The Huskies are off this weekend, meaning a 14-day wait from the OSU loss to possible redemption against the Cougars in the Apple Cup.
And the wait may be the longest for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who said on Wednesday he wished the Huskies had had a game the day after the OSU loss to get the “sour taste” out of his mouth.
While head coach Steve Sarkisian calls the plays for the Huskies, Nussmeier helps shape the game plan each week and helps guide the offense from the press box on game day.
And he felt the Oregon State game was the worst effort of the season as the Huskies gained 11 yards or fewer on nine of their first 10 drives — the lone exception a 66-yarder for a touchdown late in the second quarter. UW later mounted two other scoring drives but by then, the damage had been done in an eventual 48-21 defeat.
“For nine weeks essentially, win, lose or draw, what we put out there on the field we could still turn on the film and say ‘hey, we put it out there,”’ he said. “And I don’t think against Oregon State we did. And I think our players would agree with that assessment.”
Indeed, the one silver lining this week is that Nussmeier felt the players showed the proper attitude in getting back to work after
“The good thing is our players came in with an open mind,” he said. “They were very coachable. They looked at the film, looked at the things we have to improve on. And I think everyone is in agreeance that we know where we have to go to become a championship team.”
Nussmeier said two things have to change — the Huskies have to play without hesitation, and they have to get better at fundamentals.
Looking at the Oregon State game, Nussmeier said that “they played at a different speed than we played at. For some reason we played slow, and we played hesitant, and when you do that in football you look very bad. And we looked very bad. And there is no excuse for it and I will take full responsibility for it. We’ve got to improve and we’ve got to get better.”
Ask how the team does that, Nussmeier said: “You come back to practice and you work your butt off. You put your pads on and you hit the guy across from you in the mouth. When it boils down to it, this game is what it is — it’s about blocking, it’s about tackling, it’s about throwing it to the open guy, it’s about catching the ball. It’s about the fundamentals of the game. And we’ve got to get back to playing better fundamental football.”
Nussmeier said even a moment of hesitation can be critical.
“It’s a speed game,” he said. “It’s a game of fractions of seconds. And if you are not completely sure or you are hesitant for one reason or another, whether overstepping or understepping or whatever it may be, it can look a lot worse than it really is. But the reality is that we didn’t play good. We played bad. So I’ll take full responsibility for it. We’ve got to play better.”
As for why UW may have been hesitant, that was a question that has both Nussmeier and Sarkisian searching. Nussmeier said he didn’t think the pressure of the game — win or a bowl game is gone — should have been an issue.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Nussmeier said. “Every game is a must-win, in my eyes and in our players eyes. The object of the game is to win, but our focus has to be to play each play. winning is a by-product of what you do. Rarely do you win and not play good. You get lucky sometimes, it just happens. But the reality is what we’ve said all year — ‘don’t worry about the score. Let’s go play football the way we can play football and the score will take care of itself.”’
Nussmeier said the offensive failings were across the board.
“The one thing we’ve talked about is every week, after we play, win, lose or draw, we wanted those people (on the other side) to say ‘they played their butts off and played hard.’ I don’t think we could say that after Saturday’s game. … For one reason or another we were hesitant. I don’t think it was effort, we were just hesitant in how we approached the game. We didn’t play loose from a standpoint of really coming off the ball and playing aggressively. We were almost afraid to make a mistake. And the way you address that is to improve on the things we are doing and make sure that we completely understand what we are asking the players to do.”
Again, he said the good thing is that he thinks the players understood all of that when looking at the film.
“You have to gauge the mindset of the football team and did our offensive football team feel that our performance on Saturday was acceptable,” he said. “And I think to a man they would go down the list and say ‘no, that’s now who we are.’ The bad thing is we have to wait two weeks go to out and reestablish our identity.”
Nussmeier said he’s optimistic the team of the first nine weeks will return against WSU.
“The game is gong to be about blocking and identifying the defense and knowing where we are double teaming or where the run track is versus this look, or where my eyes need to be on this read,” he said. “That’s what the game is going to be about.
“For everyone else outside the game, it becomes a rivalry. But the reality of it is, the football game is going to be decided by who does the fundamental things the best.”