Washington isn’t up to the level of Alabama. That isn’t an insult. Chris Petersen has been at the helm of the Huskies for three seasons and has already earned a Pac-12 Championship and a College Football Playoff appearance.
John Ross, for one, learned very quickly that even though he is the one of the fastest players in college football, there are other players who can at the very least keep up with him. Ross took the opening kickoff out of the end zone and was stopped at the 12. His subsequent kickoff return also ended with him going down at the 18.
When Ross touched the ball, he was quickly surrounded by tacklers, limiting his ability to create explosive plays after the catch. The first Washington drive featured two passes to Ross, one completed for four yards and a punt. Alabama followed that with a three-and-out of its own before Washington opened the scoring.
With the Crimson Tide’s front seven preventing Myles Gaskin from getting any traction between the tackles, the early plan to get him going was by getting him the ball on screens and swing passes. A 20-yard catch by Gaskin keyed the Dawgs scoring first, with Browning hitting Dante Pettis on a perfectly run fade route.
That’s when Alabama’s suffocation began. The Tide ran on eight of their nine plays on the ensuing touchdown drive with Bo Scarborough breaking tackles from approximately the entire Washington student body on his 18-yard touchdown run.
Until the last two minutes of the half, the only drive not ending in a punt by either team was a single Alabama field goal. The Huskies consistently were forced to start from within their own ten and couldn’t do much while the defense was able to hold the Tide back.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, Alabama doesn’t need offense to score. Browning had been erratic all half; the worst play by Browning resulted in the worst possible outcome. With Chico McCLatcher swinging out right, Browning was pressured and lofted a ball in McCLatcher’s direction but Tide senior linebacker Ryan Anderson was in the way. After burying McCLatcher under the Georgia Dome, Anderson was celebrating in the end zone. The Dawgs went into the half down 17-7 kicking the ball away.
Washington’s second half offense was more of the same, and so was its defense. Alabama didn’t move the ball easily all game. Washington’s interior linemen were able to wreak havoc the entire game. It wasn’t just the big three of Elijah Qualls, Greg Gaines and Vita Vea doing damage. Jaylen Johnson and Damion Durpin also made a difference.
Washington’s back was broken by Scarborough early in the fourth quarter when he again took on the entire UW student body, though in this case it was for a 68-yard touchdown instead of a measly 18. The 24-7 score after the PAT was the final.
The problem with any team playing against Alabama is that they are better than you are. Every single play the odds are against you. There is always another bigger, faster athlete when the first one needs a break. As the sample size grows larger, the gap becomes more apparent. The House always wins. The Tide always rolls.
Final instant Dots! for the season:
- Alabama’s secondary is underrated. The Tide front seven gets all the attention, and it is warranted. There were still times that Browning was able to sit in the pocket for several seconds before he was bleeding crimson. There were few times he was able to find a receiver open down the field. It didn’t take long for the Tide to forget about the deep passing and focus all their efforts on shutting things down underneath.
- Tristan Vizcaino performed well. He went against the scouting report early by kicking back across his body and ended up with three punts over 50 yards and a long of 65, aided by several long rolls and good bounces.
- Alabama’s front seven is not overrated. Gaskin and Lavon Coleman combined for 17 rushes and 50 yards. Browning went down five times when he dropped back to pass. Many Washington plays were over before they started.
- Browning has struggled since the USC game and it continued, though it is tough to say how much of that is on him and how much of that is on Bama performing at a level different than anyone else in the country. The offense has relied on balance, and when the run game doesn’t exist for the pass to play off, the passing game suffers.
Washington was a year away, 2017 was the year. That very well could still be the case. I am looking forward to next season, so should you.