Laughter rose behind the black curtain downstairs in Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh had announced with his typical fanaticism that Washington retained the highest paid coaching staff in the Pac-10. To the Cardinal, that was a knee-slapper. A downright hoot.
Harbaugh elaborated by naming names. Steve Sarkisian. Nick Holt. Even threw in Pete Carroll.
“We kicked their ass every which way!”
It’s was raucous, odd and true.
A slow, two-story elevator ride away, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian had little but disgust to talk about after the 41-0 loss to Harbaugh’s Henchman. Consecutive woodshed moments have left Sarkisian tired, terse and searching. Saturday night he was a fizzled sparkler trying to explain.
“We obviously hit rock bottom tonight,” Sarkisian said.
The clarification was warranted since Washington was merely outgained 470-107.
The nonsense is starting to stack up. Washington has not scored for six-and-a-half quarters. It has allowed 85 points the last two weeks. It can’t run, can’t throw, can’t stop any scheme.
There was hope that Stanford’s more basic approach would allow Washington a sniff. Instead the Huskies just stunk it up.
The same mistakes are being made. Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck ran a zone-read for a touchdown on the left side, mirroring Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez from a month ago.
Much credit to the Cardinal. Under-ranked at No. 13, 7-1 Stanford lost to the dominating Ducks. It was tight with USC. Otherwise, it has smashed opponents. This group does not put its smartypants on the same as others.
The big, bad, brainiacs planted two tight ends and an extra lineman up front once they had a three-touchdown lead six seconds into the second quarter. Stanford stood and pushed Washington out of the way. Harbaugh has turned the Cardinal into a band of rootin’, tootin’ sons of bitches.
Washington couldn’t handle it. There is no 40-pound flak jacket to strap on an 18-year-old so he has the weight to handle opposing linemen. The Huskies have 14 true freshmen in the mix. Two started on the defensive line Saturday night. They were all smacked around.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt is stuck. He would like to play man coverage. He can’t. The ying-and-yang required, push up front to minimize coverage time out back, is impossible to achieve with Washington’s personnel. Right now, Holt is just trying to keep guys emotionally engaged.
“I hope so,” Holt said. “I’d like to think they are. And the ones that aren’t, those guys are probably not playing.”
The offense was worse. Sarkisian and Jake Locker were in concert few times on Saturday night. One instance was postgame.
“That’s the worst offensive performance I’ve been associated with,” Sarkisian said.
“Worst one I’ve been associated with as well,” Locker said.
He’s still sore. Locker almost stumbled postgame when assessing his health, then returned to the script and said he was fine. Though, he was at an overall loss.
“I don’t know what happened,” Locker said. “I don’t know where to begin. We just weren’t very sound everywhere.”
That would include his mediocre play, which Locker admitted without nudging. As devastating as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was — Harbaugh wants Luck back among Heisman chatter — Locker was ineffective, in part because of constant Stanford pressure. He often threw high, a but that will be included in his college epitaph after this season, and was intercepted twice.
The 107 total yards were the fewest Washington has gained since 1973. Sarkisian wasn’t born yet.
The harrowing evidence brought back memories of a more stiff and slightly less successful era in Washington football. That was two years ago. Those guys just lost. These guys lose with pizazz resulting from unfounded hype.
Twice in 2008 Washington allowed 85 points or more in consecutive games. With a trip to top gun Oregon next for Washington, the same will be said about 2010.
Bowl game aspirations have evaporated. Jake Locker for Heisman? A midsummer night’s dream. Washington is 3-5 and the betting line for the Apple Cup is dipping.
“What makes a successful year?” Harbaugh asked. “To me, it’s improvement. Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse.”
It’s clear which is happening on Montlake.