Wild ride for defensively inept Huskies
It was nearly four hours of delightful, athletic, entertaining mayhem at the Alamo Bowl, but the game will also be remembered for defensive ineptitude.
Seattle Times staff columnist
SAN ANTONIO — It was the most thrilling, explosive and delightful football game you'll ever watch.
It was the most defensively inept, too.
Washington did its part Thursday night and joined Baylor in making the Alamo Bowl the wildest party of college football's postseason. After 123 combined points, 1,397 combined yards and incredible, superhuman feats from both quarterbacks, great fun was had by all. But it's the Huskies who will suffer the harshest hangover now.
There's only one downside to playing in a 67-56 game that captured the nation's imagination for nearly four crazy hours. And that would be losing a 67-56 game that captured the nation's imagination for nearly four crazy hours. Win a game like this, and the story is your offense's excellence. Lose it, and the story is your defense's ineptitude. That's just how it goes.
Both Baylor and Washington wouldn't be able to get very far in an alphabet recital because they have no "D." But it'll be the Huskies who have to bear the most embarrassment for their poor defense.
They scored 56 points, they gained 620 yards, and their quarterback accounted for seven touchdowns — and they lost. By double digits. Of course, the game was closer than that 11-point margin. Nevertheless, the Huskies must live with the ugly reality that they played a beautiful game and failed to win because their defense couldn't stop a parked car.
With 56 points of wiggle room, the margin for error is tremendous. But the Huskies still allowed a school-record 777 yards. They still allowed 67 points, the second-most points they've ever given up. And Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III really didn't go off on them, at least not by his standards.
Instead, Baylor rushed for 482 yards, the second most the Huskies have ever surrendered, and eight rushing touchdowns. Put that with the 446 that Stanford gained earlier this season, and the Huskies played two elite quarterbacks this season (RG3 and Andrew Luck) and kept them from monster games — but only because opposing running backs dominated them.
In this game, Terrance Ganaway rushed for 200 yards, including touchdown runs of 89 and 43 yards. Then, Tevin Reese and Jarred Salubi complemented him with 101 yards each.
"The part that was disappointing was the number of big plays that occurred," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "That's the part that was the most frustrating aspect of it all."
Yes, this was fun.
But ultimately, for the Huskies, it was frustrating.
It was a brilliant exhibition of offense. It was breathtaking — literally, you couldn't pause to breathe in between the action. The teams' 1,397 combined total yards was the most in bowl history, and only one possession lasted longer than 4:16.
This game had it all, and the offensive outbursts were quite equitable.
Amazing displays of quarterback athleticism? If Griffin wasn't bouncing off Husky defenders and diving into the end zone, then his counterpart, Keith Price, was throwing the sweetest pump fake on Baylor cornerback Ahmad Dixon and answering with his own score.
Long runs? There's Washington running back Chris Polk zipping through open space for a 56-yard touchdown run. And there's Ganaway dashing 80 yards.
Receivers running free? Check out Baylor's Terrance Williams. Or better yet, look at Washington's Jermaine Kearse.
It took Baylor less than seven minutes in the first quarter to turn a game tied at 7 into a 21-7 lead. And it took the Huskies only 11:01 to score four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter to surge ahead 35-21.
Then the Bears scored 29 points in the third quarter to reclaim the lead at 53-49. And then Price had another superhuman touchdown run, not to mention his career-high 438 passing yards. And then Baylor scored 1:25 later to lead 60-56.
And so a year of great criticism of Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt ends with the biggest humiliation of all.
Mind you, it came via one of the most incredible offenses in recent college football history. But the Huskies did allow Baylor to gain more than 200 yards above its normal offensive output.
The Huskies have some tough questions to answer about how to fix their defense this offseason. Sarkisian said he will evaluate the D, as well as the entire team, in the coming days.
For all the thrills they provided on offense in 2011, their defense kept them from being great. That was especially evident in this finale.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jerry_Brewer.
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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