In 1990, “The Two Jakes,” a Jack Nicholson private-investigator movie, opened to disappointing reviews, the critics labelling it a letdown as the sequel to the award-winning “Chinatown.”
An updated version of “The Two Jakes” played out Friday night at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. Topping the marquee were a pair of outstanding Snohomish County-bred quarterbacks serving as the co-leads: the University of Washington’s Jacob Eason, Lake Stevens High School Class of 2016, versus Oregon State University’s Jake Luton, Marysville Pilchuck High School Class of 2014.
Unfortunately, this sequel’s Rotten Tomatoes score would be more in the vicinity of Caddyshack II than the revered original film.
In perhaps the most highly anticipated meeting between Snohomish County-produced quarterbacks in college football history, the main stars unfortunately suffered from a bad case of stage fright as the Huskies survived the Beavers 19-7 in a game both Eason and Luton will want to forget.
The local pair came into the contest flying high. Eason, a fourth-year junior, was justifying his status as a potential first-round NFL draft pick, completing 65.3 percent of his passes, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, and compiling a sparkling 152.6 passing efficiency. Luton, a sixth-year senior, was playing himself into draft consideration, ranking second in the nation with a Russell Wilson-like 19-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Offensive sparks were expected to fly courtesy of a pair of tall, sturdy, strong-armed quarterbacks capable of moving their teams down the field in a flash.
Even when the two faced one another in high school the games were shootouts. In 2012, when Luton was a junior and Eason was a freshman, it was Eason’s Vikings who prevailed 45-21. The following year Luton earned his revenge, as the Tomahawks won 37-24. Therefore, Friday’s game was something of a rubber match.
But on a night when both QBs alma matters punched their tickets to their respective state tournaments, it proved rough times for Snohomish County at the college level.
Eason finished the game 16-for-32 for 175 yards and two interceptions. Luton was 19-for-28 for 88 yards and one interception. The two came into the game having combined for 39 touchdown passes, yet the only scoring play either was involved in Friday was when Eason threw a pick-six to OSU’s Jaydon Grant midway through the third quarter to give the Beavers a brief lifeline.
Being a Snohomish County guy myself, someone who was eagerly looking forward to the matchup, it was difficult to watch.
I want to emphasize that although neither played well, the horror scenes of the offenses being unable to move the ball through the air were not just down to the quarterbacks.
Eason had no one to throw to. Yes, he wasn’t the most precise with his passes, particularly early in the game. But part of the reason for that is that his receivers couldn’t gain an inch of separation from their defenders. When they did manage to get open, as likely as not the ball was dropped. It was clear that the only pass-catcher Eason had any faith in was tight end Hunter Bryant, who was targeted a whopping 12 times, and by the end of the game Washington coach Chris Petersen had essentially stopped calling pass plays.
At least Eason had time to throw. Luton didn’t even get a chance to show what he could do. Washington’s pass-rushers treated Oregon State’s offensive line like tackling dummies, needing only one move to shrug the blockers aside and have a free shot at Luton. Any time Luton took more than a three-step drop he was engulfed by a wave of purple and white as he was sacked four times, and the Beavers went three-and-out on all five of their second-half possessions. Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith had to resort to calling pass plays in which the receivers weren’t even five yards downfield just to keep Luton from getting mauled.
Alas, the quarterbacking spectacle all of Snohomish County was waiting for never made it to the theater.
The good news for Eason and Luton is that there’s enough time remaining in the season to erase the memory of Friday’s game. Washington (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) has a bye week to sort things out before finishing up with winnable games at Colorado and at home against Washington State in the Apple Cup. And with six wins in their pocket the Huskies should get themselves into a bowl game. Oregon State (4-5, 3-3) gets a chance to bounce back next week with a home game against Arizona State, then heads to Pullman to take on the Cougars in two weeks before finishing the season with a daunting task on the road against Oregon in the Civil War.
But as for Friday night’s screening of the latest version of “The Two Jakes,” that’s a film Eason and Luton will want sent back to the editor’s room for a re-cut.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.