Mistakes on special teams add up in Huskies' loss to Oregon
The Huskies had a tough time on special teams during their 43-19 loss to Oregon at Husky Stadium.
The game turned early when Oregon blocked a punt for a touchdown, converted a fake field goal en route to another TD and executed a two-point play on a swinging gate following the blocked punt. That all came in the second quarter as Oregon turned a 3-0 first-quarter deficit into a 15-6 halftime lead.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said the Huskies already put a heavy emphasis on special teams in practice so it won’t be a matter of doing more work on it, necessarily, but just trying to do things better.
“It’s hard to say we will focus on it [more] when we have been,” he said. “We have been and we will continue to do so.” He said “a sign of a really good football team” is one that “does things right and is clean on special teams.”
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Washington was neither on this day.
Sarkisian said the blocked punt happened when the Huskies “just miscounted” and left Oregon’s Rory Cavaille unblocked with Tyrell Irvin recovering the ball in the end zone.
On the two-point play, UW true freshman safety Nathan Fellner was late getting on the field in the confusion after the blocked punt, leaving the field open for Oregon backup quarterback Nate Costa to waltz into the end zone.
“We were very aware of what they were doing on it,” said special-teams coach Johnny Nansen. “We got the punt blocked and they scored and we just didn’t have enough guys on the field. We had to run a kid in and by the time he got on the field they already shifted over to what they were looking for.”
Later in the second quarter, Costa took a snap as a holder on a field goal and ran seven yards to pick up a first down, setting up another TD.
“We’d seen it,” Nansen said. “We practiced against it all week. They just did a nice job of scheming us up.”
Bronson takes blame
A key sequence in the game came in the second quarter, following the blocked punt, when UW drove to the Oregon 4-yard line with a first down. Jake Locker threw a pass incomplete on a run-pass option on first down, saying later he should have tried to run.
True freshman running back Demitrius Bronson then got two straight carries, getting two yards on second down and one on third down. Bronson was in the game because starter Chris Polk was having his ankle retaped, struggling with a seasonlong injury.
The carries were part of the heaviest workload of Bronson’s career as he got eight carries, gaining 39 yards, the coaches deciding they wanted to give him a look this week. Johri Fogerson saw little time as a result and had just one carry.
Bronson rued that he didn’t get the ball into the end zone on the second-down play.
“I’ve just got to put my pads down and go,” he said. “I put that on myself as far as not getting in there. The hole was there. Yeah, it’s one of my first runs. But I’ve just got to put my pads down and keep running my feet.”
On third down he was struck down by Oregon rover Javes Lewis a yard shy of the end zone.
“I felt like I was maybe too high,” he said. “Maybe I was tiptoeing, I don’t know. I’ve got to watch the film again. But I feel like I could have got in there. I put that on my shoulders.”
Polk playing through pain
Polk said it was frustrating not to be in the game for those two plays but said he had no choice but to get it retaped after injuring it again earlier in the drive.
“My ankle is just real weak,” he said. “I have to have tape on it even in walk-throughs.”
Polk said he hopes the bye week this week will allow it to heal. Polk is also nursing a sore shoulder.
“My shoulder’s still real weak and messed up,” he said. “I’ll just take the bye week and get healthy and get it stronger.”
Despite the aches and pains, Polk rushed for 104 yards, the second 100-yard game of his season and career — the other came at Notre Dame (104).
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.