BY Art Thiel 01:13AM 11/11/2017

Thiel: Huskies’ fast start turns into faster fade

The nation’s No. 1-ranked defense gave up 23 points in a row, as well as 166 yards to Bryce Love, as Washington abruptly crumbled and lost 30-22 at Stanford Friday.

Huskies RB Myles Gaskin rushed for 120 yards Friday, surpassing 1,000 rushing yards for the third year in a row. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Following a 38-3 win over Oregon with booming touchdown drives on the first two possessions Friday night at Stanford suggested that the ninth-ranked Washington Huskies were on a fast track toward the Pac-12 Conference championship game with two home games remaining.

But no. They took an exit marked “Edge of Earth” and fell right off it.

The UW defense, ranked No. 1 nationally entering the game, allowed the Cardinal (7-3, 5-3) 23 consecutive points and 406 yards of total offense to shred the distant hope of returning to the College Football Playoffs. The stunning 30-22 loss in Palo Alto could keep the Huskies (8-2, 5-2) from the conference title game.

If Washington State beats Utah Saturday and then wins the Apple Cup in Seattle, the Cougars will be the Pac-12 North champions because they own the tie-breaker over Stanford after a 30-27 win in Pullman last week.

Matters Friday night looked little like a year ago in Seattle when the Huskies crushed Stanford 44-6, a win that launched them into the thick of the CFP scene. This time, behind RB Bryce Love’s 166 yards on 30 carries despite a sprained ankle, was payback.

“We told (players) at the beginning of the week how Stanford played the game,” said Huskies coach Chris Petersen. “They shorten the game by minimizing possessions, keeping it manageable and playing physical.

“We can’t capitalize with 3-and-outs and fumbling.”

Nor did seven penalties for 73 yards help, most often crippling the offense, which converted just two of eight third downs. Stanford, meanwhile, converted 10 of 18 third downs, including a run of six out of seven over an eight-minute span of the third and fourth quarters, scoring 13 points on drives of 81, 17 and 14 yards.

Injuries began to show through. Missing starters DBs Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller from the secondary, the younger Huskies gave up several explosive plays, including a pair of 39-yard passes that were the longest of the season against Washington.

In his third career start, sophomore QB K.J. Costello completed just 16 in 27 attempts, but had no interceptions and gained 211 yards that provided balance for the swift Love, succeeding Christian McCaffrey as Stanford’s ground menace.

“We couldn’t wrap (Love) up,” said Petersen. “We didn’t tackle well enough, and let them move the chains.

“Penalties are what happens sometimes when you’re on your heels, trying too hard.”

The game turned in the second quarter, when the Huskies, up 14-7, had a fourth-and-1 at the Stanford 18. Passing on a field goal, Petersen chose to give to RB Myles Gaskin, who went on to have another good day with 120 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. But this time the line provided no openings and he was stuffed for no gain.

Stanford took the ball and went 61 yards in 10 plays for a field goal to thwart any Huskies notion of a runaway.

“That was discouraging and frustrating,” Petersen said. “You try to put it on the O-line, and we didn’t get that done. It’s painful. Who knows how that drive finishes, but Stanford converts on us.”

That was perhaps another episode where injuries compromised the choices. All-conference LT Trey Adams is out for the season, and receiving corps has been depleted by the absences of WRs Chico McClatcher and Quinten Pounds and TE Hunter Bryant.

“Offensively, we were too stagnant, not explosive at all,” Petersen said, “and leaving our defense out there plays right into their hands.”

It certainly didn’t start out that way. Washington, going up-tempo, went 88 yards in 12 plays on the opening possession, and the second time needed only seven to go 89.

“We were frustrated on offense by starting (previous games) slowly, doing nothing, certainly on the road,” Petersen said. “That was a big emphasis.”

But the Huskies backed off on the throttle, then missed on the fourth-and-1. They let Stanford hang around through the half, when Love apparently had miracle healing in his ankle, which helped limit him in the first half to 43 yards on 13 carries.

He began wearing down the defense, and with Browning unable to sustain drives, Stanford took control, helping keep the Huskies winless at The Farm since 2007.

Petersen typically was having no patience for talk of down-the-rad consequences of the defeat.

We can’t play that game,” he said. “You look past something, and you get punched right in the face.”

