Oct. 23, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Nick Holt stood just outside the team bus that was about to take him and his Huskies away from Stanford Stadium.
The bus couldn't take away the defensive coordinator's disappointment, though.
"At times we were in the right spot and we didn't make the tackle. Other times, we weren't," Holt said minutes after Stanford got done rushing for its school-record of 446 yards in a 65-21 victory over the formerly ranked Huskies Saturday night. "It's really disappointing.
"But," he added, with the perspective of a veteran coach that has won Rose Bowls leading the defense at USC, "we're going to learn from this and get better.
"We've got to move on."
Move on, that is, to this week's challenge for Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12), at home against Arizona (2-5, 1-4) this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. And it's the opposite task of last week: Stopping a wide-open passing game, with Nick Foles throwing to swarms of elusive Wildcats receivers.
"I have all belief in our guys. We are going to bounce back," middle linebacker and co-captain Cort Dennison said. "This one game doesn't define our season.
"It's frustrating when you go out there and do what we did (Saturday). But we're not going to hang our heads. We realize we're a 5-2 football team."
The refocusing started Sunday. Arizona gained 467 yards last season while beating the Huskies 44-14 in Tucson, though the Wildcats have since fired their coach and lost key offensive and defensive linemen.
"The last thing we can do is sit around and sulk," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We get back to Husky Stadium for what will be the first night game of the season, and we expect it to be rockin'.
"Arizona will present a big challenge for us. We've got to get right - and get right fast."
Sarkisian admitted in the dark outside the locker room at Stanford Stadium on Saturday night that he had a rebuilding job to do Sunday and Monday, restoring the Huskies' collective psyche.
At least they aren't facing Stanford this week.
Sure, the Cardinal has exquisite quarterback Andrew Luck. But it also has a smash-mouth style that has overwhelmed the young, still growing Huskies in each of the last three seasons.
Stanford had 198 yards rushing in the first quarter Saturday, when Holt thought his defense "played on its heels." The big gains began on the game's first play. Washington pursued hard to its right to defend what the Huskies thought was a sweep. It became a reverse, with wide receiver Chris Owusu running around the opposite end for 45 yards to the UW 31.
And the Cardinal kept running. It had 198 yards in the first quarter, before Luck threw a 1-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the second quarter to put Stanford up 17-7.
"Oh, man. We let some explosive plays get out," defensive end Everrette Thompson said. "If it wasn't one person it was a whole group not jelling in those holes."
"Early in the game we made mistakes, couldn't get them out of their heavy (formations) stuff," Holt said. "We were on our heels, and you can't play like that.
"The first play was a reverse, OK, they got us. But then we have to get back and be (responding), `Let's go!'"
Holt and Dennison each said Stanford ran just one play they hadn't seen from it before: A sweep in the third quarter on which the running back had the option to pitch to a trailing back downfield. The Huskies practiced against everything else all last week.
But they didn't get to practice against Stanford's three senior offensive linemen or its three tight ends, some of whom lined up behind Luck to form power, three-running back formations.
"We couldn't knock them out of (that formation). And then early in the game we didn't get off the field on third downs," Holt said. "So that was really the story there. And then you get behind and you can't get them out of that personnel. And they keep pounding you and pounding you.
"We are not there yet physically in our program with our guys with just staying toe-to-toe consistently," Holt said outside the locker room of Stanford, the co-leader in the Pac-12's North division with Oregon, which Washington gets in two weeks.
A few minutes later, at the team bus, Holt was still shaking his head. But his tone was positive, far from desperate.
"We'll keep getting big, strong kids in here," he said, taking a big-picture view of a program 2 ½ years old.
"We'll keep growing."