With Keith Price returning at quarterback, Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end and Kasen Williams at receiver, the offense seemed poised for success.
But after being shutdown in a 41-3 loss to LSU, the Huskies offense has not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of last week's win over San Diego State.
That's seven quarters, a myriad of series and a slew of wasted opportunities. Even more disturbing is the disjointed way the offense is playing. There is a lack of rhythm. There are silly mistakes and missed assignments. Washington had 183 yards of total offense on 60 plays for an average of 3.1 yards per play -- that won't win games at any level.
"I think that's crazy," said quarterback Keith Price.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian lamented the lack of identity for the offense.
"We were trying to find something that gets us going," he said. "What are our bread and butter, who is our bread and butter, what are the type of plays we have to get our rhythm back and get going. Moving the ball and calling plays are easy when things are going good. It's when it gets hard, then where do you find your yards? Where do you find your plays? Where do you find your points? We have had a tough time of finding that the last two weeks."
But a big reason that identity is absent is because the Huskies running attack is non-existent. Yes, LSU's defensive front seven might be one of the best in college football. But Washington didn't run the ball well against San Diego State either.
Sarkisian can't rely on getting yards on the ground.
The Husky offense had -11 yards rushing in the first half and finished with a total 26 yards on 24 attempts.
"We just had hard time on first-and-10 football," Sarkisian said. "We wanted to run the ball some. But on first and 10, we were getting 1, -1, -2 and it made for a long day."
And the Tigers did it in their base defense without having to really focus on trying to stop the run.
"They were daring us to run the ball," Price said. "We have to be able to run the ball when they only have six in the box."
The issues are clear. The loss of Chris Polk is glaring and far more significant than the Husky staff hoped. The injury to Jesse Callier has also caused issues for the Huskies. Bishop Sankey made his first career start and gained 16 yards on eight carries. Freshman Erich Wilson II led the team with 25 yards on four carries, but some of those came in mop-up time.
Another major issue has been the injuries and inconsistency to the offensive line. There is little continuity and minimal production. The loss of Ben Riva to a broken forearm last week forced Washington to move Erik Kohler from right guard to right tackle and insert untested sophomore James Atoe at right guard. The line took another hit midway into the game when Kohler suffered another dislocated knee cap. He is likely out three to four weeks again.
"Losing him is critical," Price said.
Mike Criste, who had played center until this fall camp, replaced Kohler. The shifting of the line coupled with ineffective play has also hurt the run game.
Price didn't have one of his better games, completing 17-of-36 passes for 157 yards with an interception. But he left the game relatively healthy, which was a plus considering some of the punishment he endured.
LSU sacked Price four times and hit him countless others.
"We tried to protect Keith as best we could," Sarkisian said.
But Price still took a pounding.
All of the sacks were hard hits. The hardest might have been when linebacker Micah Eugene came through untouched on a blitz and leveled Price.
"That's a day one protection and we have to get that fixed," Sarkisian said. "We had another one where we didn't get out of our stance at left tackle and he took a pretty good shot. Those are unblocked guys that shouldn't be hitting the quarterback."
At the end of the game, Sarkisian had seen enough of Price getting hit. He inserted backup Derrick Brown late in the fourth game for Washington's last possession.
Besides Kohler, UW had a few other injured players. Linebacker Travis Feeney sprained his shoulder, defensive end Talia Crichton sustained a concussion, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens was limited because of turf toe. ... The win gave LSU 39 straight nonconference wins, tying the record held by Kansas State from 1993-2003. It also extended LSU's 19 game home winning streak -- the longest active in the nation. ... True freshman defensive end Pio Vatuvei was in on a handful of offensive plays as a fullback. ... Thomas Tutogi led the UW defense with 12 tackles and Washington's only tackle for a loss. True freshman Danny Shelton had 10 tackles.
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