Good game, Oregon: Danny O’Neil on UW Huskies’ devastating loss
Good game, Oregon.
OK. That took pretty much every morsel of maturity and perspective I have left to say that, but I did it.
And it was a good game Saturday between the Ducks and UW Huskies. The kind that makes you feel so very alive while it is happening.
I had a low-grade stomach ache for the entirety of the second half, first from the anxiety of that third-quarter drive that Washington absolutely had to have, and then the excitement of a fourth quarter in which the Huskies twice drove into Oregon’s half of the field, poised to take a lead.
And to be fair, Washington did take the lead. In overtime. And the Huskies had Oregon facing third-and-11 at the far end of field-goal range.
When the Ducks eventually won the game on a 6-yard run on third down I literally couldn’t see straight. I’m serious. Things got blurry on the periphery and it took me a moment to digest what I had just seen, and, well, here I am doing my best to acknowledge Oregon’s victory and stand up to take my medicine after the endless amounts of (trash) I talked about the Ducks last week.
Congratulations. There, I said it. We done here? Do I have to acknowledge that Justin Herbert’s touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd at the end of the second quarter was about as good a throw-and-catch combination as you’re going to see in college football this season? Or that as mad as I was about the botched quarterback sneak by Washington on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, I also realize the large slice of humanity that is Jordon Scott deserves some credit there for what he did to the Huskies’ most experienced lineman? (On a secondary note, why in the hell is that aforementioned monster wearing No. 34? It’s just weird and not entirely fair. That number is for running backs, not carnivorous monuments who make short-yardage situations so very difficult.)
This was quite clearly a stomach-punch loss according to definitive taxonomy of defeats authored by one Bill Simmons. It was absolutely devastating not just because of the importance of the game and the degree of animosity toward the opponent, but because of the way it actually happened.
I thought Washington had the victory and then watched it turn to ash, a reality that was made worse by the fact that there wasn’t anybody you could really get mad at.
The kicker, Peyton Henry, is a redshirt freshman who undoubtedly feels worse about it than anyone. All he did was give his best effort, and I am absolutely convinced that there’s a special place in the afterlife for anyone who boos – let alone curses at – an amateur athlete. Besides, he’s got to keep his head up because there’s an awful lot of football to be played this season.
The quarterback played what I thought was an absolutely marvelous second half from the aforementioned third-quarter drive in which he had two clutch third-down completions and an absolutely great touchdown throw to Ty Jones. Jake Browning gets scrutinized an awful lot, but that was a second half in which he was poised and ruthless and gave Washington a shot to win.
There’s certainly room to quibble with the coaching decisions. I wish the Huskies had tried to get closer in the final minute of regulation. They could have picked up a first down on third-and-1 and taken a shot or two at the end zone, but honestly, the risks of taking a sack there or being intercepted are very real.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the third-and-goal fade in overtime, either. But the Huskies were down to their third- and fourth-string tailbacks and there are worse ideas than lofting a pass to the big receiver who has been great at contested catches in the end zone this season.
There was no coaching malpractice here. Just a few debatable decisions that you can isolate and villainize in hindsight if you’re in desperate need of someone to blame. When it comes down to it, the Huskies were playing on the road for the second straight week and in position to win this game against a ranked opponent coming off a bye. Twice.
The fact that Washington didn’t only adds to the anguish of a loss that was hardly the worst under Chris Petersen, but was certainly the most painful. At least for me.