Washington Football team stumbles in season opener

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach Chris Petersen of the Washington Huskies looks on during the game against the Portland State Vikings on September 17, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Head coach Chris Petersen of the Washington Huskies looks on during the game against the Portland State Vikings on September 17, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

A confident and prepared Washington Football team falls to the Auburn Tigers in a tough defensive struggle in SEC territory

The Washington Football team had a huge mountain to climb today. The schedule had them open the season thousands of miles from Seattle Washington. They faced an SEC powerhouse, the Auburn Tigers, deep in SEC territory of Atlanta Georgia. They had to play three time zones out of their comfort zone. Finally, they had to step onto the field knowing that left tackle Trey Adams would not be playing today against a very formidable defensive line.

Washington may be a better team than the outcome today. But this was not a prepared polished offense nor defense today. Whether the Auburn Tigers are simply “that good” or Washington is simply not as good as originally hoped is a question for another day.

The game was headlined as a neutral site. But neither the fans nor the referees seemed to align with the headline. Throughout the game, the broadcast commentators routinely pointed out egregious blatant fouls that simply got no calls from the referees. While one did favor the Washington Huskies on a failed offensive pass interference call, the majority of the non-calls would have favored the Huskies.

We honed in at halftime discussing all five aspects of the game:

Washington running offense
Washington passing offense
Washington rushing defense
Washington passing defense
Washington special teams

This was a nationally televised game for good reason. Both Auburn and Washington have an abundance of talent on their roster. But despite the effort and the talent, the Huskies fell short.
The mountain was simply too high after all.

The Washington Huskies had plenty of questions in this one. Now we know plenty of answers. We’ll share those answers in the coming days. There are reasons for optimism following this game. But there are reasons for concerns. Not just “no NCAA championship” concerns. Concerns whether Washington will compete for the Pac-12 championship this year as well.

What we liked about this game

Quite a bit to like about this game, to be honest. Entering this game, there was no way to know who would step up on the offense and on the defense. On the offense side of the ball, wide receiver Aaron Fuller and surprise starting tackle Jared Hilbers had huge games.

Fuller pulled in seven passes for 135 yards, averaging 19.3 yards per catch. While it required some time for the passing offense to starting synching up, Fuller began to assert himself against the Auburn secondary.

Meanwhile, Hilbers stood in very well for left offensive tackle Trey Adams.  On one play, Hilbers blocked his defender and then pulled off in time to pick up a blitzing linebacker.

Defensively, Greg Gaines appeared to have a good game stopping the run. The Huskies held 44 rushes by Auburn to 149 total yards. That’s a solid showing against a team that wanted to rush the ball against the Huskies.

What we didn’t like about this game

Quite a bit NOT to like about this game as well. The highly regarded Washington Husky pass defense did not defend the pass well. Not only did Auburn Tiger’s quarterback Jarrett Stidham pass for 26 out of 36 for for 273 yards and a touchdown, but the Huskies did not make him uncomfortable at all whenever he dropped back.

At one point early in the game, Stidham did not miss a pass. Worst of all, whenever the Tigers needed a first down, Stidham’s pass moved the chains. For the entire game, Auburn punted just three times.

Conversely, Washington quarterback Jake Browning had a period of proficiency today bookmarked by poor protection, huge hits, and an ineffective passing game. Once more, the offense placed the ball in Jake Browning‘s hands despite the huge hit late in the game that appeared to everyone but the Big-10 officials to be targeting.  The rushing offense revealed Myles Gaskin averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Salvon Ahmed averaging 5.1 yards per carry. But the pair had just 24 offensive plays, to Browning’s 40 plays. That needs to balance out.

Where do we see the team going from here?

Early games prove to be great video footage to clean up, and there is plenty of work to be done after this game. The Washington defense bend-but-don’t-break philosophy broke when it mattered most, in the closing minutes of the game.

Next. Behind Enemy lines: Predicting Washington Football chances against Auburn. dark

Washington’s offense needs much more balance moving foward. Jake Browning is lucky to be standing after the  brutal pounding he endured in this one. He actually had more passing yards than Auburn’s Stidholm. But Stidholm appeared calm and unpressured, while Browning was frequently running for his life and enduring a tremendous pounding. As happy as I was with the offensive play calling, the team completely blew it in the closing minutes by relying almost entirely on Browning despite the way Auburn’s defensive line was playing.