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Dawgs aren’t that special

Washington’s three first-half miscues on special teams lead to 15 points for Ducks

  • Oregonís Ed Dickson (83) celebrates with Tyrell Irvin after Irvin recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a Ducksí touchdown in the second quarte...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Oregonís Ed Dickson (83) celebrates with Tyrell Irvin after Irvin recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a Ducksí touchdown in the second quarter.

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By Rich Myhre
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Oregonís Ed Dickson (83) celebrates with Tyrell Irvin after Irvin recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a Ducksí touchdown in the second quarte...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Oregonís Ed Dickson (83) celebrates with Tyrell Irvin after Irvin recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a Ducksí touchdown in the second quarter.

SEATTLE — On a day when very little went right for the University of Washington football team, little went more wrong than the UW’s special teams.
Most glaring was a 10-minute stretch of the second quarter when the Huskies had a punt blocked for a touchdown, gave up a two-point conversion run, and allowed Oregon to convert a first-down run on a fake field goal which led to another touchdown.
Fifteen points, Oregon’s total in the first half of a game they would eventually win 43-19 Saturday at Husky Stadium.
“Our defense gave us a winning performance in the first half,” said UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. “And if we could’ve matched that on offense and on special teams, we’re coming in at halftime with the lead instead of losing (15-6).”
“(The Ducks) did some excellent things on special teams,” he added. “Obviously with the blocked punt, the two-point conversion and the fake field goal, (they) just destroyed us on special teams.”
As always, there were explanations for the miscues. On the blocked punt, Oregon overloaded one side of the line and the Huskies called for a blocking adjustment, except two players had a miscommunication and ended up blocking the same Oregon player, which allowed another to come through almost untouched.
That was Oregon’s Rory Cavaille, who blocked the kick at the UW 33 — punter Will Mahan had no chance — and the ball bounced back into the end zone. After a scramble, with several Washington players failing to fall on the loose ball, Oregon’s Tyrell Irvin recovered for a touchdown.
“That was disappointing because, especially on the blocked punt, it wasn’t a look we hadn’t been practicing,” Sarkisian said. “It was something that we’d seen. ... We ended up doubling a guy and turning somebody loose. And that’s how punts get blocked.”
Then, because the touchdown came against Washington’s punt team, the UW coaches were trying to get their defense on the field for the extra point. UW freshman safety Nate Fellner was late getting off the sideline — he would be flagged for being offside — and Oregon’s Nate Costa ran in for the two-point PAT.
“There was no secret,” Sarkisian said. “We all know (the Ducks) line up in oddball formations, especially after their first touchdown.”
Minutes later, Oregon drove to the Washington 15-yard line. On fourth-and-5, the Ducks lined up for a field goal, but Costa, the holder, took off around left end for a 7-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, Oregon had its second touchdown.
It was a flurry of special teams goofs, “and you look at that and go, ‘That was momentum,’” said UW special teams coach Johnny Nansen. “I wish we could get that back.”
There were other special teams sins, too. The Huskies had three major blocking penalties with their punt and kickoff return teams, taking away important yards of field position.
Yes, there were also bright spots. In the first quarter, Mahan had a terrific 44-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Oregon 4-yard line. Place-kicker Eric Folk was true on field goals of 33 and 48 yards. And Washington’s sole turnover came on a special teams play as Oregon punt returner Kenjon Barner was nicked by the bouncing ball and it was recovered by the UW’s Donald Butler.
Washington’s kick coverage teams were also good, giving up punt returns of 2 and 10 yards (three other punts were downed, fair caught or went out of bounds), and no kickoff return longer than 22 yards.
Still, this was the third straight game Washington has had major special teams mistakes. Against Arizona on Oct. 10, the Huskies gave up a long kickoff return, fumbled a punt snap and then shanked a punt early in the second half. Only a dramatic late comeback allowed Washington to pull out a 36-33 victory.
And against Arizona State a week ago, the Huskies gave up some late momentum and a good bit of field position on a fumble by punt returner Johri Fogerson. Washington eventually lost 24-17.
With a bye week coming up, it would seem a good chance to fix the team’s special teams problems.
“We put a lot of time and emphasis on special teams, so it’s hard to say that we’re going to focus on it (in the next two weeks),” Sarkisian said. “We have been, and we’ll continue to do so.”
Good special teams are “the sign of a really good football team,” he added. “A football team that plays together, that does things right on special teams … and is doing things in all the phases. So we’ll continue to put our emphasis there.”
Story tags » Huskies Football

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