Well, that felt … familiar.
It was Oregon 45, Washington 24 Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium. The No. 16 Huskies hung tough against the nation’s second-ranked team for three quarters. They couldn’t finish … again.
The Ducks (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12), in their typical spin-cycle mode, steam-rolled through and around the Washington defense late in the second half en route to their 10th consecutive victory in the bitter rivalry. The Decade of the Duck is indeed alive and well.
And yet, in the big picture, this still has a chance to be a different year for Washington (4-2, 1-2).
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In each of the past four seasons under Steve Sarkisian, Washington has had a streak of at least three consecutive defeats. Each streak included a lopsided setback against Oregon.
A consolation prize? Sure. But that’s one streak, at least, the Huskies can end next Saturday at Arizona State.
“This isn’t the end of the season,” UW tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “I think everyone might be feeling like this is the end of the season. Nah, we’ve still got a lot of games to play. We can still put a really good record up.”
The Huskies knew this stretch wasn’t going to be easy. For them, the controversial defeat at then-No. 5 Stanford a week earlier was maddening. Another loss to Oregon was frustrating.
“It don’t get no harder than what we just faced these past two weeks, man,” quarterback Keith Price said.
The Huskies, by the way, haven’t defeated Arizona State since 2001, a streak of seven consecutive defeats.
“Everybody’s frustrated, coming off the loss to Stanford, a really good team, and then coming to play another really good team,” UW nose tackle Danny Shelton said. “We weren’t expecting to lose, but we got what we got, so we’ve got to work and fix those mistakes that Oregon took advantage of.”
No one took more advantage than Oregon sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. And, UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said, there is no one against whom it is more difficult to prepare than Mariota.
“I cannot think of a more difficult guy (to defend),” Wilcox said.
Mariota bolstered his Heisman resume by throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 88 yards and another score. Oregon didn’t commit a turnover while piling up 631 yards of total offense on 81 plays.
Washington came into the game as the Pac-12’s top defense, ranking third in the nation in allowing just 3.94 yards per play. The Ducks, even without junior star De’Anthony Thomas (ankle), kept the Huskies at bay with a balanced attack that featured consistent big gains with both the run and pass.
“We (needed) to continue to fight the mental fatigue and all of a sudden … bam, explosive play,” Wilcox said. “We expected to come in and play well. There’s not a lot of margin for error against teams like that.”
Price and the UW offense did enough to keep it close entering the fourth quarter. Bishop Sankey rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one on UW’s first possession of the third quarter. That cut the Huskies’ deficit to 21-14.
Oregon needed just 60 seconds to answer with a three-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, capped by Mariota’s perfectly-placed 65-yard strike to Josh Huff.
The Huskies settled for a Travis Coons 30-yard field goal on their next drive. After an Oregon field goal, Sankey slipped through several tackles for a 25-yard touchdown to bring UW to 31-24 in the final minute of the third quarter.
“Even at halftime, when it was 21-7, we felt confident that we could regroup,” Sarkisian said. “For the most part, we did. We kept going back and forth, toe to toe, toe to toe. They just didn’t make a mistake to give us a chance to get even with them.”
Mariota dived in for a 5-yard TD 65 seconds into the fourth quarter after a five-play drive that featured another “explosion” play, a 30-yard pass to Bralon Addison.
A little more than six minutes later, Mariota found Addison for a 3-yard touchdown for the final margin. Oregon outgained UW 161-20 in the fourth quarter.
“At some point,” Sarkisian said, “when you’re fighting up hill, fighting up hill, fighting up hill, and it feels like they’re playing downhill, you can kind of get worn out. And I felt like in the second half there, in the fourth quarter, we got worn out a little bit.”
The defense rests
|Washington had been allowing an average of 287.8 yards of offense per game this season before Saturday. Oregon’s total, plus previous highs:|
|Boise State||Aug. 31||346|
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.