UW searching for its 'A' game

This Washington team, though at times they seem on the brink of breaking back into the company of the country's elite programs, still have a ways to go, as evidenced by their self-diagnosed lack for any margin of error going forward. They must play a perfect game this week to compete at USC.

Since Steve Sarkisian was hired to be the head football coach at University of Washington in December of 2008, there can be no denying an emphasis toward improving the overall talent level of the team. Washington's skill players on offense, led by Jermaine Kearse and Chris Polk, rank among the best in the country. Desmond Trufant is an emerging shutdown corner, if he's not there already.

Yet the job has just begun. It was painfully obvious to anyone who watched the Huskies bow down to Nebraska almost two weeks ago, as the Huskers' piled up 383 yards on the ground, while stifling UW's offense. It appears Washington lacks the beef up front to compete with the best programs in the nation. Add to that the fact that UW hasn't won a road game in their last 13 tries and things begin to look especially bleak for this Saturday's game at USC.

And they know it too.

But, when their spikes dig into the LA Coliseum's bermuda grass overseeded with rye, expectations are still high. "Everyone in the PAC 10 is vulnerable," said senior safety Nate Williams on Monday. And while they don't have the total team talent to sustain a BCS Bowl run, they do have playmakers that can get the job done on any given Saturday. Just go back to last year's win with a less talented team against then No. 3-ranked USC, for example.

But here's the catch: Their post-game grades have to come out looking like a high school valedictorian's transcript. We're talking all A's.

They have no room for mistakes on special teams, or for forced throws against Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense, or missed tackles. Matt Barkley, Stanley Havili, Ronald Johnson, Robert Woods, Marc Tyler, Dillon Baxter, and any other USC skill player you care to name will make them pay. Dearly. It wouldn't take much for UW fans to see Nebraska all over again (Oy!).

Cort Dennison said Monday that this Washington team has too much pride not to be ready to go when the whistle blows. "We need to bring our A game, because if not we'll get beat and we'll get embarrassed," he said, matter-of-factly. "And we're not a football team that wants that to happen to us, we work too hard."

But that is easier said than done, isn't it? All the pieces need to come together in way that hasn't happened on the road for the Dawgs since Stanford, 2007. But they have a plan, according to senior linebacker Mason Foster. "We just stay locked in," he said. "Try to be as locked in as possible, don't let all the hype about last year and, with a lot of these guys from southern California, from your buddies…stay focused on what we have to do and just do your job."

And do your job well. Study hard boys, because your parents (in this case the UW fan base) are going to be very unhappy if you don't bring home top marks. If they start off the season 1-3, the team won't be the only ones grounded. Any hopes of these Huskies seeing the post-season would be put on life support.

"The team that we're playing is going to be really good, they're going to be ready, they're going to have a lot of good players on it and they're going to be well coached, so we gotta be ready," Dennison said. "We gotta do things good during the week, prepare well and take all the advantages we can of the opponent we're playing."

That means no dropped interceptions, no assignment errors, no fumbles or bad snaps, no clock management or play calling snafus on the part of the coaching staff.

So will it happen? Is all of that even possible? Will lightning strike twice? Will the Washington fans even see a competitive game?

"We'll definitely be ready for this week," said Dennison.

Alright, Cort. Husky fans sure hope so.

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