BY Art Thiel 08:32PM 01/01/2019

Thiel: Huskies lacked edge, and a good plan

Coach Chris Petersen said “it’s on me” to fix the offense’s problems that spoiled Washington return to the Rose Bowl in a 28-23 loss to Ohio State.

Myles Gaskin had 121 yards rushing, scored two touchdowns and passed for another. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

PASADENA, CA. — It’s not fair to say the Washington Huskies came all the way across an 18-year void for naught. But it is fair to say that that the Pac-12 Conference champions came away with little from the Rose Bowl Tuesday afternoon, because they showed up with neither plan nor purpose sufficient for such a large occasion.

The fourth-quarter comeback was something of a fig leaf. It didn’t hide the fact the offense, loaded with senior experience, couldn’t do much until sixth-ranked Ohio State (13-1) eased up after a 28-3 lead.

Worse, it was repeat of a season-long pattern of slow starts — as well as in previous New Year’s Six games in the Peach Bowl against Alabama and the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State — that had coach Chris Petersen bereft of solutions after the 28-23 defeat (box) in UW’s first Rose Bowl since 2001.

“I have no idea why,” he said of the crippling slow starts. “We’re close to being where we want to be, but we’re not there.

“You’re playing the best of the best (including Alabama and Penn State). You carry out a plan and have to play your best.”

Petersen volunteered that responsibility rested with him, although first-year offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan can take a big helping of responsibility.

“It’s on me, not these kids,” he said. “We didn’t play with that edge, that chip we normally play with. Across the whole squad. Very frustrating, the way we started the first half.”

After playing big games in Atlanta and Phoenix the previous seasons, the stage should not have been too big, although it was the certainly the most splendid tableau, as the Granddad would have it.

As it has done for a century, the Rose Bowl offered an uncannily perfect New Year’s Day extravaganza of sun, mountains, music and pageantry for the party house of 91,853 that came from around the nation to be part of the scene.

But the Huskies offense couldn’t get with it.

The tell-tale moment was not in the late-game frenzy when the Huskies scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes.  It came in the final minute of the first half.

The defense, missing All-America safety Taylor Rapp with an injured hip, had been valiant in holding the nation’s second-highest-scoring offense to 14 points while the UW offense managed three.

The Huskies took possession at their own 8-yard line with 1:21 left, and made the mistake of thinking they could get into scoring position.  They completed one short pass followed by two incompletions off play-action. They punted the ball back to Ohio State at its 43-yard line with a minute left.

Behind QB Dwayne Haskins, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, the Buckeyes covered 57 yards in five plays, the last being a one-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Berry. Instead of being a manageable 14-3 halftime deficit, it was 21-3, which was not the place to be against a team the caliber of Ohio State.

“That was a big, huge, huge part of the game,” Petersen said. “It was frustrating on both sides (of the ball) — we didn’t convert on offense, and then (OSU) comes down and scores.”

To start the second half, the playcalling was startlingly different — six consecutive runs by workhorse RB Myles Gaskin, which took the Huskies to the OSU 32. They weren’t run-pass option plays; they were a kick-ass, straight ahead power style that Ohio State couldn’t handle.

But on the first pass attempt of the half, Browning was sacked for a seven-yard loss. Then Gaskin was nailed for a four-yard loss. Instead of a potentially game-changing scoring drive, UW punted.

“We had more runs called in the first half, but they were run-pass options, and Jake was throwing a lot,” Petersen said. To start the half with a straight-ahead attack, “they felt they could do something. It helped us stay on the field and not go three and out.”

The persistence paid off in 20-fourth quarter points, throwing a panic into thousands of Buckeyes fans who showed up in large numbers in large part to celebrate retiring Urban Meyer in his final game in seven highly successful, albeit controversial, seasons.

But the Huskies made another curious decision that caused OSU relief. Facing a fourth-and-eight at their own 17 with four minutes remaining, the Huskies punted away what might have been their last shot.

“We were going to go for it, but then if we didn’t convert, we’d put the defense in such a bad situation,” said Petersen, who then admitted they had  hoped OSU would line up its punt return team in a formation the UW coaches felt would be vulnerable to a fake punt.

“We had a little thing going on there,” he said. “But their return team lined up not how we wanted them to.We didn’t get the look we wanted.”

While the Huskies defense did hold Ohio State on its next possession, and subsequently produced a splendid 71-yard scoring drive in 10 plays in just two minutes, only 42 seconds were left. Ohio State ran out the clock.

