The result was the same.
But the process was imperfect.
In No. 21 Washington’s 40-32 road loss at UCLA, UW scored a touchdown on its opening drive for a fifth consecutive game — capping a 10-play, 75-yard march with a 33-yard strike from Michael Penix Jr. to Rome Odunze.
It yielded seven points, same as all the others.
But Ryan Grubb saw a drive with a lack of detail.
“There’s some huge growth opportunities, and that was really my only message to the guys (after the game), other than I’m sorry they lost and this sucks and we’re all part of this together and it hurts. But do not let this pass without taking this lesson.
“We can’t come out like we came out. We give up a (tackle for loss) on the first play of the game. We’ve got that (play) dialed up. We miss two blocks, and we go into second-and-11 and we forget a motion. There’s some things early on that I think were good for us to have to endure a little bit and overcome.”
In the end, UW couldn’t overcome a calamitous second quarter that included two Penix interceptions and 17 Bruin points. UCLA also scored to start the second half, earning a commanding 33-10 lead.
Which is when, theoretically, Washington could have folded.
The Huskies produced a methodical 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive instead — the first of three consecutive touchdowns in an admirable comeback bid.
“I was crushed after the game. I know the guys were. They were absolutely devastated,” Grubb said. “From my view, I’m not down there on the sideline but talking to guys on the headsets, they fought the entire time. I told them the toughest thing would be, coming out of halftime if the defense gave up a touchdown — which obviously they didn’t want to do, but UCLA goes down and scores and we have to block that out and just do our job and answer.
“I thought doing that that first drive out of halftime showed a lot and really the character of this offense built a ton in the second half. There was absolutely no quit. They were fired up in the locker room at halftime. They knew they could move the ball on them.”
Even in a losing effort, the Huskies moved the ball — to the tune of 32 points, 410 total yards, 345 passing yards and 24 first downs. But their production was marred by penalties, turnovers and execution errors.
They’ll look to start hot, and stay hot, on Saturday afternoon against Arizona State.
“They couldn’t wait, honestly, on Sunday to get together and talk about what happened and get back to work,” Grubb said. “They were embarrassed. They were hurt, and they’re fired up to go back out there and prove that they’re different.”
A consistent contributor on offense has been sophomore wide receiver Rome Odunze — who has produced 16 catches, 277 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. That included eight catches, 161 yards and a score — as well as a 61-yard reception down the right sideline — in the win over Stanford on Sept. 24.
“Before this past game, I’ll be honest with you, I went up to some scouts and said, ‘No. 1’s going to have a big game today,’” UW wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator JaMarcus Shephard said last week. “I knew it, just because of the way he came out and warmed up and his intensity and his excitement. It’s not just me seeing it. The quarterback sees it. Everybody sees it.”
Grubb certainly sees it. On Monday, he was asked how good the 6-3, 201-pound wide receiver actually is.
“Rome? Oh, yeah. He’s … I mean, he’s really good,” Grubb said with a laugh. “I’m glad he’s here. I love him, man.
“I think that he’s growing every week, I’ll say that. I don’t know that I can speak to last year. But what I see out of him every week, it never surprises me, honestly, because of the type of preparation he puts in. I don’t know if there’s anyone on the team that prepares as hard or is as ready to play as Rome is every given week. So I’m super proud of him. I couldn’t be more fired up that he’s here.”
Though Odunze didn’t play against Portland State, he ranks second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game (102.3), second in catches per game (6.5), fourth in receiving touchdowns (4), sixth in receiving yards (409) and 10th in yards per reception (15.73).
So, what will he do against Arizona State?
Run defense disappointment
UW’s previously stout run defense was exposed against UCLA — surrendering 184 yards, 4.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns (including 129 yards and 6.1 yards per carry in the second half).
When asked about the backslide Monday, UW co-defensive coordinator William Inge said “our cleats were not in the ground. That was probably the biggest thing, and one of our major points of emphasis coming up: we have to have our cleats in the ground and make sure our eyes are in the right place and we can fit things up.”
So, in other words: the Huskies weren’t set. But how does that happen?
“I think some of it had to do with some of the motions, shifts and things like that,” Inge said. “We just have to make sure our guys are really wired in to being able to be patient during all those motions and shifts but also having enough urgency to get the defense called, aligned and adjusted and get your cleats in the ground.”
Of course, even when UW’s defenders were in position to make a play, they struggled to tackle against UCLA. Inge said “that was more of a surprise to us, because we had been historically pretty good tackling at the point of attack. So it’s something we have to reshape and retool and make sure it’s another point of emphasis this week in practice.”
Play clock issues
The Huskies were forced to call timeout immediately following a kickoff in the first quarter against UCLA, a reflection of UW’s recurring play-clock issues in the last two games.
“Just inefficiency on the (communication) exchange,” Grubb said, explaining the issue. “It was bad. It sucked. That’s embarrassing and that stuff can’t happen. Just bad communication on the sideline and guys not listening as well as they should. That’s one of the points of emphasis: we’ve got to be better on the sideline. That’s the kind of error that can never happen.”
- Though UW’s defense largely struggled against UCLA, junior defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa — who produced three tackles and batted down two passes — graded out as one of the Huskies’ premier defenders. “He probably played one of his better games up front,” Inge said. “He did a great job of being able to attack the line of scrimmage, holding his space, knocking guys back, made a couple plays. He definitely did his job for sure.”
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