After waiting all day for the game to start, Saturday’s matchup between Oregon and Washington was over in a blink. At the end of the first quarter, Oregon had a gift-wrapped 21-0 lead because of two Washington turnovers and a massive bust on defense. We received further explanation on each. Let’s take a look:
THE PUNT MUFF
We’ll start with Marvin Hall’s punt muff. Washington had just stopped Oregon for the second time in as many drives. Hall was setup at Washington’s 32-yard line, in good shape to catch the 45-yard punt from Jackson Rice.
Washington put its block on, so, typically, they teach Hall and other returners that’s an almost automatic fair-catch situation. This time, when the ball was in the air, Steve Sarkisian changed the call and yelled to Hall to return the punt. “We let him know he was good — I did — so he tried to make the return,” Sarkisian said Monday.
Here’s what Hall was looking at just before the punt got to him:
Washington cornerback Greg Ducre was beaten by Oregon gunner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and was right on top of Hall as the punt came down. Hall knew it, tried to snag the ball and sidestep in one motion, taking his eyes off the kick, and muffed it. This wasn’t a freshman mistake per se. It was the wrong call by Sarkisian to a freshman punt returner who should have taken the fair catch, but was doing what he was told.
THE COVERAGE BUST
This happened on the next Oregon possession. Cornerback Tre Watson was turned in toward the middle of the field looking for the call just after Oregon completed a 48-yard pass to Colt Lyerla. The Huskies had to sprint down the field, get set with Oregon and get the call in.
Here’s how it looked with the ball in the air:
That’s Watson turning to run toward Keanon Lowe, who just ran straight to the end zone. Immediately after the play, safety Sean Parker threw his hands up and pointed at Lowe when Watson turned to Parker.
“Lack of communication with Sean and Tre,” Sarkisian said after the game. “You don’t communicate, that’s what happens.”
This is also a byproduct of Oregon’s snap-it-now system. If they walk to the line, Watson would be organized. They didn’t. He wasn’t. Touchdown.
THE PICK SIX
To cap the first-quarter disasters, Keith Price locked on to DiAndre Campbell and Oregon cornerback Avery Patterson easily jumped the route for the pick-six.
A couple looks at the play developing:
That’s Campbell in the slot with Patterson playing soft, well off him.
Price turns toward Campbell right at the snap. He never leaves him and Patterson sees it all the way.
Price, the bottom left corner of the screen, can only watch Patterson sprint to the end zone. He threw his hands out to the side, a rare show of irritation on the field for him. I asked him what he thought to cause that reaction.
“Man, like, ‘Oh, my God, here we go,’ ” Price said. “You just can’t give teams like this, good teams, any kind of momentum. You never know. The outcome of the game could have been different. Maybe we just punted the ball on fourth down. But just giving them points, that’s not the way to go.”
Price explained further what happened on that play.
“Undisciplined. I should have been working the opposite side of the field. Even if I would have thrown the ball accurately, worst-case scenario he bats the ball down and we’ve got another play, but just giving up seven points, it’s just uncharacteristic of me.”
He said that, naturally, there are built-in counters in Washington’s offense when faced with specific defensive setups. He didn’t heed what he’s learned, and knows, in the system on that play. It cost him seven points and essentially ended the game.