After holding the California Golden Bears to a seven points the previous week, the midseason awards came rolling in for Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson, outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha and their defensive compatriots.
Thompson was showered with midseason All-America honors after his 100-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Bears, and he rocketed into the Heisman discussion as a dark horse for the most prestigious individual award in college football. Kikaha was ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s midseason defensive player of the year, while defensive lineman Danny Shelton joined Thompson as an ESPN midseason All-American.
None of those accolades translated into stops for the Huskies on Saturday against the Oregon Duckss.
Despite its individual star power, the UW defense was no match for Oregon’s dynamic offense, which outgained the Huskies, 554-317, on the way to a 45-20 Pac-12 Conference victory.
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“We just gotta execute our game plan which we didn’t do a great job at,” Kikaha said. “It’s very much on us.”
Kikaha had 2.5 sacks, Thompson finished with seven tackles and Shelton tallied eight tackles.
The Ducks challenged the UW’s defensive line to stop an aggressive running attack. Despite entering the game as the Pac-12’s fourth-best rushing defense, the Huskies weren’t up for task.
Oregon averaged 4.4 yards per rushing attempt and rushed for 218 yards, the most allowed by the Huskies this season. Ducks running back Royce Freeman gashed the Huskies for 169 yards on 29 attempts and four touchdowns.
“It was too easy,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “They’re very good at running the ball, we all know that. They’re one of the top teams in the country in terms of doing that and if you can’t slow them down and make them a little bit one-dimensional, it’s going to be problems.”
For the first time since the season opener, UW, the nation’s leader in turnover differential, didn’t get a takeaway.
Two would-be interceptions slipped through the hands of Huskies defenders, while Thompson, who scored four defensive touchdowns in the first six games, failed to force a fumble for the Huskies after entering the game tied for the conference lead in that stat.
The Huskies said Oregon’s running game got loose due to poor tackling. But their defensive lapses came from more than just physical shortcomings.
“It’s just everybody trying to be a superhero when it’s just straight forward,” UW linebacker Travis Feeney said.