Three games and three defeats into their season, the Washington Huskies believe they saw their toughest opponent Saturday.
After suffering a 55-14 pounding at the hands of the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday at Husky Stadium, several UW players and coaches implied they may not see a better team this season because there may not be any.
“They deserve to be the No. 1 team in the nation,” safety Johri Fogerson said.
Fogerson is one of four true freshmen who made their first college starts on Saturday. However, coach Tyrone Willingham has been around considerably longer, and he didn’t disagree.
“That’s one of the best football team’s I think we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Willingham said. “They were good in every phase of the game – running it, throwing it, defending it. That is as all-round strong a football team as I think I’ve seen.”
And they jumped on the Huskies instantly, holding UW to a three-and-out before rolling out their own eight-play, 51-yard touchdown drive.
The margin climbed to 13-0 by the end of the first quarter; 34-0 at halftime, and 48-7 by the end of the third quarter. The final spread was the largest in Willingham’s time at Washington.
And while the first half ended with boos, the game ended without enough folks remaining from the crowd of 67,716 to make much noise one way or the other.
“I didn’t give them anything to get excited about, and that’s the honest truth,” Willingham said. “That is a fact. But I do believe that this football team has faced one of the most difficult stretches that any team has had so far this season. And I do think we are a better football team. And now we’ve got to build on it as we get this next portion of this football season started.”
After opening with losses against No. 21 Oregon, No. 15 Brigham Young and No. 3 Oklahoma (3-0), the Huskies now head into a bye week before starting a four-game stretch against unranked Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State and Notre Dame.
Washington hopes they will prove more manageable than Oklahoma, which had 591 yards of total offense, completed 19 of 24 passes and scored the second-highest point total since Willingham arrived in 2005.
Two Sooner tailbacks – Chris Brown and Demarco Murray – rushed for 107 and 100 yards respectively. Sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford completed 18 of 21 passes for 204 yards and five touchdowns.
“I wish we could have tackled those guys better – that disappoints me,” defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. “But we have to look at this other team. I think this is going to be a rare team. This team is very deserving of their rating. I really don’t see a weakness.”
And when Oklahoma wasn’t making things tough on Washington, the Huskies made things tough on themselves.
Center Juan Garcia was off target on a dozen or more shotgun snaps, kickers missed field goals of 47, 28 and 48 yards, and after turning the ball over only once in its first two game, the Huskies lost three fumbles in the first half Saturday, and Oklahoma converted all three into touchdowns.
“It’s always on us, anytime you lay the ball on the ground,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. “But I’m going to give (Oklahoma) some credit, too. When they hit you, you go down. There were some jarring tackles a little more forceful than what we’ve seen the last couple of weeks.”
The Huskies hung onto the ball in the second half and had some success. They got on the scoreboard with a 15-play 83-yard drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Locker. Their other touchdown came on 38-yard pass from Ronnie Fouch that deflected into the hands of Brandon Yakaboski in the end zone.
It was the kind of combination of talent and luck that they hope will blend more often when they return to action Sept. 27.
“We didn’t come through (the tough start of the schedule) the way I hoped we’d come through it,” Willingham said. “… I think it’s a good time for us to have time off. It gives us a little extra time to prepare for our next opponent. It gives us a chance to hopefully mend and get healthy. And hopefully we can do all those things and position ourselves to really kick-start into the Pac-10.”