For Washington (10-4), the clock began ticking on changes needed to take the program to the final frontier.

“Ohio State is as good as anybody out there,” Petersen said. “They could have been in the (CFP) tournament. A lot of people think that. It’d frustrating for us to not put our best foot forward for four quarters. It comes back to us coaches to figure that out. I think we need to look at our offense really hard. The game was kinda similar to what went on during the season. We had red zone issues. We can drive the ball, run the ball pretty well on occasion. In the red zone, it’s a penalty or sack. So frustrating.

“We’ll have a plan. Study the hell out of the tape. Tear it down and be more precise. We’ll figure it out.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen before the sun set on the San Gabriel mountains. At least something looked good in purple.

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins completed 25 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


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YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    Huskies lacked a D1 OC and a QB with an arm. With those 2 on place, the Huskies win. CP needs to replace Hamdan with a QUALIFIED and experienced OC, not some pal from Boise State.
    Eason takes care of item 2 .

    • Husky73

      Your post is Willingham-like. Their QB threw for 2,879 yards. He definitely has an arm, throwing for over 12,000 yards in his career. They won 10 games, the Pac 12 championship (again) and the Apple Cup (again). They scored 369 points. They lost four close games. If the Seahawks were 10-4, you’d be swooning.

      • art thiel

        Willingham-like? An 0-11 post? Cool.

      • 1coolguy

        Imagine what they would have accomplished if CP had in place what I suggested in my post!
        And BTW, it took over 3 1/2 years for Browning to pass Picket’s yards over 2 years as a starter.

        • Howard Wells

          “what I suggested in my post” yes, oh great prescient one!

          • 1coolguy

            Thank you for recognizing talented, knowledgable commentary.

          • Howard Wells

            I like your style

          • 1coolguy wrote

  • Ken S.

    Maybe Peterson can channel Don James. The Huskies looked lost at times, as in most of the time.

    • Husky73

      Don James was a great coach. However, he did not walk on water, and was not undefeated. He lost 76 games in his career, and averaged 8 wins a season. Chris Petersen has lost 33 games thus far, and has averaged 10+ wins a season. Don James also walked out on his team.

      • art thiel

        Indeed, James had a number of games in which the Huskies spit up. It’s a professional hazard for every coach, even the great ones.

  • DonMac

    Sorry about the Huskies, Art. There’s always next year for you to fawn over Chris Petersen and the Dawgs.

    • Bruce McDermott

      This article is not a fawn job. Art’s not a fawner in general. Sounds like a bitter Coug, at it again…

      • DonMac

        You sound like an Art sycophant. He’s a big boy there Bruce.

        • art thiel

          Beer’s on me, Don.

          • DonMac

            Thank you Art, but I would prefer a nice autumnal mead.

      • jafabian

        Or a Thunder fan. Or even a Packers fan. As far as they’re concerned Golden Tate is still a Seahawk and the TD should not have counted.

    • Howard Wells

      glory to you DonMac! you ARE the college football expert.

      • DonMac

        Thank you Howard Wells, that means a lot coming from you. I feel blessed.

  • jafabian

    For once I’d like to see a team that wins the coin flip pass on deferring the ball so they get it to start the second half and channel their inner Matt Hasselbeck and say that they want the ball and that they’re going to score. If the Huskies started the game as aggressively as they closed it at the very least it would have been a much more different ballgame. Under Coach Petersen they’ve been an all or nothing team that doesn’t do well when they play catch up. As it stands the only bowl game they’ve won under him is the Heart of Dallas bowl. When you your QB passes for over 300 yards, your RB runs for over 120 and 2 scores and you have one WR go for over 100 yards and another over 80 there should be more than 23 points on the board. It’s been suggested that the long layoff hurt UW but both teams face that. Happy to see UW back playing in the Granddaddy though. Just wished for a better showing.

    • art thiel

      As with a lot of teams, including the Seahawks, they often play not to lose in the first quarter. What UW lacked this season is game-breaking offensive talent on the outside. If Chico McClatcher were healthy, he could have been the difference-making successor to Pettis and Ross. A healthy Hunter Bryant would have made a difference too.

      • Effzee

        Yes.

      • jafabian

        True that teams typically start conservatively however championship teams seem to pass on that. I do recall Pete Carroll burying teams in the preseason during their Super Bowl run which surprised me at the time. He even kept the starters in during most of the second half for those games which I assumed was to keep that aggressive mentality entering the season. I remember Mike Holmgren, Don James and Lenny Wilkens doing that approach as well but only during their championship runs. I’ve always wondered if they did it more often would that translate into a more successful season? I can hear George Karl saying only for a special team but maybe that team will become special team? Completely agree that not having Chico as well as Taylor Rapp really hurt UW’s chances but championship teams find a way to overcome.

