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November 6, 2011

Huskies sputter in loss to Ducks

The atmosphere before the final home game in Husky Stadium on Saturday night was electric.

Two heated rivals were meeting in a Pac-12 Con conference clash, while Washington celebrated the 20-year anniversary of a national championship.

The game itself didn't live up to the hype. At least not from the Huskies' perspective.

"I thought our fans brought a lot of energy and excitement and unfortunately we didn't perform well enough offensively to win," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Ducks defeated the Huskies, 34-17, Saturday night for the eight consecutive time.

Two offensively dominant teams met and in the first quarter the two teams combined for just 115 yards and one touchdown.

While the Husky offense never got rolling, the Ducks' offense came out rolling in the third and decisive quarter that put the Huskies away for good.

Behind their three headed rushing attack of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas, the Ducks put up 17 points in the third that put them ahead 34-17; which ended up being the final tally.

In a season where the Husky defense has taken the blunt of the criticism, it was the offense that failed the Huskies against Oregon.

Washington's total yardage (278) and points (17) were both season-lows.

"I think we really hurt ourselves with three turnovers and we didn't play very physical up front," said receiver Kevin Smith, who dropped an easy touchdown catch in the third quarter. "I think we hurt ourselves more than they beat us."

The Husky offensive line had fits with the Oregon front seven throughout the game, giving up a season-high six sacks and forcing Keith Price to rush several throws.

"I thought our D-line really created a lot of pressure and we knew with such an efficient quarterback like Keith that we couldn't sacrifice coverage," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "Our guys did a great job."

Price had one of his worst games as a Husky, tossing two interceptions and throwing for only 143 yards. Both interceptions set up Oregon touchdowns that put the Huskies in a 17-3 hole.

"They weren't his best throws, either, and they got over the top," Sarkisian said about Price's two interceptions. "I thought he got just a little bit undisciplined in his footwork."

The Oregon defense also bottled up Chris Polk and the Washington running game, holding the unit to 82 yards rushing, the first time this season the Huskies didn't gain over 100 yards on the ground. Polk had 79 of those yards.

Even with the offensive struggles, the Husky defense, combined with mistakes from the Oregon offense, kept Washington in the game.

The Ducks gained just 381 yards in the game, 145 yards under their season average. Oregon's 34 points were 13.5 points under their season average.

"I thought our guys played hard defensively," Sarkisian said. "We minimized the big play."

The Huskies were one play away from getting the ball back in the third quarter, trailing 24-17, with all of the momentum on their side.

Instead, the Ducks converted a huge third down and 9 to extend their drive and eventually scored a touchdown to go up by 14.

"I thought one of the crucial plays of the game, with everything that went on, was when we cut the lead to 24-17 and they had a third and 9 and hit the seam route to (David) Pauson," said Sarkisian. "I thought that was one of the key moments of the ball game. But then we couldn't get right offensively after that."

A lone bright spot for Washington on offense was the emergence of freshman receiver Kasen Williams, who had a brilliant night.

Williams caught six passes for 79 yards, including a touchdown grab high in the air near the sideline, where he barely had enough room to get a foot in bounds. He also caught a 53-yard pass from Nick Montana in the fourth quarter when Price went out for one play with an injury.

His great night likely will be one of many, but in the final game in Husky Stadium, he put on his own show. The only problem was the rest of the Husky offense was nowhere to be seen.

Sarkisian had one word that he used over and over following the loss to Oregon.

"Disappointing."

Sarkisian expects to have a short memory. The Huskies will travel to USC next week to take on the Trojans as they will look to bounce back and get back on track on offense.

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals


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