The Ducks knew what to expect from the Huskies, leaving an example that future UW foes are sure to follow. Defensively, Oregon loaded the line of scrimmage with eight and nine defenders to stop UW's run and dare the Huskies to throw. It worked: The Huskies were held to 95 yards on 43 carries, with...
As Saturday night turned to Sunday morning in Eugene, Ore., the mind-numbing reality of what had just happened to the Washington Huskies began to sink in:
• A 44-10 loss to Oregon that was the third-worst inflicted on UW by the Ducks, surpassed only by the infamous 58-0 Oregon win in Eugene in 1973 and a 43-0 Oregon win in the first game in the series in 1900.
• A fifth straight loss to the Ducks, all by 20 points or more, with an average score of 42-17.
• The ninth loss in 10 games for Tyrone Willingham against a Northwest rival.
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• The second-worst loss, in terms of margin of defeat, of the Willingham era, surpassed only by a 56-17 loss to Cal in 2005, in the second game of his UW career. Not exactly the start the coach was looking for to indicate progress in what many view as a make-or-break season.
Maybe most daunting, however, was the realization that despite the fact that the Huskies had tried to operate throughout camp in secrecy the CIA would envy, the Ducks read them like a book from the opening play, leaving a manuscript behind that future UW foes are sure to copy.
Defensively, Oregon loaded the line of scrimmage with eight and nine defenders to stop UW’s run and dared the Huskies to throw. It worked: The Huskies were held to 95 yards on 43 carries, with the only running success coming when quarterback Jake Locker scrambled.
“We’re going to have to have an answer for this,” said UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. “When you get this on film, everybody is going to do the same thing.”
The main answer for the Huskies will be to get better play out of their veteran offensive line, purported to be the strength of the team with four starters returning, and seniors at center and both guard spots.
“No matter how many people they had down there, we thought we’d be able to run the football a little bit,” Lappano said.
With no running game to take the pressure off, the passing game — which figured to be a little spotty with only one player as old as a sophomore in the receiving corps — struggled.
“They forced us to throw the ball, and we weren’t able to do it,” said Locker, who was 12 of 28 passing for 103 yards — with a long of 16.
It was no better on the other side of the ball. Despite UW’s attempt to mix things up under first-year defensive coordinator Ed Donatell — it unveiled a 3-3-5 look to start the game — the Ducks simply dominated up front, making it easy for second- and third-string quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper to operate in the second half, despite the fact each was playing in his first game. Oregon, ahead 14-10 at halftime, outscored UW 30-0 in the second half to win going away.
“It’s not what we envisioned happening when we came down here,” Donatell said. “We really intended to tackle better.”
Huskies players seemed shocked at the outcome after a training camp filled with optimism. Players thought that the team was turning a corner, and they were excited to see highly touted new teammates — there were 24 redshirt or true freshmen on the travel squad — finally take the field.
“Everybody’s disappointed, but nobody is hanging their head,” said linebacker Donald Butler. “We’re going to get back to work.”
And the task remains large.
The Huskies now prepare to host Brigham Young, which has the nation’s longest winning streak: 11 games. The Cougars opened their season with a 41-17 win over Northern Iowa, a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
The Cougars media guide states the team’s motto this season is “The quest for perfection,” a reference to the hopes that BYU can go undefeated in the regular season and crash the BCS. UW is viewed as one of BYU’s main stumbling blocks on that path.
The Cougars have a veteran offense led by junior quarterback Max Hall, who was 34-of-41 passing for 486 yards against Northern Iowa, but he reported later he was having concussionlike symptoms, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The game is pivotal for the Huskies. Their next opponent is Oklahoma, and they face the specter of an 0-3 start and a season potentially on the brink by mid-September.
“We just need to execute what our game plan is and be more sound everywhere,” Locker said. “That’s what we’ll focus on next week.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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