Until Saturday night, most of the Washington Huskies football fans’ unrest and dissatisfaction with coach Jimmy Lake centered on his coaching acumen and UW’s dismal season.
But following a 26-16 defeat to No. 4-ranked Oregon, the second-year coach finds himself in the middle of another tempest.
In the first half, Lake rushed to break up a skirmish between UW and Oregon players at the end of a Husky kick return and in doing so hit freshman walk-on linebacker Ruperake Fuavai in the facemask.
And when Fuavai turned to walk away, Lake forcefully shoved him in the back with two hands.
When asked about the incident during a postgame interview, Lake said: “I separated him. I didn’t strike him. I separated him.”
However, UW athletic department officials are looking into the incident.
“We are aware of an interaction between Head Coach Jimmy Lake and a student-athlete during the first half of Saturday’s game,” said UW athletic director Jen Cohen in a statement after the game. “We have high expectations of the conduct of our coaches and we are working to gather more information on this matter.”
It was latest faux paus for Lake, who began the week apologizing to Oregon after a verbal take down of the Ducks when asked about UW’s chief recruiting rival.
“Our battles are really – the schools that we go against are way more … have academic prowess, like the University of Washington,” Lake said this week. “Notre Dame. Stanford. USC. We go with a lot of battles toe-to-toe all the way to the end with those schools. So, I think that’s made up in your world. In our world, we battle more academically prowess teams.”
Of course, the Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12)) took umbrage with Lake’s comments and made sure to remind the Huskies (4-5, 3-3) which team has won 15 of the past 17 matchups in this Border War and still remain in contention for a Pac-12 title and national championship.
“Proud of the way our guys came out and showed our prowess in handling inclement weather and continued to play hard throughout the entire game,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said after winning three in a row against the Huskies on a rain-drenched Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
While the Ducks mostly downplayed the smack talk that preceded an emotionally charged game, which also included a postgame skirmish, Cristobal’s dig was another reminder of the chippiness between the two Northwest rivals on the I-5 corridor.
“It was very emotional,” said Oregon senior quarterback Anthony Brown, who finished with 98 passing yards and 63 rushing yards. “Just being able to come up here and win, especially in the conditions that we did. I didn’t really get to see too much talk throughout the week because I don’t really have social media on my phone besides Instagram. So I don’t really get to see it and I don’t watch TV like that. The things that I hear are from though my teammates and we try to block out the noise as much as possible because it’s nothing something that we respond to. Today we made our play do the talking.”
Cristobal, a former offensive tackle at the University of Miami, took exceptional delight that Oregon mauled the Huskies with a punishing ground attack that accumulated 329 rushing yards, including a career-high 211 from running back Travis Dye.
“We were having a tough time finding our way on offense early,” Cristobal said. “It was raining sideways. … The physicality, you could hear it. It just sounded differently from the sideline.”
Oregon attempted just five passes in the second half and still averaged 6.6 yards rushing after halftime. Meanwhile, Washington finished with just 166 total yards offensively, including 55 yards rushing.
On the final drive, Cristobal seemingly wanted to embarrass Washington one last time.
The Ducks had a 10-point lead with less than a minute remaining on third and 3 at the UW 11. Rather than take a knee in victory formation, Brown handed off to running back Byron Caldwell who ran up the middle for an apparent score.
However, the TD was nullified after referees reviewed the play and Oregon was given the ball at the 1 with 10 seconds left.
Still, the Ducks lined up and looked as if they were going to run another play before time ran out.
Following the game, UW and UO players needed to be separated at midfield by assistants and staffers.
“We don’t want that to happen,” Lake said. “We want to end the game with a handshake.”