BY Art Thiel 01:53AM 11/24/2019

Thiel: Huskies enter Apple Cup week in free fall

Skunked in the first half by a bad Colorado defense, the Huskies lost lamely, 20-14, while Oregon fell and the Cougars won despite giving up 29 4th-quarter points.

Coach Chris Petersen and crew are in full bewilderment. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest file

On a Saturday wherein sixth-ranked Oregon fell to 5-5 Arizona State and Washington State gave up 29 points in less than 10 fourth-quarter minutes and still won, the Pac-12 Conference events on a cold, dry evening in Boulder, CO, may be little noted nor long remembered.

But that’s only if you don’t wear purple.

Huskies fans can only hope the banging and clattering around the rest of the league drown out the giant sucking sounds Washington made in losing 20-14 to Colorado (box).  Arguably the conference’s worst team entering the game, the Buffaloes appeared to allow the Huskies to win the argument.

For the third time this season (after Cal and Stanford), the Huskies (6-5) lost to an underdog conference foe (5-6) by offering up a feckless offense and a fading defense. This outcome was made acutely odious by the fact that they were coming off their second bye in a month and had not lost to Colorado since a bowl game in 1996, a streak of nine consecutive wins that included all seven matchups since the Buffs entered the league.

“I just know we have more to us than that,” coach Chis Petersen said. “It’s real frustrating. When you come in and score 14 points, that’s not going to be good enough to win in this league.

“We got off to such a poor start offensively in he first half. We put our defense in too much of a back-to-the-wall mentality.”

Before the game came news that Ralphie, the most entertaining live mascot in college football, was unavailable because the buffalo had become too fat. The Huskies played as if they didn’t want Ralphie to languish alone in humiliation.

In the first half, the Huskies had one possession that went 25 yards in seven plays, four drives that were three-and-out, and a red-zone interception by QB Jason Eason — the fifth in his past seven quarters — that was a soul-crusher for an obviously emotionally fragile team.

“That was a huge turnaround,” Petersen said of UW’s second possession that reached the Colorado 11-yard line when Eason forced a throw that LB Nate Landman picked and returned 21 yards. “That hurts. We felt like we had gotten momentum going.”

Mediocre as was Eason’s game — 21 completions in 34 attempts for 206 yards, and a rating of 39.9 — it was spectacular when compared to the rushing attack.

The Huskies managed 32 net yards in 32 carries, although that included a minus-29 from Eason’s five sacks. The Buffs had a conference-low nine sacks entering the game.

Missing RG Jaxson Kirkland, a 25-game starter, who left the game in the first half with what appeared to be a serious leg injury, the offense was virtually shattered by a Colorado defense that had given up 30 or more points in each of its first nine games.

The Buffs, who ended a five-game losing streak last week with a 16-13 win over Stanford, were 10th in scoring defense, 11h in opponent yards per carry, passing defense and opponent pass efficiency, yet shut out the Huskies in the first half.

The first two possessions of the second half produced scoring drives of 75 yards each to show Washington had slowed its rigor mortis. Then in the fourth quarter, the Huskies had what should have been their big break — a 52-yard punt return by Aaron Fuller to the Colorado 37.

Instead, they went backward, due to another of Eason’s often ghastly retreats, resulting in a 13-yard sack and a three-and-out punt. They never held the ball again, the Buffs driving from their own 1-yard line into the Huskies’ red zone in five slow-motion minutes. They out-gained he Huskies 430 yards to 238, including 257-91 in the first half.

“That was painful because we got the momentum play we needed, then got nothing done,” Petersen said of the possession after Fuller’s return. “We had chances. We made some good plays, threw some good balls, made tough catches. We’re just not consistent enough.”

Meanwhile in Pullman, Washington State won another preposterous game, this one 54-53 over Oregon State (box) after Cougars QB Anthony Gordon completed 50 of 70 passes for 606 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. His 45 touchdown passes broke the Pac-12’s single-season record shared by Jake Browning and Jared Goff.

That made Cougars bowl-eligible for a record fifth year in a row, with a 6-5 record that matches Washington’s heading into the annual Apple Cup disputation Friday (1 p.m., FOX) at Husky Stadium that concludes a regular season disappointing for both sides.

