From the Heartbreaker Pan into the Fire

Most football teams improve considerably from game one to game two. Washington was obviously better than they were in their Oregon opener. They played No. 15 BYU even to the last play of the game but unfortunately it didn't change the eventual outcome. A loss is a loss and there is no way to sugarcoat it. As close as it was, they still lost. Damn!

It almost seems like this program is snakebit. What a way to lose. Almost like a heavyweight who can't win for losing but somehow always gets off the canvas for the next round. Just like in a boxing match, the Huskies made it through two rounds but lost both on points. They got their nose split open in Round One, but fought valiantly in the second only to lose it to a judge's decision. Ouch!

There are still 10 rounds to go and if the Huskies continue to improve as much from round to round then they just might get back into this fight. They'd better keep their dukes up because they're liable to get seriously beaten up in Round Three. Oklahoma is probably better than either Oregon or BYU, as their No. 4 ranking would indicate. This would be the biggest win against a high ranked opponent since 2002 when the Huskies beat the then No. 3 WSU.

Regardless of the officials' decision to cry foul, the Huskies could've won Round Two just by landing a few more haymakers. There were at least 2-3 overthrown balls that would have been sure touchdowns had quarterback Jake Locker been able to convert. If just one of those misses had connected then the officials' call at the end would have been irrelevant.

Locker, his coaches and teammates took the high road following this disappointing loss. Their demeanor totally reflects their teachings. Officials don't lose games and there is nothing you can do once the game is over.They don't change scores.

While knowing they would have had to win it in overtime anyway, the Huskies just wanted to have that chance. So did the fans, who were treated to a wonderful college football game on a beautiful day in Seattle. It was a hard fought and courageous effort but it was still a loss. Washington had put themselves in position to win a game by playing their best second half in their last eight games (excluding California). They know they had their chances and, regardless of the statistics, they matched a top-15 team in the country score for score through each of the four quarters. The last drive showed great improvement over the Oregon game.

Also most improved from game one to game two was the punter, Jared Ballman. He had a solid day punting, averaging close to 48 yards per kick and had three of his punts downed inside the 20. His effort with regard to field position was stellar. The kick cover teams performed well, easily improving as well from the Oregon game.

The kicking game had really been sound right up until the penalty-handicapped and ill-fated extra point attempt. That mistake was followed by a successful onside-kick which was overturned by yet another penalty. Washington only had two penalties on the day prior to those two calls.

BYU is a good football team and they have a good quarterback. Washington is trying to be a good team, and they also have a good quarterback who continues to show flashes of someday being a brilliant quarterback.

Unfortunately, both quarterbacks suffered from receivers that decided to have the dropsies that day. The Cougars overcame their drops but the Huskies ultimately paid for theirs. Dropped passes and the overthrown ones probably cost this team as much as the bad call at the end did. They also had some significant drops in their first game against the Ducks and that especially hurt on third down. They dropped two against BYU that could have been touchdowns and one was right before Locker's final run that would have eliminated any chance of 'The Flag'.

I thought that both of the Lakes frosh - Jermaine Kearse and Kavario Middleton - continued to show their big time potential. Both have the look of developing into something special and in just their second game. Both of them, as well as true frosh Jordan Polk, proved they could add different dimensions to the Huskies' offense. All three improved considerably from their first games. Middleton had a block that wiped out two defenders on the first Washington touchdown. Kearse had a 48-yard touchdown catch, and Polk had some key catches down the stretch.

With the shoulder injury to Chris Polk, running back David Freeman also got a chance to show his ability with a couple of really good-looking runs. He also picked up a couple of blocks to help protect Locker, but it was how quickly he hit the holes that impressed me the most.

Freeman and Jordan Polk add so much quickness that they can change the tempo of the game at any time. That is another positive and another freshman, Willie Griffin, showed he could help a position depleted by Chris Polk's injury and the absence of Brandon Johnson.

Early season injuries are often the scourge of teams lacking veteran depth. Washington really misses safeties Jason Wells and Victor Aiyewa. Both are big hitters, and with the concussion to Darin Harris the Dawgs are scrambling to find bodies for the last line of defense.

Safeties Nate Williams and Tripper Johnson teamed up to create one of the biggest plays of the day on defense against BYU, but both are still settling into their positions. They know they have to play better and tackle better on the back end. Williams will only improve in his run support and tackling and Johnson just hasn't played the game for so long that he is still adjusting to the angles and speed of the game.

The coaches obviously realized the need for help at the safety position by moving Johri Fogerson over last week. I doubt we will see him or Harris this weekend and it looks like Wells may red-shirt the season. Hopefully Aiyewa can help this week. He has a presence about him on the field and they could really use a big hitter out of the safety position. Up to now, Harris had been that guy.

Mason Foster made some really big plays (an interception and a batted down pass) and continues to show the promise of becoming a big time linebacker. Foster, Trenton Tuiasosopo and Donald Butler all improved in their second games.

And while there was more pressure on the quarterback, the Huskies still did not record a sack for the second week in a row. That has to change. At the very least there needs to be more hits on the opposing quarterbacks.

The Huskies did improve their run defense statistically and would have out-rushed BYU except for sacks they gave up. At times it looked like they were getting bowled over by BYU's big backs but in reality held them to 137 yards rushing. Washington will probably continue to try and run the ball against Oklahoma and help the defense by moving the chains and playing the field position game. To win this game the Huskies need to out-rush the Sooners, continue to protect the ball, and win the kicking game.

To not have any turnovers against BYU while at the same time getting an interception and a fumble recovery equals a plus-two in the turnover ratio (usually anything like plus-three and above gets you a win). Washington has not lost a turnover on the season as they have recovered both of their own fumbles. They will have to keep it that way to beat Oklahoma.

There was some improvement from Oregon to BYU and the Huskies did surprise the oddsmakers. There can't be anything positive about losing but with such a highly-ranked opponent coming to town they barely have time to take a breath. They need to get measurably better in order to beat Oklahoma. You can assume the Sooners will have better athletes and more of them. They are an established national power and are capable of pulverizing anybody they play.

Washington will need to play its very best to win. They could have another 65,000 at Husky Stadium and maybe, just maybe this is that magical game we've all been waiting for Locker to have; one in which he puts the team on his back, takes over the game and makes a name for himself on the national stage.

Of course it would be great if the offensive line played its best and gives Locker time to pass and room to run and the receivers reduce their drops and the tacklers eliminate their mistakes. That's all it will take, that's all I need.

That's not too much to ask. Is it?

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