By Christian Caple The News Tribune
TEMPE, Ariz. — Lost in the lamentation last week over the Washington Huskies’ 10th consecutive loss to Oregon was another dubious streak.
It’s been even longer since the 20th-ranked Huskies have tasted victory against Arizona State, their opponent this afternoon in Tempe.
In fact, the last time UW left a game against ASU with a win was 2001. Washington would claim lopsided victories over Oregon in each of the next two seasons, so, yeah, it’s been a while.
Of course, the Sun Devils and Huskies have played just seven times since that 33-31 UW victory in Tempe, so the streak isn’t quite as pronounced. Still, it’s a streak the Huskies need to end if they hope to maintain the take-the-next-step pace they established with their 4-0 start.
Back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon have taken some of the luster off a season many Huskies supporters had hoped might end with a double-digit win total.
Beat ASU, and that goal remains reachable. The Huskies (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) return home next week for a game against lowly California, then follow a bye week by hosting just-as-lowly Colorado.
So it’s not presumptuous to think a win today over ASU means a strong possibility of Washington entering its Nov. 15 game at No. 9 UCLA with a 7-2 record.
That’s supposed to be for fans to discuss, though. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian would not be pleased if he knew any of his players subscribed to that line of thinking.
“The focus needs to be on this ball game because when you start looking ahead and looking down the road — which is OK to do so you can understand the path — that path isn’t presented to us if we don’t take care of our business on Saturday,” Sarkisian said. “We understand that there’s possibilities down the road, but the focus is on, and has been on, our preparation for Arizona State, and then ultimately how we play at 3 o’clock Saturday.”
The way Sarkisian sees it, the Huskies are beginning the “third quarter” of their season. He wants them to approach this stanza with the same attitude they embrace coming out of the locker room at halftime — get the ball and go score a touchdown.
And wouldn’t you know it, that’s something UW has done in each of its six games this season, using its first possession of the third quarter as a bit of a springboard to a strong second half.
“I feel really good about it,” Sarkisian said. “I feel good about where we’re at. This is a resilient group who have had two hard fought battles the last two weeks and has not wavered and have come back this week and practiced great.”
ASU might not be Oregon or Stanford, but the Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1) still have one of the Pac-12’s best offenses and are always tough at home. They’re one of three Pac-12 teams that average 43 or more points per game, and while their run defense isn’t exactly stout — they allow 168 yards per game — defensive linemen Will Sutton and Carl Bradford could make things difficult for UW running back Bishop Sankey.
“They’re a good D. They’ve been playing good this whole season,” Sankey said. “So we’ve got to prepare for them just like any other team and just like any other game, go out there and work on the things we need to work on and be as polished as we can.”
And while they are at it, they’ll try to polish off that losing streak.