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October 24, 2011

Let's not forget how far Huskies have come

The Washington Huskies were blown out of Stanford Stadium on Saturday when the Cardinal crushed them in every facet of the game, winning 65-21.

The Cardinal, now ranked No. 4 in the country, showed the Huskies what it meant to be on top of the mountain.

Still even after one of the most lopsided losses under Steve Sarkisian, the Huskies have reason to remain positive and not jump ship.

At 5-2 overall, and 3-1 in the Pac-12 conference, the Huskies are just one win away from returning to their second bowl game in as many years and are tied for third in the Pac-12 North.

"We're a 5-2 football team still, we're 3-1 in our conference," Sarkisian said. "We've lost to two pretty dang good teams on the road."

Washington's two losses have come against two teams ranked in the top 15; both games were played away from Seattle.

The remaining schedule for the Huskies presents itself prime for a strong finish as well. Washington could very feasibly win four of its final five games and finish the regular season 9-3, which would be the Huskies' best finish since they went 9-3 in 2001 and went to the Sun Bowl.

This Saturday night, the Huskies host Arizona at home, a team that has improved since the firing of coach Bob Stoops. Yet Arizona will be without four defensive backs who were suspended for their roles in a fight during the Arizona-UCLA game on Thursday.

The Huskies then play their final game in Husky Stadium against rival Oregon. That is the toughest game left on their schedule and a repeat of the Stanford game wouldn't be a complete surprise.

After the Ducks, the final three games for the Huskies will be against USC, Oregon State and Washington State.

USC is the most talented team of the three, but Washington has a knack for pulling off big wins over the Trojans. When the Huskies meet the Beavers and Cougars, anything could happen, but the Huskies should be the favorites in both games.

There's clearly a lot of football to be played and the Huskies aren't where they want to be. The defense, which appeared to be making progress up the mountain, got caught up in an avalanche that took the unit back to square one on Saturday.

The Husky defense is ranked 104th in the country and ninth in the conference in scoring defense. They are 11th in the conference in pass defense; and the defense, which was supposed to be one of the best at stopping the run, gave up 446 yards on the ground to Stanford on Saturday.

This brutal showing through seven games of the season has fans wondering if defensive coordinator Nick Holt is the right man for the job. Since taking over in 2009, there hasn't been much if any improvement on the defensive side of the football.

Saturday against Stanford, though, showed that the Husky defense may be more than a coach away from catching up to its high-powered offense.

The Cardinal ran the same play, a power run on the right side, throughout the game and the Huskies had no answer. The Washington defense was playing against an offense that was bigger, stronger, faster and better in every single way. Even a perfect scheme wouldn't have stopped three-headed rushing attack of Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson.

The offense of Stanford is in the elite of the country though. Even a good defense would have had trouble stopping the Cardinal. Sarkisian and the Huskies need to forget about that game and realize they won't see many other teams as physically dominant as Stanford.

Holt shouldn't be let off easily, but remembering the progress the Huskies were making before running into the Stanford buzz-saw will be important for the Huskies in the final stretch.

Washington still has one of the best offenses in the conference led by quarterback Keith Price, who was named a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien award given to the nation's best quarterback.

On Monday, Price spoke about how this loss was different than when the Huskies lost to Nebraska and how he thinks it will help them the rest of the way.

"Just the plane ride home, I have never even … after the Nebraska game this game was just humbling, just getting our butts beat like that," Price said. "I saw tears, I saw it all, you know, and I'm happy about that. That people actually care about that."

There's no denying that the Huskies wish they could have one back against Stanford. They laid an egg, something Sarkisian said he wouldn't let happen, yet still the team is primed for their best season in a decade.
Behind Price and Chris Polk, who are having record-breaking seasons, the Husky offense is taking care of its business. The next step is for the defense to find a way to follow suit.

Even so, a year ago it seemed implausible through seven games for the Huskies to go to a bowl game. Yet just a year later, it's nearly a lock that the Huskies will return to the postseason. Despite that, Husky nation seems in a bit of a panic mode.

No need to be panicking at this point. The ship is sailing and the next stop is at home against Arizona, where the Huskies look to continue their perfect record at home.

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals


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