The short week around the Thanksgiving holiday provides Washington little in the way of time for repairs. But time is not the Huskies’ issue — they had a bye prior to heading to Boulder.

They have a shortage of Pac-12 level talent and coaching, the latter of which may be altered by a change at offensive coordinator, where Bush Hamdan seems to have no answers for Eason’s wanderings and the equally surprising futility of an experienced line.

The best thing for us is to go right back to work,” Petersen said of the short week. “It’s a big game important to a lot of people, and this team as well. We’ll go at it right away.”

Since the Huskies have won six Apple Cups in a row and are at home, logic suggests that the Huskies should win. But logic, as we have seen this season, is a characteristic down low on the list of invitees to the Pac-12 party, well behind bewilderment, tomfoolery, hijinks, mayhem and officiating incompetence, all scored with Benny Hill’s theme music.

Only three teams have records better than 6-5, and it may be Utah that carries the conference’s tattered flag to the College Football Playoff Arguments Committee. The wizards will begin debate by dusting off an atlas to determine Utah’s location.

 


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    If this doesn’t cause CP to off Hamdan, then CP needs a “come to Jesus” meeting from Cohen, who has a history of hiring excellent HC’s. If CP doesn’t do it, then Cohen needs to either hold his feet to the fire or hire an OC herself and tell CP it’s a new day.
    I was not in town, thankfully, during the 0-12 l season, but I truly have never seen such an inept offense. The stats were horrible, yes, but to the trained eye, there was no evidence of an effective game plan – the play calling had no rhythm, it was incoherent. And as Hamdan is the OC, it means HE runs the offense and is responsible for the OL also, which was HORRIBLE, and the receivers, who are as dismal a group as I have seen at UW.
    This was not a one-off bad game – this has truly been a horrible season. And as you mention the OSU game where we didn’t crack 20, WSU just put up 54 on OSU, to show what a crap offense the UW is running.
    HAMDAN MUST GO, and if he doesn’t resign, it just shows he doesn’t even know how bad he is.
    Meantime, Sark put up 66 today with his SECOND string QB! Just saying.

    • Effzee

      Still pining for ol’ Adultery Drunktank huh? Assuming for a second that UW would want him back, what in the world make you think he would want to bring his family back to this social setting? Exactly one person cannot see what an impossibly putrid idea this is, and that person is you.

      • 1coolguy

        As usual Effzee, you miss the point – WHICH IS: Hamdan is an unqualified MESS as OC and a qualified OC can do wonders for a program. Last I heard Saban is not a fool and recognizes good coaching talent, AND can afford to “buy” any assistant in college football with one phone call. If Sark was his choice, then it speaks volumes.
        Of course Sark is a no-go at UW, any DUMB-ASS knows that, yet the point is a QUALIFIED OC is critical to a programs success and CP needs to find one that has SARKS ABILITIES. Possibly you forgot Sark coached under Pete at USC.

        • Effzee

          Woah hey. Tucker down there, fireball. I don’t miss the point.
          I agree with everything you just said, and I did not forget Sark coached under Carroll, because… well, duh. You’re the one who has, for several weeks, seemed to suggest that Sark might be a solution to our OC problem. Which is, of course, stupid. If you’re not saying that, then I misunderstood you.

    • Husky73

      Eason shares a good deal of the offensive blame. He has a very hard time sustaining a drive. He just throws fastball after fastball. Jake Browning (gasp!) could keep the chains moving with quick check-offs and finding the tight end. Also, Myles Gaskin could turn a one yard gain into four time after time. Eason is not the game manager that Browning was (gasp!), nor is Ahmed a runner that can slide into a small space like Gaskin.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Sark? Hell you could be the offensive coordinator at Bama with basically an NFL talented team. Also helps when Bama plays mostly high school teams over the course of the year, LSU, Auburn the exceptions. Sark burned his bridges here, he ain’t coming back. But you’re correct the team is lacking in quality Div. I coaching talent, and CP’s recruitment skills are puzzling as well. CP will certainly be back next year, but lay another egg like they did this year. The Tyee Club members may be posted out at his office with boiling oil and pitch forks.

