Not flying quite right

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, October 5, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Lots of teams would love to have UW’s offensive stats, but Huskies aren’t satisfied

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — For a 3-1 team ranked No. 13 in the nation, the Washington Huskies certainly have been the object of a lot of hand-wringing.

The numbers aren’t bad, but neither have they been as expected. The Huskies are third in the Pacific-10 Conference in scoring, rushing, total offense and first downs. In purely numerical terms, many offensive coordinators would love to have Washington’s problems.

Yet, the outrage, especially after Saturday’s 23-16 loss at Oregon, has been wilder than a Rick Ankiel fastball.

"We have not played as well as I believe we are capable," UW coach Rick Neuheisel said.

The numbers don’t reflect those of a team that was favored to win the Pac-10 title. There is just enough not going on with the Huskies, specifically with the offense, for Neuheisel to tinker with personnel.

Consider:

  • Although he leads the conference in total offense, quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo is completing just 49 percent of his passes (down from 58 percent last season), has seven interceptions and just four TD passes.

    In the first three quarters against Oregon, Tuiasosopo was just 6-for-21 passing before Washington was forced into opening up the offense with a 23-3 deficit.

  • The Huskies, who led the conference last year in time of possession, are fifth this season at 31:22 a game. It’s a number that needs to be bumped up, because Washington’s inexperienced receivers have had problems separating from defensive backs, making a quick strike virtually impossible.

    In other words, more often than not, Washington’s points will have to come on the end of long, sustained drives. That hasn’t happened with enough frequency. The Ducks had possession 11:04 longer than the Huskies.

  • Speaking of receivers, Jerramy Stevens leads the Huskies with 20 catches for 298 yards. It’s a statement of Stevens’ ability as much as an indictment of the Huskies’ wideouts.

    Graduation and injuries are part of the problem here. Chris Juergens’ knee injury will keep him out the entire season. Add that to Gerald Harris’ and Dane Looker’s graduation, and that’s 99 receptions and 1,374 receiving yards Washington had last year that it doesn’t this year.

    "That’s a lot of offense," UW offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson said.

  • The running game, shared by Paul Arnold, Braxton Cleman, Willie Hurst and Rich Alexis, averages 170 yards a game, down 20 from last year. Solid, but not enough for a team whose passing game is struggling mightily.

    "Obviously, something is going wrong, because we are not getting the same yardage we got a year ago," Arnold said. "It’s hard to say what it is, but we are all trying to fix it. We have to do that pretty soon."

    Like, now.

    When the Huskies host Oregon State Saturday night, they face a defense ranked fourth in the nation in rushing defense and sixth in total defense. Sure, the Beavers played veritable powder puffs in Eastern Washington, New Mexico and San Diego State, but they did hold USC to 63 rushing yards.

    "These guys fly around and are at least as fast as any defense in our conference," Neuheisel said.

    An apparent believer in contrast, Neuheisel has said he will alternate Arnold’s quickness with Alexis’ power. That would give the Huskies the same type of different looks and modes of operation that they had in 1997, with Rashaan Shehee and Maurice Shaw.

    "I would just like to get a bigger back into the ballgame," Neuheisel said.

    To spice up the passing game, fleet wideout Wilbur Hooks will play Saturday after missing the Oregon game with an irregular heartbeat. The Huskies have been unable to stretch the field and sustain anything resembling a downfield passing game.

    The two changes may or may not increase Washington’s offensive productivity, but right now, the Huskies may need all the ideas they can get.

    "It’s an indictment of me, to start; and indictment of our offensive coaches and our offensive players," Neuheisel said.

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