Over the past two years, this Steve Sarkisian-coached team has looked unprepared and unable to compete away from home.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Steve Sarkisian shook his head, gazed at the humiliating scoreboard and looked down.
“We’re better than this,” the Washington football coach said, peering at the 52-17 score one final time. “We’re better than that.”
Another road game. Another blowout.
It has become the most damning and disturbing trend of Sarkisian’s four seasons at Washington. The Huskies just suffered their sixth straight humiliating road defeat, dating to a 65-21 loss to Stanford last October. This time, Arizona — a fellow resident in mediocrity — smashed Washington, 52-17, at Arizona Stadium.
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Over the past year, the Huskies haven’t been able to keep up with anyone on the road. They have lost their last six road games by an average of 31.3 points. They have allowed 48 points per game in those six embarrassments. They have lost to the elite, to the so-so and to the bumbling. They are an equal opportunity get-right foe.
This is inexcusable for Year 4 of a rebuilding program, and Sarkisian will undoubtedly experience the disgust of a fan base with thinning patience. It’s one thing to lose 52-21 to Oregon. But failing to compete against Arizona, which entered the game with an identical 3-3 record (0-3 in the Pac-12) and was allowing 33 points and 480 yards a game, calls everything you’re doing into question.
In 2008, Tyrone Willingham’s woeful 0-12 final season, the Huskies lost 48-14 at Arizona without even trying. These Huskies are more talented and better coached, but they were no more effective in the desert.
“This is one of those games we felt we should have won, and they came out and completely blew us out of the water,” quarterback Keith Price said softly.
Washington (3-4) lost its third straight game, and all of those losses have followed the same pattern: Fall behind early, fail to protect Price and watch the quarterback commit turnovers. The Huskies fell behind 24-3 in this game, just as they let USC take a 24-7 lead at CenturyLink Field last week, just as they watched Oregon go up 35-7 at halftime two weeks ago in Eugene.
The early deficits suggest the Huskies aren’t prepared to play. The lackluster showings represent a clear regression from where the Huskies were a year ago.
Why are the Huskies falling out of games before all the tailgaters enter the stadium?
“To be honest, I don’t know,” wide receiver Kasen Williams said. “We have our energy. I feel like we’re playing hard. I honestly don’t have an answer to that.”
The Huskies have regressed in two areas: road competitiveness and offensive effectiveness. The Huskies already have a gigantic task in rebuilding the defense. When the offense comes undone, they struggle to stay in games.
The Huskies are now 4-15 on the road during the Sarkisian era. Sark lost his first six road games after inheriting a winless team. Then, he had a nice 4-3 stretch that included a last-second victory at USC, the “God’s Play” win at Cal, the bowl-clinching Apple Cup triumph in 2010 and a 31-14 domination of Utah on Oct. 1, 2011. Since then, however, every road game has been a disaster. During this new six-game road losing streak, the Huskies have lost all of their games by at least 17 points.
Arizona’s high-scoring, up-tempo offense gained 533 yards against Washington. The Huskies are allowing a ridiculous 48.3 points and 489 yards per game in three road losses this season.
This was supposed to be a game in which the Huskies offense could do some damage. But while the Huskies amassed 380 total yards, they couldn’t avoid making the same mistakes that have limited them all season.
The Wildcats entered the game with only six sacks. Nevertheless, they exploited the Huskies’ weaknesses in pass protection. Price, who completed 29 of 52 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown, was sacked four times and knocked down often. He committed three turnovers, giving him 10 over the past three weeks. He may have set a school record for throws out of bounds. And afterward, Sarkisian criticized his struggling quarterback, saying Price needs to trust him.
“It’s hard to play quarterback when you have doubt in your mind,” Sarkisian said.
Another road game. Another disgrace.
“Obviously, it’s embarrassing,” Price said.
It’s a bad look for a program that should be beyond such lows.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org