The special teams was near-disaster and plainly awful Saturday, but one of the bright and level-headed points – and defining moment of punter Will Mahan's season – came after a bad snap.
Chasing the ball back toward his own end zone, instead of trying to scoop it up and get off a punt, Mahan flipped the ball out of bounds for a safety – saving the Huskies from early disaster.
Three days later, back on one of the practice fields in Seattle, Mahan was finishing up a punting drill – one he actually got to boot the ball high and far. On his last attempt, he planted his left leg awkwardly, and something popped in his left knee.
On Wednesday, wearing a white beanie hat and taking in practice alone on crutches, it was obvious Mahan's season was finished.
Afterward, UW coach Steve Sarkisian announced that Mahan had torn two ligaments in that knee.
"He'll be having surgery in a week or two, depending on the swelling and how that goes down," Sarkisian said. "It's unfortunate. It was a routine drill – a drill we do every day, and it was actually the last punt of the day for him. Kind of a freak accident."
The job now falls to walkon Kiel Rasp, who had academic issues and was off the team last spring and the first week of fall camp.
Rasp, of nearby Nathan Hale High School, rejoined the team early in training camp, and traveled with the Huskies to BYU.
"He's got a great leg, and he's been terrific all training camp," Sarkisian said. "The key is to go into a game, catch a ball and punt it, which he's never had to do. Sooner or later, we all have to go out there and experience, and go do it. He's given us all the confidence that he can do that. If we didn't think so, we'd have somebody else doing it. I have all the confidence he can get it done."
But, wait – as is the case with Sarkisian sometimes – something else came out of Mahan's unfortunate circumstance.
Rasp's leg, on occasion, sends booming punts skyward. At times, he also has no idea where they're going.
Often enough, his punts don't spiral. They duck and roll.
So … a contingency plan?
Yep, the second-year coach admitted.
"We'll kind of keep that in our back pocket," Sarkisian said. "It's not a kicker."
A hip flexor strain, suffered in practice Tuesday, has also affected his quadriceps.
"There's no explosiveness at all," Sarkisian said. "We're trying to get it treated as quickly as we can, but I would put him really doubtful for Saturday."
The moves are more in case of emergency than made permanent.
"Just trying some guys at some different spots, just to make sure we're versatile enough, especially when we get into conference play when our travel numbers get limited … to 70 players," Sarkisian said. "We're just trying to make sure guys, in case of some injuries … can fill in at different spots."
"I was a little woozy, but it was nothing," Polk said.
Welcome to 2010.
The coach said the team is trying a new approach.
"I've been analyzing that myself here. I recognize the fact that I'm talking about it. I think ultimately you can be physical when you know what you're doing, and you're on the same page with the guy next to you. I think that's something that is key. As much as I want our guys just to fire off the football, be physical and knock guys around and butting heads and all that stuff – we need to work together," he said.
"That's been a big point of emphasis of mine now since looking at the film Sunday, and coming back and going to work Monday – I just want us on the same page, and if we're all on the same page, guys, then it's time to really fire off. If that doesn't worked, then we'll get it fixed. But if you're unsure and hesitant, then you're not firing off, then you can't be physical.
"I think we're taking a little bit of a different approach to it that way – maybe a little bit of a cerebral approach – but one I think they're responding to. I've really seen it out of the guys here in the last two days – Tuesday and Wednesday of padded practices – I thought really our (No.) 1 and 2 O-lines have really fired off the football better. Part of that is they're listening to the call, and just doing it together. We might not be right all the time, but when we're right, we should be more explosive than we've been."
Translation? Wait and see.
"It's a great idea," said Orange cornerback Mike Holmes." Coach (Doug) Marrone is trying to put us in the best possible position and advantage to win this game. Getting our bodies used to the time change, and are biological clocks reset is good."