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Originally published November 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM | Page modified November 6, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Steve Kelley

Quick-hitting Oregon offense too much for Washington

Like a gaggle of home-run hitters hammering hanging sliders, the Ducks punish mistakes. And on this brisk autumn evening, when Washington celebrated its storied history and temporarily closed the doors on its creaking stadium, the Huskies were punished.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Whoosh!

They come in torrents, sudden as squalls. No huddle. No mercy. Nonstop. Play after play after play.

Whoosh!

The Oregon Ducks don't let you catch your breath, or collect your thoughts or make your adjustments. They dare you to be as fit as they are. They challenge you to stay with them for a full 60 minutes.

Oregon's spread option opens up the field like an explosion. It hits defenses so hard and fast, it's as if it leaves a wake.

It took Oregon just 145 seconds to run 12 plays and go 90 yards for its first touchdown of the second half Saturday against Washington. The Husky band barely had time to get off the field before the Ducks were in the end zone.

It took Oregon just 139 seconds to go 70 yards for another touchdown on their next possession.

Whoosh!

The Ducks had 194 yards of offense in their 17-point third quarter, which ended with them leading Washington 34-17.

Whoosh!

"They're so up-tempo. Everything's so quick," Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant said after Saturday's 34-17 loss. "They'll run the same play three, four times in a row, just to see if you can stop it. If you can't stop it, you see what happens."

Like a gaggle of home-run hitters hammering hanging sliders, the Ducks punish mistakes. And on this brisk autumn evening, when Washington celebrated its storied history and temporarily closed the doors on its creaking stadium, the Huskies were punished.

This loss to the sixth-ranked Ducks showed just how far the Huskies (6-3) have come in their three years under coach Steve Sarkisian and how far they still have to go.

For the first time in eight years, they hung with the Ducks. After Keith Price threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kasen Williams, Washington trailed only 24-17 with a quarter and a half to play.

But Washington still made too many errors, and when the defense had to make a stop, it didn't. It couldn't.

On this night Price had to be close to perfect. He had to take care of the football like it was his next of kin. And he didn't.

"A few uncharacteristic throws by Keith," Sarkisian said. "It was a big coaching point this week with Keith that they (Ducks) have two savvy safeties (Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett), and they do a nice job of reading the quarterback's eyes. I guess it took him two interceptions to believe that."

For the past two months, Price's star has been so bright, he should have been a planet. He stood as coolly in the pocket as a fifth-year senior. He danced out of trouble, extending plays and giving his receivers those precious extra blinks to break open.

The heir to Jake Locker played even better than Jake Locker. Six games into the season, with Washington at 5-1, Price even was starting to get some Heisman chatter.

No situation was too big for Price. There was no game, no team, no stadium the redshirt sophomore couldn't handle. He was smart and cool and as patient as a cheetah on the hunt.

With his warm smile and cool composure, with his aw-shucks good humor, Price had won over a state full of skeptics in two short months.

But as good as he's been, Price started Saturday's final game at shaky, old Husky Stadium looking jittery for the first time in his career. He had problems eluding Oregon's relentless pass rush. He had trouble with his control.

"He was a little undisciplined in his footwork," Sarkisian said. "We didn't protect the quarterback very well. I don't think Keith was real comfortable in the pocket."

Price's two early turnovers cost Washington 14 early points.

On Washington's first possession, Price overthrew Jermaine Kearse. His pass was picked by Pleasant and returned 16 yards.

It took Oregon just three plays to go 34 yards for the game's first touchdown.

And then Price overthrew a pass intended for Williams, leading to another pick for Pleasant, a 49-yard return that was the starting point of a four-play drive that gave Oregon a 17-3 lead.

The best thing about Price, however, is that he doesn't swoon at misfortune. Even at this embryonic stage of his career, he understands this is a game of peaks and troughs. He doesn't beat himself up after mistakes. He's resilient, unflappable.

At Husky Stadium, where Washington fans have been spoiled by great quarterbacks from Bob Schloredt to Locker, from Sonny Sixkiller to Warren Moon and the Huards, Hugh Millen, Chris Chandler and Mark Brunell, Price rebounded from his rocky start.

He threw touchdown passes to Michael Hartvigson and to Williams. He coolly kept Washington in the game.

But Price threw two interceptions early, and against this Oregon offense, against this whoosh, that was too much to overcome.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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