BY Art Thiel 01:44AM 10/06/2019

Thiel: Turns out UW’s Cal loss wasn’t the worst

This wasn’t supposed to be the same caliber Stanford team of years past. Turns out, in a 23-13 loss, the Huskies weren’t even the same Huskies from last week.

In Palo Alto Saturday, Jacob Eason looked lost. / Drew McKenzie, Sportpress Northwest file

And you thought the Washington Huskies’ annual dork game was the 20-19 home loss to Cal, a contest that at least had the nearly three-hour weather delay that might be twisted, by a guy with huge forearms, into some some sort of pathetic excuse.

Turns out the dork game was Saturday night in Palo Alto. Unless, of course, this is a double-dork season.

Who knows? Might not stop at a double.

System-wide failures were evident in the 23-13 loss (box) to a Stanford team that was a 17-point underdog, impressing almost no one in its 2-3 start.

After a slick, game-opening touchdown drive, the 15th-ranked Huskies offense imploded. An experienced line was unable to create a running game. QB Jacob Eason earned a Cyler Miles-grade effort for his judgment and accuracy. The wide receivers, plus TE Hunter Bryant, lived down to the worst expectations of them in August.

The defense . . . well, including the second half of the previous game against USC, it has given up 782 yards in the past six quarters. It seems as if that nearly every holdover starter has plateaued or regressed, and the new guys aren’t ready to start at the Pac-12 level.

They were up against a second-time starting quarterback, and the injury-bedeviled Cardinal line finished the game with three true freshmen starters. Nobody on the Cardinal was named Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffrey, Bryce Love or Zach Ertz.

It’s probably unfair to suggest that Washington State coach Mike Leach doesn’t have the only fat, dumb, happy and entitled team in the state. But it is fair to note that deservedly maligned former UW coach Tyrone Willingham was able to do something that coach Chris Petersen has yet to accomplish in three tries — win at Stanford.

True, Willingham’s feat was so long ago (2007) that the iPhone was just showing up in stores. Yes, kids, Old Testament stuff.

But it’s fair to bring up the coaching comparison because the game echoed the worst of Willingham — the lack of strategic answers for the unexpected.

“We got whipped, across the board,” Petersen said. “They outplayed us in all phases. They executed their plan a heck of a lot better than we did.

They got after us. On offense, I don’t know if we had enough answers.”

That last remark points directly at the coaching staff, primarily first-year offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. On a night of widespread futility, the inability of the coaches to dial up countermeasures against a defense that entered the game ranked 115th in passing defense (287.4 yards per game) and 111th in touchdown passes allowed (11) was a shocker.

Heralded QB Jacob Eason was a non-event. He completed 16 of 36 passes for 206 yards, a career-first TD to TE Cade Otton and one interception. In addition, he nearly spun himself silly running from the pass rush, including one horrific sack that nearly dropped him in The Bay.

He counted minus-18 yards in the rushing stats, which left the team total at a miserable 88.

“If you don’t run the ball for 100 yards in our offense,” Petersen said, “that’s going to be a problem.”

Then the news grew worse. After running for a respectable 64 yards in 10 carries, redshirt freshman RB Richard Newton had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter with a badly injured left ankle. By then, the trailing Huskies abandoned the run and grew desperate to pass, helping account for a whopping 39-21 disparity in minutes of possession.

“It’s like playing an academy school that plays option,” Petersen said. “They get the time of possession and you stand on the sidelines feeling like you got to make all your plays.

“If you don’t, you punt, and they hold it again. The defense was on the field too long and got tired at the end.”

In the first half, Stanford averaged seven yards on first down. Even though the Huskies defense hulked up in the red zone to hold a pair of field-length drives to field goals, the Cardinal led 13-10 at intermission and seemed in control of events.

That happened despite the absence of senior QB starter K.J. Costello (thumb). His backup, junior Davis Mills, was, like Eason,  five-star recruit who showed why when he completed 21 of 30 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. He was everything Eason wasn’t.

In fairness to Eason, he had little help from his receivers aside from senior Aaron Fuller, who caught nine balls for a career-high 171 yards. He was targeted 17 times in UW’s 34 attempts, a stark sign that the other receivers are not trusted. Fuller and Bryant each had two drops.

Meanwhile, Stanford RB Cameron Scarlett, a 6-1, 216-pound senior from Portland, behind a makeshift line, rumbled for 151 yards on a clock-eating 33 carries.

“It wasn’t surprising what they did — they held the ball, and they converted third down,” Petersen said. “They had about three run plays. Scarlett put his pads down and broke tackles. It was everything we tried to work on in the week.”

But failed. The inability to wrap up Cardinal ball-carriers was acute, as was the failure to disrupt Mills, who was sacked once and hurried once.

The upshot is the Huskies are 4-2 (1-2 in the North Division) and heading in the wrong direction a week after a 28-14 triumph over USC. They have another road game Saturday in Tucson against a 4-1 Arizona team the leads the South Division at 2-0 after beating Colorado 35-30 Saturday.

At least it won’t be a dork game, because the Wildcats appear to be the better team.


  • jafabian

    The Huskies were more than outplayed, they were out-coached. They were heavily favored but instead were playing catch-up the entire game. After their first TD Stanford made adjustments and the Huskies never did. Though the defense is still feeling the loss of last year’s starters it’s time to move on from that. And yes, the WR’s didn’t help Eason but he’d help his cause if he’d learn to look off the defender. He missile locks on his receiver like Maverick in his jet fighter with a MIG in his sights. At this point I’m not too sure about facing Oregon.

