Huskies have playoff mentality
Battle with Arizona is a fight for second place in the Pac-10, Sarkisian says.
Tonight, the Huskies try to start a new streak. Or two.
Not only has UW (3-3 overall, 2-1 in the Pacific-10 Conference) been unable to win back-to-back road games since Nov. 2002, it's also looking for its first two-game winning streak of the season.
The up-and-down Huskies have lived the life of a dysfunctional relationship this season, forcing their fan base to fall in and out of love with them on a weekly basis. If they're going to end the pattern, tonight would be a good time to start.
“It's (like) a playoff game,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It's playoff time, second half of the season. Two teams battling, right now tied for second place in the conference. So we're treating this like a playoff-game mentality.”
Fifteenth-ranked Arizona (5-1, 2-1) is certainly playing like the kind of team that will be included in the postseason. Add in the fact that the Wildcats are still reeling from having lost a 12-point lead in the final three minutes of last year's loss at UW should only add to U of A's motivation.
“We certainly haven't forgot about what happened in the game,” Wildcats coach Mike Stoops said this week. “I think you always remember. But our motivation is to compete better, play better and stay in this race — that's really all our motivation is right now.”
For the Huskies, beating a ranked team and winning a road game were once considered near-impossible tasks. But the win over 19th-ranked USC in Los Angeles, and last week's victory over No. 24 Oregon State, helped build a newfound confidence in UW.
“Once you get a win in a venue like (the L.A. Colieseum), you can have some carryover there,” Sarkisian said. “I'd like to think they can have some confidence from beating a very good Oregon State team last week.”
The Huskies haven't won at Arizona since 2006 — but, then again, they hadn't won anywhere other than Husky Stadium since Nov. 2007 until they beat USC earlier this month.
“It's just nice to know that we can win on the road,” junior linebacker Cort Dennison said this week. “I know a lot of the kids on this team had never won on the road before. It proves that we can win at Husky Stadium, and we can win at other places too.”
What UW has yet to prove is that it can win back-to-back games. If the 2010 Huskies fall short of the sky-high expectations they carried into this season, it will be because they failed to generate momentum from one week to the next.
“Sometimes maybe we put a little too much pressure on ourselves, like: ‘OK, we won, now we can go win two in a row,'” Sarkisian said. “Let's just go play, forget what just happened last week and what might occur if we win or don't win.”
What happens if the Huskies don't win is that they might as well kiss their pie-in-the-sky chances of winning a Pac-10 title good-bye. On the flip side, a victory would be a huge boost in terms of UW's goal of winning six or more games and ending a seven-year bowl draught.
The proverbial road after tonight's game doesn't get much easier, with 12th-ranked Stanford and top-ranked Oregon on tap for the next two weeks. Pac-10 also-rans UCLA (3-4, 1-3), Cal (3-3, 1-2) and Washington State (1-6, 0-4) close out the 2010 regular season, so just winning one of the next three games would be enough to put the Huskies in a favorable position as far as the bowl season is concerned.
Neither Sarkisian nor any of his players are talking about any of that right now. All the Huskies want is to get off the roller-coaster ride that has been the 2010 season and start streaking.
And a two-game streak is a good place to start.
Both teams are hobbled at the quarterback position. UW's Jake Locker sat out significant practice time this week due to what Sarkisian called general soreness. Arizona starter Nick Foles is out with a knee injury, opening the door for Matt Scott to make his first start of the season. … The last time the Huskies beat ranked teams in back-to-back weeks was in Nov. 2002, when UW knocked off No. 23 Oregon and No. 3 Washington State in road games to finish the regular season. The Huskies followed that up with an appearance in the Sun Bowl, which marked the last postseason game for the UW program.
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