting five times in the first half for an average of 50.4 yards. He hit one for 69 yards that was downed at the one-yard line and the Huskies appeared ready to hold the Ducks to a three-and-out. But it was not to be. Clemens dropped back into his endzone on third-and-eight and with DT Manase Hopoi applying pressure he hit freshman RB Jonathan Stewart in the flat.

Stewart, who appears to be recovered from the hamstring and ankle injuries suffered early in the season, turned up-field and juked White gaining 12 yards and got the Ducks a new set of downs.

On fourth-and-inches from their own 30, the Ducks opted to punt. The Huskies appeared to be in good position at their own 45, but a supposed illegal hit on the snapper penalty resulted in the Ducks having a first down and they did their best to take advantage of it.

The Huskies got lucky when Oregon inexplicably ran a screen-pass to Finley with 13 seconds remaining on clock. With no timeouts, the Ducks tried to hurry to line and spike the ball, but time ran out as it took too long for the players to un-pile and the Dawgs escaped the first half down only 14 points instead of 17.

Even though the Ducks misfired on their final drive of the half, Clemens had impressive stats, passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. He finished the day 36 of 48 for 425 yards and four touchdowns. The 36 completions is an Autzen Stadium record.

"When you give someone as talented as Clemens that much time to pass, he's going to have a day like that," Hopoi said of the Oregon quarterback. "In the shotgun you can't really tell whether it's run or pass so it's something we've got to work on next week because we face USC."

Baer noted that the defensive game plan was to not give up the big play to the talented Duck offense, but that his team's lack of execution and missed tackles were what hurt the Dawgs the most. Wallace agreed.

"This loss is all on us," Wallace said. "Mistakes have been killing us all year. Oregon is very good at fundamentals. We made mistakes like missed tackles, simple stuff that turns into big plays and adds up. You have to want to tackle and trust our technique."

After a halftime show, that included both bands and Oregon football hall-of-fame inductees, the Huskies had a chance to come out and make a game of it by driving for a touchdown, but Stanback threw his first bad pass of the day and Oregon FS Patrick Chung was there to pick it off and he returned it to the Husky 30 yard line.

Clemens continued his hot passing, eluding the rush several times to make big plays, the final escape coming when Washington DE Greyson Gunheim missed a sure sack and then threw all the way across the field to a wide open Whitehead putting the Ducks up 28-7 early in the third quarter.

After a Matt Evanson field goal and 17-yard Stewart run put the Ducks up 38-7, Stanback and the offense seemed to get it going a little bit going 75 yards, aided by a roughing the punter penalty and a pass interference penalty in the endzone, as Stanback hit TE Rob Lewis for a five-yard touchdown pass.

After Duck QB Dennis Dixon came in and was ineffective, the Huskies again marched down the field taking 13 plays to go 80 yards as Ty Eriks went over from the one with 4:50 left in the game.

Oregon added a late touchdown and with 1:16 remaining on the clock former Duck and current Husky QB Johnny DuRocher made an appearance to a chorus of boos from the Autzen faithful. For the record he went 2 for 2 for six yards.

The Huskies must now regroup and plan to play the defending national champion USC Trojans at Husky stadium next Saturday and things need to change for this team and fast.


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