    • art thiel

      All true, especially Eason’s stare-downs.

      They have their hands full vs. AZ.

  • Talkjoc

    Where to start…..Did UW spend all of it’s coaching budget on Lake and trade in a beat-up junker car for OC Hamdan? Where was the receiving corps? We get some success running the ball till we meet the red-zone then its pass, pass, pass. Sorry Eason, you’re NOT NFL material, yet. Other side of the ball…..does Lake teach tackling or did we skip that class? So now we’ve got to listen to Coach P give us the yadda yadda we got out coached speech. So, what are you going to do about it? I say, trade in those plane tickets for a cramped charter bus and make em think about it on a long, slow bus-ride home. Guess we aren’t who we thought we were…..good.

    • art thiel

      I’m sure there’s going to be a reckoning this week. Evidence grows that Hamdan wasn’t ready for the OC job.

      • 1coolguy

        “Evidence grows that Hamdan wasn’t ready for the OC job”
        Geeez Art, do ya think???

        • art thiel

          Hey, there’s no way I’m as smart as you.

      • Effzee

        I’ll believe it when I see it. That other 12-year-old in charge of the running game needs to go too. The University of Washington can do better than employing all of CP’s tag-alongs from the Mountain West Conference.

  • ReebHerb

    I didn’t see many of the flying through the air Willingham missed tackles of yore. Instead, it was make contact, get additional help, and then take an additional 5-6 yards to stop the play. The PAC-12 gets little respect? Actually, the PAC-12 gets too much respect. The Oregon Cal game wasn’t pretty either.

    • art thiel

      Stanford was recently overpowered by UCF, fercripesakes.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Out-coached in every phase of the game.

    • art thiel

      Amazing that the Huskies D seemed to have no idea the screen pass was in Stanford’s playbook.

  • coug73

    The Trees Dropped Leaves on the U Dub. Never, take your opponent lightly.

    • art thiel

      They dropped big branches. Physically overpowered.

  • ll9956

    I’ve been watching the Huskies for decades and can’t remember a more shameful performance. And this includes the coaches. Isn’t one of their primary responsibilities getting the team mentally ready to play? They sure didn’t this time. It’s going to take enormous, huge, immense, gigantic improvement in all aspects, for the Dawgs to have any hope of redemption.

    • art thiel

      It ranks up there with the worst. They had a big emotional letdown from the USC win and were whipped physically, and were uninspired mentally.

      • Husky73

        OK, wait a minute……More instant discontent from the internet generation…..” a more shameful performance?” ….”ranks up there with the worst?” What exactly was shameful? They lost a football game at Stanford, which has been a tough place for the Huskies to win for a long time. The worst? There have been decades of whopping losses to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, USC, UCLA and Oregon. Don James, who apparently walked on water and never lost a game, had many indignities, including to a nation’s-worst Oregon State team. On Saturday night, on the road, they lost to David Shaw (who has won a LOT of games), and to a 5-star quarterback. There is a lot of football to be played. Don’t open a vein yet. By the way, through 6 seasons, Don James was 44-25. Through 5.5 seasons, Petersen is 51-23.

        • art thiel

          I meant to write “his” worst. Obviously, nearly the whole Willingham era was worse, along with many other periods in UW history. But in Petersen’s time, especially after the first four years when the recruits were all his, this was across the board bad. Stanford certainly took out its poor seasonal start on UW, but the failure to counterpunch Saturday was grim.

  • 1coolguy

    A few thoughts:
    – Eason is a 1st round choice and if his options are to sign up for the draft or play another year under clueless Hamdan, he is gone.
    – Huard should reconsider his commit if Hamdan is still OC.
    – CP needs to wake up and hire a tried, tested and SUCCESSFUL OC – Doug Nussmeier and Keith Gilbertson, 2 of UW’s best OC’s, must have been throwing up
    – CP needs to rethink what he is doing – they are beaten AT HOME by Cal, they have a very average game with USC (thank God for the 2 plays that instantly won the game!) and now lose to 2-3 Stanford. Their dreaming if the thin they will even win the PAC-12 north. 0-2 now and they will be 0-3 after Oregon thrashes them.
    – Eason passed for 180 against USC and 181 against Stanford’s 100+ ranked secondary fergawdsakes!!! If that isn’t stark evidence of a lousy OC’s game plan, I don’t know what is.
    Oh, and another thing: CP, this season is OVER!

    • art thiel

      Over? You call the Cheez-it Bowl over?

      Would you be willing to accept that this is a step-back year in disguise?

      • Tian Biao

        Art, no, not a step-back year! that evokes hellish images of a franchise that fell 18 years ago and never got back up . . .

  • Husky73

    It’s the purple pants. I’m serious. I’d like to know what the UW’s record is wearing purple pants. It’s awful. Please don’t wear purple pants in Tucson.

    • art thiel

      Didn’t know you were such a fashionista.

    • Effzee

      Also, after several games to take it in and make sure I think what I think, I have concluded that the numbers look dumb. They are better than the Nike numbers, that is true. But someone in the Adidas design team had a too-clever idea and nobody had the sense to say “no” the them.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      That’s like your wife asking, do these pants make me look fat? Trick question and there is no right answer. However in regards to the Dawgs, it’s not the purple pants that makes the Huskies play poorly. It’s because they played horribly.