Losing the war becoming a habit

After Washington's 44-14 loss to Arizona Saturday night, Steve Sarkisian was able to point to one play as a microcosm for how things went for his football team. It was with 11:09 left in the game, and Arizona was at the Huskies' 21-yard line. UA's Matt Scott was in the shotgun, and he fumbled the snap.

He was able to gather the ball and his wits in time to throw a looping pass to Juron Criner, who scored over Washington cornerback Adam Long.

"They fumble a snap and fling a ball up in the air and they get a PI, roughing the passer and a touchdown, all in one play," Sarkisian said. "I guess it wasn't our night."

He can certainly claim that one, because it's hard to find too many other silver linings in an effort that will have Washington fans scratching their heads for longer than 24 hours.

Everyone had their pet theories: running back Jesse Callier thought the Huskies had no sense of urgency; safety Nate Williams continually pointed out how penalties killed their chances of getting out of, or extending drives. Linebacker Cort Dennison noted (correctly) the big plays that crushed any hopes UW had of getting back in the ball game. Another linebacker, Mason Foster, used the conference cannibalism comparison (my favorite of all of them, truth be told).

"Everyone is losing to everyone," he said.

As usual, though, Jake Locker had the best analysis.

"I don't don't think anyone can blame the mistakes on them, or on me; the mistakes were on everyone," he said. And while he had his troubles locating receivers in the pocket Saturday night, he hit the bullseye with that insight.

It was a team loss in every conceivable way.

Even though the Huskies were facing Scott, the Wildcats' second-string QB, they made him feel cozy, as if he was lounging at home in his Lay-Z Boy, playing Madden. He put up Madden-like numbers too; he was 8-10 in the first quarter; 14-16 by halftime. The junior from Corona, Calif. finished the day 18-22 for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

"The linemen blocked real well tonight," Scott said. "I just sat back there."

"He was confident and comfortable," added Keola Antolin, who added a 78-yard scamper in a second quarter that saw Arizona outscore UW 20-7. In fact, after Washington's last score - a Chris Polk 7-yard run with 7:55 left before halftime, here's how UW's drive chart read; punt, punt, fumble, punt, downs, punt, punt. Kiel Rasp was the runaway MVP with his seven punts, four of them landing inside the 20.

Conversely, Washington didn't make Arizona punt until there was 4:39 left in the third quarter. I live by one rule, and one rule only: If you can't force the other team to punt until 4:39 left in the third quarter, you aren't going to win many ballgames. "This certainly was a good, overall team win for us," UA Head Coach Mike Stoops remarked after the game. "We had a great week of preparation."

While he talked about challenging his offensive line to play a more physical brand of football, the Washington coaches were trying to figure out which best five were even going to be playing on the offensive line. While Stoops and UA Quarterbacks Coach Frank Scelfo were grooming Matt Scott to make the fourth start of his career - complete with running and passing options galore, the UW staff was struggling to find plays to accommodate a bruised and battered Locker, as well as find ways to keep him upright against an Arizona pass rush that clearly smelled blood.

When asked after the game how much of Locker's play was directly attributable to his health, Sarkisian didn't hesitate. "It was the whole deal," he said.

Stoops mentioned how the 'Cats defense had a very hard week of preparation. Washington was finding out that one of their key contributors - Victor Aiyewa - would be out with a knee contusion and their most experienced defensive end, Talia Crichton, would be out with a knee problem of his own. His replacement, freshman Hauoli Jamora - a standout during the Huskies' one-point double-overtime win against Oregon State - didn't have the same kind of success this time around.

"He found out it's a little different when you're playing every snap of the game," Sarkisian said of Jamora.

By the time UW's defensive staff decided to adjust things and get Aiyewa in the game in the third quarter, UA had gained nearly 360 yards. They had done it on the ground, through the air, via Washington penalties - basically any way they wanted.

"It was the most complete game we've had," Antolin said.

And what is going to haunt the Huskies for longer than 24 hours is the fact that they just don't know what it takes to win consistently when adversity strikes - especially on the road. Yes, they won a great game last week, and they did very well in taking down USC. But greatness in spurts and sputters doesn't sustain a program looking for long-term success.

"That's how it is every week," Williams said. "It's a war out there."

And for another week, Washington will need to find a way to win a battle when winning the war is still seemingly a long ways off.

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