Oregon crashes the party at Husky Stadium
Ducks control the game in 34-17 victory
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Washington wanted to send out Husky Stadium with one last heart-stopping moment.
Instead, the Huskies got yet another back-to-reality defeat handed to it by the party-crashing Oregon Ducks, who pulled away in the second half to win 34-17.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian afterward described the Husky locker room as somber.
"They wanted to end Husky Stadium as great as we all did and close this thing out the way that I think we all hoped it could, and it didn't happen," Sarkisian said.
He pointed largely to a UW offense that was surprisingly ineffective, held to a season-low 17 points and just 278 yards, giving up six sacks.
Sarkisian called the sacks "a crazy number" and "embarrassing."
"I was not anticipating our inability to block them up front," he said.
There were a few moments when UW got the 91-year-old stadium, which will undergo a $250 million renovation that officially begins Monday, rocking like some of the glory days of yore.
But the Ducks — despite making a few uncharacteristic mistakes — unveiled yet another of their trademark second-half charges to turn the game into yet another double-digit victory over the Huskies.
Oregon now has won eight in a row against UW. Up until this game, however, all had been by 20 or more points.
"I mean I've lost every time I've been here to them," said junior cornerback Desmond Trufant, calling Oregon's dominance of UW frustrating.
Oregon led just 17-10 at halftime as the Huskies expertly executed a ball-control offense that limited the Ducks to just 22 plays in the first two quarters and just 6:15 of possession — a shockingly low total even for an Oregon team that operates quickly.
Oregon, though, scored on all three of its possessions in the third quarter to break out to a 34-17 lead, gaining 194 yards in the process.
A critical play came with Oregon ahead just 24-17 and facing a third-and-nine at its own 31. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas calmly hit a wide-open David Paulson for 34 yards to set up another Ducks touchdown with 6:05 left, and the game was never really in doubt again.
"That was a key moment," Sarkisian said of a completion that silenced a crowd that was as loud as at any time all night.
UW is now 6-3 on the season and 4-2 in Pac-12 play, and 0-3 this year in games against ranked opponents. Oregon is 8-1 and 6-0 in conference play and now has a North Division showdown on tap this Saturday against Stanford.
A season-high crowd of 69,407 turned out for the final game in this configuration of Husky Stadium, and UW celebrated the history of the stadium throughout, honoring past UW greats such as Don McKeta, Sonny Sixkiller and Steve Emtman on the field at every timeout.
But all the emotion in the stadium wasn't enough to stop an explosive Oregon offense that had a myriad of errors, including a dropped touchdown pass and two missed field goals. Still, the Ducks mustered enough to win, thanks in part to Washington's sluggish offense.
"For whatever reason, we didn't play great offensively," Sarkisian said.
The first half somewhat defied the conventional wisdom that the game would be a shootout.
Oregon led just 17-10 and had just 134 yards, far off its per-game average of 529.6. UW, averaging 429.6 coming in, was held to just 131 in the first half.
And the play was sloppy throughout.
UW, though, used a run-heavy game plan to control the ball for 23:45 of the half.
But Washington couldn't convert all that time of possession into many points as quarterback Keith Price threw two interceptions in the first half, one in each quarter, both on high passes that were picked off by Oregon's Eddie Pleasant.
Sarkisian said the Oregon safeties were reading Price's eyes and just got the better of the Huskies on those two plays.
Said Price: "Those were on me. No excuses. I've got to make a better read and we can't turn the ball over two times against a good team like that."
The first came on UW's initial drive of the game. Pleasant returned it to the 32 and Oregon needed just three plays to score, LaMichael James running it in from 18 yards out to make it 7-0.
Oregon threatened to turn the game into a rout when Pleasant again picked off a Price pass early in the second quarter and returned it to the UW 34.
Oregon needed just four plays to score, Thomas hitting Paulson, a tight end from Auburn Riverside High School, for a 4-yard TD. That made it 17-3 with 10:10 remaining in the second quarter.
UW, though, closed to 17-10 at halftime with a drive that ended with a 1-yard pass from Price to Michael Hartvigson with 30 seconds left.
Oregon appeared to take command with an easy 90-yard, 12-play drive to start the second half and take a 24-10 lead on a 1-yard run by Kenjon Barner. But UW then rebounded with its best drive of the night, going 75 yards in nine plays, capped by a 10-yard pass from Price to Kasen Williams, the true freshman from Skyline High who had a career-high six catches.
Williams made a leaping grab over Oregon safety John Boyett and just got a foot inbounds to make it 24-17 with 8:33 to go in the third quarter.
But the long pass to Paulson set up another score to make it 31-17.
That compelled Sarkisian to go for it when UW reached the Oregon 49 on its next drive but faced a fourth-and-four.
UW lost 3 yards on the play, Oregon took over at the Husky 48 and drove for another field goal.
And that was pretty much that, both for the game and the stadium.
UW will play this week at USC, the following week at Oregon State and then end the regular season on Nov. 26 against Washington State at CenturyLink Field.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com