      • 1coolguy

        Even though I was pointing out that an OC of Sark’s talents is what is key, I understand 100% that he is a no-go at UW for all the obvious reasons. In his defense, Pete Carroll and Saban are not on anyone’s Fools List, and both hired Sark and he did /has done well for both of them.
        Now that that is said, if CP does not hire a qualified OC, see my comment above.

  • rosetta_stoned

    I wasn’t a fan of the Chris Peterson hiring at the time. He’s done little to change my mind since.

    • Husky73

      It’s Petersen.

  • Husky73

    I’m tellin’ ya….it’s the purple pants. I’d like to know what their won-loss record is when wearing the purple pants. It’s gotta be horrendous.

  • unknownone

    Aah, yes, an unexpected November loss and right on cue out come the fools and tools to claim the Petersen hire was not a good one, pine for the return of 7-win Sark because Alabama put up 66 on WESTERN CAROLINA, and dis the starry eyed Mountain West coaching disciples of CP who have produced three consecutive 10+ win seasons, three consecutive New Years Day bowl games (including a national semi-final appearance), and are now suffering through a down year because after putting multiple players in the NFL over the past few seasons they suddenly find themselves to have an extraordinarily young roster overall (only 30 of 85 scholarship players are upperclassmen). Even Art gets into the act with his gratuitous (and flatly wrong) shot about the shortage of pac-12 level talent and coaching. The sky is clearly falling and Jen Cohen just absolutely must blow the whole thing up and start over. Whatever.

    For those with the ability to take a deep breath and consider a more nuanced view, the overall picture is nowhere near as bleak. Bear in mind that the “dearth” of pac-12 level talent and coaching so bemoaned on this page was within a couple plays at key moments in games against the division champs of taking down both the yucks and the Utes. The difference between these same players in the whoregon/Utah games versus the Stanford/Colorado games is in the former they were jacked up emotionally and ready to play. In the latter, not so much. That’s a classic hallmark of a young team, as is the inability to finish off opponents who are on the ropes, and it’s particularly acute here where there seems to be a lack of fire-breathing leaders among the remaining upperclassmen to get guys going at all (Stanford) or before it’s too late (Colorado). Many of the guys who aren’t “pac-12 caliber” and are taking their lumps this year are going to be absolute studs who play on future sundays in the league. They just need the experience (and development in the weight room and on the practice field, both of which they’ll receive), and they’ll be competing for and winning conference championships. With CP’s track record, my money is on him, not on all you chicken littles. Relax, people. College football is cyclical. This year has been tougher than any of us would like, but it shouldn’t have been unexpected. And it certainly doesn’t mean that CP and his coaching staff have suddenly become a bunch of blithering idiots who can’t coach and can’t develop talent.

    • Husky73

      Whew. I’m exhausted just reading that.

  • ReebHerb

    The Seahawks are having a blessed season even while playing poorly and the Huskies are heading for a very black Friday.

  • ll9956

    I think you were a little too easy on the Huskies, Art. This was the most disgusting performance I can remember and I’ve been watching the Dawgs for decades. (Perhaps there may have been an equal somewhere in the Willingham era?) The players should get today off to rest and recuperate, but the ENTIRE COACHING STAFF doesn’t deserve a micro-second of time off–regardless of what the NCAA rules are or what their contracts call for. They should work all day every day from yesterday until after the Apple Cup.

    BTW, the photo accompanying this article was obviously a relic of the past. It looks like a summer day with players wearing purple pants. They wore gold yesterday. Too bad a photo from yesterday’s game couldn’t be found displaying “full bewilderment”.

    • unknownone

      Oh stop it. You’ve been watching for decades? Then surely you recall losing at home to the beavs as 36 point favorites in ‘85. Or getting boat raced 65-7 at Miami the year after winning the rose bowl. Or getting waxed by the Cornelius Bennett bama squad in a bowl game. Or any of the paint dry ty games during the 0-12 debacle of a season. Or any of the 12 in a row to the yucks. Or Colorado in ‘89 at home. Good grief. Get over yourself. We lost by 6. Either you’re lying about having watched husky football for “decades” and are a complete troll, or you suffer from a severe case of recency bias for which you should seek immediate treatment.