        On a sidenote with the Huskies all but assured to lose their entire starting secondary plus their nickel back I hope the Seahawks draft one of them instead of passing on all for the next Malik McDowell.

    • rosetta_stoned

      channel their inner Matt Hasselbeck and say that they want the ball and that they’re going to score.

      Did you suddenly forget what happened after winning that coin toss?

      • 1coolguy

        it ranks as #2 in the Hawks Hall of Shame. Need I mention what is #1?

  • Husky73

    It’s tough to process that a 10 win season is a disappointment, if not a debacle. It’s equally difficult to understand that a quarterback with 39 wins (most ever in the conference), including two Pac 12 championships and four Apple Cups, that throws for over 12,000 yards and 94 touchdowns exits with “goodbye and good riddance.” Both

    • art thiel

      It’s hardly a debacle. The four losses were by 5, 3, 2 and 5 points. And Browning’s good deeds are completely overshadowed by the badness of several mistakes.

      But I think Petersen may have erred with the hire of Hamdan.

      • 1coolguy

        CP BLEW IT by hiring Hamdan – CP needs to get off the Boise State link and do a national search for the best possible OC and go after that person.
        To hire a rookie, especially when you have very high expectations in the coming year, is inexcusable, I have no doubt Hamdan cost us 2 or more games and that is all on CP.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    That was just embarrassing . Minus the comeback , the Huskies would literally be the laughing stock of the entire nation this morning ( tip of the cap to POTUS , who holds that position near to his empty heart ) .

    “I think we need to look at our offense really hard” . Thank you Captain Obvious . That OC has to go ; somewhere Darrell Bevel is smiling and saying “see , I ain’t so bad” . They ran the same toss right receiver play so many times in the first half , Ohio was literally standing there waiting for it . It worked the first time they ran it , so Bush-league Hamdan just kept going to the well till the bottom fell out . There were no adjustments prior to halftime .

    And I’m sorry , but Browning looked like a deer in the headlights out there – the kid literally looked terrified during one offensive series where they showed a close-up of him coming out of the huddle . RW he ain’t . Me thinks it’ll be addition by subtraction with him graduated and the new crop of QB’s we have ..

    • rosetta_stoned

      Way to work some partisan politics in there. I knew you had it in you.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        So nice to hear from you Rosetta – hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday ..

      • 1coolguy

        I wish the snowflakes would melt away.

    • Howard Wells

      yeah, some deer that given “permission”by the OC in the fourth quarter took my team to 3 TDs. If given permission by the OC even in the 3rd quarter could’ve scored one more td. GEESH!! You think the QB calls the plays in college?!

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        No , I don’t think the quarterback calls plays in college – I just think ‘your quarterback’ looked like a deer in the headlights and failed to produce in the biggest game of his life .

    • art thiel

      As your commenter handle indicates, firing those who dissatisfy your sports passions is the only logical outcome. I’m sure you confine that tendency to sports and not job, marriage or child-raising.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        Job , marriage and child raising are all over now Art . Wife died , child died , retired from Boeing . All that’s left is a shell of a man who lives vicariously thru his sports heros , and a good Kentucky bourbon . God bless you for bringing it up .

  • Effzee

    Jake Browning deserves a lot of credit and respect for bringing the program back to prominence. Coach Petersen didn’t have much to recruit on when he arrived. Browning was a great get at the time, and CP got the most he could possibly get out of him. Three straight major bowl games and the most wins in the history of the conference (a record that will probably stand for 100 years) are things that no amount of snark from grown men can take away from Jake.

  • DB

    Browning has reminded me of Alex Brink (WSU) for a long time. -Many parallels between the two of them, the key one being gaudy stats earned from starting for four years. Even mediocre QB’s put up numbers if you give them enough starts. I’ve always been amused at the press references to things like ‘all time leader in the PAC 12’, etc. which suggests greatness that isn’t there.

    • 1coolguy

      Agreed 100%

    • WestCoastBias79

      I’ve called him the Matt Stafford of the NCAA many times. A lot of empty stats.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Trying to put it in perspective, Jake Browning was the stepping stone that allowed them to recruit Eason and other five star guys. As infuriating as he could be, he was good enough to make them relevant again. I’m pushing 40, and nearly half my life, post-Neuheisal, UW was basically ASU with delusional fans living in the Don James era. I’ll take this actually good program that occasionally poops the bed in big moments in big games over six wins and perennial Cheez-It level bowl games. I’m still very thankful that CP left Boise State for UW and seems loyal to UW.

