EUGENE, Ore. — When Washington ran a fake punt from its own 35-yard line early in the fourth quarter down 45-14, even that was a bust.
Pio Vatuvei looped in to take a direct snap and pushed into the middle of the line. He moved far enough to get the first down on 4th-and-one, but was stripped of the ball. It was Oregon again stomping on Washington’s toes then poking it in the eyes.
Nine years. That’s how long it has been since the Huskies have beaten the Ducks.
Saturday’s game wasn’t just another loss to Oregon. It was a confidence-shaking debacle for the Huskies. The Ducks were up 21-0 in a blink after Washington continually handed Oregon points directly — like when Keith Price made a bad read and it resulted in pick-six — or when a muffed punt by Marvin Hall gave Oregon a short field.
Washington committed five turnovers. Price was involved in three, but only at fault for two, though each crucial. The aforementioned interception for a touchdown, plus a fumble when he was caught from behind on a scramble that would have been a first down at the Oregon 34-yard line when Washington was down 28-7 in the second quarter. Price’s second interception went through DiAndre Campbell’s hands, hit him in the helmet, then was picked off at the Oregon 2-yard line. Those three turnovers cost Washington at least 10 points and provided Oregon with seven.
Which, of course, is the way to implode any chance of upsetting the No. 2 team in the country on the road.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “The turnovers early, giving them a short field, that team, we blow two coverages that were day one install, that part is so frustrating for me and for our kids. We really felt like we could come in and play with them.”
Not when Price is playing like this. His completion percentage is down to 59.5 percent. He has five touchdowns, four interceptions, and ongoing challenges from pressing. It’s a fair time to ask if the departure of quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, who revamped Price’s mechanics his redshirt year, is part of the issue.
Per usual, he was quick to absorb as much blame as anyone would allow.
“Obviously, I haven’t been playing the way I wanted to play and it’s very humbling,” Price said. “I just need to go back to the basics and fundamentals of things. Three-step drop and get the ball out. Make my reads. I’m seeing the safety rotations and going back to the way I play football.”
Price appeared frustrated Saturday night, as much as he can. He’s used a smooth, level approach since taking over the job as starting quarterback. The change this season is opposition gameplans for him, not Chris Polk. Two safeties sit deep, daring the Huskies to run or allowing them to dump passes underneath.
Gone are the play-action strikes that were a staple of last year’s offense. Gone is Polk, who could settle down a game himself.
Gone in the second half Saturday was Austin Seferian-Jenkins. After he was pulled down from behind late in the second quarter, he left the game. He limped on the sidelines, pedaled on the exercise bike, then hobbled to the lockerroom at the half.
Seferian-Jenkins did not play the second half. Sarkisian said postgame that he didn’t know the severity of what appeared to be a left ankle injury for Seferian-Jenkins. Not that Sarkisian would tell, if he did.
So, Washington is left to regroup after another road bashing by a top-five team. The Huskies can shift the blame to themselves. But, Oregon also deserves credit. They came up with tipped balls or muffed punts or made the quick and proper reads on routes. The beatdown was enough to at least temporarily shake Washington’s psyche.
“It’s tough when you get blown out like that,” Price said. “We have to bounce back. We’ve got another tough team coming in next week.”
Oregon is still too ferocious a machine for the Huskies — and just about anyone — to handle. The Trojans are next and present their own large set of issues.
If Washington hands them opportunity after opportunity,there’s no reason to think the result will be different.