When the Washington Huskies welcomed the Oregon Ducks to Seattle this weekend, they knew that they would need to sustain drives and score points to keep pace with the high-flying Ducks. While the Dawgs held their own for much of the game, Oregon eventually pulled away late for yet another lopsided win (their 10th straight win of 17 points or more) as the Huskies’ offense tripped as they tried to keep up with the Ducks. One of the biggest reasons was the failure of the offensive line of Washington when they tried to protect Keith Price.
Last season, many of the Huskies’ offensive woes came down to the inability to keep Price upright. As the game wore on, the Oregon pass rush continued to relentlessly press the pocket and made Price uncomfortable on numerous occasions. When he wasn’t getting sacked, he was running for his life and took a number of huge hits as he tried to complete passes down the field. Those hits took their toll as Price entered the game already banged up from last week’s loss to the Stanford Cardinal.
That pressure led to incompletions and an interception as the Washington offense sputtered in the second half. Price was peeling himself off the turf on multiple occasions and watched as Marcus Mariota led the Oregon offense to scoring drive after scoring drive. Solidifying the offensive line was one of the offseason goals of Steve Sarkisian as he recognized that protecting his quarterback was key to turning around this Washington program, but their improvement over the first five games evaporated as Oregon distanced themselves on the scoreboard.
That pressure to try and keep up affected the Huskies at multiple levels, especially in their pass protection. Part of the problem was the coverage of the Ducks’ secondary, one of the best in the country, forcing Price to hold onto the football longer than normal which allowed the rotation of Ducks’ defensive linemen to work their way into his face.
The pass protection needs to regroup quickly as Washington gets yet another tough test in Pac 12 play as they face off with the Arizona State Sun Devils next week. ASU hasn’t been getting to the quarterback as often this season as they did last year, but they still boast a number of elite pass rushers and play a defensive scheme that will blitz on almost every down.
Washington still has plenty to play for but they need to regroup along their offensive line and get back to protecting Keith Price to keep the Husky offense on track.