SEATTLE — On Wednesday, perhaps for the last time, a member of Washington’s coaching staff addressed the decisions made during the loss to Oregon. Specifically, of course, those at the end of regulation.
Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan echoed a few of the thoughts head coach Chris Petersen offered on Monday.
At the end of the fourth quarter in the 30-27 loss to the Ducks, the Huskies had a third-and-1 at the Oregon 20 with 35 seconds left and two timeouts available. Instead of calling timeout, or even running another play, the Huskies let the clock wind down before Peyton Henry attempted a 37-yard field goal, which he missed.
After the game, Petersen said UW had the ball where Henry liked it, at the right hash. Later, though, Petersen said he might have done things differently in hindsight.
If the Huskies did call a play, Hamdan followed up, it would have been something safe and right up the middle.
“We didn’t feel comfortable taking a shot in that situation,” Hamdan said. “The ball was on the right hash. We weren’t necessarily going to take a shot play there.
“The reality is, and we addressed it, a timeout could’ve been taken. We could’ve run the ball again, probably kept it right there. At that point, we just felt like he had plenty of leg. It was on the hash we wanted it. We felt comfortable with the decision at the time.”
The scenario will be discussed and debated among fans until the season ends, and perhaps beyond that. But as Hamdan answered the final questions about those deciding seconds, the book seemed to close on UW’s loss.
How the Huskies move on from it will be determined on Saturday against Colorado, a team that suffered its first loss last week against USC.
Hamdan said it’s difficult to know how the players will respond to the defeat, and to being knocked out of College Football Playoff contention. Coaches never really know, he said, until game time.
“I think for us, we take that inside-out mentality,” he said. “Our standard is the best we’ve ever done and that’s from week-to-week, a constant state of improvement. It really never ends, I think for all of us. We are trying to have the best offense we’ve ever had here. That’s the mentality.”
Senior tight end Drew Sample said he’s trying not to dwell on what the Huskies might have lost against Oregon. While a spot in the College Football Playoff was never guaranteed, any chance of making the field vanished inside Autzen Stadium.
Still, Sample insisted UW wasn’t looking that far ahead.
“We lost the last game, obviously, but our goal is to win the next game,” Sample said. “Our focus is on Colorado and I think Coach Pete does a good job of making sure we’re focused. It’s a long season, so we’re just trying to make sure we take it one game at a time.”
On Monday, Petersen addressed the media in a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words, ‘Stay positive.’ It was a message for himself, the team and maybe the fan base, too. Even so, he admitted the difficulty of recovering from such a consequential loss.
“Yesterday and today? They’re hard days,” he said. “When you lay it on the line like that and you don’t get it done and come up a play or two short, it’s painful. It should be painful. And it is.”
The Huskies have been more locked in during practice this week, Sample said. That’s what tends to happen after a loss. For the offense, the focus has been on finishing drives, an issue that played a role in UW’s latest defeat.
“We moved the ball pretty well (against Oregon) and then we kind of just stalled out, whether it was the fourth down or in overtime, those type of things,” Sample said. “For us, really just making sure we finish drives to get points on the board.”
UW doesn’t have complete control over where it ends up now. All the Huskies can do is win out and hope everything else falls into place to earn them an eventual spot in the Rose Bowl.
That all starts with simply putting the loss to Oregon behind them.
“It’s tough,” said wide receiver Ty Jones. “But I mean, you try to find a way not to think on it or dwell on it too much. We got a long season ahead of us. … We see what we can learn from it. It’s never a loss, it’s always a lesson.”