Huskies let Ducks slip through their fingers

In a year that seems to be heading downhill, players and coaches alike are both looking for answers to the question – is this team really moving in the right direction? The answers to that question are as elusive as the Oregon skill players were yesterday in Autzen, but the Washington players and coaches still gave the best answers they could come up with.

"I think (the loss) comes down on us," junior S C.J. Wallace said following Oregon's runaway 45-21 victory. "We just made too many mistakes. These mistakes have been killing us all year and we've got to take care of it.

"Tackling is just something that's on (the players). You've got to want to tackle. I missed some tackles out there and some other guys missed some tackles and you just can't do that. We're a better team than that.

Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens had an outstanding day versus the Husky defense passing for 412 yeards, completing 36 of 44 passes (an Autzen Stadium record) and throwing four touchdowns with nary and interception or sack.

The Husky defensive line was no match for the quick-hitting Duck passing game and whenever they did mount some sort of pressure on the senior signal-caller, he eluded their grasp or delivered the ball before he was tackled.

"When you give someone as talented as Clemens that much time to pass, he's going to have a day like that," senior DT Manase Hopoi said. "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."

Junior cornerback Matt Fountaine also gave credit to Clemens.

"They did an excellent job of changing things up on us," Fountaine said. "You've got to give a lot of credit to their quarterback. In past games, they've been a passing football team. They threw deep posts and a lot of fade stuff and he was really patient today. He hit everything we gave him underneath in the flats and the mid-range passes. He was very patient and delivered the ball well today."

Early on the Husky defense was able to cause two fumbles on the first two Oregon offensive plays and it seemed as if it would be a "Dawg day" after all, but the team was unable to capitalize on the great field position. Fountaine said that failure to take advantage didn't have a lot of effect on the team psyche.

"You learn something when you've been here as long as I've been here," Fountaine said, almost parentally. "You don't get too ‘up' with the highs or too ‘low' with the lows. We felt good that we got those two turnovers, but there was only 30 seconds off the clock. It was still about work. It was great, but we weren't going to think too much about it and we just moved on to the next play.

By the time the Ducks took the field for their third offensive series the Huskies were up 7-0, but with Clemens' leadership and the Huskies known inadequacies in tackling, the game was still never in doubt.

"They're a real good, fundamentally sound team," Wallace said. "We can't make mistakes like that because they'll capitalize on that.

"Missed tackles and stuff like that, just simple stuff, but stuff that can lead to big things. It's really just the little things but they all start to add up and make problems."

The Ducks were stellar against the Huskies third-down defense converting 7 of 13 attempts, including a back-breaker when Clemens hit Jonathan Stewart on third-and-seven from the Duck three-yard line and the 18-year old was able to out run two Huskies, who were seemingly in position to tackle him, for a 12-yard gain.

"It's something we're going to have to watch on film, but it just seems like it was mistakes," Wallace said. "I mean, we knew what was coming. I don't know if we trusted our technique. It could be anything, but it's something we've got to go in there and correct."

The Huskies also suffered two injuries to an already thin secondary when CB Josh Okoebor limped off the field with a hamstring injury and Wallace left with a foot problem. Wallace, who was carted off the field, was able to return in the second half.

"It's something I hurt in my arch," Wallace said of the injury he suffered in the second quarter. "It hurt really bad, but I wanted to be out there playing and helping my team."

Offensively, the Huskies managed only 15 first downs, 117 yards passing and 238 total yards. The pass-rush from the Duck defense, which pressured QB Isaiah Stanback all day, was non-stop. They had six quarterback hurries, seven quarterback knockdowns and four sacks resulting in 23 lost yards.

"Anytime you have pressure it disrupts you," Stanback said. "It's something that's going on that has to be corrected. We'll go back and watch film and do our best to correct it for next week."

Mistakes offensively also hurt the team. With 5:19 on the clock in the first quarter and the Huskies trailing 14-7, Stanback and the offense began a drive on their own 41-yard line. In a great play call by offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, Stanback handed to junior RB Kenny James who then pitched back to the signal-caller.

Deep down field, junior WR Sonny Shackelford had broken free behind the Duck secondary and Stanback fired a pass that led the wideout toward the endzone. Inexplicably, Shackelford let the ball literally slip through his fingers and the Dawgs missed yet another opportunity at a big play.

"It was a guaranteed touchdown," a frustrated Stanback said. "But it's something you have to bounce back from and move on."

One of the more intriguing sub-plots from Oregon week was the prospect that former Duck and current Husky QB Johnny DuRocher would see the field at some point during the game. With 1:16 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, he entered to a chorus a boos, something that didn't surprise the sophomore from Spanaway, Washington.

"It was pretty much what I expected, a lot of boos," DuRocher said understatedly. "I'd never been booed by that many people before, at least they knew who I was."

DuRocher transferred last year following fall camp and hasn't looked back. He said he was frustrated by the play of not only the offense but the whole team.

"It was frustrating to see our whole team struggle," DuRocher said. "There was a lot of plays we could have made and that could have effected the outcome differently, but now we've got to get back and get ready for USC."

As the team keeps struggling on offense, the questions arise whether there is a quarterback controversy with this team. Stanback was diplomatic about things.

"That's up to the coaches," Stanback said. "Johnny's a good quarterback. Whatever decisions the coaches make as far as the QB, we're going to have a good QB out there."

The Huskies will do their best to bounce back against the defending national champion USC Trojans next week at Husky Stadium – a tough task indeed.

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