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Dick Harmon: How the Huskies crushed BYU in Washington

Brigham Young Cougars running back Squally Canada (22) leaves the game and walks to the locker room after an injury against the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. Washington won 35-7.
Brigham Young Cougars running back Squally Canada (22) walks to the locker room after an injury against the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. Washington won 35-7.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SEATTLE — BYU was big enough for the moment in Wisconsin, but in Seattle, the moment was way too big for the Cougars.

In an attempt to capture the nation’s attention a second time in September, No. 11 Washington outclassed No. 20 BYU in about every way imaginable in Husky Stadium Saturday night in a 35-7 win.

Jake Browning completed 23 of 25 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown to lead Washington past a BYU team that struggled to make big plays on both sides of the line while making a trainload of mistakes.

In short, Washington’s speed ate BYU alive, and its size and depth and athleticism was just too much.

“They manhandled us,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake, who was not shy about crediting UW coach Chris Petersen for building a national powerhouse and spanking his team. “This Washington team is a different beast.”

This was a night BYU had to be near-perfect. No turnovers, no big miscues, keep everyone healthy and play more tidy than the bald Mr. Clean guy.

“We could not afford to make the mistakes we did against this kind of opponent,” said Sitake.

The Cougars did exactly what Utah did when they had Petersen’s team in Salt Lake City: Mess up.

Browning cut the Cougar defense apart because Petersen’s design kept BYU’s defense off-balance. He had all kinds of time to slice and dice and it looked like BYU was incapable of getting to him.

That was a great game plan and coaching, according to Sitake.

“We had to stop the run first before we could worry about getting pressure and they were too good. They hit us with the RPO (run-pass option), and they were effective at getting to the edge.”

Sitake said every time BYU threw something at them, Washington immediately adjusted to it.

Corbin Kaufusi, who sacked Browning on the first series, agreed.

“We could never get in a pass rush mindset because of what they did to us with the run.”

He also said too many BYU defenders were trying to do too much instead of their own jobs.

“That hurts when you don’t do your assignment and that’s something we can correct.”

A perfect game in Pac-12 territory against that league’s anointed king and one of the nation’s best defenses?

A big ask for Jeff Grimes and Company. His offense averaged 4 yards a play but Washington’s number was a whopping 7.5 per play. UW got more than twice the offense at 464 to BYU’s 194. But UW ranked 4th in scoring defense, allowing 12.7; 11th in passing yards, allowing 154; and 17th in total defense, giving up 302.7 per game.

BYU, a grind-it-out team, needed to ugly this game down and make it close in the fourth quarter. It could not.

It all went out the window early when Moroni Laulu-Pututau twisted his knee on the third play of the game. BYU lost one of its top receivers in a game his work as a tight end was needed because of UW’s secondary. BYU wanted to attack Husky linebackers with tight ends.

It got worse from there.

In perhaps one of the best creative big-play drives of the season trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the Cougars methodically marched down the field on Washington by running 13 plays gaining 56 yards and using up eight and a half minutes. Tanner Mangum was effective. He had a reverse pivot shovel pass to Lopini Katoa for 15, a big 39-yard catch and run out of Matt Bushman and even won a review on a fumble by Aleva Hifo.

But that drive sputtered on a holding call that nullified an 8-yard run by Squally Canada to the Washington 10. In fact, it was the second holding call on that drive and was added to a pair of false starts and illegal motion. It died on a missed field goal by Skyler Southam.

BYU got nothing out of that effort, despite overcoming all those flags.

Washington used that to score and lead 14-0, and it looked like that would be the halftime score.

But disaster struck when BYU tried to run the ball deep in its own territory with under a minute to play. Katoa fumbled at BYU’s 24, and, with 22 seconds left in the half and the ball it should never have possessed, Husky QB Jake Browning rambled in for a 9-yard touchdown and 21-0 Washington lead.

“You can’t give our defense a short field to defend as we did, that’s always not the ideal,” said Mangum.

Nobody’s coming back on Washington’s defense from three down downs and a half left unless it is Alabama, or the New England Patriots.

BYU’s only touchdown came on a muffed punt recovered by deep snapper Mitch Harris late in the fourth quarter. Katoa, who had a career high of seven receptions to go with eight carries, scored on a 1-yard dive to avoid a shutout.

This was a learning experience for BYU, who can take the Wisconsin and Arizona memories into October at 3-2, just one win away from equaling last year’s season win total.

Washington was way better than BYU before, during and after this game, and it didn’t take a scientist to understand that this week.

Mangum had 160 yards on 18 of 21 passing. His offense had too many mistakes to chase the Huskies but there were glimpses.

Now looms a short week and Friday game at home against a very impressive Utah State team that had the week off to prepare and get healthy.

“We don’t have time to sulk about this; we have to get back to work,” said Sitake.

His approach with the Cougars is that they failed to play up to a standard against an outstanding opponent on their own field. He puts it in his back pocket and prepares for the Aggies as soon as he can.

In a sense, BYU’s failure in Seattle is a humble way to come practice on Monday.

Few if any thought BYU would be 3-2 after Saturday night.

BYU’s big task is to take what September provided and don’t waste next Friday.