Huskies hope slide comes to an end in Apple Cup

Huskies hope slide comes to an end in Apple Cup

Huskies hope slide comes to an end in Apple Cup

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by Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 21 at 8:20 PM

SEATTLE -- Even with his team in a tailspin after dropping its third straight game, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian still believes one more victory will be another sign of progress in Year 3.

Sarkisian spoke Monday on the importance of how a win over Washington State on Saturday in the Apple Cup would give the Huskies a 7-5 record and a one-game regular season improvement over a year ago.

But even with a victory over the rival Cougars, this finish is a complete change from a year ago, when the Huskies were the definition of resiliency in winning their final three games to reach bowl eligibility. This time, Washington is limping to the finish line, even after wrapping up a bowl berth nearly a month ago.

"We're excited about the fact that as a team that come Saturday, hopefully around 8 o'clock, we finish our third regular season together with the best record we've had in three years together at the end of the regular season," Sarkisian said. "To go from 5-7 to 6-6 and then ultimately 7-5 in year three is an exciting prospect for us, and I know it's one our guys are really trying to get done."

When the Huskies got their sixth win in a 42-31 victory over Arizona on Oct. 30, Sarkisian hoped that the victory and having the pressure of getting bowl eligible would lessen the pressure and expectations on his players and allow them to play looser.

Three straight losses later, and the Huskies are again answering questions about the continued struggles of their defense that for the fifth time this season gave up more than 450 yards of total offense in Saturday's 38-21 loss to Oregon State.

Sarkisian believes his defense has improved from the beginning of the season, with the exception of continuing to allow big plays. Oregon State had seven plays of 20 yards or more with three of those going for more than 50.

Washington ranks 97th in the country, allowing 430 yards per game. Only nine other teams from BCS conferences are giving up more yards than the Huskies.

"You know it's funny when you watch our defense and you are watching the film, in a lot of aspects we have gotten better. When you watch the game the other night it's a gain of two, a gain of one, a gain of three, a gain of four, and then it's a gain of 50, a gain of 30, a gain of 29," Sarkisian said. "So consistently, yeah, I think we are getting better. But our ability to eliminate big plays still hasn't gotten to the point to where we need to be ultimately a really good defense. It just hasn't happened yet."

While the Huskies defense' statistically has regressed, their offense is struggling as well. Sarkisian said that Keith Price will start at quarterback in the Apple Cup after sitting out most of the loss to Oregon State. Nick Montana started against the Beavers while Price rested a knee injury suffered a week earlier against USC. Montana threw a pair of touchdowns and had a potential third TD dropped by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. But he also threw a costly interception and had just 79 yards passing.

Price entered briefly in the fourth quarter and threw his 26th touchdown pass of the season, but also threw a critical interception at the goal line when Washington had a chance to pull within three.

"One of the keys for Keith is the longevity of the game and that was one of the reasons we decided not to start him last week, just to be able to hold up for 70 to 80 plays. That has shown to be true here," Sarkisian said. "When he has gone in and played banged up, when he has gone in for 70 to 80 plays, the wear and tear of the game into the third and fourth quarters. And so we were trying to get him as healthy as we could."

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