Sept. 5, 2010
Complete Coverage Of UW-BYU Game (Stats, Photos, Video)
Reminder: The Coach Sarkisian Show on 950 KJR airs live from the Don James Center Monday at 4:30 p.m. Public welcomed.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
PROVO, Utah - These growing Huskies got older in the opener. The coming weeks will prove if they got wiser.
Washington played a school-record 13 freshmen in Saturday's 23-17 loss in the heat and altitude at Brigham Young. That was one of many encouraging aspects of an ultimately excruciating night that left the Huskies regretting they had beaten themselves.
"There are a lot of things we can build on from this game," quarterback Jake Locker said.
He began his senior season by completing 20 of 37 passes for 266 yards with one touchdown passing and another rushing. Yet both he and second-year coach Steve Sarkisian thought his night was just so-so, that there is so much more to come in 2010.
"All of our heads were up in the locker room," linebacker Cort Dennison said.
Sarkisian, tailback Chris Polk and other Huskies spoke before the flight home of a 13-game season, of having 12 more chances to define this season of high expectations. The proving ground moves to Husky Stadium for the next two Saturdays, against Syracuse this week and then against Nebraska.
No, the schedule hasn't changed -- there are 11 more regular season games. But Washington remains undeterred by BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna knocking down Locker's final, fourth-down pass at the Cougars 27 with 1:51 left.
The Huskies remain focused on reaching its first bowl game since 2002.
"We've got 12 games to go," Sarkisian said, confidently. "But we've got to improve. We've got improve in all three areas."
The most notable of the new performances came from Jesse Callier. The 5-foot-10 freshman from Downey, Calif., had one dash of 39 yards, zooming past flat-footed Cougars at the line. He also caught two passes and showed he could be a dynamic change-up to the powerful Polk.
Yes, there were glaring special-teams errors -- a botched punt snap for a safety and two, 2-yard kickoff returns. Sarkisian said he was "surprised how we were on special teams. It had nothing to do with BYU. We didn't execute. That was disappointing."
Those problems created three drive starts inside Washington's own 7-yard line. There were misfires on passes that are usually routine completions for Locker and his veteran receivers. And the developing defense allowed 408 yards (though, notably, just 23 points). BYU flustered the Huskies by going without a huddle in the decisive third quarter. The Cougars rolled up 150 yards and turned Washington's 17-13 halftime lead into the final score in that third period.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said a pass rusher took the wrong blitz route on BYU's go-ahead touchdown pass play, allowing quarterback Riley Nelson far more time than he should have had to find running back JJ Di Luigi on his slow-developing route.
"Here's the bottom line: We didn't get any turnovers to help our offense," Holt said.
Yet the prevailing postgame talk from the UW locker room was about how this was different than the previous shortcomings in a road losing streak that dates to 2007. Dennison emphatically said "We aren't the same old Huskies. We know we let a game get away from us. We realize there's still plenty of season left and we can do some great things."
There are more reasons to believe that:
The offense marched down the field to begin the game then scored a touchdown on Locker's 19-yard pass Jermaine Kearse. It rolled up 394 yards in all despite having to change the game plan while being backed inside its own 20 six times. And the production came with Locker and the offense at less than their best.
"We stopped ourselves," Polk said of Washington's scoreless second half.
Locker, who also rushed for 29 yards on 11 carries against a BYU defense geared to stop his runs, bemoaned converting first downs. Washington was just 5 of 15 on third-down chances, and was 0-for-3 on fourth downs.
"There are a lot of things we can clean up," Locker said. "We were in positions to make plays, you know, missed throws, missed catches... I missed a couple.
"We have to make plays when they present themselves."
Polk picked up where he left off last season, when as a freshman he became only the second Husky since the 1990s to top 1,000 yards. He bulled for 92 yards on 16 carries - gaining almost 6 yards per rush - while blowing through defenders' arms.
Kicker Erik Folk showed he is a weapon that can provide scoring power soon after the offense crosses midfield. His career-best, 54-yard field goal to end the first half would have been good from 60.
News was also relatively positive on the injury front as even the several Huskies who left the game for various reasons all returned later in the game. All are likely to be okay for next week's game vs. the Orange.
"It's like Coach said: It's one game," Locker said. "And one game doesn't define your season."