SEATTLE – All of these losses are not lost on Steve Sarkisian.
The University of Washington football coach acknowledges that, yes, his Huskies have become unfortunately accustomed to the swoon, to these midseason losing streaks that, fairly or otherwise, have thus far defined Sarkisian’s five-year tenure at UW.
They just finished another losing streak of three or more games – well, they’re likely finished; California, a 23-point underdog, waits this weekend – giving them now 10 consecutive seasons with such lulls.
It’s not just a problem. It might be the Huskies’ biggest problem, one that has forced them from the Pac-12 North division race before it’s even begun.
“Somewhere in here, this portion of the season – granted, we’ve played good teams – this portion of the season here has caused us issues for five consecutive years,” Sarkisian said. “And so when we hit the offseason, I keep a running log of notes and things so that when January comes around, as a staff there are things we need to address of things that came up throughout the season, and this is definitely going to be one of them.”
Perhaps compounding the angst created by these streaks is the manner in which UW tends to lose when it loses consecutively. That is: by a lot of points.
Since Sarkisian took over, the Huskies have absorbed four three-game losing streaks – including their current one – and another that lasted four games. Those streaks account for 16 of UW’s 28 losses during that time.
And in those 16 games, the Huskies allowed 40 or more points 10 times, and lost by an average margin of just more than 23 points per game. And they haven’t scored more than 28 points in any of them.
Of course, this isn’t high brain-cell stuff. Teams don’t play as well when they lose as they do when they win. And to Sarkisian and the Huskies’ credit, they’ve generally bounced back well enough. They followed a miserable three-game losing streak in 2010 – during which they were famously outscored 138-30 – by winning four consecutive games, including the Holiday Bowl. And they won four consecutive games last year after losing three straight, though season-ending, back-to-back losses to WSU and Boise State took some shine off.
“We’ve got a better attitude we’ve got a better mindset,” said junior linebacker John Timu, who was limited Tuesday by a right ankle sprain. He repeated Sarkisian’s proclamation that “it’s fortunate but it’s unfortunate that we’ve been through this before.”
As Sarkisian noted, some of the struggles have to do with strength of schedule. Oregon, for example, has been a part of each losing streak during Sarkisian’s tenure. Stanford has accounted for two of those losses, and a very good USC team was in the middle of things in 2011.
But the coach accurately notes: “This isn’t going to go away. We’re going to play Stanford and Oregon every year.”