Prominent talking points around the Pac-12 this season have been about how the Washington Purple Reign defense isn’t what it has been, and how efficient the Oregon State offense has been.
Both were, and still are, true.
But Jimmy Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski, the Huskies Defensive Coordinator and Co-Coordinator had none of it Friday night at Reser Stadium though.
From the get-go, Washington shut down the Oregon State offense, and as a result, despite what was arguably the best defensive performance by the Beavers since well back into the days when Mark Banker was actually a successful defensive coordinator, the Huskies claimed the 19-7 win.
In the first half, Washington showed some looks in their defensive front no one had seen from the Huskies any time recently. Those looked familiar though, clearly based on what Utah had done to similarly shackle the Oregon State offense.
Then, anticipating some offensive line adjustments (and why wouldn’t they; Oregon State Coach Jonathan Smith said so heading to the locker room), the Huskies reverted to some more familiar looks. And then, to stay a step ahead of a Beaver offense that was 2 steps behind all night, threw in some unusual wide looks, though Oregon State better take note in video review; those looks look a lot like a lot of what Arizona State, the Beavers’ next opponent next Saturday.
It was all designed to get running room for what has been a maligned Washington linebacker group, especially the inside linebackers, who haven’t been as successful as their recent predecessors, in part because those predecessors include some NFL talent, but mainly because they aren’t individually physically dominant night in and night out.
It worked to perfection, as the Huskies not only duplicated the Utah plan to defend the Oregon State offense, they improved on it.
A combination of shutting down the Oregon State rushing game, especially on the edges and off tackle, and pressuring quarterback Jake Luton, proved again to also throttle the Beavers’ passing game, which reacts to trouble on the o-line by going incredibly short with their routes.
The result was the same Oregon State offense that rolled up 56 points less than a week ago in Tucson while obliterating Arizona, and had hung 48 on UCLA to start a stretch where the Beavers had won 3 of their last 4 games, was held to only 119 total yards, and no points, as Oregon State’s only score came on a pick-6 by Jaydon Grant, below, mid-way in the 3rd quarter.
Luton threw for only 88 yards, on 19 of 28 passing, and threw his 2nd interception of the season, which was only the Beavers’ 3rd turnover of the year.
Isaiah Hodgins, above, only had 4 catches, for just 33 yards, including a 21 yard reception that was the biggest offensive play of the day for Oregon State.
The Huskies also sacked Luton 4 times, including above, which subtracted 31 yards from the meager 70 yards Jemar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce managed to collectively eek out from their 17 carries.
“That’s shocking,” Luton said of the offensive disaster.
“They definitely had our number,” Smith added.
It those numbers all seem shockingly low, its in part because Oregon State only ran 50 plays, a direct result of the Beavers’ inability to pick up first downs.
The Beavers had only 6 all night, and 1 of those came as a result of a penalty.
Worse, what was the best offense in the conference on 3rd and 4th down, converted only 1 of 13 3rd downs against the Huskies, and went 0 for 2 on 4th down, both highly dubious decisions by the coaching staff given the field position in their own territory in a game that was about field position.
And while the first half was anemic for Oregon State, the defensive adjustments Washington made in anticipation of the offensive ones the Beavers made led to an even more disastrous 2nd half.
Oregon State had zero net yards for the second half at the 7:21 mark of the 4th quarter, and did not manage a single first down in the entire second half.
At no time in the game did the Beaver offense ever reach the red zone.
It was Oregon State’s worst offensive showing in 26 years, since the Beavers managed only 109 against Arizona in 1993. This was in the Pettibone era! And worse than anything that ever happened in the Gary Anderson era.
And worse than in any of the half dozen consecutive non-competitive blowout losses to the Huskies in the last 6 seasons.
The Oregon State defense, usually the primary source of problems in the last half decade, continued to show steps of progress. The Huskies only had a 10-0 halftime lead, and it only got that large when Salvon Ahmed scored from 6 yards out to cap a 9 play, 70 yard drive 1:48 before the break.
The 19 points was the Huskies’ lowest point total against the Beavers since 2008.
Jacob Eason, above, completed only 16 of 32 passes, for just 175 yards, and the Beaver defense picked him off twice, with Nashon Wright getting a grab in addition to Grant’s scoring snatch.
Oregon State didn’t record any sacks, but Hamilcar Rashed Jr. did keep his season long streak of tackles for a loss intact, and freshman Omar Speights continued his recent strong play, with a game high 9 solo tackles and a game high 9 assists, for a game high 18 tackles, 1 1/2 for a loss.
Previously perfect kicker Peyton Henry missed 2 long field goals, and actually missed a 3rd, but an Oregon State penalty gave him another, shorter chance, which gave Washington a 13-0 3rd quarter lead.
But Ahmed still ran for a career-high 174 yards, and two touchdowns, including the 60 yarder, avove, with 2:34 left in the third quarter that put the Huskies up 19-7, and put the game away.
In all, the Huskies piled up 420 yards, and held a nearly 13 minute time of possession advantage, which contributed to the defensive domination.
The Husky win not only snapped their 2 game losing streak and the Beavers’ 2 game winning streak, it extended Washington’s decade of dominance of Oregon State to 8 straight wins, all by double digit margins, and 9 of 10 for the 10 years.
At no time in this run has Oregon State not only been out-played by superior personnel (the 2011 win came with the Washington QB hurt), the Beavers have been badly out-coached, unprepared for what the Huskies did, and incapable of effective in-game decision making to adjust.
But at least for the first time since the “Clunker in the Clink” in Seattle in 2012, despite the offense not returning to the field after halftime (if they ever were in the stadium), the Beavers were actually still in a game against the Huskies at halftime.
Oregon State dropped to 4-5, and 3-3 in conference, and still ahead of Washington in the Pac-12 North, as though the Huskies are 6-4, and became bowl eligible, they are only 3-4 in conference.
Fortunately, Oregon State has bounced back well with solid wins after each of their last 3 losses. The Beavers will need another resilient effort against the Sun Devils next Saturday to stay in the hunt for a post-season game for the first time since 2013.
As importantly, it would help show potential recruits that there might be something to work with, as Washington showed a chilly crowd of probably more than 30,000 of the 34,244 ticket holders that were around well past halftime this time that what Oregon State really needs are continued infusions of talent to augment what is on hand.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)