When he said Monday the Huskies were “focusing on the healing process,” football coach Steve Sarkisian was talking about the emotional wallop of the 41-3 loss at Louisiana State Saturday.
“It makes me want to puke, honestly,” he said. “That’s how I felt the last 48 hours.”
The Tigers’ physical domination wasn’t a surprise to most observers, but what got to Sarkisian was the 13 UW penalties (11 accepted) and errors on assignments, part of the story that has left the Huskies without a touchdown over the last seven quarters of play.
That figures to change some Saturday with a home game against Portland State, an FCS team from the Big Sky Conference and several grades below LSU, which played for the BCS title in January.
“Our goal Saturday is to walk off the field feeling good,” he said. “This is week is totally about us, no offense to Portland State. I don’t like the feeling I’ve had the last couple of weeks.”
That feel could partly be desperation, which has at least as much to do do with physical health as much as the psychic wounds to which Sarkisian referred.
Tackle Eric Kohler, one of the few upper-class linemen, re-injured his right kneecap and had considerable swelling post-game. He’s a longshot for Saturday, Sarkisian said. That means sophomore Mike Christe or redshirt freshman Dexter Charles will start. It also means Kohler’s original spot, right guard, will be filled with sophomore James Atoe or freshman Shane Brostek, son of Husky line legend Bern Brostek.
What that means is even more inexperience for a line that now has one upperclassman, senior center Drew Schaefer — a line that helped produce 17 yards of total offense through three quarters Saturday.
In fact, Schaefer is one of four senior starters among the first 22, along with FB Jonathan Amosa, CB Desmond Trufant and DE Talia Crichton, who suffered a concussion Saturday.
The attrition continued Saturday with injuries to junior S Will Shamburger (14-stitch cut above an eye), freshman WR Jaydon Mickens (turf toe), junior WR Kevin Smith (knee) and freshman LB Travis Feeney (shoulder). Availabilities apparently aren’t known for Saturday.
Given the tepid start — including a lackluster 21-12 win over San Diego State in the home opener — the Portland State game represents the last best moment to clean up execution and discipline without consequence to record.
The three-game stretch long feared by Huskies fans — Sept. 27 at home vs. 21st-ranked Stanford, Oct. 6 at fourth-ranked Oregon and Oct, 13 at home vs. second ranked USC — now looks even more formidable as injuries pile upon inexperience.
Sarkisian said there was “a great deal of frustration being taken out” on the practice field Monday, which he took as a good sign.
“I think we’re a talented team that hasn’t played up to its capabilities,” Sarkisian said. “The most disappointing thing is we haven’t done better than this right now.”