Too big. Too fast. Too hot. Too loud.
Too bad for the Washington Huskies.
The top of the Southeastern Conference, the residence of Louisiana State University of Football, is no place for an average Pac-12 Conference team.
For those who think playing big-time non-conference match-ups is good for the collegiate sporting soul, you obviously haven’t been laying under a 272-pound fullback in the fetid sod along the Mississippi River, with 92,802 people laughing at you.
The principle of big-time games is OK. But when the defeat is 41-3 and and injury list is long, the reality immediately hemorrhages futility and embarrassment.
The Huskies peaked in the game’s first 10 seconds, when LSU fumbled the opening kickoff to Washington at the Tigers’ 20-yard line. The Huskies bobbled two pass attempts, managed four yards and three points, then had hell wash over them.
Nothing that happened thereafter was remotely surprising: The Huskies offensive and defensive lines were overwhelmed, special teams were frequently faulty and quarterback Keith Price was asked to do too much.
The entire outfit was undisciplined — 11 penalties and nearly countless missed assignments that had nothing to do with physical mismatches.
“When you play a team like this, you’ve got to seize opportunities,” coach Steve Sarkisian told KJR. “Then when you give them freebies (penalties), some at critical moments with things like false starts and delay of game . . . these self-inflicted wounds are killers.”
It should be said that probably 90 percent of college football would have had more or less the same results during a steamy night in Baton Rouge. The Tigers tied a national record with their 39th consecutive non-conference win, and were just two games removed from the BCS title game in January. They are ranked third in the AP poll and coming off the first undefeated (12-0) regular season in their history, which, given the level of competition in the SEC, may be one of the great feats in recent college ball history.
Still, defeat is one thing, damage is another. Tackle Erik Kohler, who was moved during the week from his usual right guard spot because of a broken arm suffered by starter Ben Riva in the opener against San Diego State, left in the first quarter with a recurrence of a kneecap injury that kept him out of some of fall camp. An already inexperienced young line grew younger when sophomore Mike Christe was inserted.
Also lost were linebacker Travis Feeney (shoulder), DB Will Shamburger (scratched eye), WR Jaydon Mickens (turf toe) and DE Talia Crichton (concussion). DB Justin Glenn was out for awhile with the flu.
As a partial result of two-deep decay, the Huskies managed 183 yards of total offense, only 69 in the first half when they rushed for minus-11 yards. UW’s longest play was a 22-yard pass. Besides the fumbled kickoff, the Huskies reached LSU territory only three times, never closer than the 30-yard line. Running back Bishop Sankey had 16 yards in eight carries.
The defense could do little against an offensive line that averages 325 pounds and helped mash for 437 yards of total offense — 242 on the ground with four running backs, any one of whom would start for any Pac-12 team.
“That stable of backs was the most impressive I’ve ever seen in person,” Sarkisian said. “But we battled them to the end . . . this wasn’t about a lack of want-to.”
The Tigers offense hardly needed the help, but the Huskies aided them on the first two possessions with short fields. Touchdown drives of 47 and 38 yards put up LSU 14-3 late in the first quarter.
Trailing “only” 20-3 at the half, thanks to some stout red-zone defense led by backup linebacker Thomas Tutogi (who finished with 12 tackles) that held LSU to two field goals, the Huskies had a remote shot at competitiveness if they could score on the first possession of the second half.
Instead, the drive started with a penalty and ended with a sack of Price, forcing a fourth-and-18 punt. Price was dropped four times, including twice when the rusher came unblocked because a missed assignment.
“On one, the left tackle (Micah Hatchie) didn’t get out of his stance,” Sarkisian said. “Another was a protection miscommunication where we didn’t block an edge rusher. Those were the two biggest hits Keith took. Those can kinda spook a playcaller. It’s not about losing a one-on-one (blocking) match. It’s about a free shot. It might make a guy less aggive.”
Indeed, Price was harried and often tentative, for understandable reasons, completing just 16 of 35 attempts with one interception.
Th night was one of total domination, but Sarkisian didn’t think his team was intimidated by the scene.
“I didn’t think the stadium or noise were too big for our guys,” he said. “(LSU) has big guys who are overly big and little guys who are fast and long. They have elite speed on the perimeter. We threw a screen pass that I was sure would get 20-25 yards. He got five yards.”
From the second play, Washington was overmatched. Sarkisian said what all coaches say after blowouts: We’ll take away things from this. Late Saturday night, however, the Huskies wanted only to take off.