UW defense breaks at critical moment

PULLMAN — So much went right for Washington’s defense Saturday afternoon.

Right up until things went terribly wrong, that is.

For most of the day, Washington’s defense looked great against a Washington State offense that has tended to make everyone look great this year. But when the Huskies needed one last stop, one more big play, they suddenly looked like the team that has made mistakes and given up big plays all year.

And when WSU freshman wide receiver Jared Karstetter inexplicably got past the last line of defense in the game’s final minute to make a game-changing catch, it undid so much of the good work the UW defense had done up to that point.

“It was a nice defensive effort, but we just didn’t finish the job and make plays at the end,” said Washington defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. “We had the game in check and didn’t finish.”

Karstetter’s catch with 24 seconds on the clock — just his fourth this season — was the key play of Washington State’s game-tying drive, which started at the UW 20 yard line with just 56 seconds left. The momentum from that 48-yard play to the UW 18-yard line and the tying field goal seemed to carry over into overtime as WSU went on to a 16-13 win.

“That’s the highlight of my football career for sure,” said Karstetter, the latest addition to the long list of unlikely Apple Cup heroes. “I’ll always remember that.”

When the Cougars decided to take a shot deep, Karstetter figured he’d have to win a jump-ball to make a catch, but instead he found himself open after cornerback Quinton Richardson bit on Kevin Lopina’s pump fake and Karstetter also got past safety Tripper Johnson.

“What we did was we lost leverage on the deep ball and we undercut it with the safety as well,” said Donatell.

Karstetter said he was, “Really surprised to be so open,” but for any Husky fan who has been watching this defense for the past two seasons, the secondary giving up a big play is hardly surprising.

Yet for most of this game, the Huskies were stopping Washington State and avoiding big plays.

“That’s the frustrating part,” cornerback Mesphin Forrester said. “I feel that we had the passing game down the whole game. That last play — the two-minutes drill is stuff we practice every week — for that to happen like that is really frustrating. We have to find a way to stop plays like that because those plays are killing us.”

The UW defense had another big gaffe in the second half when Logwone Mitz broke off a 57-yard touchdown run, but until that point, Washington’s defense was playing its best game of the season.

Prior to Mitz’s run, the Huskies had forced five punts —more than they have in any game this season — and intercepted a Lopina pass. Washington gave up 338 yards of offense on 67 plays, meaning the Cougars gained just 233 yards on the 65 plays other than Mitz’s run and Karstetter’s catch.

“We just didn’t finish the job, that’s all I can tell you, we didn’t finish the job,” Donatell said. “These guys played their hearts out tonight, and when get a team in a rival game, it’s not over till its over. You’ve got to finish the job, and we didn’t do that today. We didn’t make our play.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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