Washington’s proud, high-scoring offense was no match for Alabama.
In a way, Huskies coach Chris Peterson could see it coming. The more he studied the Crimson Tide defense, the more he understood the challenge awaiting Washington on Saturday in a 24-7 Peach Bowl semifinal loss to No. 1 Alabama.
“We’ve studied every snap that they’ve had this year and the tape doesn’t lie when you watch that much tape,” Peterson said. “I mean, that’s as good a defense as there is out there in college football, and they played like it. ”
Washington (12-2) was held to season-low totals in points and yards (194). It was only the second time this season, following a 26-13 loss to Southern California on Nov. 12, the Huskies were held below 31 points.
The Huskies averaged 44.5 points, the fourth-highest total in the nation, before being humbled by Alabama.
Washington’s offense opened strong, moving 64 yards on a touchdown drive capped by Jake Browning’s 16-yard pass to Dante Pettis .
Alabama (14-0) shut out the Huskies from there.
Despite its offensive struggles after the opening drive, Washington trailed only 10-7 late in the first half until Alabama’s Ryan Anderson 26-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Browning was trying to connect with Lavon Coleman when he had to force a pass before hit by blitzing linebacker Reuben Foster. Anderson moved in for the pick, and his touchdown return gave Alabama a 17-7 lead.
“My job is just to not make a bad play worse,” Browning said. “Just take a sack or launch it out of bounds. ”
Browning completed 20 of 38 passes for only 150 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The touchdown pass was his 43rd of the season, tying the Pac-12 record set by Cal’s Jared Goff in 2015.
Browning acknowledged Alabama’s defense alters a normal game plan.
“It’s a good defense,” Browning said. “They can get in a quarterback’s head. I don’t think they did that necessarily but they make you get rid of the ball quickly. They have elite pass-rush guys. We did a pretty good job with that overall but you’ve got to make a couple more plays when you’re playing a good team like that. ”
Alabama shut down Washington’s leading receiver, John Ross, who had only 28 yards on five catches. The speedy receiver’s longest catch was for only 9 yards.
Meanwhile, Washington’s running game disappeared.
“We just couldn’t get our run game started,” Ross said. “… It’s pretty frustrating. We know they have a good run defense, but we still wanted to run the ball. ”
The Huskies managed only 44 yards rushing on 29 carries — an average of 1.5 yards.
“They kind of are what we thought they were, a really, really elite championship defense with real good players across the board,” Peterson said.
Peterson said his defense also played “really elite” — except for one play, a 68-yard scoring run by Alabama power back Bo Scarbrough.
“We didn’t tackle one time and their back made a great run and broke about five tackles,” Peterson said. “Other than that, I thought the kids played really good. ”
Scarbrough, selected the game’s MVP, ran for 180 yards with two touchdowns.
Washington’s opportunistic defense led the nation in takeaways. But Alabama also won the turnover battle, 3-0. Two turnovers led to 10 points.
“They beat us with our own game,” Peterson said. “… When you’re playing this type of game, when the margin for error is that small, those things are going to show up. “