Washington couldn't stop Arizona's no-huddle, up-tempo spread attack and its offense couldn't keep up, with UW losing 52-17 and dropping its third in a row to fall to 3-4.
TUCSON, Ariz. — In the heat of the desert, it was Arizona that lit up the scoreboard and the Huskies who left town hoping their season hasn’t gone up in flames.
Washington couldn’t stop Arizona’s no-huddle, up-tempo spread attack and its offense couldn’t keep up, with UW losing 52-17 and dropping its third in a row to fall to 3-4.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. ” I envisioned a much different outcome, that’s for sure. We had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of plays and we didn’t make them.”
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The loss has the Huskies looking at a challenge in their last five games to get the six wins necessary to attain bowl eligibility, let alone match or better last year’s seven-victory total.
After the game, Sarkisian had a lengthy talk with his players, stressing the need to believe in themselves and each other.
“One thing that’s critical for us is to believe in ourselves individually and that will allow us to play a much more confident brand of football,” he said. “We can be a pretty good football team if we believe we are.”
But on this night, they instead let Arizona “blow us out of the water,” in the words of quarterback Keith Price.
The junior quarterback had another tough night, throwing two interceptions and losing a critical fumble in the third quarter when UW was down 31-17 and had gotten the ball on a fumble by Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey on the first play of the quarter.
Price was flushed out of the pocket on the play, and as he scrambled he thought he saw a chance to get the ball to receiver Kasen Williams. Instead, he was hit by Arizona’s Marquis Flowers, who stripped the ball.
Arizona’s Dan Pettinato recovered at the UW 43 and the Wildcats quickly drove for a Matt Scott 17-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hill to make it 38-17 with 12:23 left in the third quarter, and any chance for UW to get back in the game was gone.
“I should have just thrown the ball away,” Price said. “It was just a horrible decision by me. … I think that kind of took the air out of our football team.”
Later in the quarter, Sarkisian had a long talk with Price on the sidelines, saying he told him “that I want him to believe in me. I want him to take the information I’m giving him and trust me. If it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first one to tell him it was my fault.”
Other than for that brief moment in the third quarter, though, the game was all Arizona, as the Wildcats scored the first time fives they had the ball — four touchdowns and a field goal.
The Wildcats had 339 yards at halftime and 533 for the game. They also dominated the game on the other side, sacking Price four times after coming into the game with a Pac-12-low six, and also forcing three turnovers and returning a punt for a touchdown.
Washington led 3-0 after scoring on its opening drive, a march that inspired some optimism that the Huskies would be able to move the ball against an Arizona defense was ranked 110th in the nation.
But while the Huskies had some moments offensively, they essentially needed to score every time they had the ball or fall hopelessly behind.
“Tonight we didn’t win very many one-on-one battles,” Sarkisian said. “They blocked better than we did, they tackled better than we did and when there was a one-on-one battle in open space, their guys usually won. When the guy across from you beats you, doubt creeps in and I thought that happened to us tonight.”
Arizona led 24-3 in the second quarter, 31-17 at halftime and 45-17 at the end of the third quarter in cruising to their first Pac-12 win of the season and improving to 4-3 in the first year for coach Rich Rodriguez. Scott, who had led Arizona to a 44-14 win over UW here in 2010, completed 14 of 22 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns while Carey rushed for 172 on 29 carries.
The Huskies have had three straight decisive defeats since a 17-13 win over No. 8 Stanford on Sept. 27 that the team hoped marked a return to being able to compete against the elites of the Pac-12. UW also dropped to 4-15 on the road under Sarkisian, and 4-11 in conference games.
Sarkisian said he had circled this game in the summer as one that might loom pivotal, as it kicked off the season half of the season and came after a first-half schedule deemed by many as among the toughest in the country.
“This was definitely one of those games we felt we should have won,” Price said.
Sarkisian said he wanted to come out throwing, to get the ball to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Williams. But like everything else, it never really worked.
And it doesn’t get any easier as the Huskies return home to face 6-0 Oregon State next Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“We just have to link arms and continue to fight,” Williams said. “The main thing is, we just have to play harder. We came out flat and we just didn’t play as hard as we could have.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.