Huskies ineffective in red zone
Kicker Erik Folk had his head down and his hands on his hips before joining in the post-game handshakes. After missing what could have been the go-ahead field goal with 101/2 minutes left in a 24-23 loss to UCLA, Folk looked like he was taking the defeat pretty hard.
But Folk, who declined to talk to the media a few minutes later, was only a symbol of what went wrong with the Huskies on Saturday afternoon. In a game that saw UW force five turnovers, and make five trips into the UCLA red zone, Folk shouldn’t have been getting as many opportunities as he did.
Folk was perfect on all three of his first-half field-goal attempts, but the Huskies were somewhat disappointed that he was so active. Consistent with a season-long problem, the UW offense continually stalled in the red zone.
UW got to the UCLA 12-, 2- and 15-yard lines on consecutive first-half drives, but ended up settling for field goals on all three occasions.
“Unfortunately, one of the keys to the game was we had some opportunities in the red zone again that we weren’t able to take advantage of,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Huskies lost for the fifth time in six games Saturday. “(Folk) got a lot of opportunities to kick field goals today, and, in a perfect world, we’d be scoring touchdowns. And it would be a different game.”
Mixing it up
For the ninth time in as many games this season, the Huskies had a different starting lineup on defense.
Freshman defensive end Andru Pulu got his first start, as senior Daniel T’eo-Nesheim moved inside to replace injured defensive tackle Cameron Elisara. T’eo-Nesheim saw action at both defensive tackle and defensive end Saturday.
Oft-injured safety Jason Wells, a senior who was playing in his first game since midway through the 2007 season, was also inserted into the starting lineup. Wells is the ninth different Husky to start at safety this season.
He had an interception in the third quarter but limped off the field a few minutes later when the plantar fasciitis in his left foot flared up. Wells missed just three snaps before returning on the next series.
Wells, who missed part of 2007 and all of last season with a knee injury, tore his Achilles tendon in March and thought his career might be over. But he returned to the field Saturday and made the most of it.
“It’s been long,” he said. “Just to get this opportunity to play (Saturday), I feel blessed.”
In addition, Cort Dennison made his second start of the season in place of injured linebacker E.J. Savannah.
The Huskies also had a different look on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line that has had only one change this season saw two new starters in left tackle Drew Schaefer and right guard Morgan Rosborough. Starters Ben Ossai and Senio Kelemete were on the bench for what Sarkisian called “violations of team rules.”
Kelemete took the field for UW’s second offensive series. Ossai came into the game on the final series of the first quarter, then rotated with Schaefer throughout the rest of the game.
You win some, you lose some
Two officials’ calls in particular were the subject of Sarkisian’s post-game press conference Saturday, and while the coach didn’t necessarily complain, it was clear that he had questions about both.
Linebacker Donald Butler was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after his helmet-to-helmet hit knocked UCLA starting quarterback Kevin Prince out of the game late in the first half.
Prince appeared to be trying to gain extra yardage while leading with his helmet when Butler drilled him. The quarterback stayed down for two or three minutes while fans showered Butler with boos.
“I’m all for protecting quarterbacks and all that, but the kid wasn’t sliding,” Sarkisian said afterward. “I have a hard time trying to decide what to tell Donald. I’m going to have to look at the film again to see exactly how we’re supposed to tackle the guy.”
Said Butler: “It was nothing intentional. From my perspective, it didn’t look like he was trying to slide; he was actually trying to run me over. As a defensive player, you’re taught to make the tackle, so that’s what I did.”
The other controversial play came on a UCLA touchdown reception early in the second half. Bruins receiver Terrence Austin dived for a ball near the goal line but was unable to catch it, only to have the ball pop up and land in his arms as he lie on his back in the end zone. Game officials immediately ruled it a touchdown and did not look at a replay.
Sarkisian, believing the call would be reviewed because the ball may have hit the turf before popping into the air, did not want to waste a timeout and therefore did not consult with the officials before the extra point.
“The rule is they’re supposed to review every play if it’s close at all,” Sarkisian said after the game. “I knew we needed all three timeouts. This was not a game we could afford to burn it.”
The lack of a pass rush continues to be a problem for the Huskies, who gave UCLA quarterbacks far too much time in the pocket Saturday. UW tried to use a four-man rush for most of the first half, then mixed in some blitzes after halftime. The Huskies did get two sacks and an intentional-grounding call, but the Bruins’ 371 passing yards were due in large part to the lack of a consistent pass rush. ... Cornerback Quinton Richardson resumed his role as deep man on kickoff returns. Richardson, who served alongside receiver James Johnson, did not get an opportunity to return a kick. ... Linebacker Matt Houston switched jersey numbers, from No. 5 to No. 45. Cornerback Anthony Boyles, a converted receiver, is wearing No. 5. ... Among the people on UW’s sideline was actor Joel McHale, a former Husky football player. McHale is the host of “The Soup” on the E! Network and also has the lead role in the NBC sitcom “Community.”
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