Washington’s offense was rolling … until it wasn’t.
The Huskies, who dominated the Oregon Ducks defense through three quarters Saturday, turned in back-to-back three-and-outs when they could have put the game away. It was a battle of two top-flight QBs that did not disappoint, but in the end, Jacob Eason didn’t make the pass he needed to keep the Huskies alive.
Here are three impressions from UW’s 35-31 defeat.
Salvon Ahmed pours it on
UW junior running back Salvon Ahmed rushed 23 times for 95 yards and three touchdowns — with all three scores coming in the second half — in last weekend’s 51-27 win over Arizona.
Without fellow running backs Sean McGrew (ankle) and Richard Newton (foot) on Saturday, it was up to Ahmed to provide a productive sequel.
He didn’t disappoint.
The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder from Kirkland was equal parts elusive and explosive in the first half, rushing for 77 yards and 5.9 yards per carry — with the highlight being a 9-yard touchdown scamper off an option pitch and fourth-and-one. He finished with 140 rushing yards, 5.8 yards per carry and a score. An offensive line that featured center Nick Harris and right guard Jaxson Kirkland — both of whom missed some or all of last week’s game with injuries — effectively incinerated the Ducks defensive line.
Entering the season, Washington fans were right to wonder if Ahmed could operate as a durable every-down back, a la Myles Gaskin. Week by week, Ahmed is gradually answering that question.
Eason takes center stage
Outside of the opening kickoff, senior Aaron Fuller — the Huskies’ leading receiver — did not play in the majority of Saturday’s game with what ABC reported was an ankle injury.
It was honestly hard to notice.
Even without Fuller, who returned briefly in the fourth quarter, UW’s offense consistently clobbered Oregon. Junior quarterback Jacob Eason turned in a pristine performance, completing 23 of 29 passes for 289 yards and three scores. Junior wide receiver Jordan Chin registered his first career touchdown (and third career catch), hauling in a 48-yard Eason rainbow. True freshman Puka Nacua added his second career score as well, planted his foot and bolting 33 yards into the end zone. Junior tight end Hunter Bryant contributed his most impressive catch of the season, twisting in the air to corral a back shoulder floater for a 27-yard gain late in the second quarter.
Entering the week, Oregon was ranked second nationally in opponent pass efficiency rating (85.39), second in interceptions (12), second in opponent yards per attempt (4.8), eighth in passing defense (160.2 yards per game), 12th in opponent completion percentage (52.2) and 12th in sacks per game (3.5).
Ditch the statistics. Eason and Co. exposed Oregon’s secondary … at least through three quarters.
After a sack and a false start pushed the Huskies back to third-and-forever (23), Eason stepped up and delivered a 20-yard strike to Marquis Spiker. But on fourth-and-three with the game hanging in the balance, Eason’s pass to Nacua sailed high.
UW defense struggles to slow Herbert and Co.
Eason wasn’t the only 6-6 quarterback and possible 2020 first-round NFL draft pick on display.
Oregon senior Justin Herbert certainly held his own, completing 24 of 38 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. He closed the third quarter with a 36-yard screen for a touchdown on fourth-and-three. When he was pressured (and he wasn’t pressured very often), he stepped into throws, took the hit and delivered accurate passes.
Washington’s defense disrupted Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate early and often last weekend, piling up four sacks. The Huskes failed to sack Herbert inside Husky Stadium. It wasn’t always pretty in the first half, but Herbert responded and consistently sliced through the UW defense.
And, same as in the second half of the 20-19 loss to Cal, UW’s rushing defense struggled in the second half. As a team, Oregon rushed for 174 yards and 5 yards per carry.