Oregon makes it look easy, winning sixth straight over Huskies
This was supposed to be different. This was supposed to be the day the new-look Washington Huskies showed they had narrowed the gap on Oregon, their fiercest rival. And maybe, if things broke right, had even closed it completely.
Instead, it was more of the same, as the Ducks beat the Huskies for the sixth consecutive year Saturday, 43-19, before a somber Homecoming crowd of 67,809.
“It’s getting old,” said UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu of Oregon’s dominance. “We’ll have to come out next year and go harder.”
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Oregon’s six straight wins over UW have been by a combined score of 252-104, each victory by at least 20 points.
And this seemed as total a defeat as any, as the Ducks dominated every which way. In the words of UW coach Steve Sarkisian, “They destroyed us on special teams.” The Ducks blocked a punt for a touchdown, converted a two-point play out of a gimmick formation and used a fake field goal to get in position for another touchdown.
The margin of defeat was the largest of Sarkisian’s first season.
Oregon’s defense held UW out of the end zone until early in the fourth quarter and after a scoreless first quarter, the offense got rolling and scored 43 points in less than 29 minutes.
Sarkisian, though, insisted this one wasn’t quite as bad as the score made it look.
He pointed to key plays early on that swung the game Oregon’s way.
“I thought we really had some opportunities, especially early in the ballgame and then coming out of halftime, to change the complexion of the game, maybe get the game to go in our favor more,” he said. “And we weren’t able to capitalize on those.”
Most notable in Sarkisian’s eyes was a drive to the Oregon 1-yard line midway through the second quarter after the Ducks took an 8-3 lead on the blocked punt and two-pointer. From the 1, Washington quarterback Jake Locker rolled out on a run-pass option but found nowhere to go and no one open, throwing a pass that was intercepted in the end zone.
“I was just giving our guy [tight end Kavario Middleton] a chance, given that it was fourth down and we went for it,” Locker said. “I didn’t put it in a good spot, though.”
That was one of two drives inside the Oregon 9-yard line in the first half that resulted in just three points, which Sarkisian said he knew could be fatal against a team as explosive as the Ducks.
“It would have been a way different game [if UW had converted there],” said UW running back Chris Polk. “The momentum change would have shifted and you could stop having that sense of doubt in your mind.”
The fourth-down play illustrated one of the fundamental differences between the teams, Sarkisian said.
“Maybe we miscalculated their speed, in a sense,” Sarkisian said. “Sometimes I thought we could get [Locker] to the edge and we couldn’t get him there. They closed on him.”
Oregon, though, also just seemed the headier team, as on the blocked punt. Backup receiver Rory Cavaille moved to overload the left side of UW’s line just before the snap, then raced through a hole to block the punt.
Oregon scored another touchdown later in the second quarter thanks in part to a fake field goal when backup quarterback Nate Costa took the snap and ran 7 yards.
“We actually thought we were deployed well, but the QB kind of got out on the edge of us real quick and made a nice play,” Sarkisian said.
That hadn’t been the case on the two-pointer following the blocked punt when the Huskies essentially gave the Ducks two points by having only 10 men on the field. Sarkisian explained that the blocked punt left the Huskies scrambling to get the right grouping on the field.
Still, Washington was within 15-6 at halftime after a last-play field goal, and got the ball first to start the third quarter.
But the Huskies went three-and-out and the Ducks needed just three plays to score the first touchdown of the second half, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli gaining 27 yards on two runs.
“We kind of knew coming into this game, Masoli being injured, he would mostly give the ball to his running back,” Ta’amu said. “As the game went on he took the chance and kept it and found himself getting yards.”
Washington followed with an interception and a fumble, and the Ducks easily converted both into scores
“They were just a better team coming out for the second half,” Ta’amu said. “They came out with a vengeance.”
As they so often seem to do against the Huskies. Oregon has won 11 of the past 15 against UW.
The Huskies are 3-5 overall and need to win three of their last four to get to a bowl game.
“We’ve just got to keep on grinding it out,” said Polk. “We can still make something great of this season.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org