The movie “The Hangover” peaked in theaters with an unexpected appearance and subsequent right hand from Mike Tyson. It was a knockout blow topping off what felt like a good idea at the start, then went horribly wrong.
Presenting the 0-1 Washington Huskies.
Washington moves into Saturday’s home opener against Syracuse trying to avoid just such a haymaker, and, subsequently their own hangover from the loss at BYU. The Orange is supposed to be the pastry part of the brutal 2010 schedule; a daunting journey that is one final parting gift from Tyrone Willingham.
How bad is it? Washington still has to face No. 6 (Nebraska), No. 7 (Oregon), No. 16 (USC) and No. 25 (Stanford). Two of those are on the road where the Huskies have not won in two years. The most menacing comes next week when the Huskers roll into town with a defensive line slightly smaller than T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s ego.
During much of the preseason Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian talked about making that crucial play on the road. He pointed to several reasons for his belief that would happen this season:
The coaching staff remaining intact would allow for faster and better halftime adjustments. In the opener, Washington was shut out in the second half giving up the lead they had prior to it.
Fifth-year senior as starting quarterback. Looking more and more at the evidence, the less Jake Locker appears solely culpable for last Saturday. But, considering where he is expected to be, expectations fanned by Washington more than anyone, he was not good enough.
A full season in his system. A key word at Monday’s mea culpa press conference was “miscommunication.” Not what’s expected when a team starts zero true freshmen and just five sophomores. The play caller on offense is a senior captain. The play caller on defense is a junior who is always referred to with one word: “smart.” Miscommunication should not be an issue.
But none of those three things worked last Saturday. Now the Huskies have to fend off doubt and Syracuse.
“This one football game is not going to define this team for the 2010 football season — it’s one game,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a game I think we all would have loved to have won and we all feel like we should have won. But we will move on, learn and get better for it.”
A loss to Syracuse will define it. Washington is most likely heading toward 1-3 even with the expected win on Saturday. Nebraska is next, then it’s off to USC. All the bluster about having “12” games left, the eternal optimists are counting a bowl game whenever assessing the remaining schedule, will blow right out in the wind with a loss on Saturday.
This will be fixed. The House of Hope will be full of noise on Saturday. Sarkisian has pounded through the positive vibe, enough so that a single loss won’t shake them to a breaking point against an inferior team.
Washington has more talent. It’s been some time since that could be said, but it does. It has more talent, more comfort, more to work with. It’s a three-punch combination even Tyson would admire. And it will be enough to fix the first misstep.