Saturday’s postgame came with a different tone: rationalization.
Oregon is the top ranked team in the country. Washington most certainly is not. What followed the 53-16 Ducks flick away was a variety of yeah, buts from the Huskies.
Gone is the preseason bravado. Out is the boasting to boosters. A week after saying they “hit rock bottom,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian explained Oregon wore out his Huskies.
Oregon pushed and pushed until Washington fell off the cliff. The Ducks used a manic offensive pace to grind down the Huskies. By the third quarter, Washington’s defensive starters were bent at the waist after chasing Oregon athletes while on defense and special teams.
All-conference linebacker Mason Foster gasped. He made 14 tackles on Saturday, zooming from sideline to sideline. He was also smashed by one, two or three Ducks when chasing punt and kick returners.
Washington can’t afford to have the youngsters play special teams, so Foster and other graybeard starters, like safety Nate Williams, are charged with the sprint-collision-sprint drudgery of the third facet. Then they have to try to stop the nation’s best offense.
That formula is made with ill-fitting ingredients. By week nine, in Autzen Stadium, it’s a rotten one.
The choices come with clarity: remove the starters from special teams in order to give them rest or leave them and watch the players wilt. If the reliable are out, the green are in. Pick.
Sarkisian chose the latter. That changed the game.
Washington, mostly thanks to Oregon’s opportunity muffing, was hanging around. Just 18-13 Ducks at the start of the third quarter following D’Andre Goodwin’s touchdown catch from Keith Price.
Then a hint of doom.
Oregon’s Josh Huff took the following kickoff back 80 yards. The Ducks started a drive at the Washington six-yard line. Touchdown.
Huff is an Oregon backup. After starter Kenjon Barber was hurt, Huff became the primary kickoff returner. Washington starters could not stop him. Nor could backups.
The departure of Jeremiah Masoli made Darron Thomas the starter at quarterback. Otherwise, he’s a backup. Washington could not stop him.
Even the kicker, Rob Beard, opened the year as a backup. He’s yet to miss.
Oregon rotates in 25 players on offense. Sprinting on, sprinting off, sprinting to the line of scrimmage, sprinting downfield.
This left Washington exhausted. Years of being beaten off the field in recruiting have transported the bludgeoning to the turf. There was no depth and no answers on Saturday.
It’s not going to change soon. There will not be waves of talent coming from the Huskies sidelines for at least two more years.
The current roster is split between the old and new regime. By 2012, the Huskies will be all Sarkisian recruits. For now, he’s Obama wrestling with the deficit, left to point at that other guy for damage done.
He’s forced to oversell the new way to those with cash. He has to temper the damage in order not to corrupt the pups.
It’s the overarching game after the games. What is right now another losing fight for a 3-6 team.