With the season down to four games and a potential Pac-12 championship game, the Washington Football team defeated Oregon the right way
Strength versus strength. When the Oregon Ducks traveled north to face the Washington Football team in a revenge match, there was a hint of concern in the hearts of fans. The Huskies had decimated the Ducks last season, 70-21. Ever since that day, the Oregon Ducks circled their calendars and recalled the humiliation throughout training camp and the season. November 4 was the day to exact revenge. There was only one flaw in that plan for revenge.
Washington was motivated as well.
And there is the rub. After dropping a game unexpectedly to the Arizona State University Sun Devils, the Washington Huskies have had to do some soul searching. On one hand, what is this team all about? On the other hand, what can this team do better than anyone? And finally, what will this team focus upon in the remaining games? The answer comes down to three things:
The Washington football team is as stout as they come. Ranked number one in the Pac-12, the Washington defense has only allowed 11.1 points per game. Similarly, the defense is incredibly stingy in surrendering yards. At 240 yards per game, the team is 50+ yards better than second ranked Washington State University’s defense at 297 yards per game.
Keep in mind that the Washington defense leads in both rushing defense and passing defense. Against Oregon, the conference’s best rushing attack, the team surrendered 247 yards on the ground. But it required 55 rushing plays to gain those yards. Oregon’s top rushers averaged well over 6.0 yards per carry. Washington held Royce Freeman to 5.1 yards per carry, and Kani Benoit to 2.5 yards per carry. Better yet, the Huskies did not allow a rushing touchdown to a team known to score an average 3.3 touchdowns per game on the ground.
The Huskies can run the ball when they want to do so. Somehow this team forgot to run when they got caught up in the Arizona State desert. In that game, the team had success running, but opted not to run.
That mystery remains unsolved. Thankfully, the team had two weeks to rethink the offense. After a 91 yard effort against ASU, the Huskies have rushed for 680 yards in the last two games. 247 yards came against a strong run defense of Oregon. While that is the same amount of yards Oregon ran, the Huskies needed 16 fewer carries to get there.
That running offense will serve the Huskies well in the final three games as well. Stanford is the next test. And both Utah and Washington State defend the run well enough, neither is a strong as the Ducks in shutting down the run.
The Washington Football team needed a spark. When Dante Pettis hands touched the punt in the first quarter, the score was tied 3-3. But 64 yards later, the tie was broken. At the same time, the record for punt returns for touchdowns shattered as well. Dante Pettis broke the NCAA record for punt returns.
Now, that is not something the team can plan for each week. But it is something the team must excel at. And with another punt return for a touchdown, and an average return of 32 yards, that was a good day. In fact, it set an NCAA record.
The Washington Huskies cannot move ahead believing that this team can out-everything against their opponents. This is a solid team, a team built to win a championship. But that destiny will only be realized if the team plays smart. Embrace weaknesses in order to emphasize strengths.
The Oregon Ducks were a great test for the Washington Huskies. Rather than test play on the field, the Ducks challenged the Huskies willpower. The score said it all. Washington has the will to win, and win the right way.