Oct. 30, 2010
SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian walked into a quiet locker room and looked his Huskies in their hurting eyes. The coach then sent a message that will shape the final four games of Washington's inexplicably up-and-down regular season.
"I only know one way to handle things when you get put in this kind of a situation, and that's to work extremely hard," Sarkisian told his players Saturday night, moments after a 41-0 loss to 13th-ranked Stanford.
The rout in the rain was stunning in its completeness and suddenness.
The Huskies (3-5, 2-3 Pac-10) needed to seize an early lead to perhaps get Stanford out of its rugged running game inside, where the Cardinal had a huge size advantage. But with 8½ minutes remaining in the second quarter, Washington trailed 28-0. The Cardinal (7-1, 4-1) were outgaining the Huskies 286 yards to 32 at that point.
"We're low, obviously. Our confidence is low," Sarkisian said. "But that doesn't mean it can't get built back up."
Mason Foster did what he could in UW's first home shutout loss since Nov. 6, 1976 -- a 7-0 loss to California. Foster, the Huskies' Pac-10 leader in tackles and third in the nation at 11.7 per game coming in, made 18 stops. He has a whopping 100 in eight games this season.
"He's one of the best players in the country for a reason," fellow UW linebacker Cort Dennison said. "But at the end of day, it's the loss that only matters. "
Stanford gained 470 yards. Washington, which had beaten USC and Oregon State in recent weeks, managed just 107. It was the lowest amount by far in Sarkisian's two seasons at UW.
"It was definitely the worst offensive performance I've ever been associated with," said the former Rose Bowl- and national championship-winning assistant at USC.
All of this came four weeks after the Dawgs beat the Trojans in Los Angeles for their first road win in three years.
Sarkisian was in no immediate rush to judgment. But he is already investigating.
"I want to assess everything and come to some understanding of what possibly the issues are," the coach said. "Find a way to find a way."
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt explained some of it.
"It's just physics," Holt said, praising the Huskies' effort but bemoaning missed assignments and the size differential.
One example: Huskies 238-pound freshman defensive end Hau'oli Jamora trying to move through a Stanford line that had four 300 pounders.
"We can't put 30, 40, 50 pounds on guys that quickly," Holt said.
Stanford was Washington's fifth ranked opponent in six games. Another, bigger one comes next week: at top-ranked Oregon. It will be yet another test of the Huskies' resiliency.
"We've got to throw away the rear-view mirror pretty quickly," Holt said.
Jake Locker just shook his head. He was as healthy as he'd been since before that win at USC that began October, past the bruised ribs and bruised thigh and head cold.
Yet Saturday night Locker looked as sick as if someone had just kicked his dog.
"I don't know where to begin," the senior co-captain said.
He completed 7 of 14 throws with two interceptions, three sacks and at least three escapes from charging Cardinal pass rushers. His rushing stats: eight carries, 1 net yard.
"We just weren't sound anywhere," he said.
Sarkisian wanted to get the faster Huskies outside and make the bigger Cardinal chase them. Yet Washington could never get enough push along the line of scrimmage to even get to the end, either with the running of Chris Polk or the bootlegs and passes on the run by Locker.
Polk, who has three 100-yard rushing days this season, finished with 17 yards on 13 carries.
And injuries to starters such as defensive linemen Talia Crichton and Cameron Elisara exposed the Huskies' lack of depth and size against the far more experienced Cardinal offense. Washington could not get near Stanford's runners, who gained 269 yards, or to quarterback Andrew Luck.
The Pac-10's leader in passing efficiency completed 19 of 26 throws for 192 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 51 yards for the game's first score, part of Stanford's 28-point first half. The Huskies assigned to track the quarterback were nowhere in sight on that play.
Washington also started two true freshmen on the right side of the offensive line Saturday, tackle Erik Kohler and guard Colin Porter. Stanford exploited that by blitzing that side, which gave Locker almost zero time to throw and Polk nowhere to run.
By the second quarter, Locker was anticipating being hit as soon as he planted his feet to throw. No wonder: He'd been sacked three times by then, and had scrambled to avoid at least three others.
Locker was healthy and running early against Stanford - only he kept slamming into a wall of white jerseys with red numbers on them.
Luck opened the scoring with a 51-yard touchdown run on an option keeper on third and 2. He broke outside contain and ran in untouched.
"After that, we were kind of scrambling," Holt said.
After a three-and-out by the Huskies that included a sack of Locker, Stanford made it 14-0 on two pass plays of 16 yards each from Luck and then the first of Stepfan Taylor's two short touchdown runs of the opening half.
Taylor's second one, on the first play of the second quarter, made it 21-0.
Locker and Kearse connected for a 19-yard pass, and then Stanford was flagged for 15 more yards on a late hit out of bounds to get Washington to Stanford's 42. But a rush for no gain by Locker and then two incomplete passes ended that drive - the Huskies' deepest drive of the night.
Stanford then marched 80 yards in 10 plays - seven of them runs inside. Backup Tyler Gaffney ran 3 yards for another touchdown that put the Cardinal up 28-0 with 8½ minutes left in the opening half.
Stanford had 286 yards to Washington's 32 at that point.
Holt also said better days are ahead on defense.
Asked if his players are still with him emotionally, the defensive coordinator said, "Yeah, they are. And the ones that aren't, they probably aren't playing."
"We'll come back," Holt said. "We'll play better. ... They will get their heads up."