Oct. 31, 2010
by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Sunday brought the best thing the Huskies could have right now: A new week, a new opportunity.
Let's forget for now that opportunity is at top-ranked Oregon. ABC announced Sunday that it will telecast Saturday's game at Autzen Stadium with the kickoff at 12:30 p.m. It will be the 46th consecutive televised game for Washington, and the seventh on a major, nationwide network this year.
The days until then are chances for much-needed renewal in the Huskies' inexplicably up-and-down season. Coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff are already using the time to assess, in Sarkisian's word, "everything."
Yes, Washington (3-5, 2-3 Pac-10) gets to start anew following Saturday night's 41-0 loss at home to Stanford. Even after the deflating defeat that left Sarkisian saying his team "hit rock bottom," the Huskies still have opportunities to salvage their goal of a first bowl appearance since 2002.
"We've got to get back at it on Monday," quarterback Jake Locker said. "We still have four games left in our season."
Washington needs to win three of them to qualify for the postseason.
For months, Huskies players and coaches had been saying they were playing a 13-game season. That would include a bowl. And Jake Locker still has that bowl as the goal.
"We're just guaranteed four more (games)," Locker said. "If you look at it, we control our own destiny as far as that goes.
"If we play with the confidence and tempo like we have in the past, we'll be just fine."
Confidence among the Huskies was in short supply after Stanford built a 28-0 lead less than two quarters into the game. And while the game might have been over by that point, the season wasn't.
"We're focused," senior linebacker Victor Aiyewa said. "Although we went down the way we did, it doesn't define our season with so many games still left."
A noticeably frustrated Sarkisian said Saturday night "we're low, obviously." But he and his leaders in the locker room see this as the latest in a series of resiliency tests for the Dawgs.
"I definitely think it's a challenge, and we have a lot of leaders on this team," linebacker Cort Dennison said. "But obviously, if you are competitive, these kinds of losses hurt."
The Ducks (8-0, 4-0) are flying high following their 53-32 soar past USC later Saturday. But at least Oregon won't be as big as Stanford.
On both sides of the, the behemoth Cardinal lines held sway over the Huskies' offensive and defensive lines, which each counted two freshmen among their starting group.
"They controlled every possession, that's what it seemed like," UW safety Nate Fellner said. "We've got to show this was kind of a fluke."
Oregon has just two 300-pound linemen. Both are on offense. The Ducks' biggest defensive lineman is 272-pound Brandon Bair.
So maybe the Huskies will find a track meet on the edges in Eugene more conducive to their team strengths than the smash-mouth inside game was against Stanford in Seattle.
"We have to make more plays, man. That's what it's all about," linebacker Mason Foster said.
Foster did his part. Again. The senior linebacker and former high school quarterback increased his Pac-10 lead in tackles by making a season-high 18 stops in the next-to-last home game of his UW career.
Like Locker and the rest of the Huskies, Foster has no idea how Washington went from winning at USC to Saturday's demise in four weeks. October also included a victory over one of the second-place teams in the Pac-10, Oregon State.
"I don't really know why. Everyone's playing hard," Foster said. "But we can't make mistakes (like we've been making)."