Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has spoken of this Huskies football team taking “the next step,” moving beyond the mediocre and into the Pac-12 Conference’s upper echelon.
That goal will not be achievable for the Huskies (6-3 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) without a victory in a Friday night game against 13th-ranked UCLA (7-2, 4-2) at the Rose Bowl.
Sarkisian didn’t want to label Friday’s game against the Bruins, specifically, as a necessary step in UW’s progression as a program. The coach instead puts the emphasis on the entirety of November, which this year the Huskies hope is a month of redemption.
“I think this month is about the next step, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said. “We think we have a great opportunity to close out the season the way we’re capable of doing it, and this is the next game on the schedule to make
It will require an uncommon result. The Huskies haven’t beaten UCLA at the Rose Bowl since 1995 — they won more recently in the Rose Bowl game, over Purdue in 2001 — and the Bruins haven’t lost there this season.
And UW hasn’t defeated a ranked team on the road since Oct. 2, 2010, when it won at No. 18 USC, 32-31.
The last time the Huskies went on the road was Oct. 19 when Arizona State blasted past them in a 53-24 beatdown that had some UW fans wondering whether the program was, indeed, trending upward.
UW has won twice since, over Pac-12 doormats California and Colorado, bolstering its record to 6-3 while regaining some confidence and giving its starters some needed rest.
They’ll need it for Friday. Sarkisian said he’s hopeful that injured safety Will Shamburger will be able to play, though the short week will make it more difficult. And sophomore linebacker Shaq Thompson, who battled a stinger during Saturday’s blowout of Colorado, is “good to go,” Sarkisian said.
Full strength will be a requirement to beat a Bruins team that has lost only to Stanford and Oregon — both teams ranked in the nation’s top six — and recently unleashed freshman linebacker Myles Jack as a running back to the tune of six carries for 120 yards.
Jack, a Bellevue High School graduate, won the Pac-12’s offensive player of the week award. And he still played linebacker.
But he’s just one of many talented pieces for the Bruins — sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley and senior linebacker Anthony Barr among them — who are again a prime contender for the Pac-12 South championship after winning it last season in Jim Mora’s first year as coach.
Win, and the Huskies will be 4-3 in Pac-12 play with a legitimate chance still to win nine regular-season games. Lose, and they’ll fall below .500 in conference play with another difficult road game at Oregon State next week.
“They’re going to make some plays,” Sarkisian said of UCLA. “They’re going to make their tackles, and we have to be able to move onto that next play and focus on the task at hand. For us, from the next step standpoint, it’s doing that and it’s doing that for 60 minutes against a really good football team on the road.”
OSU GAME TIME SET
It was announced Monday that Washington’s game at Oregon State on Nov. 23 will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air on ESPN2.
The Huskies finish the regular season at home with a 12:30 p.m. game against Washington State in the Apple Cup on Nov. 29.
HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
No. 13 UCLA BRUINS (7-2 overall, 4-2 in Pac-12)
6 p.m. Friday, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif., ESPN2, 950-AM
Coach: Jim Mora (16-7 in second year at UCLA and overall)
Against the Huskies: UCLA leads the series, 38-30-2.
Scouting report: Brett Hundley is the key to everything the Bruins do offensively. Given that he’s the quarterback, that might seem obvious. But Hundley is particularly dynamic. His passing numbers (2,225 yards, 68 percent completions, 18 touchdowns, eight interceptions) are supplemented by his team-leading rushing numbers (112 carries for 487 yards and seven TDs). The Bruins’ offensive line has been depleted some by injuries, and as such, UCLA lists three true freshman starters up front. They’ve played 18 true freshmen in all, a school record. Still, the Bruins average a shade below 200 yards rushing per game, and rank 31st nationally in total offense. And last week against Arizona, freshman linebacker Myles Jack — a Bellevue High alum — rushed six times for 120 yards, including a 66-yard TD run. Defensively, UCLA has one of the nation’s best LBs in senior Anthony Barr, who ranks fourth nationally in tackles for loss per game with 1.4. Former UW assistant Demetrice Martin is UCLA’s passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach, and WRs coach Eric Yarber spent two seasons at UW under Tyrone Willingham.
Did you know? Jack is one of a few star-studded Bellevue players who have left the state for college in the last decade, including linemen Steve Schilling (Michigan) and David DeCastro (Stanford)
Aug. 31W, 58-20, vs. Nevada
Sept. 14W, 41-21, at Nebraska
Sept. 21W, 59-13, vs. NM St.
Oct. 3W, 34-27, at Utah
Oct. 12W, 37-10, vs. Cal
Oct. 19L, 20-12, at Stanford
Oct. 26L, 42-14, at Oregon
Nov. 2W, 45-23, vs. Colorado
Nov. 9W, 31-26 at Arizona
Nov. 23vs. Arizona State
Nov. 30at USCchristiancaple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports firstname.lastname@example.org