      • ll9956

        Oops! You’re right about the pants, but the jerseys were white, not purple. How many hours did you spend looking up the quoted scores?

  • jafabian

    A downer year in football for UW and WSU. After last season held promise for both. I’d think that most likely Eason returns next season though.

  • Neil

    Love how the Seattle writers totally implode (like a Walmart lawn chair) every time the hometown Purple stub their toe. Most in the nation probably know where Salt Lake City is over “Montlake” or what the hell “sailgating” is. Reminds me of the South Park where the town regales at the smell of their own farts. Oh isn’t that fiting…methane and Montlake in the same response? Ha. Go Cougs!!

  • Richard

    Colorado defensive scheme eas to stack the line on 1st and 2nd down, blitz on 3rd down, then force Washington to punt on 4th. Too many 3 and outs. Offense is way too predictable. What wasn’t Eason benched in 2nd half. Worst Peterson while at UW.
    Since the Huskie team under achieves, what happens this week in apple cup.

  • Mark Stratton

    Chris Peterson is a great coach who has UW heading in the right direction. The Huskies early success built expectations, but the program is not quite ready for prime time. Incoming recruits are a reason to expect this year to be an inevitable hiccup, not a trend. Not sure what’s causing the mental mistakes and lack of preparedness that seem evident lately, but Peterson and the program will rebound.

    The biggest disappointment this year is not Jacob Eason, though he’s tied for #2. The O-line was supposed to be the strength of the team and they have consistently disappointed. Both Utah and Oregon games started with the Huskies o-line playing the bully, but both ended with them getting bullied. Hard to explain. #2 is a tie between Eason and his offensive coordinator. Loyalty is an admirable quality, but Hamdan has to go.

    • DJ

      “The Huskies early success built expectations, but the program is not quite ready for prime time” – Key take and very true. I’ve always been more comfortable with Dawgs remaining unranked and allowed to prove themselves. Too much instant hype these days

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Nice job characterizing a real mess.

    The Huskies have many issues, including youth/inexperience/inconsistency, and poor play selection. However, one constant is Eason’s overthrowing receivers (or just plain poor ball placement).

    It was thought cool early in the season that he had an arm that could out throw a receiver at sixty-some-odd yards. Little did we know that his arm is really a touch and targeting liability and not the asset we thought. (Love your “throwing a baby through Snoqualmie Falls, coming out dry” analogy – except that he just might plant the baby in the river above the falls).

    There has been no visible improvement in Eason’s targeting during the season either – so I guess that counts out him being a worthy “project”. There is no hope nor excitement any more when he throws a long ball when 95% of the time it’s a clean miss. The Huskies on offense are simply hard to watch.

    I don’t see the attraction to Eason beyond his physical numbers, and can’t believe that Petersen passed on the other “Jakes”, let alone any other candidate. (Maybe the mass QB exodus is a show of no confidence in Petersen’s QB selection process). Please remind me what is so special about Chris Petersen, because other than being a really good guy and having done great things at Boise State, I’ve forgotten.

    Apple Cup trends and history aside, this is a very different Husky team, and a sorry and surprising decline to the Petersen era. Coug fans should hydrate well this week in preparation for much postgame celebrating, because unless the Coug’s plain don’t show up, the Apple Cup is theirs for the taking, even if they Coug-it.

  • woofer

    This has to be CP’s most frustrating season so far in terms of the gap between expectations and attainments. Whether Hamdan deserves it or not, he will be offered as a sacrifice to appease the football gods. It will be a long off-season of hand-wringing and soul-searching.

  • Husky73

    Cougar fans (6-5) are excited for the Apple Cup. Husky fans (6-5) are bipolar— suicidal and homicidal. I don’t hear Cougar fans (6-5) calling for the head of Leach and his assistants, as are the Husky fans (6-5). Cougar fans (6-5) will be excited to go to a bowl game. Husky fans (6-5) are anything but excited.