UW Escapes Disaster


29 seconds left. Bo Levi Mitchell of Eastern Washington has successfully marched his team down the field, completion after completion. His team is down by 3 points. A single touchdown would essentially ensure the win for the Eagles, last year’s FCS champions. 

The ball is at the 25 yard line and a simple throw and catch touchdown seems like a real possibility. Mitchell tosses up a fade route, something that has been successfully working through the majority of the game, but this time it is sniffed out by Desmond Trufant who jumps the route and secures the interception in the end zone. UW wins 30-27. 

Trufant saved what looked to be a disaster scenario for the Huskies, starting the season 0-1 against an FCS opponent while rival Washington State dismantled Idaho State in their opener. What went wrong for the Huskies?

Was EWU just a lot better than anyone expected?

Desmond Trufant said this about Eastern,

“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, they are the defending national champions. We didn’t overlook them at all. We knew they were going to pass the ball because that’s their strength and like I said, we bent a little bit but we didn’t break.”

The game plan for EWU was pass-first going into the game and their base set is a 4 wide receiver set. Even if the Eagles wanted to run, the Huskies were able to silence that attack, allowing only 31 rushing yards on the ground with a 1.8 yards per carry average. However, the Eagles were ready to throw and they found plenty of success in the passing game. Attempting nearly 70 passes and Bo Levi Mitchell had 473 yards with 3 touchdowns.

Eastern is a quality football program with a great coaching staff and talented players, you don’t become national champions at any level by being inferior and not finding ways to win. However, Washington needs to look better than they did tonight specifically in passing defense.

Keith Price had high praise for EWU and how they played, “They are a really good football team, I tip my hat to them.” However, he went on to say, “We knew they were a good team…but we have to play better, we know we are better football team.”

Coach Sark agreed with this, “We know we need to get better as the season goes along…and next week we will probably see another 60 pass attempts from Hawaii so we better figure it out.”

Was EWU just a lot better than anyone expected? Yes.

Was UW just a lot worse than everyone thought?

EWU seemed to be better prepared and with a clear game-plan on how to defeat the Huskies. If it wasn’t for a couple of key turnovers Eastern very easily could have walked away with the win. However, Coach Sark doesn’t seem to be worried, he said they would fix what needs to be fixed in practice this week and that the fixes can happen immediately.

Washington looked good in:

  • The rushing attack- Chris Polk rushed for 125 yards with 5.4 yards per carry average and Jesse Callier had 47 yards with 4.7 yards per carry average.
  • Keith Price was able to effectively play through a sprained knee. Every time he left the pocket he had linebackers leave their zone coverage to chase him down and he was able to drop in balls over their heads. He had 2 touchdowns from that.
  • The rush defense was very effective, Hau’oli Jamora and Alameda Ta’amu were impressive when Eastern put the ball on the ground.
  • Erik Folk made some spectacular field goals – His 53 yard one was his second best of his career behind a 54 yard one he made at BYU.
  • Kiel Rasp had a few great punts, one was fair caught at the 4 yard line and another the UW special teams unit tracked the ball in time to stop it close to the 1, but failed.

Washington needs to fix:

  • Pass coverage. It seemed that Mitchell was able to complete a 4 to 6 yard pass completion at will, the entire game.
  • Defensive pressure. Mitchell didn’t have many hands in his face and he was only successfully sacked one time with maybe a total of 4 hurries during the game.
  • Converting inside the 40. UW had to settle for field goals 4 times, had they scored on even 2 out of those 4, the outcome would have looked dramatically different.

Is UW just worse than everyone thought? Maybe a little less polished but not “worse”. Coach Steve Sarkisian thinks the problems can be fixed in practice this week.

This about sums everything up, in the words of Coach Sark, “We understand we have a great deal of work to do to get better, to improve, as we move through the season. It is only going to get more challenging.”

Eastern is a good team and played better than expected but at the same time Washington has a lot of areas to improve if they expect to compete in the Pac-12 conference.