BATON ROUGE, La. – For the span of about a minute, the Washington Huskies looked like they were capable of playing with the No. 3 LSU Tigers.
A big fumble recovery by the Huskies on the opening kickoff led to a field goal but that turned out to be Washington’s only points of the game.
Nothing good followed after that fleeting moment.
Instead, LSU dominated the Huskies in every aspect, rolling to a 41-3 win at a packed Tiger Stadium.
“I think it’s a pretty clear to the naked eye that’s a pretty good football team that really got after us,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “They’re number three in the country for a reason.”
Washington came into the game a 24-point underdog and looked every bit of it. Any hopes of an upset died in the first quarter.
The final numbers were ugly.
Washington managed 183 yards of total offense compared to LSU’s 437.
Washington was held to 26 yards rushing on 24 carries, while LSU rushed for 242 yards on 52 carries.
Keith Price was 17-for-36 passing for 158 yards with an interception.
But beyond the numbers, LSU dominated the game physically.
“We were able to run when we wanted to and able to throw when we needed to,” Tigers coach Les Miles said.
It was quite the opposite for Washington.
The Huskies couldn’t do anything on the ground and only had a minimal success passing.
Defensively, they were manhandled by LSU’s punishing ground game.
Washington’s best moment came on the opening kickoff. Taz Stevenson drilled LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. on the return, knocking the ball out of his hands. UW’s Thomas Tutogi recovered the loose ball and gave the Huskies possession on LSU’s 20-yard line.
A dropped pass on second down by Bishop Sankey helped kill the touchdown hopes and Washington had to settle for a 34- yard field goal from Travis Coons.
The 3-0 lead would represent the high point for the Huskies in the game.
“It was great getting that turnover right off the start on the kickoff,” Sarkisian said. “We had a couple plays on second and third down that we just couldn’t execute.”
It was a sign of things to come. Washington never found any rhythm offensively and the defense was on the field too long.
“We had some opportunities, but we just weren’t able to execute against a team like this,” Sarkisian said. “When you play an elite team, you have to execute well.”
From there, LSU rolled without playing particularly well. The Tigers had costly penalties and dropped passes and still managed to seem completely in control.
The Tigers scored on four of their next five possessions in the first half, quickly putting the game out of reach.
Alfred Blue put LSU on the board with a 21-yard touchdown run, going untouched into the end zone. The Tigers added a 1-yard touchdown from J.C. Copeland and a pair of Drew Alleman field goals to take a 20-3 halftime lead.
LSU was content to use its ground game, rolling up 102 yards in the first half.
Between its own mistakes and LSU’s stifling defense, the Huskies’ offense was nonexistent in the first half. Washington managed five first downs – two coming from penalties – and 70 yards of total offense.
The ground game produced minus-11 yards and if not for Price’s 20-yard pass to Kevin Smith, it would have been much worse.
“We couldn’t move the ball,” Price said. “We didn’t throw the ball well. We didn’t run the ball well. We have to fix it next week.”
It was so lopsided on the field that a good portion of the 92,804 fans that crammed into the stadium chose to stay in the massive tailgate area for the second half.
“That’s how LSU plays,” Blue said. “Everyone knows that when you into Tiger Stadium, LSU is going to play dominant.”
Washington’s start to the second half wasn’t quite as upbeat as the start of the game. A meek three-and-out series gave LSU the ball back, and the Tigers needed five plays to score again.
A 24-yard completion to Beckham from Zach Mettenberger set up Kenny Hilliard’s 3-yard leaping touchdown plunge.
A bad interception from Price gave LSU the ball back. Mettenberger added to his numbers, hitting wide-open Kadron Boone on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
The Huskies’ offense would never get going. Washington made it past the 50-yard line and into LSU territory three times in the game. And with the exception of the opening series, it never got closer than LSU’s 36-yard line except for the drive that ended on Price’s interception. Perhaps more disturbing is that the offense has failed to score a touchdown since the first quarter of the San Diego State game.
“We need to find our identity offensively so we can find some continuity and rhythm,” Sarkisian said. “What can we go to lean on when things go astray?”
Washington will try to get things figured out Saturday at home against Portland State.
“At the end of it all, this is one of 13 games,” Sarkisian said. “There’s plenty of things we need to learn from. There’s things we have to fix and fix quickly. The goal now is to go win next Saturday.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish