In the midst of a decade span of losses at the hands of the Oregon Ducks, the Washington Huskies (4-2) had never seen a quarterback perform the way Oregon sophomore QB Marcus Mariota did Saturday.
That might not mean a whole lot, the Huskies did still lose the other nine games whether the QB play was brilliant or not, but it certainly turned out to be the biggest difference in a 45-24 loss.
Mariota finished 24-for-31 passing for 366 yards, three touchdowns to zero interceptions while also running for an additional 88 yards and a TD. To be succinct, he showed why he is a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy award for the best player in college football.
The loss has to hurt for a UW squad that had the entire nation’s attention for this game. Beyond the attention of ESPN’s College Gameday, this game was about showing the team is capable of competing for the Pac-12 North division title and competing with a team that had beat you nine straight times coming in.
Washington didn’t get it done. The Huskies starting QB Keith Price didn’t get it done. The Washington defense didn’t get it done. The coaching staff was also found wanting. All across the board, Washington was inferior to the Ducks (6-0) on October 12th.
Here is a more detailed position-by-position analysis of Saturday’s loss:
Quarterback — Price termed his own effort to be “decent” postgame. Sadly, that’s being a little easy on himself. Price finished the game 19-of-32 passing for a mere 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He, like Mariota, also scrambled a ton, finishing with 18 yards on 11 carries.
The numbers only tell half the story, however. For now the sixth week of the season, the down field passing game to big play receivers Kasen Williams, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Kevin Smith was nowhere to be found. Granted Oregon has an excellent secondary, but each of the aforementioned trio of receivers is capable of making plays against the very best, all it requires is a QB willing to throw the ball to them in a precise manner. Price wasn’t able to do that, even looking hesitant to pull the trigger at all.
Overall Grade: D
Running backs — It’s becoming a predictable story: Bishop Sankey starts a football game and rushes for 100 yards and a touchdown. He did that again versus Oregon, finishing with 167 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries to be precise. Sankey also caught five passes for 38 yards to be Washington’s leading receiver.
Sankey is undoubtedly a great player but this team is becoming far too one-dimensional due to its reliance on him. This has no affect on his grade, of course. The running back play for UW continues to be flat out tremendous.
Overall Grade: A+
Offensive Line — The unit had its hands full with an athletic, fast and physical Oregon front, losing the battle for much of the contest. And while Price was sacked four times on the afternoon, a number of those were on plays when Price did have time but failed to deliver the football either to a receiver or to an open patch of grass on the sideline.
They weren’t especially good in the run game either, as Oregon was able to clog running lanes for much of the game. Positively, Colin Tanigawa came up with a huge block on the perimeter to spring Sankey onto to his 60-yard TD run on a 4th-and-1 play. Left guard Dexter Charles was also solid throughout the game with one big block after another.
Overall Grade: C+
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends — The leading wide receiver (excluding running backs) statistically for UW in this one was sophomore Jaydon Mickens who finished with four catches for 50 yards. Williams finished with three catches for 30 yards, Smith three for 22 and Sefarian-Jenkins had two for 36 yards and a TD.
Now, it’s really hard to put up statistics when you don’t get thrown the football. While watching this game, it was evident that there were several big play opportunities down the field that were simply missed by Price.
Overall Grade: Incomplete
Defensive Line — Many people watched this game and came away frustrated, perhaps even bewildered, by the lack of pressure the UW defensive line generated against Mariota. But if you watched this game closely, it was evident the plan of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was to simply contain Mariota’s running game and force him to beat UW with his arm. The team rushed just three defenders throughout the game and when it did rush four, the outside rushers rarely got up field in their rush. It was a designed effort to take away the danger of Mariota running and to put the onus on the back seven to prevent a big throwing day for the QB.
It didn’t work out. Mariota was pin-point all game long and the d-line looked sorry because of it. Its performance really wasn’t that bad. The line held up rather well for the majority of the game against a big, physical Oregon offensive line. Ducks RB Byron Marshall finished with 106 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries but didn’t really get going until the second half. Josh Shirley didn’t play in this game and neither did linemen Andrew Hudson or Josh Banks.
Overall Grade: C
Linebackers — This unit continues to be absolutely tremendous. It’s hard to sit and analyze the linebacking corps of UW in a critical fashion. Middle-linebacker John Timu finished with 10 tackles and a sack, Princeton Fuimaono added eight tackles, Shaq Thompson had six and Cory Littleton (who played as an outside linebacker in 3-4 looks and as a rush end in 4-3 looks) had six tackles.
If you can gripe about anything, it may have been the unit’s play in pass coverage. Oregon has speed all over the field and it looked like the UW ‘backers had trouble staying close to the Ducks receivers in space.
Overall Grade: B
Secondary — One play really stands out to me for this unit in this game. After UW took the opening kick of the second half and scored on a 4th-and-1 run by Sankey to cut the Oregon lead to 21-14, Mariota and the Ducks answered by connecting on a 65-yard touchdown pass. Huff was lined up in a trips right formation (i.e. three wide receivers to the right side of the field), at the snap of the ball he looped around the second most outside receiver and sprinted downfield past UW safety Will Shamburger who was covering on the play. Shamburger never recovered and strong safety Sean Parker never came over to help.
Quite simply, the group was overwhelmed all day long by Mariota in the passing game. The group was able to make plays in space against the run — Parker finished with 10 tackles, Shamburger eight and Marcus Peters added nine — but they were burned time after time in the passing game.
Overall Grade: C
Special Teams — The play on both kickoff and punt coverage was much better but they still allowed multiple big returns. Part of the problem is filling lanes, another part is the tackling by players like kicker Travis Coons. Coons did connect on a 30-yard field goal when called upon to do so, so congrats to him.
Overall Grade: D
Coaching — Steve Sarkisian has to be sick to his stomach. Five years at the helm of the Huskies now and still without a win over the team’s biggest rival. Not only that, the team hasn’t made any progress offensively despite the installation of an up-tempo offense. As mentioned, the team is far too run heavy. It relies on Sankey far too much, to the point of being predictable. This is a problem when you have perhaps the most talented roster of receivers in college football. There is absolutely no reason for Williams to finish with three receptions, ASJ to have two and Kevin Smith to have three.
There’s other issues beyond the offensive play-calling. Special teams continues to be a disaster. Coons barely averages 30 yards per punt, the tackling is atrocious and kickoffs aren’t getting deep. This is allowing opponents to start well north of their own 30-yard line routinely. That’s a problem.
And then there’s the defense and personnel decisions. Some of the team’s best players didn’t play a down on defense, Saturday. Travis Feeney, Shirley, Banks and Hudson all continue to sit which is questionable coaching at best.
Overall Grade: D
– Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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