BY Art Thiel 11:58PM 11/08/2014

Thiel: Minus Kikaha, Peters, Huskies had no shot

The firing of CB Peters was distracting, the injury loss of LB Kikaha was distressing, and having almost no downfield passing game was disabling for the Huskies Saturday.

UCLA QB Brett Hundley scores one of his two rushing touchdowns in the Bruins’ 44-30 win over the Huskies Saturday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The only real chance the Huskies had against UCLA Saturday was to get to QB Brett Hundley before the Heisman Trophy candidate reached the tender vittles in the Washington secondary. Once their eminent pass rusher, Hau’oli Kikaha, left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder stinger, night came, the curtain closed and a third consecutive home game was lost.

A final count of 44-30 sounds somewhat respectable, but a mismatch was on from the start — probably from the moment Wednesday when coach Chris Petersen threw off the team his best pass defender, Marcus Peters, leaving three freshmen starters in the secondary.

When Kikaha, a second potential NFL draftee from the Huskies defense, left the game, the combined departures explained much of Hundley’s passing line — 29 for 36 for 302 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Kikaha sacked him once. That was it.

“When Hundley doesn’t feel pressure, the game changes,” said a crestfallen Petersen, who watched his team fall behind quickly as it did against Colorado, Arizona State and Oregon while dropping to 6-4. “Coupled with (UW) being young back there (in the secondary), it’s not a good combination for us at all.”

The Huskies are 0-4 against the Pac-12′s top-ranked teams — Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA, plus Stanford, and go next week to Tucson to face a good Arizona team. UW certainly isn’t a terrible team — with winnable games against Oregon State and Washington State after Arizona, an 8-5 record is within reason — but little about Saturday’s game suggested progress.

Regarding Petersen’s reference to game-changers, probably the biggest change came on the first play of UCLA’s third possession, when Hundley took a deep shot that targeted Peters’ replacement, freshman CB Naijiel Hale. WR Kenneth Walker was so open on a post route, he was out of cell phone service range.

The 57-yard touchdown put UCLA up 14-0 and Washington never fully recovered, falling down 31-10 at the half before “embarrassment,” as Petersen put it, kicked in and helped the Huskies pick up 20 points and a bit of dignity.

“Hundley did a good job of hitting his checkdowns,” said defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. “We played more zone to try to take the pressure off those guys. He didn’t run as much as I thought he was going to (seven times for a net of 18 yards and two TDs) He stayed in the pocket and we didn’t get as much pressure on him.”

The offense wasn’t ready to play catch-up, even with Shaq Thompson (100 yards in 16 carries) in harness at running back. QB Cyler Miles had another so-so day, a few stellar passes mixed with poor judgments on some passes and some runs. It made for field goals on three drives instead of touchdowns, an impermissible shortcoming against a team as balanced and sound as 8-2 UCLA.

“We played a complete game — that’s what you want to be doing in November,” said Bruins coach Jim Mora, who when last seen coaching in Seattle had lost four in a row to end his first (and only) Seahawks season in 2009 at 5-11. Regarding your return, Jim? “It was a game. I’m happy my family was here, but other than that, I couldn’t care less . . . it doesn’t matter to me.”

He may not be a good pro coach, but he recruits and schools the youngsters fairly well. The Bruins were in control throughout, troubled only by Thompson and John Ross III’s 100-yard kick return.

Speaking of troubled, that’s what Washington was this week when it lost one of its premier players because he clashed with coaches, who, after at least the fourth known episode of incorrigibility or insubordination with Peters, figured they were better off without him, even knowing debacle was imminent.

While no one was directly admitting the episode was a distraction, logic says it was. Petersen acknowledged the trial.

“It was hard for everyone,” he said. Echoed Ross, who filled in most of the game at cornerback: “It hurt because Marcus is so good. He was like a big brother to us . . .  I know it’s a tough time for him. It’s a tough time for all of us. But we can’t hang our heads or anything.”

Said RB Deontae Cooper: “For the most part we handled it OK. It always sucks to see one of your brothers leave the team.”

