Effort minus execution equals loss

Pasadena, Calif. - Football games are often considered a tale of two halves, and if you're looking at Washington's performance in their 44-31loss to UCLA Saturday night, it certainly appears on the surface to be a reasonable analysis. The offense got off to an extremely slow start, and the defense couldn't hold the Bruins down at crucial times in the fourth quarter.

But ultimately it was the big plays - the 'sudden change' plays - that spelled the difference. Take away Dennis Keyes' pick-six and Matt Slater's 85-yard kickoff return in the second half, and the Huskies and Bruins would have been deadlocked at 31.

But unfortunately for the Huskies, college games aren't 54:40 long.

"To me, the game comes down to the two big plays in the first half, and the drive to start the second half and the long run," UW Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer said. "That's it. That's what I see. The rest of it, I don't know."

I'm sure Baer would like to forget the rest - and it's completely understandable. If this was 'Men in Black', I would have been looking for Tommy Lee Jones as soon as the final horn sounded. He could have aimed that high-tech memory eraser at me, and I could move on to next week.

Case in point; with Pat Cowan on crutches early in the fourth quarter, the Bruins had to rely on walk-on McLeod Bethel-Thompson to lead their offense. As always, defensive coordinators are looking to be hyper-aggressive with fresh meat in the game, and Bethel-Thompson was right in Baer's sights.

Problem is, Chris Markey got in the way. On the fourth play of Bethel-Thompson's first series, Markey tore through the middle of Washington's defense untouched. 72 yards later, it was clear the Huskies didn't have what it took Saturday night to overcome the obvious; they were going to get beat no matter how many arrows they were going to shoot toward the Bruins. They just shot 'em right back.

"Somebody didn't fit the run right," Baer said when asked about the play. "I asked everyone across the board, and everyone had a different idea."

"I don't think there was that much structure that was wrong, but they kept grinding it, kept making plays," added UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham.

But I'm getting ahead in the story. It's quite likely the defense would not been in the positions they found themselves in - fatigued and knowing they had to step up and make play after play - if the offense had pulled their fair share of the team's weight. "If you can't run the football and you aren't beating man coverage early...especially in the first half - you end up in way too many third-and-long situations," Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano said. "Third-and-long being third-and-eight or more."

The Huskies had 11 plays in the first quarter. UCLA had nearly as many (10) just in their first drive of the game. "We didn't do our part in the first half," Lappano said. "I think we put our defense in some tough spots when we went three-and-out, three-and-out. We can't do that. And we made some really stupid mistakes."

The times they did try to take their shots deep, the Huskies couldn't connect. And D'Andre Goodwin, the fastest Husky, was trying to get unleashed, but none of the receivers could find separation in man coverage. "I'm not sure how well we did against their man cover," Lappano said. "Without seeing the film, it didn't look to me like we separated like I thought we might. We did at times, but I don't know how consistent we were. I'll have to see that."

The lack of hitting that big play early just compounded the problems Washington was having in the run game minus Locker's contributions. Locker ran for nearly 100 yards, the rest of Washington's ballcarriers ran for a combined 32 yards on 17 carries.

"It doesn't look like there's a lot of room in there," Lappano said. "I'm not seeing a lot of seams up in there now. I wasn't happy with the run game. I don't think we're generating near enough run without Jake and we need to get that fixed somehow. I don't know if we have to limit it down to three or four runs, but we have to run the football. We've got to get our tailbacks going and help them out."

Lappano said afterward that, while they wanted to go the full game with Rankin to see what he could do, they might have missed an opportunity to see what one of the other backs - J.R. Hasty, Brandon Johnson or Curtis Shaw - had to offer. "If he gets tired in the second half...in the first half we just didn't get the ball all that often," he added. "They had a couple of long drives and we had two three-and-outs, so I don't think anyone was tired on offense. But in the second half he started to get tired and we probably should have given someone else a look."

"I wanted to go with Louis," Willingham said.

Looking at the EIGHT running backs USC proudly displays on their depth chart, any one of those guys could probably do the trick. Anyone have Pete Carroll's phone number? This should be the time when guys like J.R. Hasty emerge from the shadows and hit the scene like a runaway locomotive. The problem for Hasty is that an ankle injury hasn't led him out of the station. And it's hurting his chances to ever get playing time. His time should be now.

"When I ask him he says he's fine," Lappano said, when asked about the noticeable hitch in Hasty's gait.

And right now, none of the other running backs available appear to have earned enough trust to go out there on the road and make their mark. And the one back that was really asserting himself in fall camp - Brandon Yakaboski - was left home, presumably because they are looking to redshirt him after getting hurt.

Positives were hard to find at the Rose Bowl - almost as hard to find as women who didn't have their plastic surgeons on speed dial. "We never quit in the second half," Lappano said. And he's definitely right. In years' past and under different coaches, that result could have been grotesque. There's no question that Willingham's team will play their butts off until the final whistle, regardless of the score. "We moved the football. If we execute better, we should be able to put up 44, 45 points. I was proud that they didn't quit."

"Every week, every game you are always trying to build and put everything in the right place," Willingham added. "Obviously we just didn't get the execution. There were some positive stretches, and some that weren't as positive. We'll look at it to find out where we went wrong."


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