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Coughing It Up
By: Casey Anderson, Posted 10 October 2002

 
John Mackovic warns about passing on every down.
They say that stats don’t lie.  The Huskies have the #1 passing offense in the Pac-10.  Cody Pickett is the #2 passer in the nation.  The Washington offense is averaging a ridiculous 387 yards passing per game.  Rich Alexis is on pace to rush for 1000 yards.  

This all adds up to make the Dawgs #1 in total offense in the Pac-10 with 491 yards per game.  Defensively, the Huskies are, admittedly, mediocre, at 5th in the Pac-10.  However, with one of the most potent offenses in the entire country, the Dawgs shouldn’t need much of a defense.  With gaudy offensive stats like these, you’d think that the Dawgs would be 5-0 and the Husky defense would spend most of its time on the sidelines sipping Gatorade and talking to the television cameras.

So do the stats lie?  Nope.  14-9.  These three harmless little digits and a dash are the difference between greatness and mediocrity, between winning and losing…and ultimately between Pasadena and El Paso.  I was an English major, but even a mathematical dolt like me can add this up:  that is 14 fumbles, 9 of which were lost equals a 3-2 record.  Class dismissed. 

Turnovers are the bane of the Washington Huskies this year, fumbles in particular.  Pickett has thrown four interceptions (two against Cal), but picks can be forgiven when a quarterback attempts over 45 passes a game (including a record 59 attempts last Saturday).  No, the blame lies squarely on the padded shoulders of the running game, where the Huskies have been doing a lot more bumblin’ and stumblin’ than rumblin’.  The Husky ground attack is coughing the ball up nearly three times a game.  The Dawgs are coughing it up so much they could star in their own after-school special on eating disorders.  Alexis in particular has had difficulty hanging on to the rock, which is frustrating considering that he has otherwise been fairly consistent (and at times explosive), both as a rusher and as a receiver.  Alexis is not solely to blame, though.  Cody has put the ball on the turf a number of times, either on the option or under pressure, and Singleton and Tuiasosopo have each been guilty of coughing the ball up as well. 

Funny thing, if you hand the ball to the other team, they tend to try to score on you. 

Not only does Washington’s apparent fumblitis rob the Dawgs of scoring opportunities, but it also is taking the team’s strength, the offense, off the field, and replacing it with a somewhat average defense.  And, after three fumbles in a game, they become a tired, average defense. 

Just two games into the Pac-10 season, this Saturday’s game against Arizona is already a must-win.  Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be a truly dominant team in the Pac-10 this year, otherwise the season might already be over.  It’s entirely likely that the Pac-10 champion will have two conference losses.  Since they will play USC, Oregon, and Wazzu all on the road this year, the Dawgs cannot afford to give up a loss to a team like Arizona. 

Oregon beat Arizona last weekend by handing the ball to their All-American candidate tailback Onterrio Smith.  Winning a game by pounding the ball at opposing defenses is a luxury that the Dawgs don’t have.  What they do have, though, is probably the best passing offense in the NCAA.  It’s no joke, the Huskies passing game is nothing short of spectacular, which makes it all the more stunning that the Dawgs already have two losses.  Coach Neu, Cody, and the boys should be able to pick the Wildcats’ gimmicky “Desert Swarm” 4-6 defense apart.  However, Arizona’s Coach John Mackovic didn’t lie when he said that you can’t throw on every down.  The Dawgs will at least need to pretend like they can run the ball.  The Husky running game doesn’t have to rush for 250 yards.  They don’t even need half that.  What they do need to do, though, is hang on to the ball for their dear Pac-10 lives.             

 

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