“There were some players who were really close to him that I felt were kind of distracted,” DL Danny Shelton said. “But I think we did a good job of just rallying back up in the second half and just moving forward.”

It was the loss of Kikaha to injury that really threw the defense.

That was big,” said Shelton. “The upperclassmen were maybe trying to do Hau’oli’s job. But that was the wrong mindset.”

UW had an impressive 211 yards rushing, but getting downfield in the air was a large problem. Among Miles’ 14 completions, only seven went to wide receivers, and none to Ross, who had only two offensive snaps. His conversion to defense is an almost unbelievable signal that they’ve given up trying to give the ball to their most explosive player. Paging Percy Harvin.

Asked why it was so hard to get him the ball, Ross said, “We got a problem getting the ball to everybody.”

Ten games into the season, that summary is as accurate as it is bewildering.


  • canyudigit

    Damn. I don’t know how many falls/winters left in this old can. Sure would like to see the program turn to the “potential” I keep tellin’ myself they have. I found myself gettin’ pissed at the play callin and effort they showed tonight’. Damn. Come on coach Pete. Show me a positive direction.

    • ReebHerb

      Every time they get going vertically they stop themselves with the horizontal stuff. Look for a new offensive coordinator next year. Trouble is, everyone has a good coach in this league.

      • art thiel

        OC Smith said after the game that he will trust Miles more, and be more aggressive in playcalling. We’ll see.

        • srmark

          Should’ve done that 3-4 games ago.

    • art thiel

      Coaching transitions in college are usually hell. Fans don’t want to hear it, but every time they want a coach fired, they need to consider the consequences.

      • Marc S

        The last coach didn’t get fired. I would hope that would leave the program in a better position than if the coach is fired. Some of the quotes by the players you published, I wonder if we will be seeing Cooper and Ross next year. They might have too much affinity for a guy kicked off the team for Coach “My way or the highway”.

      • srmark

        I don’t see a coaching change has been a problem for UCLA, ASU or Arizona.. why is it always the (excuse) issue for UW?

  • Jeff Shope

    they need a real qb bad

    • art thiel

      Less than breaking news.

  • Jeff Shope

    next year will be worse losing so many guys on D

    • art thiel

      They actually have some decent underclassmen who will be OK. Nobody noticed Kikaha until he matured his last two seasons.

  • Matt

    It’s amazing how average to mediocre to outright crappy this program has been the past 13 years with all the resources they have. Not doing a lot to stir the fan base, and unfortunately all the goodwill built up in the Don James era and previous regimes is getting eroded away, those times are becoming something of the distant past, and our reality is we haven’t had a special program in some time. Even our school’s colors have become more bland with our ‘gold’ now a bland, depressing complement to our purple, making for a dreary combo. Whatever happened to the bright, shiny, ‘happy’ gold we used to have?

    • art thiel

      Happy gold? I recalled in college that was the name for Kona Gold, an agricultural product from Hawaii popular with students.

      • srmark

        Yep, but It’s legal now!

  • 3 Lions

    Miles looks like a cat on a hot tin roof. They need to give the other qb’s some time.

    • art thiel

      They have. They didn’t like what they saw. Miles is their best shot until they get their hot recruit, Browning, in school in Jan.

      • srmark

        Problem is that don’t trust their QB’s. How can a first year QB, like Myles, develop a lot of confidence when the coach’s don’t have it?

  • Greg

    And, can we get a big thank you for the officiating… The punt fiasco earned them a time out in the corner.

    • art thiel

      CSI Montlake is researching the call. But they expect it to take months.

  • ll9956

    I suppose a defensive backfield comprised entirely of freshmen needs to be given some slack, but yesterday they looked pretty helpless. This, coupled with a mostly non-existent pass rush, was a recipe for disaster. Unless Petersen and DC Kwiatkowski can figure out how to improve the pass defense, I hate to think of what’s going to happen going forward, especially in the Apple Cup. If that were going to happen next week, I’d predict the Dawgs would get handled.