Arizona State, which plays Washington at Husky Stadium on Saturday, has been close in all three of its losses.
The encore, the Washington Huskies insist, will look a little better this year.
Last season after beating USC and finding themselves ranked, the Huskies lost six of their next seven games.
There will be no such fade this time promise the Huskies, who beat USC 32-31 last Saturday in Los Angeles.
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“We don’t want to be that team that only beats USC every year and then against the rest of the Pac-10 we just hang up our cleats,” said senior safety Nate Williams. “We have a goal, and we expect to win every game still.”
The rest of the season starts when Arizona State comes to town for a 7 p.m. game Saturday at Husky Stadium.
It’s the first of two consecutive games at home — Oregon State follows next Saturday — that loom critical to UW’s bowl hopes. After playing host to ASU and OSU, the Huskies will play the top three teams in the Pac-10 — at Arizona, home against Stanford and at Oregon. So UW seems well-advised to get to 4-2 and have a little cushion entering that stretch.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, though, is in full one-game-at-a-time mode at the moment. He said he thought the Huskies might have been too caught up the first few weeks worrying about the ramifications of each game. So he’s preaching to his team to play “without fear.” He also said he’s taking a different approach to the USC aftermath than he did a year ago when he felt it necessary to try to bring the Huskies back to reality. This year, he’s stressing picking up where they left off in Los Angeles.
“(We’ve) talked about it,” Sarkisian said. “We didn’t say, ‘We can’t have a letdown, we can’t have a letdown.’ We told those guys, ‘We’re not going to have a letdown, and here’s why.’ “
Asked Thursday if he was worried about a letdown, he said: “You can never tell until Saturday night. As of right now, that’s not my concern.”
What is, Sarkisian says, is an Arizona State team he has tabbed all week as “scary.”
The Sun Devils are 2-3 and have lost nine consecutive games to BCS teams. But Arizona State’s three defeats this season came at Wisconsin (20-19), at home against Oregon (42-31) and at Oregon State (31-28), all games that could have gone the way of the Sun Devils.
“We’re just not playing up to our potential right now,” said ASU defensive tackle Bo Moos, who said he also felt the team was a little “complacent” last week against the Beavers. “But we’re hungry for a win. We’re going to be ready to play.”
ASU’s biggest undoing has been a minus-seven margin on turnovers that is third-worst nationally.
The main culprit has been Steven Threet, who has thrown 10 interceptions, more than all but one quarterback in the nation.
That sets up an intriguing matchup with a UW defense that has one interception.
“The games they are losing, it’s not because of their opponent,” Sarkisian said. “It’s that they are making a mistake here or there and shooting themselves in the foot to cost themselves a ballgame. I just hope they don’t put it all together against us.”
In assessing ASU, Sarkisian also noted that the Sun Devils are a fast team defensively, which could force the Huskies to alter the strategy that worked so well against USC.
In that game, quarterback Jake Locker spent much of the night rolling out and making plays with his feet, a tactic that allowed him to have maybe the best game of his UW career with 310 passing yards and running for 110 more.
But UW might have to attack more up the middle this week due to ASU’s speed on the perimeter.
“SC was a really physical front and we wanted to try to spread the field as much as we could,” Sarkisian said. “But every game varies, and this Arizona State defense is very fast so I don’t know how lateral we can really attack them. But it is a part of our offense. It just varies game to game how much we use it.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org