Heartbreak in Arizona

The rollercoaster ride continues. This time it ended at the very bottom after last week's ride to the very top. "Raising Arizona" was never this hard in the movie but it sure has been hard in football.

For the third week in a row, the Washington Huskies went right down to the last play of the game to decide whether they would win or lose. This time they lost and Arizona State, like Arizona, probably deserved to win.

Somehow, some way, this Husky team keeps itself in games no matter how bad they play. Saturday night's game against the Sun Devils was flat out ugly. The Huskies lost the turnover battle, committed an atrocious number of penalties (12 for 124 yards) and essentially lost the game right there.

Along the way, the Sun Devils committed nine penalties for 99 yard themselves. That's 223 yards of penalties between the two teams, meaning the game was about as sloppy and chippy as it possibly could be. Then throw in three missed field goals (two by ASU and one by UW), a muffed punt by Washington, and a fumble through the end zone by ASU, numerous coverage mistakes and a total of five personal fouls by both (three by one player!), two unsportsmanlike calls - and what do you have? A really, really ugly game.

The positives were the play of Jake Locker, who hooked up with receiver Devin Aguilar seven times for 154 yards and was 22 of 38 for 279 yards passing and one touchdown overall. He also ran for a net 24 yards, taking him over 300 yards for the year. He had one interception brought back on a personal foul, and another interception on the very next play. Regardless, he is getting better and better and that might mean enough to win three of the next five games.

Right now, nothing is as sad as losing another league game, especially losing it at the wire. Yet somehow, considering how awful they were last season, there is still more hope now than there has been in years. How can you not embrace this team and this change if you are a real Husky fan? There is such a wonderful football resurgence that is going on, and it will merely take a little time and little more quality depth to become a dominant program again.

That is what these kids have to hang on to - hope. Hope is alive and well, and who knows what will happen in the next five games? They only need 3 wins to make themselves bowl eligible, and the way they are playing it could happen.

Next up are the Oregon Ducks, and that is a scary order. Not only have they rebounded from their opening embarrassment to Boise State, but they are undefeated in the conference and might be the best team in the Pac-10. Just from a league perspective, a win here would be even larger than the Huskies' win over USC.

The Huskies would do well to pick up the pieces, because they will need to play their best game this coming weekend. If you thought the USC game was big, wait until the Dawgs beat the Ducks: They will be dancing in the streets of the U District, because after decades of domination the Huskies are no longer the favorite against Oregon.

The Ducks have a potent offense and that is not good for a Washington team whose defense is holding on at best: A defense that regularly gives up over 400 yards per game, a defense that starts two freshmen at corner, a defense that at times seems helpless against the pass, but also a defense that is pretty good in the red-zone and have been good enough to win in three games so far. They are opportunistic, hawk the ball, and really hustle. They are very young overall and are learning a new system and at times seem lost. That is because it is new, especially the winning part.

When you are struggling and developing defensively then you'd better make it up for it in the kicking game, and unfortunately that didn't happen against ASU either. The Huskies dropped a critical punt and missed a field goal that they had already made and both were factors in their loss.

So, here they are - coming back home for the biggest game of the season. The Huskies will need a lot of hope and a lot of luck to win this one. They already have the hope so some extra luck might just be the ticket.

I know this already; the Ducks have an excellent tight end (Ed Dickson). He has 25 catches to lead his team and has four touchdowns receiving. He is a critical target the Huskies will have to try and take away. They are a spread option team and that means the offense has all kinds of versatility. They almost force you to play man free in coverage and always have option responsibilities on every play. They force you to play the whole field and will work passes off all parts of their running game. They use screens, bubbles (yikes), as well as boots and waggles off their base zone read play (which is their bread and butter, along QB option off it).

The Huskies will have a good plan and then it just gets down staying at home and doing your job to stop the run and knowing your reads and responsibilities: No missed tackles, three sacks, no zone busts, get two fumbles and two interceptions and they will win this game.

If the defense can do this, it won't matter how many yards the Ducks get.


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