Washington’s seniors play their final true road game against Colorado on Saturday night. It’s a group that participated in New Year’s Six bowl games in three consecutive seasons, won a pair of Pac-12 titles and generally helped elevate the Huskies into one of the Pac-12’s premier programs.
It’s also a group that entered Saturday’s game at Folsom Field with a 3-4 record in conference play and a 3-3 record inside Husky Stadium.
Still, UW head coach Chris Petersen is impressed with his outgoing seniors not despite the sudden struggles.
But, in a weird way, because of it.
“It’s awesome when (the games) all come out your way, and it is really painful when it does not. But still, these kids have really stayed focused and worked hard,” Petersen said this week. “In some ways that’s more impressive than when it all goes your way. I’ve been on a lot of teams that it’s like, yeah, they talk a good game but they still aren’t putting the same work in (at the end of the season). I think a lot of these guys are and I think they really care.
“We still got three games left and they’re really, really important. I know it just sounds corny and all that, but it’s kind of what we were talking about. We’re improving and we’re getting close to what we’re capable of with this team and all these guys together.”
Judging by recent results, these Huskies — at their best — are capable of quite a lot. They led in the third quarter against both No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah. They also beat USC decisively at home and, in doing so, muzzled the Trojans’ formidable air raid offense.
But they’ve struggled to finish games. They’ve struggled to be consistent.
And, according to Petersen, that obvious imperfection can yield eventual growth.
“I wish everybody in this room could experience what (a loss) feels like — for everybody, for the coaches, for the kids, how hard it is. And then you lose another one that you don’t think you should and it’s like, that is adversity,” Petersen said. “I know it’s just sports and there’s a lot more things in life that are (more) important than that, winning and losing football games. We all get that.
“But in terms of the energy and importance, and the effort that everybody puts into it, it is hard to reload and stay focused. And keep scratching and keep clawing, keep supporting each other. That’s hard. I think there’s a lot of good that can come out that. Not just for these kids football-wise, but other things down the road.”
Eason attempts to bounce back
Jacob Eason had never played a football season with a pair of bye weeks.
“It is weird, a little bit,” UW’s redshirt junior quarterback said of the extra rest. “It’s good for the body, but you’ve got to stay locked in.”
Eason certainly was not locked in Washington’s 19-7 win over Oregon State on Nov. 8, when he completed 16 of 32 passes for 175 yards and two interceptions — including a pick-six. Theoretically, the 6-foot-6, 227-pound signal caller should be able to bounce back to finish the regular season against middling Pac-12 defenses in Colorado and Oregon State.
But that also requires him putting those back-to-back pick-sixes in the past.
“You’ve just got to stay with it. When things aren’t going your way, keep firing,” he said this week. “You can’t be perfect as a quarterback. Keep giving guys opportunities to make plays, and sooner or later they’re going to make a big one and it’s all going to start rolling and it all goes from there. Just remember you can’t be perfect and keep playing one step at a time, one play at a time.”
For Eason, the next play came against a familiar opponent.
“They’re interesting. They’re different,” Eason said of Colorado’s defense. “On third downs, they get six, seven guys on the line of scrimmage and they play hard and physical. I know they’ve got a good home crowd and they play really good at home.
“I was with (former UGA defensive coordinator and current Colorado head coach Mel) Tucker when he was at Georgia and I know how good of a coach he is. It should be a good match up. I look forward to going down there with the energy and playing a good game.”