The Washington Huskies, who have had so little to celebrate in recent seasons, lost Saturday because they celebrated.
Naturally, they lost for other reasons, too. There were missed passes and shaky defense, and ultimately a blocked kick. But what will be bitterly remembered is that the blocked kick – the final point after touchdown attempt – came from 35 yards away instead of 20 because quarterback Jake Locker celebrated the touchdown run that seemed to offer the reprieve of overtime against 15th-ranked Brigham Young.
Instead, the blocked PAT gave BYU a 28-27 win in regulation before an outraged crowd of 64,611 at Husky Stadium.
Two ticks of the clock earlier, Locker had fought his way into the end zone, hopped up and flung the ball into the air as his teammates mobbed him.
However, NCAA rules state that flinging the ball is unsportsmanlike conduct.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost one they have to call,” coach Tyrone Willingham said. “It really should be a no-call, but it’s one they have to call if they see it.”
So, the Huskies backed up 15 yards. And Ryan Perkins’ longer kick attempt was blocked by 6-foot-3 lineman Jan Jorgensen as Locker looked on from the sideline.
“I was kind of disappointed in myself that I had done that,” Locker said. “I’ve never done anything like that in the past. I wasn’t trying to show anybody up by doing it. That’s not what I’m about. I have much respect for the guys that we played. That’s a good football team. I just was excited. I like to play the game with emotion, and it got the best of me.”
It was almost appropriate that the game was decided by the slightest of margins, because the Cougars (2-0) and the Huskies (0-2) stayed on each others’ heels for the full 60 minutes. The score was 7-7 after the first quarter, 14-14 at halftime and 21-21 after the third quarter.
And when BYU took its 28-21 lead about three and a half minutes from the end, the Huskies responded with an up-and-down, electrifying, almost-in-spite-of-themselves 17-play, 76-yard drive that ended with Locker’s roll into the end zone.
UW’s sophomore quarterback began the drive by overthrowing D’Andre Goodwin, who got several yards beyond the BYU secondary. A few plays later, the roles were reversed when a Locker pass went through Goodwin’s hands. There were other wild passes and drops along the way. But the Huskies kept chugging forward as they had for much of a game that, for all its highs and lows, represented a step forward from the blowout at Oregon the week before.
“I’m extremely proud of our young men and the way they battled,” Willingham said. “We had talked to them about coming out and playing like Huskies play – with the kind of fight, effort, the energy. And I thought very much they did that. There were still a few things in terms of execution I thought we could have done better. But our young men gave themselves the opportunity to win.”
Washington’s running game struggled through the first half. But when a dislocated shoulder forced Chris Polk to the sideline, true freshman David Freeman and redshirt freshman Willie Griffin provided spark. The combined UW rushing attack ended up just 4 yards shy of matching BYU’s 137 yards – with all but one of those coming from 239-pound tailback Harvey Unga.
“The young kids are getting better,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. “We had to rely on a freshman tight end (Kavario Middleton). A freshman back got hurt, and then David Freeman came in and gave us some nice runs, Jermaine Kearse caught a nice touchdown in the end zone – so those guys have got to keep developing and getting better every week. … But I was proud of those young kids because they made some nice plays.”
Ed Donatell’s defense had more troubles. In addition to Unga’s 136 rushing yards, BYU quarterback Max Hall completed 30 of 41 passes for 338 yards and three TDs.
But for all of UW’s bending and occasional breaking, Mason Foster also turned aside a late first-half drive with an interception, and Nate Williams force an Unga fumble 1 yard short of the goal to keep UW even early in the fourth quarter.
However, the next time the Cougars got possession they marched 84 yards into the end zone.
And Washington’s dramatic answering drive came up one point short when excessive celebration gave way to extreme disappointment.
“(Locker) flipped it up in the air, which is against the rules, but that one hurt,” Lappano said. “By no means was he taunting anybody or meaning any disrespect, but it’s a penalty and he understands the deal. That was a tough lesson to learn.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
game in review
Player of the game
BYU quarterback Max Hall completed 30 of 41 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw one interception.
“We knew we could move the ball on them,” he said. “I think we figured out things in the second half that were working for us and we focused on that.”
Husky of the game
Sophomore safety Nate Williams had a game-high 13 tackles. He also put the hit on BYU tailback Harvey Unga that forced a touchdown-saving fumble that UW’s Tripper Johnson recovered in the end zone.
The game was even the whole way as each team led but neither ever led by more than seven points. The result wasn’t settled until BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen blocked a Ryan Perkins extra point attempt with two seconds remaining. The attempt was taken from 15 yards farther out because of an unsportsmanlike foul call on Jake Locker, who threw the ball up in celebration after running for a touchdown.
New scheme, more struggles
Through two games, the Huskies have given up 72 points, 48 first downs and 971 total yards.
New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell used more of a 3-4 defense against BYU after concentrating on 4-3 and 3-3-5 alignments last weekend at Oregon.
“I didn’t see what I wanted to from week one to week two, but there’s such diversity in attacks,” Donatell said. “We played a really good team that hides the ball from you the first week and then we had one that kind of shows it to you and can drop back. … (We switch defenses to increase our players’) success and get them on the field. That’s our whole intent, and really to force teams to prepare for different packages.”
True freshman starting tailback Chris Polk went out with a dislocated shoulder after carrying six times for 14 yards.
He was replaced by David Freeman, who made his college debut with six carries for 30 yards, and redshirt freshman Willie Griffin, who carried twice for 14 yards.
Freeman became the ninth true freshman to play for the Huskies this season.
“I wouldn’t say I was really nervous, but excited,” Freeman said. “I knew I was going to play, but with Chris Polk going out, we never want a man to get hurt in any kind of way on our team or on the other team. So when he went out I was kind of disappointed, but I had to step up and play to the best of my abilities because the team needed me.”
Two games into the season, QB Jake Locker has completed 29 of 60 passes (48.3 percent) for 307 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Locker is also the team’s leading rusher with 119 yards. The top-rushing tailback is Chris Polk with 33 yards on 20 carries. D’Andre Goodwin is the leading receiver with 13 catches for 150 yards. Jermaine Kearse has the only receiving touchdown, a 48-yarder on Saturday. Jordan Polk is averaging 17 yards on seven kickoff returns. Mason Foster is the leading tackler, with 19.
Chris Polk is considered doubtful for the next game against Oklahoma. So is safety Darin Harris, who suffered a concussion. True freshman TE Kavario Middleton of Lakes High went out briefly with a right knee injury, but returned.
Mason Foster’s second-quarter interception was the first of his career. … Jared Ballman improved his punting average from 35.6 yards last week to 47.8 this week. … The Huskies were penalized four times for 25 yards. … UW captains were Paul Homer, Juan Garcia, Trenton Tuiasosopo and Chris Stevens.
4:45 p.m. Saturday, vs. Oklahoma, Husky Stadium.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune
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