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Originally published October 31, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Page modified October 31, 2010 at 8:26 PM

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Huskies trying to hold heads up in the air going forward

After tough defeat, Huskies now prepare for top-ranked Oregon.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Well, you can't fault Victor Aiyewa for trying to find the bright side in the seemingly darkest of times.

As the Washington senior linebacker spoke to media members after the 41-0 home defeat Saturday against Stanford, a television in his view showed the USC-Oregon game.

That led to a question about UW having to travel to Eugene to face the No. 1-ranked Ducks at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

"It's a great opportunity," Aiyewa said, looking up at the game in front of him. "The game that is going on right now, I can feel it. It's a great opportunity to play. So coming in next week, we've just got to get back to the drawing board, get ready to play."

What Aiyewa views as opportunity others might see differently, given the state of the two teams.

A few quick numbers illustrate well the challenge ahead for the Huskies — Oregon ranks first in the country in total offense (572.88 yards per game) and scoring offense (54.88 points per game) while UW is 100th in total defense (427.75) and 106th in scoring defense (34.13).

And that's not to mention a Washington offense that hasn't scored since a touchdown at the 7:55 mark of the second quarter at Arizona, getting outscored 68-0 since then by the Wildcats and Stanford.

It's a stunning about-face for a UW team that began the month winning at USC but now is 3-5 and needs to win three of its final four to get to .500 or else suffer an eighth consecutive losing season.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian called the Stanford game "rock bottom" and said "I feel for our fans. They deserve better than that and we will continue to work, trust me. We will continue to work and battle and we will get better. But as of tonight, bad loss, disappointing loss."

It was the Huskies' first home shutout since 1976, fewest offense yards (107) since 1973 and, judging by the rapidly emptying stands from the second quarter on, the first real test of the faith of the fan base in Sarkisian's rebuilding efforts.

Sarkisian, 8-12 in two seasons at UW, was short on specifics of what happened against the Cardinal in his postgame news conference, saying he wanted to wait to assess everything first.

"I thought we practiced well all week and had good energy, thought we had a nice game plan," he said. "And so that is the part we have to figure out — why this happened — and I just don't want to be too quick to rush to judgment."

The few players who showed up to speak to the media afterward also were mostly vague on what they thought went wrong.

Aiyewa noted the Cardinal came out passing early — throwing on the first four plays — somewhat counter to its run-first image.

"They just switched it up," he said. "Instead of them running it like we thought they would, they were passing it initially. Whatever they had seen on film on us they were able to scout us real good and they tried to capitalize on what we didn't do good in previous games."

But that doesn't explain a suddenly anemic offense that was thought to be a strength of the team heading into the season. It's a unit with eight returning starters, including quarterback Jake Locker, running back Chris Polk and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.

UW is averaging 21.75 points a game, eighth in the conference and down from 26.1 of last season.

Locker's comments concurred with the overall sentiment.

"I kind of don't know where to begin," he said.

What he said he did know, however, is that the season is not yet over.

Asked if he felt the team's hopes for a bowl game are slipping away, he said: "No, no, no. We are guaranteed four more (games) and we've got to take it one game at a time. We've got a big opponent in Oregon next week, a great football team and it's going to be really important for us to make sure we focus on that game.

"If you really look at it we control our destiny as far as that goes and if we approach every game the way we are capable of and play with a confidence and a tempo that is consistent with when we've had success, I think we will be just fine."

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

Production slowdown
The game Saturday ranked as the seventh fewest yards gained in Washington history. Here's the list:
Yds Opponent
1 61 Cal, 1948
2 66 Washington State, 1947
3 84 UCLA, 1967
4 102 Oregon, 1973
5 105 Minnesota, 1948
5 105 Minnesota, 1957
7 107 Stanford, 2010
8 109 Oregon, 1984
9 113 USC, 2004
10 120 USC, 1981 and 1972

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