Now it turns to the questions.
Will Jake Locker ever be able to bring his throws down?
Will Locker ever be able to make the right read every time?
Will Steve Sarkisian relent on his aggressive decision making?
Will Washington avoid being 1-3?
Following Saturday’s botched opener at BYU, a 23-17 Cougars win, the Huskies are 0-1 with those question plus several more to deal with.
First, Locker. Say goodbye to the Heisman. Working to end two years of bungling games on the road, Locker found himself in a position to lead a final drive. With 4:04 left he had a chance to change the same-old-same-old into a seminal moment. He carried Washington 48 yards. They needed to go 75.
It was the kind of opportunity built for a Heisman candidate. The scenario a fifth-year senior is supposed to own. What Huskies fans have been waiting for from Locker.
It didn’t come. When his final pass of the day was batted down, Locker left the field 20-for-37. Washington’s praised side of the ball was shutout in the second half.
The reason they needed a full 75 to continue the game was because Sarkisian was overzealous earlier in the fourth.
Sarkisian opted to go for it on 4th-and-2 during Washington’s opening drive of the final quarter. Sarkisian eschewed a 40-yard field-goal attempt to cut the lead to three at that point. Kicker Erik Folk had already banged a 54-yarder to end the first half. A make would have changed the tenor of the whole quarter and possibly the outcome.
Sarkisian going for it on fourth down is not surprising. It’s his nature. He has the gas pedal mashed to the floor, for better or worse. He doesn’t want the Huskies to get over the hump, he would rather they smash through it. He was playing on Saturday to win the Pac-10 title, not just the opener. It doesn’t always work that way.
Following Folk’s field goal to end the first half, Sarkisian sprinted into the lockerroom pumping his fist with sideline reporters comically trying to keep up. Washington’s momentum was clear.
But it eroded. Sarkisian needed to manage at that point, not pillage.
Mix in muffs of the basics — Polk’s two misplayed kickoffs, a bad snap on a punt that cost Washington a first-quarter safety, a blown coverage for a BYU touchdown, a running into the kicker penalty on a punt — and a team with a small margin of error, which this is, becomes doomed.
Now it’s all in the recovery for Sarkisian. He’s been a mental master since arriving, driving perpetual optimism at anyone within earshot. Postgame on Saturday he contended the Huskies beat themselves. He’s right. That doesn’t change that it was the 13th consecutive road loss with the best teams on the schedule yet to come.
Trouble has come early to Montlake. Whether it derails the Optimism Express depends on the speed of recovery. Leftover demons could take this team down faster than any opposing defense.