Games against FCS opponents are called many things. Washington’s 56-0 detonation of Idaho State has been most commonly referred to as a “final tune-up” before the beginning of the conference season against Arizona next Saturday. In that case, the Huskies can cross several items off the tune-up list. Get Austin Seferian-Jenkins involved in the offense? Check. Allow the 2nd and 3rd stringers valuable playing time? Check. The list goes on when discussing the positives of a 56-0 shutout win.
However, if Washington focuses on one single thing during this next week of practice, it must be penalties. Through only three games the Huskies have been penalized 36 times for 295 yards. Saturday against their weakest opponent of the year, the team was flagged 16 times for 130 yards. That number is unacceptable against any team. Against an FCS squad, at home, it borders on embarrassing.
Fans can talk about the bad calls in Chicago. They can even gripe about a few of the decisions to throw flags against Idaho State. But as a body of three games, the trend is pretty clear, and its moving in the wrong direction, with 61 penalty yards followed by 104, followed by 160.
Coach Sarkisian spent the off season remaking his offense into one of the deadliest scoring units in the nation. During the past three weeks, he has apparently not spent practice hammering home the need for discipline. If he has been, the point hasn’t gotten through. Washington could survive those mistakes at Illinois and of course at home against an FCS team. When Arizona comes to town, the margin for error will be lower. The next week at Stanford, 160 penalty yards will just about guarantee a bad loss.
Fumbles and penalties kept the game close at Soldier Field two Saturdays ago. In the same way, Jaydon Mickens’ opening drive fumble and the massive number of penalities are likely the only thing that kept Washington out of the 70+ scoring range. If Sark can’t compel his players to execute with fewer mistakes, the problem may soon cost the Huskies a win.