BATON ROUGE, La. — For the span of about a minute, the Washington Huskies looked capable of playing with the third-ranked LSU Tigers.
A big fumble recovery by the Huskies on the game’s opening kickoff led to a field goal, Washington’s only points of the game and a brief 3-0 lead.
Nothing good followed that fleeting moment. Instead, LSU dominated and decimated the Huskies in every facet of the game, rolling to a decisive 41-3 victory at a packed Tiger Stadium.
“I think it’s a pretty clear to the naked eye that’s a pretty good football team that really got after us,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They’re No. 3 in the country for a reason.”
Washington came into the game a 24-point underdog and looked every bit of it. Any hopes of an upset died in the first quarter.
The numbers were ugly.
Washington managed just 183 yards of total offense compared to LSU’s 437. The Huskies were held to 26 yards rushing on 24 carries, while LSU rushed 52 times for 242 yards. Keith Price completed just 17 of 36 passes for 157 yards with an interception.
Beyond the numbers, LSU just dominated the game physically.
“We were able to run when we wanted to and able to throw when we needed to,” LSU head coach Les Miles said.
It was quite the opposite for Washington.
Offensively, the Huskies couldn’t do anything on the ground and had minimal success in the air. Defensively, they were manhandled by LSU’s punishing ground game.
Washington’s best moment came on the game’s opening kickoff. Taz Stevenson drilled LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. on the return, knocking the ball out of his hands. UW’s Thomas Tutogi recovered the loose ball and gave the Huskies possession on the LSU’s 20-yard line.
A dropped pass on second down by Bishop Sankey killed the touchdown hopes and Washington had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Travis Coons. The 3-0 lead represented the high point in the game for the Huskies.
“It was great getting that turnover right off the start on the kickoff,” Sarkisian said. “We had a couple plays on second and third down that we just couldn’t execute.”
It was a sign of things to come. Washington never found any offensive rhythm and the defense simply was on the field too long.
“We had some opportunities, but we just weren’t able to execute against a team like this,” Sarkisian said. “When you play an elite team, you have to execute well. “
LSU rolled without even playing particularly well. The Tigers had costly penalties and dropped passes and still managed to be completely in control.
In one first-half stretch, the Tigers scored on four of five consecutive possessions, turning the game lopsided in a hurry.
Alfred Blue put LSU on the board with a 21-yard touchdown, going untouched into the end zone. The Tigers added a 1-yard touchdown from Michael Copeland and settled for a pair of Drew Allemen field goals to take a 20-3 halftime lead.
LSU was content to just use its ground game, rolling up 102 yards of rushing and controlling the football.
Between its own mistakes and LSU’s stifling defense, the Huskies offense was nonexistent in the first half. Washington managed just five first downs — two coming from penalties — and just 70 yards of total offense. The ground game produced -11 yards and if not for Price’s 20-yard pass to Kevin Smith, the offensive stats would have been much worse.
“We couldn’t move the ball,” Price said. “We didn’t throw the ball well. We didn’t run the ball well. We have to fix it next week.”
It was so lopsided on the field that a good portion of the 92,804 fans that crammed into the stadium chose to stay in the massive tailgate area for the second half.
“That’s how LSU plays,” Tigers running back Alfred Blue said. “Everyone knows that when you go into Tiger Stadium, LSU is going to play dominant.”
Washington’s second-half start wasn’t quite as upbeat as the start of the game. A meek three-and-out quickly gave LSU the ball back and the Tigers needed just five plays to score again. A 24-yard completion to Beckham from Zach Mettenberger set up Kenny Hilliard’s 4-yard leaping touchdown plunge.
An interception of a poorly thrown pass by Price gave LSU the ball back immediately. Mettenberger added to his numbers, hitting wide-open Kadron Boone on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
The Huskies’ offense just never got going. Washington made it past the 50-yard line and into LSU territory just three times in the game. And with the exception of the opening series, it never got closer to the endzone than LSU’s 36-yard line. Perhaps more disturbing is that the offense has failed to score a touchdown since the first quarter of the San Diego State game.
“We need to find our identity offensively so we can find some continuity and rhythm,” Sarkisian said. “What can we go to lean on when things go astray?”
Washington will try to get things figured out by next weekend’s home game against Portland State.
“At the end of it all, this one of 13 games,” Sarkisian said of the loss to LSU. “There’s plenty of things we need to learn from. There’s things we have to fix and fix quickly. The goal now is to go win next Saturday.”