    Aside, can Larry Scott be fired yet? I was at the Rose Bowl and OSU’s overall roster just looked bigger–as in physically larger 2nd/3rd stringers and special teamers. I wonder if that 11 or so million that Big 10 schools get annually from their conference had anything to do with that?

  • TheDrake

    The problem with blaming the OC is he wasn’t here last year during the slow start against Penn St. Nor was he here for the CFP against Alabama. And don’t forget the Cactus Bowl in 2015 against Oklahoma State. Remember that one. The Huskies again did not show up in the first half and was behind 24-0.
    So 4 out of 5 bowl games under CP and there is a real obvious trend line. CP perhaps?

    I think CP is a good coach. DJ was a great coach. DJ was the master at preparing for the big game especially bowl games. He seemed to have a handle on making
    sure the game plan got in and perfected while at the same time making sure the players were having fun.
    I don’t think CP has that figured out yet.

    I am concerned about how CP prepares his team psychologically for a game. For the big games and the bowl games i just mentioned the Huskies come out tight and predictable. Very conservative playing not to lose. Sure the first possession for most teams is like that. But in CP’s big games it is the whole first half.

    Perhaps our expectations are too high as I always hear local media EXCEPT Art Thiel refer to CP in the same terms as Don James. Sorry but CP is no DJ. But that’s ok.
    I never expect to see another coach like Don James in my lifetime he was that special.

  • TheDrake

    The problem with blaming the OC is he wasn’t here last year during the slow start against Penn St. Nor was he here for the CFP against Alabama. And don’t forget the Cactus Bowl in 2015 against Oklahoma State. Remember that one. The Huskies again did not show up in the first half and was behind 24-0. So 4 out of 5 bowl games under CP and there is a real obvious trend line.

    I think CP is a good coach. DJ was a great coach. DJ was the master at preparing for the big game especially bowl games. He seemed to have a handle on making sure the game plan got in and perfected while at the same time making sure the players were having fun. I don’t think CP has that figured out yet.

    I am concerned about how CP prepares his team psychologically for a game. For the big games and the bowl games i just mentioned the Huskies come out tight and predictable. Very conservative playing not to lose. Sure the first possession for most teams is like that. But in CP’s big games it is the whole first half.

    Perhaps our expectations are too high as I always hear local media EXCEPT Art Thiel refer to CP in the same terms as Don James. Sorry but CP is no DJ. But that’s ok.
    I never expect to see another coach like Don James in my lifetime he was that special.

    • 1coolguy

      Don’t forget that what caused James to break through was after he hired Gilbertson as his OC. He coached the OL in 89&90 and was OC in 91 when we won the championship.
      CP instead, with a tremendous year looming, hired Hamdan, a Boise State pal who has NEVER been an OC, let alone a D1 OC! Talk about dereliction of duty!
      With the UW budget, he should have conducted a national search and hired a plum, if even for just one year.

    • TheDrake

      Not happy with Hamden so I agree with your point somewhat. Still DJ won 2 out of 3 Rose Bowls and a Sun Bowl and 2 other minor bowl games before Gilby who was agreed a great great hire. Nevertheless DJ new how to get a team ready. Not just the Bowl games but big nonconference wins as well including a shellacking of Ohio St. in the mid 1980’s, 1986 I think. Peterson just doesn’t have proof that he understands how to do that yet. How to prepare a team psychologically to perform at it’s best when playing the best. DJ had them playing to win. CP has them playing not to lose. I know it’s more complicated then that but simply stated that is in my mind a huge issue after watching now 6 or 7 meltdowns in Bowl Games and big NC games.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Larry The Magnificent “Golden Fleece” Scott has been the subject of various posts here, including the good work done by John Canzano with The Oregonian/Oregon Live.
    Recently the NYT had an article specifically covering the conference’s failures, with particular focus on Larry The Magnificent. When you are in the NYT, a giant situation exists. He has to go now.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/sports/rose-bowl-pac12.html

  • TheDrake

    is there a reason my comment is not being posted??

  • Husky73

    Does anyone know who the UW player was in street clothes at the coin toss?

  • Husky73

    It was the purple pants. I’d like to look at the win/loss record when the Huskies wear purple pants. I am guessing that it may be under .500.