Well, that obviously wasn’t quite UW fans wanted to see out of the Huskies tonight.
Simply put, it was a ninth-straight read-end kicking (I have to keep it clean) at the hands of the Ducks.
And while all have eventually been routs — all by 17 or more points — this one got away earlier than some, UW falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter and 35-7 at halftime.
The three first-half turnovers (including a fumble and an interception by Keith Price, shown above in a Dean Rutz photo) that all led to Oregon touchdowns were obviously a big key, which UW coach Steve Sarkisian cited later.
“That part is so frustrating to me and our kids because we really felt like we could come in and play with them,” Sarkisian said. “And we felt like we had a good plan offensively. We had a hard time tackling the quarterback (Oregon’s Marcus Mariota) when he got out of the pocket and that made things difficult for us. But it was just frustrating because I don’t think the score is indicative of their football team compared to ours and that part is really frustrating to me.”
Indeed, Sarkisian several times during his post-game press conference said he thought the Huskies did some good things, in particular in rushing for 208 yards — the second-highest against a Pac-12 team since 2010 — and in the way that the defense kept playing hard to the end.
Stats, though, can be hard to read in games that get out of hand — UW had run 16 plays for 42 yards by the time it was 21-0. UW, though, did have 91 yards rushing on 19 carries in the first half, so that wasn’t all completely garbage time yards.
Regardless, those kinds of positive-seeking statements can ring hollow after a game like this to fans, especially after nine years.
The hope has to be that Oregon is simply really that good. No doubt, at the moment the gap with Oregon is large. But maybe the gap is also simply that wide between the Ducks and everyone else in the Pac-12 right now (a fair chance of that) and all but just a few other teams in the country (a fair chance of that, as well).
Preamble over, here’s a quick look at UW by position:
QUARTERBACK: Another tough night for Price (which I detailed here in the notebook). The Huskies undoubtedly have to get him back on track to take this season where they want to. Price is somewhat hamstrung by the lack of pass protection, forcing him into a lot of quick reads. And there’s no doubt he also is still getting comfortable with what is a pretty new receiving corps. But he also said he simply has to play better.
RUNNING BACK: Another solid showing for Bishop Sankey, who is beginning to display some real consistent toughness in running for 104 yards on 25 carries, carrying defenders into the end zone on one second-half touchdown. And you saw the rest that UW has to offer at that spot, as well, with Dezden Petty rushing for 34 yards, Kendyl Taylor (who sure looks a lot more like an RB than a WR now) 29 and Erich Wilson 21 and his first career touchdown. Probably not much consolation tonight, but with the injured players who could be back next season, the future is beginning to look pretty bright at this spot.
RECEIVER: Another night when there were a few too many dropped passes and not enough big plays — the only gain of longer than 16 was a 28-yarder to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Kasen Williams had six catches but for just 48 yards as Oregon didn’t miss tackles on him the way Stanford did — and he also had a drop early before the game got away. The brightest spot may have been the first three catches of the season for Cody Bruns.
TIGHT END: They definitely were trying to get Seferian-Jenkins more involved as two of the first four plays went his way. But he dropped one of them, and then was injured later in the half after a 28-yard catch and run. No real diagnosis on his situation and given the new policies, unclear if there will be one anytime soon. Without him, the TE wasn’t as much of a factor the rest of the way, though Evan Hudson did have one catch for four yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The starting five OL appeared to go the whole way — from left to right, Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Drew Schaefer, Shane Brostek and James Atoe. Sarkisian said he liked the way the OL played overall, especially in getting the running game going a little bit. But obviously pass protection remains an issue and the end result was just 21 points. Ben Riva may be back next week just given that there was a thought he migiht be back this week.
DEFENSIVE LINE: UW opened with a new look up front going with more of a true 3-4 much more with Talia Crichton and Andrew Hudson at ends and Danny Shelton in the middle. That had Josh Shirley on the bench in favor of an extra linebacker (and no indication it was anything other than just a scheme thing and wanting to try to get a pass rush and defend Oregon there. Shirley often came in for obvious passing situations when UW was going 3-4). But UW didn’t get much of a pass rush with one sack (Hudson) and just two other quarterback hurries. Shelton seemed to have a tough night and wasn’t out there when the second half began, though Sarkisian said that was just a rotation thing — Josh Banks usually filled in for Shelton.
LINEBACKERS: This unit yielded the one big surprise of the night with true freshman Cory Littleton getting a start at an outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 — the other starters were John Timu, Travis Feeney and Shaq Thompson. Sarkisian said Littleton had been coming on in practice and fits the profile of being a long, athletic linebacker, the type of player they are trying to get on the field more. Feeney might have had the best night, finishing with 12 tackles and display something of a mean streak throughout. Thomas Tutogi, one of the stars of last week, didn’t play as much, as was expected given the different nature of Oregon’s offense. And Nate Fellner played some, seeing his first action at linebacker this season. The first two series seemed promising for the defense but it fell apart quickly. And ultimately Oregon’s stats were the typical Oregon stats with the Ducks getting 299 rushing yards and 5.8 per carry.
SECONDARY: Pretty much the usual starters here with Desmond Trufant and Tre Watson on the corners and Sean Parker and Justin Glenn at safety. The big disappointment from this group was the two blown coverages on Oregon’s second scoring drive. Sarkisian said they were just basic communication errors, the kind that shouldn’t be happening at this point in the season. The secondary is hard to judge without also remembering that the Huskies aren’t getting a great pass rush right now — Mariota did a lot of biding time with his feet, the kind of thing hard for a defensive back to deal with well. Parker finished with 10 tackles and Thompson had eight and an interception from his hybrid linebacker-nickelback role.
SPECIAL TEAMS: One big disaster here colors everything about the night for the special teams, the fumble by Marvin Hall on a punt return that led to Oregon’s first touchdown. The game was still scoreless at that time and UW had just forced Oregon to punt after getting only 13 yards on five plays — the shortest drive of the night for the Ducks other than the kneeldown at the end. Sarkisian said it was just what it looked like — a young player in a tough setting trying to make a play and not getting it done. Otherwise, UW actually did some okay things here, not getting hurt in the return game and getting a couple of decent returns of its own (37 yards by Hall on a kickoff and 31 by Jaydon Mickens). Travis Coons again handled the punts and appears to have that job for now, averaging 41.6 yards on five attempts. UW also almost had its second successful fake punt of the season when Pio Vatuvei took a snap and appeared to have the needed yards before fumbling.