Back to the Drawing Board

SEATTLE - Washington's bye week comes at a pretty good time, but one week earlier may have been ideal. With Chris Polk battling shoulder and ankle issues and Jake Locker cramping up, it was a beleaguered and beat up Huskies team that had the unenviable task of trying to match a fresh Oregon team. The results were fairly predictable, but it took UO a half to get going.

"They had us outnumbered," Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said Saturday night after the Ducks blitzed the Huskies 43-19. He was referring to a key moment in the game, a two-point conversion after Oregon blocked a punt early in the second quarter to give the Ducks their first score. Washington was trying to get their base defense in the game, but couldn't get their 11th man in until it was too late.

In reality, he could have been talking about the whole game. "They just destroyed us on special teams," he would go on to say.

When you are 3-4 and .500 in conference, that's not how you beat top-15 teams. You have to be sound in the kicking game; you have to win the turnover battle. And you can't beat yourself.

All the things the Huskies had to do they couldn't - and the Ducks made them pay.

"I thought we had some opportunities, especially early in the ballgame, and then coming out at halftime, to change the complexion of the game, maybeget the game going in our favor more," Sarkisian said.

And he was right. Washington held a team scoreless in the first quarter for the first time all year long, and the 132 total yards given up at half was also a season low. "I thought the first half was really good defense," UW Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt said. "They played their butts off and made some big plays."

But they couldn't get the Ducks to turn the ball over, and they couldn't capitalize on offense when they did have it. And when they did have the ball in Oregon's red zone, they would only score one touchdown out of four chances.

Early on it became apparent the football gods weren't smiling on Montlake. Oregon's Spencer Paysinger ripped Jake Locker's helmet off at the Oregon 15-yard line, but no facemask penalty was called. The Huskies had to settle for an Erik Folk field goal. The Ducks tried their best to repay the gods, handing the Huskies three points in the form of a Brandon Bair personal foul. After a replay gave Washington one second left going into the half, that penalty allowed Folk to bury a 48-yard field goal as the two teams headed into their respective locker rooms for halftime.

It was 15-6, neither team looked very good, and it was the kind of Washington game you would have expected: Battlers until the end, the Huskies would try to find a way to win ugly.

There was no winning by the home side the final 30 minutes, but there was plenty of ugly. Oregon's offense came out, and bang! Three plays for six, and the Ducks were off to the races. In the third quarter alone, they scored 21 unanswered points and rolled up 196 of their 416 total yards. Game over.

"Sooner or later the water keeps filling up and the dam is going to break pretty soon," Sarkisian said.

So what went wrong? Was it a case of the Huskies just keeping the Ducks at bay until they found their groove? Was it a case of the Huskies trying too hard to make things happen, like when Sarkisian decided to go for it on 4th and 2 with his team knocking on the Ducks' door, only to see Locker get picked off in the end zone by Mason Foster's pal, Javes Lewis.

"You turn the ball over in the red zone, it's like turning the ball over twice," Sarkisian said.

The Huskies morale wasn't broken, but it was badly bent. So that's why Locker went out in the fourth quarter - the game already beyond reach - and helped engineer a touchdown drive. "We needed to get him some confidence," Sarkisian said. "It was good for him."

What is going to be better for the Huskies is the extra week of practice and healing they will have before hitting the road in two weeks to take on UCLA. "We're obviously a pretty nicked-up football team right now," Sarkisian said, not specifying whether he was talking about the physical, emotional or mental state of his squad. In reality, it's all of the above, and for Washington to have any chance at a post-season, they will have to get back to basics.

"We have to get back to the discipline of the offense," he said. "We might be trying too hard." Top Stories