Well, that went swimmingly. The Husky faithful promised a rousing environment and we never really did anything to dissuade them from that objective. Here's my snapshot, knee jerk analysis for what went wrong and why.
1. I said Husky crowd noise could be a factor, I think it helped. I wouldn't say it was game altering, as our team seemed to keep it's focus as anticipated. But it didn't make things any easier and provided a wave of momentum that UW rode to a route.
2. I said, given the choice between letting Sankey run all over us and putting Price under extreme duress, that I would elect to put Price under extreme duress. We didn't and he made us pay the price. Part of that was due to the Huskies' ability to execute their short passing game at a very high level, denying us time to reach the QB.
3a. I said the Washington WR's were very adept at downfield blocking and our undersized corners needed to get off blocks to close running lanes and funnel Sankey back to the middle. UW did not use Sankey much on screens like they did last year, incorporating an Oregon staple, the WR screen. It hamstrung our defense from the beginning as we did not have the speed to shut it down quickly enough.
3b. This play almost single handedly allowed Price to get into a rhythm well before Southwick could do the same. All night it seemed like the Huskies got yards effortlessly while we had to really work hard for everything we got.
4. I thought Demarcus Lawrence would be an X Factor. The Huskies seemed to gameplan him pretty well. I thought the Husky OL, now healthy, was an X Factor and they won there as well. I thought Blake Renaud was an X Factor, and while I don't think he was a ghost, I didn't notice him like, say, Shaq Thompson.
5. As a general rule of thumb, I think football games are won in the trenches. I felt they won on both sides of the ball though I think we gave strong effort and liked some things from our end. Still, UW pretty clearly outplayed us on both lines.
6. I thought UW turned the tables, protecting Price while putting Southwick under consistent pressure.
7. I did not mention this publicly but another rule of thumb for me is this; any time two teams play very evenly and then meet again in a virtual rematch, it favors the loser of the previous game. This is b/c they are forced to alter their strategy, since it din't work, while the winning team is quite nearly forced to do very close to the same thing.
8. I said we should look to be opposite. If UW was going to go no huddle, we needed to go ball control. Inexplicably, we decided to go tit for tat. This baffled me for the following reasons...
- UW is faster and more athletic offensively. They have the right kinds of personnel to run an effective no huddle. The idea of a no huddle is to not allow the defense a chance to analyze what you are doing and to score quickly in order to change the way the opposing team runs its offense. It thrives on big plays and run after catch yards. The way Kellen Moore ran the no huddle against Georgia was an anomally, that is typically not the intent. The way Oregon runs it is a lot closer to the intent of the modern no huddle.
- We, on the other hand, have much better personnel for a ball control offense. We have several big bodied receivers and a couple power type running backs. We have several tightends as well. We didn't run it as well as UW, despite being a little more experienced at it, because we weren't as well suited for it imo.
- Our defense looks more like a balanced defense to me. We have some speed and some strength. We have smart players as well. But to defend the types of plays UW was running, you need a LOT of sideline to sideline speed. They got so much more out of their WR bubble screens than we did and it is b/c our defense could not close fast enough.
- Conversely, UW's defense is BUILT to face Oregon every year. They are extremely fast and agile. I do not feel perimeter, speed based plays that depend strongly on the ball carrier's ability to get yards after catch, were the way to go. I felt up the middle, controlled passing attack, and using size advantage against their linebackers was a better option. There were plenty of times that Ajayi, the OL, and Baltazar were able to begin asserting themselves. Boldewijn had a pretty strong game and he boxed the coverage man out several on occasions. A more pro style approach is what I was looking for as I think our personnel match that better. So trying to run hurry up against another hurry up was bad from a strategy perspective imo.
9. I worried about Southwick's emotional side and I think it was a small factor. You can't change a guy's personality so I am not mad. But I feel he is incapable of hiding his intensity and the body language doesn't inspire cool confidence in the rest of the offense imo. I felt keith Price modeled this much much better, this year and last, and I think you can see the results in the respective offenses. It is what it is, Swick brings other things to the table. But this was a factor that could be a bad fit in the environment we stepped into and I think that is exactly what happened.
10. Last, but certainly not least, I have to tip my hat to the Huskies and the UW faithful. Their team executed at a very high level tonight on both sides of the ball. The coaching strategy worked, the players executed that strategy, the crowd built the wave of momentum and the Huskies rode that tidal wave all the way to a dream outcome.
I don't think we have a bad team. But, once again, I think we'll be playing a bit better at season's end than at the beginning. The biggest plus I can take away right now is that our guys were very spirited and fought hard, despite being outgunned in a hostile environment. This is a shotgun take on the game with zero post game analysis reading on my part, opinions are welcome.