Despite the disappointment of Saturday's 23-17 defeat at Brigham Young, coach Steve Sarkisian remains adamant that his team is on the right track, and can accomplish its goal of getting to a bowl game this year.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian’s statement in his postgame interview that “we’ve got 12 more football games to play” didn’t count among the Huskies’ many missteps Saturday — even though the current schedule calls for 11.

Despite the disappointment of a 23-17 defeat at Brigham Young, Sarkisian remains adamant that his team is on the right track and can accomplish its goal of getting to a bowl game this year — which would be the 12th game to which he was referring.

Sarkisian also said that the one loss “is not going to define our season,” which appeared to be the theme in the UW locker room after the game.

“I think the challenge for us is to not get caught in the hangover of this game,” he said. “We’ve got to go back to Husky Stadium next week and play (Syracuse) Saturday, and we’ve got to get ready. They are a good football team.”

There is no question that a game that looked like one of the softer ones on UW’s schedule has a different complexion now.

Syracuse is in rebuilding mode in its second year under coach Doug Marrone, having gone 4-8 last year and was picked to finish seventh this year in the Big East preseason media poll.

But the Orange got its first season-opening victory since 2003 on Saturday with a 29-3 win at Akron, holding the Zips to 166 total yards.

And Syracuse has 10 starters back from a defense that ranked second in the Big East last year in yards allowed, led by a linebacking corps some have called the best in the conference.

The Huskies, meanwhile, proved Saturday that while expectations may be much higher, there is still much growing for this program to do before it returns to elite status.

Sarkisian lamented that the Cougars won the majority of the critical battles in the trenches. Washington also turned in a number of plays that Sarkisian labeled “sloppy,” especially on special teams.

And the offense, figured to be the strength of the team, was held to 17 points and was shut out in the second half — something that happened only once last year.

Asked what happened in the second half, tailback Chris Polk said: “I think we just made our own stuff up. We didn’t do what we were coached to do; we just came out there and tried to do our own thing. When we were doing what we are coached to do, they couldn’t stop us. Every play was working for us, but we just made our own stuff up.”

Asked to explain what he meant by that, Polk said: “It’s just like not paying attention to our reads and taking mental vacations.”

That had some fans on message boards saying the team looked like the “same old Huskies.”

But junior linebacker Cort Dennison insisted comparisons between teams of recent vintage and this year aren’t accurate.

“We’re not the ‘same old Huskies,’ ” he said. “Obviously, we’re all disappointed. But this group, I’ve never seen a group so determined. All of our heads were up in the locker room. We know we let a game get away from us, but we know there is plenty of season left and we can still do great things. We don’t really care what the doubters say — we know what we’re capable of.”

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com Read his blogs on Washington football at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.