Washington athletic director Jen Cohen issued a statement Saturday night in response to a sideline incident involving UW head coach Jimmy Lake and one of his players.
During the Huskies’ 26-16 loss to Oregon, Lake appeared to strike linebacker Ruperake Fuavai in the facemask after Fuavai and an Oregon player were engaged near the Washington bench immediately after a first-half kickoff.
Another Oregon player quickly separated the two and the two Ducks players were retreating to their side of the field when Lake came in and accosted Fuavai. A replay of the incident shows Lake making contact with Fuavai’s facemask with his right hand and then shoving him.
Jimmy Lake pops Ruperake Fuavai in the helmet and shoves him for getting into it with Jaylon Redd on the sideline pic.twitter.com/7AdSuugGe3
— Ralph Amsden (@ralphamsden) November 7, 2021
Following the game, Cohen said the school was gathering more information.
“We are aware of an interaction between Head Coach Jimmy Lake and a student-athlete during the first half of Saturday’s game,” Cohen’s statement said. “We have high expectations of the conduct of our coaches and we are working to gather more information on this matter.”
Lake told reporters after the loss that his intention was to “separate” the players.
“Ruperake was up in an Oregon defender’s face. I went in to separate them and push him back,” Lake said. “Then after that, we settled down a little bit. That was our deal all week long, 'We got to have poise.' We knew this was going to be a very heated matchup and there was going to be a lot of trash-talking. When we stepped in there we were glad that a penalty wasn’t thrown on our guys to put us back even further on that kickoff return.”
A reporter followed up and asked Lake if he regretted “striking” Fuavai. Lake said he “separated” the players.
"I separated him. I didn't strike him. I separated him," Lake said.
Washington struggling in Lake's second season
Lake is in his second season as Washington head coach. The Huskies were expected to be one of the Pac-12’s better teams, but Saturday night’s loss dropped UW to 4-5 on the year. The season has been plagued by offensive woes. Saturday’s loss was no different as the Huskies finished with just 166 total yards.
On top of that, Lake made headlines during the week when he was asked if Washington and Oregon are rivals on the recruiting trail. Lake said Washington more commonly battles with schools like Notre Dame, Stanford and USC — schools with more “academic prowess,” according to Lake.
“In our world, we battle more academically prowess teams,” Lake said.
Aware of Lake’s comment, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal dropped this veiled shot during his postgame media availability.
Mario Cristobal with a shot at UW coach Jimmy Lake in the post-game:
"Proud of the way our guys came over and showed their prowess in the inclement weather."
— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) November 7, 2021