Huskies try to regroup after loss to Stanford

SEATTLE — The Washington Huskies were saying all the right things on Monday afternoon.

The UW football team is turning the page on Saturday’s loss at Stanford. The Huskies are focusing on this weekend’s game against Arizona. The past is in the past.

Less than forty-eight hours after a humbling, 65-21 loss to the Cardinal, UW was ready to move on. A Saturday date with Arizona is in the sights of a team that desperately wants to leave Stanford in the past.

As head coach Steve Sarkisian said to open his Monday press conference: “It’s always good when you come off a ball game like last Saturday, that you get to play again the very next week.”

A few minutes later, Sarkisian opened a Darwinesque argument of dejection-versus-demoralization when he explained how a last-second loss might have been just as jarring to the psyche.

“You get beat, you get beat,” he said. “I wouldn’t feel any better or any worse if Stanford kicked a field goal with no time left to beat us than I feel right now with them beating us by 44 points.”

And yet Husky Nation may well find Saturday’s performance hard to push aside.

Two days later, the big question is whether the fourth-ranked Cardinal are just that much better than everyone else or if the Huskies (5-2 overall, 3-1 in the Pacific-12 Conference) have real issues. The UW defense was admittedly hopeless against Stanford’s run game, which piled up a school-record 446 yards on the Huskies.

Sarkisian was just as defenseless when talking about the unit on Monday afternoon.

“We’re not proud of the fact we’re not playing defense the way we all think we can,” he said of a unit that now ranks 10th in the Pac-12 Conference and 101st in the nation. “We’re not excited that we gave up 60 points this past Saturday. There is frustration, but I also think we understand there is room for improvement. We can get better, and we will get better.”

While defensive coordinator Nick Holt has taken most of the heat from outside observers, Sarkisian admitted that the Huskies don’t have enough athleticism and size to compete with teams like Stanford — yet.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Sarkisian, adding that he wished he could have redshirted more incoming players over the years to help the unit’s overall development. “… We’re in a situation where we’re playing a lot of young guys. Not only mentally, but physically, those games (like the Stanford loss) can take a toll on you. So I think we’ll only get better, especially in that type of a ball game.

“… Obviously, we need to continue to mature and grow.”

The one explanation Sarkisian was able to offer for Saturday’s performance was that the Huskies’ defensive players were trying too hard to play good, sound defense and weren’t freeing themselves up to make plays. It’s a vast departure from some past defensive struggles that have seen players falling out of their gaps while trying to do too much.

“There’s a fine line there of doing things right but doing it relentlessly and with great tenacity,” Sarkisian said. “And there’s a fine line with trying too hard, being overaggressive, trying to make the play and then ultimately getting beat the other way too.

“There’s a fine line there. For a time there we found that right balance, and obviously we lost it there at Stanford.”

None of the UW defenders were made available during Monday’s media session, which had more to do with scheduling conflicts than any conscious effort to shield them from answering questions.

The two players who did show up Monday — quarterback Keith Price and wide receiver James Johnson — said the loss was somewhat of a wakeup call for the Huskies.

“Everybody’s bitter,” Johnson said. “Everyone’s definitely bitter from the loss. But they’re over it as well. The one important thing that’s going to happen is everyone is going to be more fired up.

“No one likes losing at all. To take a loss like that, it really hurts. The type of team we have here, we’re going to be motivated by the loss. We’re looking forward to playing again.”

Price called the loss “embarrassing” and added that he saw teammates crying on the flight back from the Bay Area. But he added that the players have turned the page.

“It’s definitely tough. Nobody likes to get beat like that,” the sophomore quarterback said Monday. “We’re just going to come back in, and that’s our focus: Arizona.”

Shortly after the media session, Sarkisian was scheduled to meet with the players and start beginning the process of moving on. One of his main messages would be that Saturday’s game was only one loss, and there was no sense in letting it drag the team further down.

“I’ve said this before: Losing (stinks),” Sarkisian told reporters during his noon media session. “None of us like it. We can sit and dwell on it and feel sorry for ourselves. But the reality is, we are 5-2. We are 3-1 in conference play and there’s a lot of football left to be played. And we need to get right, and we need to get right (this week).

“We can’t afford to sit in a lull right now of feeling sorry for ourselves and let this one ball game linger and turn it into one, two, three, four ball games. We need to get this right, get it fixed and get our mentality — get our mojo back.”


UW’s Price was named as one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award on Monday. The award is given out annually to the nation’s top quarterback. … The Huskies announced that they plan to wear black uniforms Saturday night. … Next Saturday’s home game against Oregon will begin at 7:30 p.m., the school announced Monday.

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