What we learned from Washington’s 20-13 loss to Stanford

Sep 29, 2014, 3:52 PM | Updated: Sep 30, 2014, 12:13 pm
Shaq Thompson (7) played three different positions against Stanford and even scored on a fumble ret...
Shaq Thompson (7) played three different positions against Stanford and even scored on a fumble return. (AP)
(AP)

Here’s a look at what was answered and what questions came out of Washington’s 20-13 loss to Stanford on Saturday.

Three things we learned:

1. The secondary is coming along surprising quickly.

The Huskies’ defensive performance was definitely impressive, but the most shocking aspect was the secondary’s handling of the Cardinal’s passing game. Stanford was limited to 178 yards through the air on 17 for 26 attempts by Kevin Hogan, and the Huskies were boosted by a big interception from junior cornerback Marcus Peters in the third quarter. Though Peters is an undisputed star, the rest of the secondary is predominantly inexperienced and has been susceptible against previous opponents. Players like safety Budda Baker and cornerbacks Naijiel Hale and Sidney Jones – each a true freshman – all had a big part in keeping the Cardinal grounded Saturday, though.

“We had three true freshmen out there for a minute a couple times on Saturday, and that’s a little bit scary. But I think they’re making progress,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said Monday. “You can feel it. My hat’s off to Sidney Jones. He’s been out there a lot of snaps on that island, and he’s been playing at a pretty high level. Budda Baker, he hasn’t come off the field yet. He’s on almost all of our special teams, and a couple of those other guys are playing well.”

2. Korey Durkee is more valuable than your average punter.

As great as the defense played, it rarely found itself with its back against the wall. Huskies punter Korey Durkee can be thanked for that. Durkee was huge in the field-possession game, punting seven times for 362 yards (51.7 average), including a 65-yard bomb that pinned the Cardinal on its own 12 late in the fourth quarter and played a big part in Washington getting the ball back one last time.

“I think our punting game was excellent. Korey Durkee was really, really good,” Petersen said.

3. Cyler Miles has a lot of work in front of him.

One player who will stay busy during the bye is sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles, who struggled mightily against the stingy Cardinal’s defense. Miles had a tough time getting anything going Saturday, finishing the game with only 98 yards on 15 for 29 passing and a net of just 1 yard rushing despite gaining 51.

Petersen made it clear Monday that he won’t consider making a change at quarterback unless absolutely necessary, but it’s easy to see that he plans to work a lot with Miles before the Huskies’ next game at Cal on Oct. 11.

“I’m open to whatever. I don’t like that at all,” Petersen said in regards to rotating quarterbacks. “I think we’ve got to get our quarterback more time, we’ve got to coach him better, see if he can progress.”

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. How much did the Huskies’ offensive issues have to do with Stanford’s defense?

Considering how much trouble Washington had moving the ball on Saturday, it’s easy to look past the defense it was lined up against. But make no mistake, Stanford is ranked No. 1 in the nation at 6.5 points allowed per game for a reason, and it might be the only team in the country that could hold the Huskies under 200 total yards. That makes it tough to get a read on just how much of the Huskies’ issues were their own doing and how much had to do with playing an exceptional opponent.

2. What can’t Shaq Thompson do?

Shaq Thompson has made huge plays at both linebacker and running back this season, and he’s also an important part of Washington’s special teams. He wore yet another hat on Saturday, filling in periodically at strong safety for Kevin King, who missed the game due to illness. Adding the extra position to his already loaded plate didn’t hurt Thompson’s performance one bit, as he was still the defensive star of the game, totaling seven tackles (one for a loss), forcing two fumbles, and returning one 32 yards for a touchdown. Oh, and by the way, despite predominantly playing defense, Thompson is tied for the team lead with four touchdowns this season.

3. Will Washington be more conservative after the bye week?

Petersen made some pretty bold calls against the Cardinal, and most of them didn’t end up working out. The most glaring was a fake punt run by Thompson on fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter that went for no gain. Petersen took himself to task for the ill-fated play both after the game Saturday and at Monday’s press conference, and he hinted at making some pretty big changes to the playcalling.

“I’ll reiterate again how poor it was of a call on my part on that fake punt,” he said Monday. “That won’t happen again. I will say this: We’ll take chances. That’s who we are and I’m not scared to take chances, and we will. But they’ll be more calculated.”

As for on offense, the playbook may get smaller.

“We’re going to tighten some things up,” he said.

UW

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What we learned from Washington’s 20-13 loss to Stanford