By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It gets easier for the University of Washington football team.
Just not this week.
Fresh off back-to-back losses to ranked teams by an aggregate score of 85-14, the Huskies travel to Eugene, Ore., to face their stiffest test of the season this weekend.
Top-ranked Oregon is probably chomping at the bit right now as the Ducks (8-0) prepare to host the nation’s 100th-ranked defense.
The amazing thing is the Huskies (3-5 overall, 2-3 in the Pac-10) are pretty excited about the matchup as well.
“It’s a great opportunity next week,” linebacker Victor Aiyewa said after the Huskies’ humbling, 41-0 loss to Stanford on Saturday night. “We don’t shy away from competition. We’re looking forward to trying to do the best we can. It’s a great opportunity.”
Any confidence UW might bring into Saturday’s game is without statistical affirmation. While the Ducks have the No. 1 offense in the country and an adequate defense that ranks 35th, the Huskies rank 70th and 100th, respectively. Oregon also manhandled a Washington team made up of many of the same characters last fall, winning 43-19 at Husky Stadium.
But a ray of hope came about an hour after the Saturday loss to Stanford, when a USC team the Huskies defeated four weeks ago was beating the Ducks midway through the third quarter of a game at the L.A. Coliseum.
While Oregon went on to win 53-32, UW will take a teaspoon of confidence wherever it can be found.
“The confidence is low,” UW head coach Steve Sarkisian said Saturday night. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t get built back up. We’ll work at it. We’ll get better. We’ve got good coaches and good kids on this team that want to do well, and we’ll do everything in their power to make that happen.”
Linebacker Cort Dennison said the Huskies’ spirits were not broken by the Stanford loss.
“Right now we’ve got to keep our heads up,” he said Saturday night. “I’m positive we’re not going to keep our heads down. We’ll keep fighting.”
Even if the Huskies can’t pull the monumental upset this Saturday, all will not be lost. A bye week awaits the UW next week, followed by the team’s most manageable three-game stretch of the season. After playing five ranked teams in six games — going 2-4 in the process — the Huskies will be playing three teams with a combined record of 8-17 overall and 3-13 in the Pac-10 to close out the season.
A Nov. 18 game against UCLA (3-5, 1-4) will be the final home date of the 2010 season. The following week, UW will go to Berkeley to face a California team (4-4, 2-3) that has struggled with consistency this season and lost 42-10 to the Huskies in the 2009 season finale.
Then comes the 2010 season-ender, an Apple Cup game against a Washington State team that has won just four of its past 34 games.
Before any of that, the Huskies will try to slay one more Goliath this Saturday.
“In the Pac-10,” Aiyewa said, “anybody can win, anybody can lose.”
Having lost two games in a row, and in danger of losing out on the postseason for the eighth year in a row, the Huskies may have their best ally in belief.
“We can still go to a bowl game,” Dennison said. “But we’ve got to take every game one game at a time. Just keep fighting, keep competing, and hopefully good things will happen.
“… Anything can happen in this conference, week in and week out. We can’t worry about what another team is doing. We just have to come in with our confidence high. Obviously, (Oregon is) a great, great football team, but we’ve got to have confidence in ourselves and our game plan.”