BOULDER, Colo. — At some point, amid the clumsiness and confusion, you have to wonder about the coaching.
When the Huskies were helpless on one side of the ball and hapless on the other, you’re forced to look at who was preparing them.
What took place at Folsom Field on Saturday night was not an anomaly for Washington this season. It was another shellacking at the hands of an otherwise inept opponent, where UW looked both outmatched and outwitted.
In a 20-14 defeat against Colorado, this year’s Huskies hit their bottom a mile above the sea. The reason? One team was sure of itself — and the other was shook.
The Huskies came into this game as a two-touchdown favorite. They were up against a Buffaloes team that was 11th in the Pac-12 in total defense and ninth in scoring.
Normally, this would have felt like a formality — an easy victory to pass the time before the Apple Cup. But anyone who has paid attention to Washington this year would have known better.
The Huskies (6-5, 3-5 in the Pac-12) already got bullied on the road by 4-7 Stanford this season. And for a few weeks, that 10-point defeat was the worst Huskies loss since Chris Petersen took over as coach.
But their performance in Boulder — lowlighted by a first half in which they were outscored 13-0 — was even more ghastly. The Buffaloes weren’t the more talented team Saturday, but they were clearly the better one.
“This is as frustrating of a game that we’ve had since I’ve been here, for sure,” said Petersen, who was shaking his head as he walked off the field. “You lose games and feel like you’re playing like you can play, that’s part of it. But … that first half was painful.”
Painful is putting it mildly. Truth is, it’s hard to think of a worse half of football the Huskies have played in recent history. The offensive production through those first two quarters? Ninety-one yards — only 10 of which came on the ground — plus an interception in the end zone. On defense? They gave up 252 yards in the opening 30 minutes — 124 of which came in the air and the other 128 on the ground.
Safety Myles Bryant pointed to missed tackles when asked about the gashing, but the Huskies also looked incessantly fooled. This wasn’t so much the Buffaloes (5-6, 3-5) playing out of their minds as it was the Huskies playing out of sorts.
“I think, as a team, we’ve been too inconsistent to win games,” Huskies tight end Cade Otton said.
It is one thing to blow second-half leads against teams such as Oregon and Utah, which entered Saturday as the No. 6 and No. 7 teams in the country, respectively. And it’s understandable to fall to a team such as Cal after a three-hour lightning delay.
But to come out that flat against Colorado? To look that bewildered against Stanford?
You can point to lack of execution only so many times before you think about lack of preparation.
To Washington’s credit, it did mount a comeback in the second half. Jacob Eason led two touchdown drives and finished with a respectable 206 yards on 21-of-34 passing. But that first-half hole was too deep, and the Huskies were too erratic.
When UW scored to make it 13-7 in the third quarter, Colorado answered with an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that included no third downs. And after cutting the deficit to six in the fourth quarter, the Huskies netted minus-three yards over their next two drives before Colorado closed out the game.
There is no doubt Petersen and his staff have built a hell of a program since coming to Washington six years ago. The Huskies have won two Pac-12 titles under his watch, ended a near 20-year Rose Bowl drought and reached the College Football Playoff.
But any criticism fans may have toward Petersen and Co. this year is warranted. Young as the Huskies might be, they haven’t looked ready.
Normally, fans at Folsom Field have the pleasure of watching Ralphie — Colorado’s live buffalo mascot — run out onto the field. Unfortunately, she didn’t do that Saturday.
Didn’t look like the Huskies did, either.