By Brent Stecker
The No. 16 Washington Huskies did a lot of things right against No. 2 Oregon on Saturday. But to upset the Ducks, teams need to do everything right, for four full quarters. That’s why, even with a strong first three quarters, the Huskies still fell 45-24 for their 10th straight loss to their rivals from Eugene.
It was the second defeat in as many weeks for Washington against a top five-ranked team — last week it fell on the road to Stanford 31-28 – leaving the Huskies (4-2 overall) at a disappointing 1-2 in Pac-12 play.
Huskies RB Bishop Sankey rushed for two touchdowns, but his lost fumble helped Oregon build a two-score lead heading into halftime. (AP)
“We played with Stanford for 60 minutes and we played with these guys for three and a half quarters. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get it done against two really good teams,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota shredded the Husky defense for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 24 for 31 passing, plus 88 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and as a whole the Ducks amassed a staggering 631 yards of total offense despite playing without injured star running back De’Anthony Thomas. Trying to match such a potent offense put a lot of pressure on the Huskies, and while 376 yards of offense is nothing to scoff at, their two turnovers to Oregon’s zero stick out like a sore thumb.
“When you turn it over twice and they don’t turn it over at all, it’s the number one stat in football that impacts wins and losses,” Sarkisian said. “Both of our turnovers occurred in their territory so they took away potential points off the board for us and gave them possession. So I thought that both of those plays really had an impact on the outcome of the game.”
Oregon didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter, when it quickly turned a seven-point lead into a 21-point advantage to put the game on ice. But it was the second quarter, when both Washington turnovers occurred, that put the Huskies behind the 8-ball.
“We just didn’t execute great as an offensive football team,” Sarkisian said of the second quarter. “We had a couple of plays there where protection broke down and (quarterback Keith Price) maybe got a little bit unsettled.”
Price, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, was picked off midway through the quarter by Erick Dargan at Oregon’s 12 on a throw that headed into a gang of Ducks defenders.
“We were just on the wrong page. I don’t know, I should have probably just took a sack or something. We were just on different pages,” Price said.
Running back Bishop Sankey had another big day for Washington, rushing for a game-high 167 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, including a 60-yard score on fourth and 1. But he also had the Huskies’ other turnover, a fumble that gave Oregon the ball on its own 31 with over 11 minutes to go in the second.
“We were planning on that being four-down territory, that’s why we ran on third down right there,” Sarkisian said. “We were going to go for it on fourth if he didn’t make it. We were in the fringe, we were moving the football. So that (fumble) didn’t help.”
One other thing didn’t add up right for Washington. It scored both times it made it into the red zone, but the second was a field goal. Meanwhile, Oregon took seven trips to the red zone, converted on six, and settled for a field goal just once.
The Huskies will try to get back on track next week against Arizona State on the road. The Sun Devils (3-2) dropped from the Top 25 rankings after a loss last week, but could very well make a return in the polls with a win over Colorado on Saturday night.