After being walloped by Louisiana State 41-3 less than a month ago and looking like a Big Sky Conference team, the Washington Huskies find themselves ranked No. 23 in this week’s Associated Press poll after beating Stanford 17-13 Thursday and looking like a contender.
The key, of course, is dealing with the news by attempting to be cool about it, like the hipster who always knows about the latest songs and fashions before you do.
“I’m sure that’s exciting for our fans, but for us it didn’t get brought up in the team meeting and we didn’t talk about it with our players,” said Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, evoking the mandatory tone. “It doesn’t mean anything good or bad, or anything in between. To me, it won’t mean anything until the end of the season. It’s just a perception of what people think of you.”
Obviously, people thought well of the Huskies after beating the previously eighth-ranked Stanford Cardinal 17-13 Thursday at the Clink. Either that, or Stanford is way overrated. But that would mean USC, which lost to Stanford 21-14, is way overrated.
But that’s hard to accept because no less than half of the Pac-12’s teams are ranked in this week’s poll. Oregon, which clobbered WSU 51-26 at the Clink the past Saturday and plays the Huskies in Eugene this Saturday, remained No. 2, behind the unanimous choice of Alabama at No. 1.
The rest of the Pac-12: 13, USC; 14, Oregon State; 18, Stanford; 23, Washington; 25, UCLA. The last time the Pac-12 was so well represented in the AP poll was Sept. 15, 2002. In the USA Today coaches poll, Washington was 26th.
Beauty-pageant results aside, Sarkisian was most pleased with the maturity shown between the beatdown at LSU and the potential for same against Stanford, which had thrashed Washington four times in a row and six of the last seven.
He expects that will come in handy Saturday at Autzen Stadium, the most formidable road venue in the Pac-12, not to mention the Huskies’ nemesis, having won 13 of the past 17 in the series, including 34-17 last season in the final game at Husky Stadium. The Huskies haven’t beaten the Ducks since a 42-10 win in 2003. But the validation of the Stanford game means to Sarkisian that the Huskies are over the LSU defeat and have the capacity to get beyond their bad recent history.
“It’s not about that we’re playing Oregon or that it’s at Autzen or what uniform they’re wearing or what we’re wearing,” Sarkisian said. “It’s about: We’re playing our second game in the Pac-12.
“I’ve learned not to depend on external motivators. When you try to look for external motivators it can get dicey for you. They’ll be ready to play because they want to get ready to play.”
Still, it is Oregon, which lets teams hang around for a half, thinking they might have a shot at an upset, which happened against the Cougars Saturday. But the effects of the no-huddle’s fast pace begin to wear on defenses, and that’s when the Ducks’ explosive plays decide outcomes.
Sarkisian said he hopes to counter the impact with the Huskies’ improved depth, which means substituting earlier and more often.
“Something that Oregon does a nice job (on) is their up-tempo, ” he said. “Those plays become a little better when you make mistakes.
“For us, the depth kicks in to where you’re not waiting until the third quarter to sub guys. You’re bringing them in in the first and second quarters. We shouldn’t nearly be as fatigued as we’ve been in the past.”
PERSONNEL — Lawrence Lagafuaina, a 6-0, 317-pound sophomore from Hawaii who backed up at defensive tackle in all three games prior to Stanford, is out for the rest of the season. Sarkisian didn’t explain the reason, but Lagafuiana was seen on the sidelines Saturday wearing a knee brace . . . defensive tackle Danny Shelton apparently broke a finger in practice before the Stanford game, and played with his right hand completely casted. For Oregon, he has a cast allowing him to use three finger . . . Freshman Kendyl Taylor had three rushes Saturday and is now listed as a running back after being listed as a receiver to start the season. “He’s kind a little bit of both,” Sarkisian said.
WASHINGTON-USC GAMETIME — The Huskies game against USC at the Clink will be a 4 p.m. kickoff on the Fox Network (Ch. 13 in the Puget Sound region).