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Originally published November 4, 2010 at 8:55 PM | Page modified November 5, 2010 at 6:35 PM

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Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian addresses team's inconsistent progress

Two rough losses dropped UW to 3-5 and have generated a fair share of discussion on the outside about the progress of the program in coach Steve Sarkisian's second year.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

UW @ Oregon, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4

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Among the hard lessons being learned by Washington coach Steve Sarkisian this season is to not always assume what he sees in practice is what he will see come game day.

So while Sarkisian wanted to say Thursday that he likes the way his team has rebounded from last Saturday's surprisingly decisive 41-0 loss at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal, he's hedging his bets.

"I know it sounds redundant but I thought (practice) went well, especially after the way (the game) went last week," he said. "But I'm kind of holding my thoughts on our week of practice until I see how we play (Saturday at Oregon)."

The Stanford loss dropped UW to 3-5 on the season and combined with a 44-14 loss at Arizona the week before, has generated a fair share of discussion on the outside about the progress of the program in Sarkisian's second year.

The coach has met the questions head on this week, and did so again Thursday, acknowledging that he expected more.

"I thought we would be competitive in all of our games and unfortunately we have not been that way this year," he said.

That includes three losses by 30 points or more, defeats that have dimmed the enthusiasm that was sparked by last year's 5-7 record as well as Sarkisian's offseason optimism, including his statements that he didn't think it would "take very long" to get UW back.

Asked Thursday if he thinks the way the season has gone indicates it may take longer than he thought, he said: "I don't know. We've beaten three good teams this year, too — Syracuse, USC and Oregon State. So I think in a short amount of time we have beaten four ranked opponents in two years (including USC in 2009). So in that sense we have done some really good things. Unfortunately we have had some ugly losses that have made things not look as good. But we have beaten some good teams in two years."

Earlier in the week, he compared UW's challenge to that of Stanford and Arizona, which meet Saturday in the marquee game of the weekend, each 7-1 overall. Arizona is in its seventh season under coach Mike Stoops, who didn't have a winning record until his fifth year, while the Cardinal is in year four under Jim Harbaugh, who didn't have a winning season until year three.

"I have assessed them because I think in some ways they are a good model for how they stuck to their plan," he said. "I think both programs believed in their schemes, believed in their systems, believed in their coaches and stuck to it. Maybe they didn't win all the games they wanted to in years one, two, three and four, or whatever that may be. But they stuck to their systems and their schemes and they recruited to their schemes.

"To me what's impressive about it is they stuck to their plan, and they didn't get knocked off course because they didn't win as many games as they wanted to early on. And so for ourselves here it just kind of shows that, 'Man, just keep doing what you are doing, believing in what you are doing and you will get there.' "

Progress may be hard to discern this week, however, as the Huskies take on the No. 1-ranked Ducks in Eugene. Oregon is as much as a 36-point favorite, a line that has jumped by six points or so after the news on Monday that UW quarterback Jake Locker will miss the game with a broken rib.

Notes

• WR Jordan Polk will miss the game after suffering a concussion in practice Wednesday.

Luther Leonard, recruited out of Evergreen as a quarterback at UW before switching to receiver, again helped run the scout team at QB on Thursday with Locker out. But Sarkisian said Leonard is not a consideration as a backup. Nick Montana will be the backup this week, but the Huskies are hoping to preserve his redshirt.

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

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