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Originally published Monday, September 20, 2010 at 4:48 PM

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Washington coach Steve Sarkisian says Huskies lacked "competitive nature" in loss to Nebraska

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian says he was disappointed in second half of loss to Nebraska and vows lack of competitive nature "will never happen again."

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington coach Steve Sarkisian witnessed lots of things Saturday in the Huskies' 56-21 loss to Nebraska he hopes to never see again.

One, however, he promised on Monday will never be repeated.

Sarkisian said the most disappointing aspect of the defeat was the way his team had "some lapses" in competitive nature as the deficit grew.

"I thought in the second half there were moments there that we lacked the competitive nature that this program prides itself on, and I was disappointed in that," Sarkisian said. "That will never happen again. You will see us compete for 60 minutes I can promise everybody that ... that's on me."

Sarkisian, in fact, had made fulfilling that charge the first goal of the 2009 season, and felt that the Huskies always got that accomplished. Saturday, he said, was the first time since he took over he felt that fire wasn't always there.

"I've seen our guys compete more than they competed. It's one thing to make a mistake in alignment or assignment," he said. "It's one thing to potentially miss a tackle. But we grade effort first and our ability to battle and compete first and I thought there were at times guys not performing with the same competitive nature that I've seen before and that's not OK."

Sarkisian made the remarks during his regular Monday media conference. Otherwise, it will be a different week at UW with the Huskies off on Saturday. The team will practice in the morning the next three days before taking Friday through Sunday off. Sarkisian and coaches will hit the road recruiting during that time before returning to work Monday to begin full preparation for the Pac-10 opener Oct. 2 at USC.

And Sarkisian said UW will enter that game still holding the goal of competing for the Pac-10 title, despite the rocky 1-2 start.

"There's no doubt," he said. "We just have to find a way to play to our potential. And that will be the goal the next two weeks. ... If that's good enough to win, so be it. If not, at least we know we played the way we are capable of playing."

Sarkisian defends Locker

Sarkisian said that while Jake Locker did not have his best day, the entire offense shared blame in the passing game struggles. Locker was just 4 of 20 passing for 71 yards, with two interceptions.

"Everybody's going to say, 'Well, what's the matter with Jake Locker?' " Sarkisian said. "It's beyond Jake Locker the way we performed Saturday. It starts with me and what we are calling and what we are doing.

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"I understand everybody wants to see Jake perform at such a high level. But we've all got to do our part to supply him with the support needed to make that happen."

Sarkisian said he thinks Locker might have become more hesitant after throwing an interception on his first attempt.

Sarkisian said Locker's mood was good Monday, however. He said the starting quarterback usually is given the Monday off during bye weeks to rest. But he said Locker walked into his office Monday and said he wanted to practice.

"And that's who he is," Sarkisian said. "He's a tremendous competitor, he's hungry, he's got a bad taste in his mouth and he just wants to get right and play football. I think he wishes we were playing again tomorrow, and unfortunately we've got to wait here a couple weeks."

Notes

• Asked if he put any stock into the comment of Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard that the Cornhuskers could read whether it was a pass or a run by the way UW receivers came off the ball, Sarkisian said: "I don't ... I mean, they didn't read it very well on the touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse."

• Sarkisian said MLB Cort Dennison, who sat out the Nebraska game with a concussion, should be able to return for the USC game.

• Several players will be rested during the bye week, including TB Chris Polk, whom Sarkisian said was bothered by a swollen ankle against Nebraska.

• LT Senio Kelemete sat out Monday's practice while ill.

• Sarkisian said he will take a long look at true freshman DE Josh Shirley during the bye week to see if it is worth taking him out of a planned redshirt season.

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

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