Two days after a heartbreaking, controversial loss at No. 5 Stanford, the 16th-ranked Huskies get back onto the field to prepare for another mammoth test – and opportunity – Saturday against No. 2 Oregon.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Opportunity knocked last week, and the Huskies came within a controversial replay reversal from answering all of it.
Well, opportunity is pounding now.
It’s Oregon week.
Steve Sarkisian said during his weekly press conference Monday that he doesn’t know much about — nor does he want his 16th-ranked Huskies to focus on — the dastardly Ducks’ nine-game winning streak over Washington.
Besides, the coach wasn’t at UW for the first five of them.
“But I do know this: We played top-five team in America a week ago on the road, and we played our tails off. We had a chance to win — and just missed it,” Sarkisian said of last weekend’s 31-28 loss at Stanford, decided by a replay-review official overturning Kevin Smith’s fourth-down catch at the Stanford 33 in the final 75 seconds.
"We have another opportunity to show our resolve and to show how we can respond from that tough loss, and go play the No.-2 team in the country in Husky Stadium with the whole country watching in an amazing atmosphere for college football that we are fortunate to be part of.
"And we are going to go out and put our best foot forward — and see if that is good enough to win."
That is the early story line to Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Husky Stadium, the 106th renewal of Washington versus Oregon, on Fox Sports 1, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive game chat including free live streaming audio of Bob Rondeau’s radio call.
How quickly and effectively can the Huskies refocus for another huge step toward their goal of a division championship and chance at the Rose Bowl?
"If we want to remain in the hunt in the Pac-12 North, we need to win Saturday. That’s what it’s about," Sarkisian said.
"This is an opportunity to show what we are made of."
The fifth-year coach said that if Monday morning’s practice is any indication, the Huskies will not be daunted by the task, by ESPN bringing its “College GameDay” show to UW for the first time on Saturday, the intense desire Huskies fans have to beat Oregon — any of that.
The session including starters-versus-starters scrimmaging, to get used to the pace the Huskies will need – and will get from Oregon – on Saturday.
"We practiced our tails off today," Sarkisian said.
The players don’t need reminded of the stakes this week.
"Oh, we know," quarterback Keith Price said. (And) we know that we are not far off. We are not far off at all.
"We understand that Stanford is a good team. We understand that Oregon is a good team. These are the games that are going to determine the championship. That’s ultimately our goal.
"We know that they are going to come to Seattle hungry. We are going to be hungry. … We’ll be ready for Oregon."
Sarkisian said Monday that Price’s sore thumb is better and that his quarterback and leader should be fine for Saturday. Price and every other Husky were on the field for practice this morning.
Price is still getting praised nationally for his gritty performance and leadership at Stanford. He was sacked five times, hit to the ground at least seven more, played most of the second half with that banged and throbbing thumb on his throwing hands. And he still completed 33 of 48 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns, rallying UW from 10 points down in the second, third and fourth quarters.
Sarkisian said he and the Huskies’ staff were concerned on the sidelines during the second half that Price’s taped thumb was preventing him from gripping the ball properly, “but he continued to reassure us he was fine.”
"We were prepared to put (backup) Cyler (Miles) into the game; Cyler felt good about it,” Sarkisian said. “But Keith continued to reassure us he was fine — and there was nothing in his play that said otherwise.
"He was making some tremendous throws under duress."
Speaking of duress, some around the nation are calling these two games for UW the toughest consecutive tasks in the country this season.
This is the third time in four years the Huskies have played Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks. The other time, in 2011, they played their top two rivals in the Pac-12 North twice in three weeks.
"Every week feels like ‘the ultimate challenge,’ you know," Sarkisian said.
Here’s another one: Cut down on the flags.
The Huskies are 122nd out of 123 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 10.6 penalties per game accepted against them. Only UCLA has been flagged more.
Asked if he’s seen some common themes to all the fouls, Sarkisian said: “Not much. We’ve gotten about every one of them that can be called against us.”
Sarkisian said upon reviewing the film of the Stanford game there were calls that he agreed were penalties, such as obvious false starts and a cut-block called inside on Bishop Sankey helping with pass protection. There were other calls Sarkisian didn’t agree with, such as a hands-to-the-face personal foul on defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha that the coach said he still hasn’t seen happen.
Sarkisian mentioned Saturday — but not again on Monday — that he wasn’t sure what freshman Darrell Daniels did to warrant a foul on a hard block into a Stanford kick-coverage man’s chest in the open field.
All of which means zippo to this week’s task.
"That part is a little bit irrelevant. I can come back and send in the report (to the Pac-12’s officiating office), and they could say, ‘Yeah, you were right.’ But the game’s over, you know? We lost the football game.
"So it’s time for us to move on. … Oregon practiced today, too. We’ve got to get ready to play the No.-2 team in the country."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: ESPN chose the “Red Square” plaza and area around Suzzallo Library in the center of campus as the site for its “College GameDay” broadcast on Saturday from 6-9 a.m. UW students attending Friday’s 8 p.m. Huskies volleyball match against Arizona at Alaska Airlines Arena will receive a wrist band that will entitle them to special, early access to prime, on-camera places on the “GameDay” set early the next morning. That volleyball game, like Saturday’s football game, is a “blackout” with UW encouraging fans to wear black to match the Huskies’ special uniforms for the game. … Sarkisian said he heard back from the Pac-12 office regarding the Huskies’ final offensive play at Stanford, a scramble and pass by Price to Smith the on-field officials ruled a catch before the replay official overruled them. The coach said the conference told him the replay used to make that ruling was the same one we all saw on ESPN’s telecast — and that it was indeed “conclusive.” … The Huskies have gone three and out on offense six times in 65 drives this season, a rate of 9.2 percent. Only Baylor (1.6 percent, once out of 61 drives) has a better percentage.