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Huskies' running game stopped dead by LSU
Notebook: Injuries taking toll on UW running game
Seattle Times staff reporter
BATON ROUGE, La. — Much of the pregame analysis on Washington's game Saturday night at Louisiana State focused on whether the Huskies would be able to get much of a running game going against the Tigers' vaunted defense.
The answer was an emphatic no as the Huskies were held to just 26 yards on 24 carries in a 41-3 defeat. It was UW's second-lowest rushing total of the Steve Sarkisan era. The low was 19 yards against Stanford on Oct. 30, 2010, which was also the last time UW had not scored a touchdown, in what was a 41-0 defeat against the Cardinal.
And adding insult to injury, the Tigers often played their defense trying to entice the Huskies to run by gearing up to stop the passing of quarterback Keith Price.
"They wanted us to run the ball," Price said. "They had two safeties out (playing back) and they were daring us to run the ball and we just have to be able to run the ball (when) guys are playing six in the box."
UW had exactly zero yards rushing on 17 official attempts through three quarters before finally breaking into positive yardage in the fourth.
Washington knew it would have challenges in the running game due to some recent injuries, notably the loss for the season of tailback Jesse Callier (knee) and the loss for four to six weeks of right tackle Ben Riva (forearm).
As Sarkisian had said would happen earlier in the week, the Huskies made up for Riva's loss by moving Erik Kohler from right guard to right tackle and inserting James Atoe at the right guard spot.
It was the first career start for Atoe, a redshirt sophomore from The Dalles, Ore.
Kohler, however, left the game after reinjuring his knee cap with 10:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Sarkisian said Kohler could be out for a little while as the team will try to finally get the knee healed.
"It's definitely hard," Price said of the injuries. "We're having some tough breaks right now. It's just something that we can't control. You know injuries happen and the next guy has to prepare like he's the starter."
Kohler's injury forced the Huskies to go at right tackle with Mike Criste, a redshirt sophomore who played the second half of the San Diego State game last week after Riva was injured.
Taking Callier's place was Bishop Sankey, who got just 16 yards on eight carries in his first career start. True freshman Erich Wilson II led the Huskies in rushing with 25 yards on four carries, all on UW's final two series long after the game had been decided.
Redshirt freshman Dezden Petty also got 9 yards on seven carries in his first action for the Huskies. And the Huskies tried to get creative to find some blocking, using defensive lineman Pio Vatuvei for a few plays at fullback. But nothing ever really worked.
The Huskies got a spark for a brief moment in the third quarter when Tre Watson picked up what they thought was a backward pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
Officials, however, ruled it an incomplete forward pass. Sarkisian called time out so that it could be reviewed, but the original ruling stood.
Sarkisian said he thought the ball did go backward.
"That's what I thought, that's why I challenged it," he said. "I was right there, that's what I perceived it to be. They didn't see it that way. I don't know what else to say about it."
LSU led 20-3 at the time and scored three plays later to take a 27-3 lead.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger said he was sure it was a forward pass, but wished the intended receiver, James Wright, had gone for the ball.
"Common sense is that you fall on it because you don't know," he said. "I didn't say anything to him about it though.
"I think the coaches did."
The Huskies weren't helped early on by their punting game as true freshman Korey Durkee had punts of 32 and 18 yards to set up short LSU scoring drives.
Durkee also had a punt of 48 yards that rolled dead at the LSU 18 nullified by a penalty. On the rekick, LSU got the ball at the 30, sort of typifying the way the day went.
• NCAA president Mark Emmert, a former president of UW and a chancellor at LSU, attended the game.
• LSU is now 29-0 under coach Les Miles in nonconference regular-season games.
Ted Lewis contributed to this report. Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org