Huskies back where they began
What a difference a year makes for Washington football team
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington @ USC, 5 p.m.
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A year to the day after the Huskies found themselves the toast of college football — upset winners over USC and ranked for the first time in half a decade — they are instead in a more familiar position.
Washington returns to practice Monday morning trying to fix all that went wrong in the 56-21 defeat Saturday against Nebraska.
It was a shellacking that indicated the long hoped for turnaround — which has seemed so tantalizingly near at times, and never more so than the 2-1 start a year ago after the victory over USC — is still a ways off. UW is 4-8 since that victory over the Trojans that had UW ranked No. 24 in The Associated Press poll a year ago.
For the more veteran Huskies, it's a situation they've encountered before.
"We've been through a lot of things here at UW," said senior linebacker Mason Foster. "Everyone's stayed positive. We just have to keep positive. I feel like our team has been through enough where we are just going to bounce back."
UW, which doesn't play again until Oct. 2 at USC, is scheduled to practice Monday through Thursday this week before taking the weekend off.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said the bye comes at a good time. It allows the team to get some of its veterans healthy, and some of its younger players more prepared, before beginning Pac-10 play.
"There are going to be some guys that are going to need a couple days (of rest)," he said. "We're a little beat up right now. Those were three physical football games, from BYU to Syracuse to Nebraska. Those games can take their tolls, so the bye is coming at a great time for us to get healthy, but also to push our young kids and get them even more game-ready than they maybe are."
Few Huskies looked game-ready Saturday as UW allowed the most yards of the 15-game Sarkisian era (533) and gained the fewest (246).
A passing attack that looms as the strength of the team was held to 71 yards, the second-lowest total since 2004 (UW had just 39 yards against UCLA in 2008).
The defense allowed 383 yards rushing. And the special teams again underperformed — one example being allowing almost twice as many kickoff return yards (112) as it got (65) despite the fact Nebraska kicked off nine times to UW's four.
And while Sarkisian insisted afterward he still believes the team is capable of great things, the sputtering 1-2 start has considerably dimmed the high expectations that surrounded the team three weeks ago.
UW players again talked afterward of having 13 games to play this season, a reference to their stated goal of making it to a bowl game. But UW will have to win five of nine Pac-10 games (and at least one on the road because the Huskies will have just four at home) simply to get to 6-6. That's seemingly the minimum needed to get to the postseason, although college officials have said they might need some teams with losing records to fill out all of its 70 bowl slots.
Players, however, echoed Sarkisian's sentiment that the season is still young.
"It is hard because you never want to have a crushing loss like this, losing by quite a bit," said senior defensive tackle Cameron Elisara. "But once again it's our ability to just move on from that and see how we bounce back next week."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
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