"Tis the season", UW coach Steve Sarkisian declared Monday, and he wasn't talking about red-nosed reindeer and sleigh rides, Christmas presents or visits from Santa Claus.
He was referring to the flu season.
As much as Arizona State took the flight out of the Huskies on Saturday night in posting a 24-14 victory, so did the flu.
Jake Locker had it.
Jermaine Kearse was fighting it.
Even Sarkisian, himself, had the sniffles.
"The weather is changing, the wind is blowing in," Sarkisian said. "(It's the) common cold. I got it. Everybody gets it."
With this team – average, at best, in the talent department – energy means EVERYTHING. And on Saturday, it was much about letdown as it was meltdown.
"I don't really know why we didn't have energy," Huskies safety Nate Williams said. "Maybe it was the rain, or a couple guys had a cold or what not. I don't know what it is. I think we played such a huge (game) against USC, and we had to win and people kind of lost sight we have to play hard at home. It's not a guaranteed win just because we're at home."
Energy, or lack thereof, was the theme Monday at Sarkisian's press conference. He mentioned it in his opening statement. In nine responses to questions from the media, he talked about illness or the absence of energy.
"I thought our energy level wasn't where we've been. I thought I saw that with Jake (Locker. I thought I saw it with Jermaine (Kearse)," Sarkisian said. "All week, that can add up … if you're not sleeping as good as you can sleep all week long, and you're tossing and turning and waking up.
"As the game rolls around and you're in your 35th, 45th, 55th play of the game and you're out there, I think your energy level can drop some. Our football team as a whole - not that we didn't try hard or not that we weren't excited to play - I thought our energy level wasn't as where I've seen it before."
In particular, Locker was nowhere near the same feisty-spirited leader he showed in the 32-31 victory over Southern California.
"Early … I didn't feel his speed. The week before when he'd run, I mean, you felt it. There was no doubt – we all felt it," Sarkisian said. "This ballgame when he'd run, not only did I not feel the explosiveness we've felt out of him, it had a lingering effect on the plays after. When you are kind of congested and it affects the way you are breathing, I think that kind of affected our tempo and getting in and out of the huddle. He was just trying to catch his own breath."
At one point, Sarkisian thought about inserting backup quarterback Keith Price into the lineup, the second-year UW coach admitted Monday.
"I did think about it there, but I just felt like No. 10 (Locker) has done so many good things for us and has given us opportunities to win ball games before that I felt like I owed it to him," Sarkisian said. "He makes a couple of throws there that unfortunately we weren't able to make the plays on that might have a different outcome on the game."
Locker went in for a doctor's appointment Monday morning for a further check-up. Sarkisian said he expected the senior to practice all week.
In other Monday developments:
• With Erik Kohler still out with mononucleosis, senior Gregory Christine and true freshman Colin Porter go into this week as co-starters at left guard.
Sarkisian said Porter, who saw no action against the Sun Devils, has a big opportunity to grab the job and run with it.
"We're going to give him a good hard look this week," Sarkisian said. "(Kohler sickness) happened so late in the week to me, I just didn't feel like it'd be fair to him to throw (Porter) in like that. But to have a whole week of preparation, I'd like to get him at least 50 percent of the snaps in this ball game."
As for Kohler, Sarkisian said the California lineman's fever has subsided, and that he can attend team activities. Best-case scenario, Kohler is very doubtful for Saturday against Oregon State.
• Add five drops from Saturday to the disturbing and ever-growing list in the UW's pass game.
Lakes High product Jermaine Kearse had three of the five mishandled passes, including one on fourth-and-5 in the second quarter. He also missed one on the first play along the right sideline on the UW's first play of a series after Cort Dennison's interception.
Sarkisian said he wasn't excusing Kearse's drops as being under the weather.
"I just think he wasn't able to make a couple of plays," Sarkisian said. "That doesn't mean I don't love Jermaine Kearse. I love him to death and that doesn't mean we're going to stop throwing the ball to him. He just unfortunately didn't catch it."
