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Originally published Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 4:34 PM

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Loss to Notre Dame is a hard one for the Huskies to swallow

UW fans upset over calls by the officiating crew in the fourth quarter.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Coach Steve Sarkisian continually says his Washington Huskies players are almost universally doing what he asks of them.

But his 24-hour rule may get tested after UW's 37-30 overtime loss at Notre Dame Saturday. That's the Sarkisian directive that players get only 24 hours to celebrate a win or mourn a loss before moving on to the next game.

This one, players said, may take longer to digest.

"This is really hard," said linebacker Cort Dennison after a game in which the Huskies couldn't put the Irish away despite numerous chances in the second half. "But we've got to look forward to Arizona next week and somehow find a way to drop this loss."

UW fans may find doing that as difficult as the players.

There remained on Sunday ample doses of displeasure over a few officials' rulings made and not made in the game. Notably, a reversal of an apparent Chris Polk touchdown in the fourth quarter, and a later no-call on a two-point run by Notre Dame's Robert Hughes on which some Huskies fans thought Hughes was either down, helped into the end zone by offensive linemen, or both.

Hughes' run put Notre Dame ahead 30-27 with 1:20 remaining, meaning a UW field goal with six seconds left could only force overtime, not win it.

The game was officiated by a Pac-10 crew on the field with Big East officials in the replay booth.

Dave Cutaia, the Pac-10's coordinator of football officiating, said he had not yet had a chance to review an official film of the game and had not heard anything from UW officials.

Cutaia said Sunday he saw the two-point play on TV and said that "from what I could see, his forward progress was not stopped. There was nothing [abnormal] that jumped out at me about it."

The play was not officially reviewed — and only whether Hughes was down would have been reviewable. But Cutaia said it is routine for the replay officials to look at every scoring play and then indicate if there is a need for an official review. He said he assumes that was done in this case. As for determining whether a runner is aided into the end zone by linemen, Cutaia said, "It's got to be very, very clear. It's difficult to see in a scrum like that."

Coaches review the film and fill out a report with their assessment of the work done by officials each week. Otherwise, Sarkisian is likely to let the matter end there.

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As Sarkisian said later, the Huskies had ample chances to win it on two drives in the third and fourth quarters when they couldn't punch it in from the 1-yard-line — including after the Polk TD reversal, which gave UW a first down at the 1-yard line. The Huskies instead had to settle for a field goal and a 27-22 lead with 3:04 left, which kept the door open for the Irish.

"When you have the ball first-and-goal at the 1, you should score," Sarkisian said. "And we were not able to do it."

The loss left the Huskies at 2-3, a record that many viewed as a best-case scenario for UW heading into the year given the rebuilding job facing Sarkisian when he took over, but one that didn't necessarily feel that way as the team left South Bend on Saturday.

Initially, the Huskies were to face Cal at home this weekend. But some shifting in the schedule to add some byes resulted in the Cal game moving to Dec. 5, and Arizona from Oct. 31 to Saturday. Given Cal's struggles the last two weeks — a 42-3 loss to Oregon and 30-3 to USC — the Huskies might prefer to be playing the Bears now.

Arizona (3-1) had a bye Saturday, which allowed the team to get healthier, specifically running back Nic Grigsby, who suffered a bruised shoulder Sept. 26 against Oregon State. Grigsby is averaging 8.1 yards per carry to lead an Arizona offense that will be more prolific on the ground, but less through the air, than Notre Dame.

Notre Dame threw for 422 yards and gained 530, each the most this year by a UW opponent. But Sarkisian, while disappointed in the defeat, left pleased with the way his team played in the wake of a 34-14 loss to Stanford the week before.

"They battled today," Sarkisian said. "They competed. We were not perfect by any means, but the effort that we played with was the right effort."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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