Season bad, but can UW keep it from getting far worse?

SEATTLE — Will things get better for Washington now that the schedule appears to be easing up?

The Huskies had certainly better hope so, because if results don’t improve over these last four games, this season will be one for the record book. And none of those records that are in danger of falling are ones the Huskies are shooting for.

Sure the Huskies would like to get a few wins before season’s end. But even if the losses continue to mount, there is some damage control that can be done in order to keep this season from being an even bigger disaster than the win-loss record will indicate.

On the way to its 0-8 start, Washington has faced eight teams that all currently have winning records. Their combined record is 49-19. The Huskies next three opponents, starting with today’s game against Arizona State, are a combined 7-19.

As Arizona State coach and Everett native Dennis Erickson put in on Monday, “Obviously the New York Giants aren’t coming in there to play them. I’m sure that they look at us as a game that they can win.”

So can the Huskies turn things around, if not in the win column then at least statistically? If not, 2008 will certainly go down as one of worst, if not the worst, seasons in school history.

This season is not just bad, but bad in all facets of the game. The Huskies currently rank 86th or worse out of 119 teams in all 17 statistical categories, are 100th or worse in 15 of 17, 113th or worse in 10, and dead last in three.

The Huskies allowed a school-worst 446.4 yards per game last season, and the thought coming into this season was that that number couldn’t get worse. Yet somehow, eight games into the season, the Huskies are much worse, allowing 480.25 yards per game.

But hey, at least they’re balanced. If Washington’s current numbers don’t improve dramatically, then the averages of 237 passing yards allowed and 243.25 rushing yards allowed would mark the first time the Huskies have allowed opponents to pass and rush for 200 yards per game in one season.

Washington also is on pace to shatter Oregon State’s conference record for points allowed in a season, but Washington State is on an even worse pace, so the Huskies likely won’t have the dubious distinction of holding that record.

And it’s not like the Huskies are faring any better on offense. Washington’s current average of 277.63 yards of total offense per game is the lowest since 1975. With their average of 14.13 points per game, this team is on track to join the 1-10 2004 team (14 points per game) as the lowest scoring team since 1969.

At 89.5 yards per game, the Huskies are also in danger of becoming only the second UW team to average less than 100 rushing yards going back to 1937, the first year detailed stats were recorded. And the other team to do that was the 2002 team that threw for a school-record 342.9 yards per game.

The running game has been bad enough and injury-plagued enough that Jake Locker is still the team’s leading rusher despite missing the past four and a half games with a broken thumb.

So can these numbers get any better? If they are going to, it likely has to start today against Arizona State, losers of six straight. Coaches and players have pointed out how difficult the schedule has been so far, and it has been tough, but that excuse won’t work in the next three games against ASU, UCLA and Washington State.

The hope for the Huskies is that this easier stretch of games could lead to improvement.

“It lies in our hands, but obviously it was a harder sell last week,” defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said referring to last week’s game against USC. “Because you have to paint a picture of the things that have to happen to win that game last week, and that’s a harder sell for everybody. There’s no margin for any kind of error, and to win a game like last week, you’ve got to have takeaways, things happen in the kicking game, just a lot of things have to go right when they look at that game. And the rest of the Pac-10, I think there’s a lot of balance in this league and then there’s always a team that’s doing a little better. Our guys are up for this chore and we fully intend to do a lot better this week.”

If they don’t, this could be a season for the record books for Washington. And not in a good way.

Herald Writer John Boyle: For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at /huskiesblog

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