In Year 1 at Oklahoma it was two losses. Same with Year 2 and Year 3. Two of those defeats were in the College Football Playoff, including one in overtime.
High school was even better. Undefeated his sophomore year at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, then 14-1 as a junior at Calabasas (California), then undefeated as a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Suffice it to say, Huskies junior defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles — an Oklahoma transfer better known as “Bookie” — isn’t accustomed to losing. So to have four of them handed to him in six games this season must be particularly hard to stomach.
But this is the new reality at Washington, where in-season results have offset preseason hype. The holes are glaring, and no fixes seem imminent.
Perhaps Friday’s matchup vs. winless Arizona, fresh off a 34-0 loss to Colorado, will provide temporary relief. Then again, simply assuming that might mean the Huskies have learned nothing.
“Learning experiences, growing, growth in general, identifying what you did wrong, ownership,” Radley-Hiles said when asked how he’s wrestling with Washington’s losing ways. “It’s all adverse situations for sure, but it’s identifying who you are. Nobody likes losing, period. Losing is not in a winner’s spirit, but you learn a lot about yourself and your team in these times, because you can identify and look in the mirror and really see who’s going to get back to work.”
This is likely of little comfort to fans, who are witnessing one of the more disappointing starts to a Huskies season in recent history. Nobody wants to hear about players learning about themselves — they want to see them produce results. But Bookie does seem to have remained poised in what is likely the most trying season of his football career. Can his defensive teammates join him?
No doubt there have been shortcomings on that side of the ball. UCLA racked up 237 rushing yards on 40 carries in Saturday’s win. Oregon State put up 242 rushing yards on 50 carries in a win the previous Saturday. And Michigan tallied a whopping 343 rushing yards on 56 carries in a 21-point Week 2 loss for the Huskies.
Washington (2-4, 1-2 in the Pac-12) is 104th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game. So is there anything the DBs can do to help stop the run?
That isn’t usually a back-end issue, after all.
“As a defense, that’s a problem of ours, too. DBs are on the field as well,” Radley-Hiles said. “We need to be in the box more, we can step up more in that area as well. Better tackling, making sure our eye control is correct, our shoulder leverage is proper. … It’s an identification thing, it’s an ownership thing. Like coach (Jimmy) Lake said, we all need to invest one percent more.”
One percent might be a conservative number. It’s hard to say the Huskies have had a truly impressive win this season. The offense has sputtered. The defense has endured the aforementioned running woes.
Little evidence has surfaced that there is going to be a turnaround. And this is putting mounting pressure on Lake, whose off-field recruiting has slogged in the same fashion and his team’s on-field performance. In his defense, Radley-Hiles called Jimmy a genius Wednesday. He said Lake — a former defensive-backs coach and defensive coordinator — has been the secret sauce in Washington’s secondary success over the past several years.
But being a head coach is a much different job.
Washington has what feels like a gimme coming up in Tucson, but then comes what might be the most turbulent part of its schedule. There’s a game at Stanford (2-3, 3-4) during Halloween weekend, then a home game vs. Oregon (5-1, 2-1) the first Saturday of November and then another home game vs. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) the Saturday after that.
Upperclassmen such as Bookie will be instrumental in whether the Huskies come out of this stretch with a chance to reach a bowl game.
“In these types of situations the leaders have to step up, and we have to make sure we’re giving the physical presentation — meaning that our young guys are looking at us, so we gotta make sure that our chins are up and chest is out and that we continue to go forward,” Radley-Hiles said. “Regardless of how hard that is, even though it’s hard to be that guy — it’s hard to be that guy at all times — but when you’re put in certain positions, this is who you are now.”
Radley-Hiles is certainly in a new position. He isn’t used to losing. He doesn’t want to get used to it.