Huskies low on time to find new gear for offense
UW's offensive numbers rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in nearly every category, but a soft remaining schedule could help boost those stats.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Friday: Huskies @ Cal, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Washington's game at California on Friday night is not only a sign of the times in college football — where playing every game on a Saturday at 12:30 p.m. is a thing of the past — but also unique in UW history.
The game will be the first for UW since 1944 when the Huskies haven't had at least a normal seven-day week (Saturday to Saturday, for instance) to prepare for a game (for games on Thursday nights in the past, they have had a bye the weekend before).
Given that the new Pac-12 TV deal calls for every team to play more non-Saturday games, it's something UW will have to get used to. And given that Cal also has the same short week, there's no real advantage for either side.
Still, it allows one less day for UW to find solutions for punching up an offensive attack that, through two-thirds of the season, has yet to score more than 21 points in a game against any FBS opponent — its season-high of 52 came against Portland State of the FCS Big Sky Conference. Every other team in a BCS conference has topped 21 points at least once this season.
UW managed to get by with 20 points Saturday when the revived Husky defense held then-No. 7 Oregon State to 17. It's also worth noting that OSU's defense leads the Pac-12, allowing just 17 points per game, and UW coach Steve Sarkisian said that in general, the game was a step in the right direction for the offense.
However, he said much work remains to improve an offense which ranks 105th in the nation in yards per game (322.3) and is tied for 103rd in scoring (20.6).
Those numbers have come against a schedule that the NCAA ranks as the second-most difficult in the nation. Sarkisian, though, doesn't blame the schedule. "It's on us," he said. "Granted, we have played some pretty good teams, but our inconsistency is just glaring to me. It's not one guy, it's not two guys. I just feel like we keep taking our turns. Sometimes it's the playcaller that takes his turn.
"It takes 11 guys executing on every snap to win that snap, and for whatever reason or another we just stub our own toes with mistakes we really shouldn't be making. That's the fight for us. I know that we are better than the way we have been playing. I'm waiting for the game to come where we put it all together and play consistently, disciplined and executing plays down after down after down, because when we do, we'll be pretty good."
While Sarkisian didn't use the schedule as an excuse, even those who do won't be able to much longer as the Huskies embark on a much-softer part of their slate — the four regular season games left are against teams that are a combined 9-24.
Three rank among the bottom four teams in the Pac-12 in points allowed, including California, which is ninth at 28.3.
Statistically, UW ranks near the bottom half of the Pac-12 in every offensive category — 11th in passing offense at 196.1 yards per game and eighth in rushing offense at 126.1. And many of the possible reasons have been well-chronicled — injuries that have forced constant shuffling on the offensive line, young players still needing to emerge to replace the likes of running back Chris Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse from last season, and the struggles of quarterback Keith Price to find his rhythm with the new personnel surrounding him.
Four games allow enough time to turn things around, Sarkisian said. He noted that the Huskies returned to running more against OSU than they had the week before at Arizona — runs on 33 of 63 plays compared to 29 of 81 — and thinks the team may continue to head that direction.
"It's never too late to get there," he said. "Change is inevitable, either you're going to get better or get worse, so the goal for us is to get better and continue to work toward that."
• UW was flagged for 14 penalties against Oregon State, eight of which the Beavers accepted. "I think that some of the penalties, sure, the majority of them, sure, I agree with," Sarkisian said. "There are others of them that are questionable. And just like when you talk about 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' sometimes judgment calls get made by officials and it's the way they see it, the way they interpret it. ... I think we've learned that from the past you can get stuck harboring thoughts about penalties and then the game is going on right in front of you. So you have to move past it."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.