Lost opportunity for Dawgs
Saturday's loss to Arizona State hurts UW's chances to earn bowl berth
The thought of Locker spending part of late Saturday night getting an IV to replenish fluids seems to best represent where the 2010 Huskies are right now. After an under-the-weather Locker and his teammates dropped a home game to Pac-10 bottom-feeder Arizona State, UW now sits at 2-3 overall, 1-1 in the conference and in need of four wins in its final seven games just to be considered for bowl participation.
With upcoming road games at No. 2 Oregon, No. 17 Arizona and California and home dates against two teams — No. 24 Oregon State and No. 14 Stanford — that beat the Huskies by a combined 47 points last season among the seven remaining games, it's getting more and more difficult to decipher where those wins will be found.
UW's chances of postseason competition are in serious need of an IV right now.
The Huskies play four consecutive ranked teams, three of whom handily beat them last season. A Nov. 18 home date against UCLA looks entirely winnable, but UW could conceivably be looking at a 2-7 record and four-game losing streak by that point. The season-ending Apple Cup should include a heavily-favored UW team, but both the Huskies and Cougars could be playing for nothing other than pride — again.
It's enough to push Husky Nation to the brink of here-we-go-again.
“Everyone's going to be talking about us: we took a couple of steps the wrong way, or our whole entire year is down the drain now,” senior safety Nate Williams said a few minutes after the 24-14 loss to the Sun Devils on Saturday night. “But we're going to keep on pushing, keep on fighting through, and we're going to make our corrections. We're going to keep on fighting week in and week out.”
Ever-optimistic head coach Steve Sarkisian prefers to look at the numbers that are in his favor right about now. The most notable one is six, which represents the number of Pac-10 teams — UW included — bunched up near the top of the conference standings with one loss or fewer. Sarkisian will tell you that the Pac-10 is as balanced as ever, which means that just about every team has an equal shot to compete for the No. 2 spot behind conference favorite Oregon (6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Pac-10 and ranked No. 2 in the country).
But there are a few other numbers that tell us a different story, one that doesn't paint the Huskies as the contender they were expected to be.
Some of those numbers were once considered early-season anomalies but, five games into the season, are beginning to look more like trends.
And so UW's 104th-ranked defense, which has given up more yardage than every Pac-10 team outside of Pullman and has allowed opponents to convert more than 40 percent of third downs, might continue to be among the 20 worst units in the country.
A passing offense that was supposed to use its experience and firepower to pile up points might continue to be a unit plagued by dropped passes — that number has now swelled to 10, with Jermaine Kearse's seven drops leading the way.
And maybe the future-NFL-star-one-week-plummeting-draft-stock-the-next inconsistency of Locker will continue to be the story of his senior season.
After Saturday's game, Sarkisian was quick to defend his senior leader by pointing out that Locker “just wasn't feeling great” and added: “I don't think we got 100 percent of Jake Locker tonight, unfortunately.”
But the excuses are running out on a quarterback that couldn't finish strong at BYU, played one of the worst games of his career against Nebraska and struggled to get into a passing rhythm in the ASU game.
If nothing else, Saturday night's game was a lost opportunity. The Sun Devils were picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10, were riding a three-game losing streak and had to play in a stadium where the Huskies have won six times as many games as they've won on the road in the Sarkisian era. And yet ASU walked out of Husky Stadium with a win and new life, putting itself back into the thick of the conference pack.
Despite the loss, the Huskies are right there as well. A win over Oregon State on Saturday would keep UW among the teams hovering around second place and within striking distance of first-place Oregon. Those are the numbers keeping the Huskies going this week.
“We're not the only team that lost (Saturday),” Williams said after the ASU game. “Anything can happen.”
Anything can happen, but after Saturday night's loss it's beginning to look like what will happen is a familiar ending.
That is, the Huskies and Washington State Cougars playing for pride after both teams have been eliminated from bowl contention again.
If the Huskies are going to end their seven-year bowl draught, they're certainly going to have to earn it.
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