Offensive lineman Kaleb McGary knows what almost feels like.
He’s familiar with Washington’s misses: The 2016 College Football Playoff loss to Alabama, the near comeback against Penn State in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl. Now, last week’s season-opening loss to Auburn has been added to the list.
Too many errors cost the Huskies in those games, McGary said Wednesday. And even though the latest defeat had more mistakes than most, a victory felt even closer.
“We let that one slip out of our fingers,” McGary said, “and that was our own … fault.”
Several of McGary’s offensive teammates offered similar thoughts on the 21-16 loss to Auburn. Mainly, that the Huskies hurt themselves more than they could afford to against a Top 10 opponent.
UW had two turnovers and took 10 penalties for 95 yards against the Tigers. The Huskies got inside Auburn’s 40-yard line six times, but scored just 16 points.
After scoring a touchdown to pull within two points heading into halftime, UW reached the red zone three times in the third quarter.
The first drive ended with a missed field goal after offensive pass interference moved the Huskies back from Auburn’s 8-yard line to the 23. On the second drive, Auburn recovered a Jake Browning fumble. UW finally scored on their third trip the red zone, but still had to settle for a field goal.
“We had momentum in the third quarter and we only turned that into three points after we had gotten the ball down there,” Browning said. “We were getting three-and-outs on defense. We had momentum going into the half.”
Offensive lineman Jared Hilbers said mental errors stalled the Huskies’ drives and hurt them the most. Luckily, he added, those are fixable. Solving mental mistakes starts in the film room and then moves to the practice field, where the Huskies have been repeatedly going over the same looks.
“It was our first time going against another opponent this season,” Hilbers said. “Mental mistakes were kind of expected. It’s just discouraging that it happened the way it did.”
Hilbers called many of the errors “first-game mistakes,” the kind UW hopes to be rid off by the time it kicks off against North Dakota on Saturday for its home opener.
“It stings and it hurts, especially,” McGary said. “You fight hard and against a good team, it comes down to little mistakes like that. We made too many.”