This time, there was no hint of anger, or disgust or even an attempt to spin the outcome into a we’re-making-progress message.
Coach Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies were as dumbfounded as they were shell-shocked.
Gone is talk of a bowl bid – discarded in the same waste pail as the Jake Locker-for-Heisman Trophy chatter – after 13th-ranked Stanford demolished Washington, 41-0, in front of 69,020 at Husky Stadium on Saturday night.
As the final seconds ticked down on the Huskies’ first shutout loss at home since 1976, more than half the UW faithful had exited – as exasperated by the putrid attack as the coaches and players.
UW finished with 107 total yards – with 53 coming in the final quarter when the Cardinal had the game in hand. Its previous low was 103, set in a 1973 game at Oregon.
The Huskies have gone almost 98 minutes without scoring, including last week’s Arizona loss.
When Sarkisian came to the podium after the game, he was humble and disheartened. The second-year coach could barely offer an explanation.
“The saying you’ve hit rock bottom before you can start going back up might hold true – we obviously hit rock bottom tonight,” Sarkisian said. “This is a very disappointing performance.”
It was the worst offensive showing he has been a part of – at any level – he said.
“I’m there with him,” UW quarterback Jake Locker said. “It’s the worst one I’ve been associated with as well.”
The first two drives told the tale of how this game would play out:
• After Locker’s 8-yard run put the UW at the Cardinal 48, the Huskies had second-and-2 play. Locker hit receiver Cody Bruns on a short sideline pass that should have netted a first down – except the junior danced his way into a tackle, and short of the marker.
On third-and-short, Stanford‘s Sione Fua came across the line of scrimmage before the snap. Tight end Marlion Barnett was flagged for a false start, pushing the Huskies back into a third-and-6 situation.
Chris Polk bolted up the middle for 2 yards, and UW was forced to punt. The Huskies crossed midfield only one other time.
“I think it really starts with the (defensive) line,” Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov said. “We’ve got a great set of guys up there – Sione (Fua), (Matthew) Masifilo has the two sacks and (Brian) Bulcke just literally controlled up front and gave pressure.”
• Stanford was in about the same position on its first drive, facing a third-and-2 at its own 49.
After a timeout, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck faked a handoff to Stepfan Taylor, and UW defensive end DeShon Matthews bit, leaving Luck free to bolt down the left sideline untouched on a 51-yard touchdown run – reminiscent of the scamper Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez took off on to start the second half of the Cornhuskers’ 56-21 win a month ago.
“He made a good read on that play. Give him a lot of credit, there’s a reason why he’s one of the best players in the country,” UW linebacker Cort Dennison said. “He’s a smart player, and he made all the right reads tonight. Those kind of plays hurt.”
After that, the game played out in similar fashion to last week – the offense sputtered (five three-and-out series), and the defense was gashed by Taylor runs, Luck passes and whatever else coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to call, to the tune of 470 total yards.
“The most noticeable thing about this game,” Harbaugh said, “was how our two lines played.”
Locker was harassed all night – so badly that Sarkisian benched Colin Porter and reinserted Gregory Christine in the lineup in the second half.
Locker was sacked three times, threw two interceptions and did not account for a touchdown, passing or rushing, for the first time since 2008 – also against Stanford.
Moreover, on plays needing 1 yard or less for a first down, the Huskies converted two of eight chances.
“I kind of don’t know where to begin,” Locker said. “I think we just weren’t very sound everywhere.”
Changes could be coming, which might or might not be a good sign as the Huskies travel to No. 1 Oregon next week.
“We’re going to look at everything,” Sarkisian said. “As I said, when you hit a point like this, I think the easy thing to do is possibly make excuses or say why, or this is why and that’s why (it happened). I don’t want to do that right now. I want to assess everything and come to some understanding of what possibly the issues are.”
The team’s psyche, brimming with confidence two weeks ago after a memorable overtime victory over Oregon State, is now down in the dumps.
Just two weeks since they experienced the thrill of a double-overtime victory over Oregon State, the Huskies, to put it simply, are not in a good place right now.
“The confidence is low,” Sarkisian said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t be built back up, and we’ll do that.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442