Added receiver D'Andre Goodwin, Kearse's roommate: "Jermaine is a great player. (Dropping passes) happens – happens to the best of us. He'll bounce back. He'll come back today, make sure he concentrates and focus on catching the ball more. He'll be back to his self on Saturday."
• Receiver Devin Aguilar (hip flexor) came up hobbled on the final day from practice Thursday. Sarkisian dismissed it, saying the junior was fine. Then, Aguilar wasn't able to go Saturday, replaced by Jordan Polk (even though it was Goodwin, not Polk, who played the majority of snaps in two-receiver sets).
"Devin is going to work his way back into individual stuff today," Sarkisian said. "As of right now, we're anticipating that he's going to play Saturday, but we're going to monitor it very closely as the week went on."
• ASU's drastically-different personnel at defensive end – James Brooks at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds and then Jamarr Robisnon at 6-2, 247 – gave left tackle Senio Kelemete fits all game long.
"I thought he played OK saturday night. He's had better games," Sarkisian said. "The disparity and different types of pass rusher he got from snap to snap varied, and for a guy who hasn't spent much time at left tackle, that can be challenging because it's a different set you have to take depending on who is rushing you. It's not just taking a normal pass set every time.
"I thought he struggled at times identifying the type of pass rusher he was getting and how that pass rush was coming and what he could do to combat that."
• Two days after attempting a fake field goal on fourth-and-18, Sarkisian still thought it was the right call, but the mistake came in coaching the play up to holder Cody Bruns, who had the option to run or pass.
Bruns tried to run, and was halted for no gain at the ASU 31-yard line.
"(Tight end) Marek Domanski is wide open for a touchdown on the corner route, which we thought (would happen). And we gave Cody a two-way go to run or throw, and he didn't see it," Sarkisian said. "So, I feel bad about that, that we didn't coach it better. But the situation is what it was. We were getting stuck there at the (31)-yard line. And it's a tough place to be on fourth down, because at that point in that weather it was too far for field goals for us. I felt it was too close to punt, so we went for it and we weren't able to convert."
• Quick-hit stuff: The status of defensive endCameron Elisara
(shoulder) will be a week-to-week thing. He played only a couple of snaps Saturday. "I don't think I can just write him off for the whole season, and I don't think we can count on him playing 80 snaps every Saturday, either," UW coachSteve Sarkisian
said. … Not only is there no real timetable for running backJohri Fogerson
's return from an upper-leg injury, Sarkisian said applying for a medical redshirt seems out of the question, too. … With 12:40 to go, UW cornerbackDesmond Trufant
was flagged for pass interference against ASU'sMike Willie
on third-and-10 along the right sideline. Sarkisian said that flag has prompted discussion among his staff on changing the way the UW defends the fade pass pattern. "The ball is not near the guys, and we're getting called for pass interference stuff," Sarkisian said. "We've got to change our technique." … Besides his persistent flu bug, quarterbackJake Locker
suffered a minor quadriceps contusion against ASU.
** MONDAY PRACTICE UPDATE: Quarterback Jake Locker (illness, quad contusion) participated in the scout-team portion of the hour-long practice, but sat out the team period. Backup Keith Price took all the snaps for the last half of practice. … Defensive end Cameron Elisara (shoulder) was a full participant Monday, albeit with the team out of pads and in no-contact mode. … Crucial drops and have plagued receiver Jermaine Kearse in the past two games – enough where he spent extra time with the quarterbacks during individual drills, and catching passes with receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty after practice. … Tight end Michael Hartvigson (shoulder) did light work wearing the red jersey. … Offensive lineman Erik Kohler (mononucleosis) attended practice, bundled up in a hefty sweatshirt underneath his jersey. … Running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) only did springs along the sideline. … On his weekly radio show Monday after practice, Sarkisian did say cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Wilson High product, was putting too much pressure on himself, and that was the biggest reason for the sophomore's recent struggles in pass coverage. The second-year coach admitted the two met the last couple days, and is predicting a bounce-back second half for the Tacoma native.