Loss to Oregon a Reality Check

So here they are, sitting 3-5 on the season and 2-3 in conference play. Finally they laid an egg and got beat soundly by one of their biggest rivals, the Ducks of Oregon. Although they played them tough for a while, the Huskies lost to the Ducks because they let them take over the momentum of the game.

It all started with the blocked punt in the second quarter and ended with a collapse in the third quarter when the Ducks scored three unanswered touchdowns. The young Huskies won the first and fourth quarters but the third quarter buried them.

The positives were that the defense started the game with two three-and-outs and the Huskies led after the first quarter 3-0. Chris Polk had another tough 104 yards on 18 carries and Devin Auguilar continued to show he is going to be a big time receiver, catching eight balls for 87 yards. He and Jermaine Kearse mean the Dawgs will be solid at receiver for at least two more years. They are both special receivers with great futures.

The two freshmen corners continued to impress, with both Desmont Trufant and Adam Long making some really nice plays. They have excellent feet, and with another year or two of growth and development could both become great shutdown players. Add in the other true freshman starter in the secondary, safety Nathan Fellner, and it means the future of the backend of the defense can only get better with experience.

The blocked punt simply sparked the Ducks and they immediately exploited the Huskies again with a two-point play that caught the home team totally off-guard.

Actually, the Dawgs had worked on it considerably in practice but the defense was not on the field when the Ducks scored and they only sent 10 men out for the extra point. Then, because of the rush to get on the field, didn't balance up and the Ducks went ahead 8-3 (the Huskies actually had a couple of substitution errors in this game). Although they cleaned up their act with regard to penalties, Washington made too many mistakes to beat a team of Oregon's caliber.

Regardless, with a little over eight minutes to go in the first half the Huskies had held the Ducks to 40 yards of total offense. They had squandered some excellent scoring opportunities on offense and that obviously hurt because they could have been up 17-8 had they simply made a few key plays.

On the night the Husky offense had almost 400 yards and 23 first downs. They just didn't score on a those early chances and it came back to haunt them later.

Jake Locker did not have a really good game, and that's OK because the protection did not give him the time to play right and an obvious cramp or contusion kept him from being his normal elusive self. He had only seven carries for minus-six yards. Considering he was sacked four times, it means he only carried the ball 3 times. Locker was obviously hurt and that explains a lot about play calling and his performance overall. This Washington team needs at least 8-10 carries a game by him, considering he is a primary weapon.

The interceptions were stupid plays by him and he knows it. He was only 23-45 with one touchdown and 2 picks ( I counted four drops again). It wasn't a good night, and if Washington is to win three out of four then he will have to play better. Both of his turnovers and the fumble by Chris Polk were at key times in drives and not only gave the ball over to the Duck offense, but also ended scoring opportunities.

Games can get away from you, but I was impressed how they came back to win the fourth quarter 13-7. Of course the damage had been done, but they still put together a couple of nice drives.

The bottom line is that they got beat by a better football team that knows their own offense and defense really well, and they also won the kicking game. They are a team that has the necessary quality depth, created from consistent recruiting, and that comes from coaching continuity.

Oregon is in first place because they are a good football team. I wrote in my last story before this game that I thought the Huskies had a chance. Washington would win this game if they did the following things;

1. Win the turnover battle by +3 (two fumbles and one interception) Hopefully, one of those for a touchdown. No fumbles or picks by Washington may win this game. (They lost because the exact opposite happened. They threw two picks and lost a fumble and even though the Ducks fumbled four times, the Huskies only recovered one.)

2. Break even or win it in the kicking game by blocking a kick, returning a kick for a touchdown, and not giving up any returns to the Ducks. Be perfect in all specialties in kicking game be it punts or field goals or extra points as well as snaps, holds, and catching every kick (We all know what happened here).

3. Run the football on offense but set it up off the passing game.

Jake Locker needs to run 10 times, and about half of those should be called. Chris Polk needs the ball at least 20 times. Throw in a key 3rd and one to Paul Homer and maybe a reverse or two and you're well into 30-plus rushing attempts. Then pound them with the run late in the game when you have a two score lead then hang on and win it at the wire. Kick another game field goal at the buzzer. Win it by one (the Huskies did run it 34 times for 129 yards and Polk did get 18 carries, but Jake was not a running factor).

4. Quit making stupid penalties. No personal fouls, no off sides, no face masks, no blocks in the back, and don't get caught holding. Let the Ducks do all their strutting, and bobbing the head, and shaking the heads and crossing their arms for every incompletion or break-up. I promise you they will act that way. Let them get the penalties and ignore their trash talk. Play clean tough hard hitting football.(Washington was only penalized 5 times for 50 yards and the Ducks did act that way and still got penalized 9 times for 88 yards, but were good enough to win in spite of it.)

Obviously Oregon's game this weekend vs. USC will be the biggest game of the year (some UO fans are calling it the biggest home game in the history of their program), but the Ducks are for real and they are the best program in the northwest over the past five or six years.

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