Oct. 27, 2009
By TIM BOOTH SEATTLE
AP SPORTS WRITER
SEATTLE-- Physically beat up and mentally taxed, Washington is ready to take a break.
The Huskies entered their bye week on Monday ready for some time off after eight straight games, including Saturday's 43-19 loss to No. 10 Oregon where Washington (3-5, 2-3) appeared physically worn down in the second half.
The Huskies, along with Stanford, are the last two teams in the Pac-10 to get a bye, and for Washington it's sorely needed.
"For eight straight weeks, we've been at it. Then you throw in training camp, and this has been a long haul of really intense, locked-in, emotional football games that our kids are learning from," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "They're gaining value in playing in these types of games. But somewhere in there, it's great to have a little break. It's great to kind of step back and assess who we are as a football team, not only physically but also mentally."
So this week is going to mean very little practice time for guys like quarterback Jake Locker, running back Chris Polk and linebackers Donald Butler and Mason Foster. Sarkisian wants to see many of his younger players who haven't seen much playing time yet and determine if they can contribute this season.
Locker certainly needs the rest. On top of the normal beating a quarterback takes, Sarkisian revealed Monday that Locker took a significant hit to his thigh in the first quarter against Oregon on Saturday that limited his mobility as the game progressed.
After the game Sarkisian said Locker was cramping and that was the reason Locker appeared to be limping. Instead, Sarkisian acknowledged Monday that his play calling was hampered because of Locker's injury. Locker was sacked four times and finished with (minus)-16 yards rushing against the Ducks.
"If you notice the rest of the game there weren't any real designed quarterback runs. That's football. You take hits," Sarkisian said. "But that's the beauty of this system. You don't become one-dimensional. If we were a team that just relied on Jake running and he took that hit, we were struggling. But in turn we had a system in place that churned out almost 400 yards of offense but wasn't able to capitalize in the red zone."
While Washington's offense was able to roll up 395 total yards on a talented Oregon defense, it was the Huskies inability to keep up with the Ducks fast-break offense in the second half that turned a nine-point deficit at halftime into another Oregon romp.
On the Ducks first three possessions of the second half, they needed just 18 plays to roll up 180 total yards and score 21 unanswered points. By the time their third-quarter blitz was over, Oregon was on its way to a Halloween night showdown with No. 4 Southern California.
"I think we are improving. If you exclude that last play against Arizona State we played pretty good. That was a winning performance by our defense against Arizona State," Sarkisian said. "Oregon, in the third quarter things fell apart. We should have done more offensively to help them. But I think we are getting better at what we are doing."
Sarkisian is giving his players Thursday through Sunday off this week before returning to get focused on playing Nov. 7 at UCLA. While Washington's bowl hopes took a big hit with the losses to Arizona State and Oregon, a win over UCLA would rekindle the thoughts of becoming bowl eligible in Sarkisian's first season.
"Sure, we'd love to go to a bowl game. Sure, we'd love to be Pac-10 champs. Sure, we'd love to have a better record ... but ultimately it's the respect factor," Sarkisian said. "Because when your opponent respects you, that means you're probably doing things right."