After the debacle at home against BCS Montana, there was little surprise that the Washington Huskies wilted Saturday on the road on national TV, in front of 108,345 loons waving yellow pompoms at Michigan Stadium. So the 31-10 pounding (box) at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines was expected.
The way it happened was a little breathtaking: The Huskies were dominated on both sides of the scrimmage line.
The UW tradition of gnarly behemoths in purple rage was little in evidence; at halftime, the Huskies gained 15 yards rushing in 19 attempts, In the second half on defense, haplessness prevailed; after some success holding Michigan to 10 points at intermission, the defense ended up getting no turnovers, no sacks and surrendering 343 yards rushing, the highest total against UW since Stanford in 2011.
Michigan attempted only five passes in the second half, 15 for the game. Were Midwest ground-pounding coaching legends Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes still around, they would have called Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s offense boring.
“We didn’t give them any reason not to run the ball,” said an exasperated UW coach Jimmy Lake, expressing the futility of having no control of the game that sent the Huskies’ record to 0-2 for the first time since the sorrowful hash of 2008 when UW was winless.
Hell, Lake didn’t even have control of the game on the first scrimmage play when the score was 0-0.
The Huskies were charged with delay of game on the first snap. That is a standard for incompetence that will be hard to top.
“We got the call in late, and all of a sudden the play clock had already started, and the crowd was going,” Lake said. “It’s everything that we’ve worked on in practice, blaring noise and blaring music. So it’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to execute. It comes back to us as coaches.”
It sure as hell does. How can a team not know its first play?
Especially for Lake’s offense. It was always going to be a run between the tackles anyway, because that’s what he knows. You may recall last season he wore a ballcap to press conference that read, “Run The Damn Ball.” So he tried, way too often, which helped Washington go three-and-out on its first three possessions. The Huskies’ initial first down came on a roughing-the-passer penalty on the first play of the second quarter.
Only after halftime did Lake seem to sense the desperation and begin introducing the forward pass right away. Not until 5:54 was left in the third quarter did Peyton Henry’s 28-yard field goal end the number of consecutive scoreless possessions at 19, begun after an opening-drive touchdown against Montana.
Lake also was bamboozled by a trick called by Harbaugh, of all people.
On a fourth-and-one at its own 30, Michigan eschewed a punt and snapped the ball to upback Michael Barrett, who gained three yards and a first down. On the next play, RB Blake Corum, on his way to a career-best 171 yards, went untouched on a trap play 67 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
“It was a huge momentum shift,” Lake said. “That’s the nature of college football, especially when you’re on the road in that hostile environment.”
It was another play added to a growing list of situations for which Lake seems unprepared. One of his players, sophomore DB Dom Hampton, was called for a taunting penalty in the third quarter after the Huskies stopped Michigan on third down. Four plays later, Michigan scored a touchdown to go up 24-3. Is Lake responsible for all moments of immaturity among his players? Probably not, but the slack granted coaches begins to go away with each unexpected loss and mis-step.
The long-awaited test against Michigan happened on a day when No. 12 Oregon shook up the Pac-12 Conference and the college football nation by beating No. 3 Ohio State 35-28 in Columbus. The Buckeyes have been a top-tier outfit for years, including eight wins in a row over rival Michigan, five on Harbaugh’s watch. If the Wolverines can handle the Huskies so readily, what does that say for Washington’s chances against the Ducks at Husky Stadium Nov. 6, allegedly the game of the year?
But there is no looking ahead at Montlake. There is only the next crisis of the week, this time Saturday against Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, 1-1 after beating Central Arkansas 40-21 and losing to Memphis Saturday, 55-50.
The Huskies received a little help Saturday with the return from injury of No. 1 WR Terrell Bynum, who caught UW’s only touchdown pass this season and finished with 115 yards on five receptions. But three of his four fellow wideouts did not play again.
Yet none of them play on the line, where Huskies teams of the past used to make their reputations for toughness. The current groups and their coaches are making reputations of a different kind.