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UW FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Apple Cup for pride (again)

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian (left) gives instructions to quarterback Jake Locker in the third quarter of the Huskies' Oct. 24 game against Oregon.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Head coach Steve Sarkisian (left) gives instructions to quarterback Jake Locker in the third quarter of the Huskies' Oct. 24 game against Oregon.

SEATTLE — Steve Sarkisian used one of those oft-uttered clichés when talking about his University of Washington football team’s next game.
When the Huskies host the Washington State Cougars in the 102nd Apple Cup meeting in 11 days, Sarkisian said, “you take the records and you throw them out the window.”
That’s precisely what both these programs would like to do right about now.
The Cougars (1-9) are one of the worst teams in Division I-A football. And the Huskies’ recent freefall has put them in straits only slightly less dire.
“It’s not about Rose Bowls or Pac-10 championships,” Sarkisian said of the Apple Cup, which will be at Husky Stadium one week from Saturday. “It’s about pride.”
The “pride” theme has been all too familiar at recent Apple Cups. UW’s fast start — the Huskies were 2-1 after an upset of then-No. 3 USC on Sept. 19 — had this part of the season looking like a meaningful stretch. But after four consecutive losses, and six in seven games, the Huskies (3-7) are looking for other forms of motivation.
“The natural thing is guys wanted to play in a bowl game,” Sarkisian said Monday, two days after a 48-21 loss to Oregon State officially eliminated UW from bowl contention. “That’s human nature of what goals are out there. We’ve got to get these guys refocused and playing prideful and playing for something that’s greater than just the reward at the end of possibly a bowl game or a conference championship.”
Before the Huskies turn their sights on the Apple Cup, they will take their second bye of the season this weekend. Sarkisian said he would prefer to get back on the field as soon as possible — “Anytime you get your butt kicked the way we did last week, you wish you could jump right back on the horse and play,” he said — but he’ll use the time off to rest some hobbled players.
Defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (neck stinger), linebacker E.J. Savannah (thumb) and safeties Jason Wells (foot) and Nate Fellner (partially torn biceps) are among the players who could use the week off. Sarkisian said that battered starters Ryan Tolar and Chris Polk will also get some time off this week.
Sarkisian has some extra time to do a little soul searching this week. One thing he has yet to do is start scouting the Cougars for the upcoming Apple Cup.
“I haven’t watched a snap yet,” he said. “We have had our own issues, obviously, here the last few weeks.”
Will he stay, or will he go?
Of the first 16 questions Sarkisian fielded during his Monday press conference, 11 of them had to do with quarterback Jake Locker.
More specifically, they had to do with the possibility of Locker declaring himself eligible for the April NFL draft. The junior quarterback is being projected by some draft gurus as a possible first-round pick.
Sarkisian said that the coaching staff will let the process play out — the final two games of the season, the fact-gathering from scouts and pro-personnel people, and finally Locker’s decision.
Sarkisian said it will be Locker’s decision in the end, and he’s not sure which way the quarterback might be leaning.
Asked whether Locker could benefit from another season at UW, Sarkisian said: “With every quarterback, from a maturation standpoint, you always benefit from coming back.”
Sarkisian added that he understands the financial allure of coming out early, especially if a quarterback is projected to go in the first part of Round 1.
When he was asked whether the draft talk could be a distraction for Locker, Sarkisian cracked: “As long as you (reporters) want to keep writing about it, it’s going to be on his mind.’’
Short yardage
Sarkisian said that Fellner is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his partially torn biceps today. … The Huskies and Cougars rank among the bottom two in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, pass defense efficiency and opponents’ third-down conversions.
Story tags » Huskies Football

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