Even against what was believed to be a cupcake defense, the Washington Huskies can't work up an appetite for offense.
Quarterback Keith Price had two interceptions and a lost a fumble as he ran scared behind his semi-helpless blockers, leaving the Huskies no counter-punch for Arizona's quick-strike attack that produced the UW's most disappointing loss of the season, 52-17, Saturday night in Tucson.
The points were the most the Wildcats, which entered the game game 0-3 in the Pac-12 Conference, have scored against Washington, which fell to 1-3 in conference and 3-4 overall.
Blame did not rest entirely with Price. The defense regressed back to its days under fired coordinator Nick Holt, and special teams allowed a punt return for a touchdown and surrendered field position all night.
"An extremely, extremely disappointing loss," coach Steve Sarkisian told KJR radio. " It's embarrassing, quite honestly.
"The unfortunate part was we thought we had really good plan. For whatever reason, the execution was not there again. Guys were open, runs were there."
Price clearly has been spooked by a season-long failure of his teammates to protect him; he's throwing too soon, too late and too errantly. The Wildcats entered the game with just six sacks this season, but caught Price four times and blasted him on numerous other occasions. The Wildcats had been giving up 33 points a game.
Price's counterpart, Matt Scott, threw for four touchdowns an 256 yards (14 of 22), moving as confidently as Price moved apprehensively. But Scott had been averaging 370 passing yards a game. More surprising was the 172 yards on 29 carries by Ka'deem Carey, part of Arizona's 533 yards of offense, 277 on the ground.
"Defensively, we couldn't win one-on-one match-ups," Sarkisian said. "That part was disappointing; our inability to get off blocks and not tackle so (ballcarriers) don't fall forward. And we've covered receivers bettter than that."
The Huskies actually had a mid-game shot at competitiveness. Late in the second quarter and trailing 31-10, linebacker Travis Feeney returned an interception to the Arizona 3-yard line. Three plays later, Bishop Sankey, who had 87 rushing yards and 32 in receptions, scored from one yard out to cut the halftime deficit to 31-17.
Then on the first scrimmage play of the second half, the Wildcats fumbled away the ball, only to get it back on the next play when Price, on another long scramble away from pressure, was strip-sacked my Marquise Flowers and gave the ball back at the Washington 43-yard line.
"He's throwing too cautious," Sarkisian said. "He doesn't need to play that way. He needs to play the way he's capable. When it's not there, have the courage to throw the ball away."
Arizona scored shortly thereafter when Austin Hill took a Scott pass and stiff-armed UW safety Sean Parker at the five-yard line for an 18-yard touchdown. The Huskies answered with a three-and-out and a short punt, which Arizona's Richard Morrison returned 63 yards for a touchdown and a 45-17 lead.
After a hit to the gut late in the fourth quarter, Price could barely stand for the snap. He finished with career highs in completions (28) and attempts (52), but frequently did not see open receivers or missed by large margins downfield.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins had eight catches for a career high 110 yards and a touchdown, but had three penalties in pass protection. The Huskies added to their miseries with 10 penalties and 100 lost yards. Left tackle Micah Hatchie had two penalties and looked overwhelmed.
The Huskies get back to playing ranked opponents at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at home against eighth-ranked Oregon State.