Sometimes, you get punched even when you don’t look past.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Effzee

    “They shorten the game by minimizing possessions, keeping it manageable and playing physical.” Gee. What a concept. I wish to my core that our teams embraced this philosophy. Instead, our teams put too much pressure on our defenses by trying to go the gimmicky, whiz-bang, trickeration road. The Hawks and Huskies both try to blast out to leads and then wear the other team down. I have always hated this philosophy. Its why I often go off on the Darrell Bevells and Jonathan Smiths of the world. They are trying to reinvent the wheel. Its thrilling when it works, but too often it leaves me dumbfounded and frustrated. I’d rather have a ball control offense with stud running backs and a game managing QB than a QB-centric offense, any day of the week.

    • art thiel

      In the previous two games the Huskies rushed for 247 and 333 yards mostly by straight up ass-kicking in the trenches. Minimal trickeraton/gimmickry.

      Fergawdsakes, folks, it’s almost always the players, not the play call. These are hormonally engorged 18 year olds who sometimes forget what to do in a charged moment. Just as we all did then.

      Ask the players of No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Notre Dame about that. No, wait, let’s fire the OCs.

      • Effzee

        Yeah. I get it. I could counter with the fact that no Seahawks are 18 year olds, but then its just a bunch of back and forth point-making. Trying to figure this stuff out is taking up too much of my available brain space. From the social justice protests, to the fans who think players are disrespecting the flag and the military by using the anthem to make their point, to being hammered over the head with pro-war propaganda, to the physical and emotional impact injuries have on players and fans, to the brain trauma issues, to rampant cheating scandals in pro and amateur athletics, to trying to figure out why coaches do this or that…. Its all just becoming too much. The world gets smaller by the day, and sports does not provide the respite that it used to. Real life is becoming far too complicated in itself, and all of these things are spilling over into each other. I am standing on the precipice of my interest in sports. Its become a tedious, treacherous slog to get to whatever joy is left in Mudville.

  • 1coolguy

    It was no coincidence the Huskies’ offense went south last year after Jeff Tedford took the Fresno State job. Concerning the offense, I suggest you look no further than the OC, Smith, and question why he is still on the staff. A staff that turns over frequently, as the coaches are hired away by other programs. Smith? Not so much.
    If Petersen does anything in this off-season, he needs to replace Smith.

    • art thiel

      Still waiting for this site’s first commenter to praise the playcalling for the OCs of the Seahawks and Huskies.

      • 1coolguy

        I do wish you a very long and happy life Art, as you are the pinnacle of sports journalists, but you will not live so long as to see that day.

        • art thiel

          Try it once, just to show it is scientifically possible.

    • Husky73

      Tedford had no influence on last year’s team. Zero.

  • woofer

    Another diagnosis: the passing game has been one-dimensional since Chico went down. Pettis is good but he can’t do everything.

    • art thiel

      Don’t forget the injury absences of Hunter Bryant, Quentin Pounds and Trey Adams.

  • Comrade C-attle

    It should be noted the Huskies haven’t beaten a Pac-12 team with a winning record.

    • art thiel

      Noted.

  • ll9956

    I totally agree with 1coolguy. The Dawgs’ offense could not have been more predictable: Run, Run, Pass, in most cases followed by a punt. I don’t recall the Dawgs passing on first down anytime in the entire game. On the fourth and 1 mentioned by Art, the Dawgs ran the exact play Stanford was expecting. The no-gain result was no surprise. I’m not sure what Petersen could have done different to better prepare the team for this game, but they certainly disintegrated on all fronts in the second half.

    This had to be the poorest performance of Jake’s career. He held the ball way too long and took disastrous sacks. The Dawgs’ O-line provided poor pass protection.

    Both the run and pass defense were poor. This is the best defense in the country??? I don’t think so.

    All in all a sad day for the Dawgs.

    • art thiel

      To call a play on offense in less than 30 seconds requires knowledge of the DC’s tendencies as well as the defensive formations and personnel (including experience levels of exploitable players) and the health and ability of each offensive player in that moment to execute a play call. I’m going to guess here than exactly 102 percent of the people watching the game cannot derive all that info from their TV or stadium seat.

      But I do agree that Jake isn’t making decisions as he did last year. Then again, John Ross’s speed made a lot of mediocre throws look great.

  • Husky73

    I make a Husky prediction at the start of each year, and I predicted 9-3 this year. This is still a good team, but not VERY good. They lost Ross, a reliable kicker and a lot of talent on the back of the defense. They are more run oriented this year because Jake has limited options with his receivers. Losing Adams was big, and both Chico and Bryant were big play guys. They’ll beat Utah. I think they will get it together in the Apple Cup, if, for no other reason, because Mike Leach is on the opposing sideline. That would be a 10-2 season, plus a title game, plus a bowl game. How many of those did Don James have?