What a tough weekend for the Huskies and Coach Sark; after a disastrous showing down in the desert where the Huskies were blown out on the road yet again - and this time to a team nobody considers to be top-10 material - many Dawg fans are now having to ask themselves tough questions about the direction of the program and whether Sark is the right guy to lead it back to where it should be: competing for Rose Bowls.
Perhaps nothing was more surprising or alarming than the obvious issues between Sark and QB Keith Price. During the 3rd Quarter, TV cameras showed Sark talking with Price on the sidelines, and lip-readers could clearly see Sark saying "I can help you, but only if you talk to me". After the game, Sark talked about the confidence of the team:
"I'm concerned. Any time you lose it's hard. Any time you've lot multiple games it's hard. I've always believed that as much as winning is contagious unfortunately so is losing. When things can get hard, doubt creeps in. We're going to have to do a great job, starting with the staff and the leaders of this team, of coming together and making sure our belief is right in one another. And then the guys next to us, that we can do this. That is as much - or more - than anything is going to be huge this week. Schemes are schemes, and we have to get those fixed. But our psyche and our mentality and our approach to the game is critical."
As Sark and the team circle the wagons this week and attempt to refocus on the upcoming game, it will be critical for Sark to look in the mirror and ask himself some tough questions about his own approach to the game. Against a team that was terrible against the run and merely mediocre against the pass, and with a QB struggling with his confidence, it was odd to see so many pass plays called early in the game, and it only became more questionable after seeing the few running plays called go for impressive gains.
It won't just be Sark questioning himself either - DC Justin Wilcox needs to take a hard look at his own strategies. Opting to open the game with a 3-man front and with his smaller personnel, he watched as his guys were gashed over and over again by RB Ka'Deem Carey, and yet it wasn't until well into the 2nd half that he finally made some significant formation adjustments to slow down the Wildcat running game.
Hopefully that self-reflection occurred yesterday and the staff is focused on what it will take to beat yet another top-10 team. The good news is that the Beavers are probably a better match-up for this defense than the Wildcats, though it appears that Oregon State will be welcoming back starting QB Sean Mannion from his knee injury. The bigger question will be whether the Husky offense can break out of their funk.
Some links of interest:
- Bob Condotta has all the Sark info you'd want today, from his Monday Press Conference to notes from his Coach's Show on KJR this afternoon.
- Jerry Brewer wonders if Sark has the ability to lead another mid-season turnaround for the Huskies.
- Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star says RichRod outcoached Sark on Saturday. I don't think you'll find anyone that would disagree with this sentiment.
- It's only Monday, but Oregonian writer Lindsay Schnell doesn't think it's too early to make a prediction for this weekend's matchup between Washington and Oregon State.
- Coach Mike Riley talks about being in both a "good and difficult" situation with his Quarterbacks.
- As bad as it feels right now for Husky fans, it's probably worse for Cal fans.
- Ted Miller gives us his updated power rankings for the Pac-12 following this weekend's games.
Speaking of power rankings, here's my take on the current state of the conference:
- Oregon - The Ducks faced what was thought to be a big test at ASU with their first true road game of the year; consider that test to have been aced. This group is rolling right now, and it's getting harder to imagine them not heading into their bowl game undefeated.
- USC - I'll take some flack for this, but I think USC is the 2nd best team in the conference. That said, I think there's a pretty big gap between 1 & 2 right now. Barkley and the passing game had a nearly flawless performance this weekend. Granted, it was against a terrible team in Colorado, but it was still impressive.
- Oregon State - The Beavers are playing very well right now, but they're about to hit the more difficult portion of their conference slate. Can they keep it up?
- Stanford - The Cardinal have bounced back well from their loss to the Huskies, especially considering they were dealt a bum hand by the refs at Notre Dame. Their running game seems to be clicking now, which is what that offense needs.
- Arizona State - Tough break for the Sun Devils as they lose their best player on the 2nd play of the game and get run out of the building in the first half in what was supposed to be their statement game. Here's a guess that they'll rebound this weekend against the Bruins.
- Arizona - RichRod has dialed up another lethal offense, and the defense isn't quite as awful as you might think. This is definitely a squad that will rely on winning shootouts, but they have the players to do just that, though they face a tough task this weekend with the Trojans visiting.
- UCLA - The Bruins got the week off to rest and practice. There's talent here, but it's young and the team is predictably inconsistent. They'll get a good chance to prove their an upper-tier team in the conference this weekend.
- Washington - The game at Arizona was a great chance for the Huskies to show they belonged in the upper-half of the conference. They failed miserably, but they get another crack at it this weekend against the Beavers. Can some home-cooking do the trick?
- California - With the loss to Stanford, the road to a bowl game will require at least one win against the Oregon schools - good luck with that. The Tedford hot seat, simmering for a couple of weeks, is now heading back to full boil.
- Utah - The Ute defense - outside of NT Star Lotulelei - isn't as good as you think, ranking 94th in Pass Efficiency Defense and 65th in the Football Outsiders FEI metric. And the offense can't run the ball and has turned over the QB duties to true freshman Travis Wilson. Their remaining schedule provides a chance for them to climb back up and still get to a bowl, and I wouldn't bet against Coach Whittingham getting it done.
- WSU - Yes, I know the Cougars lost to Colorado - at home no less - but I still think they've got a win or two left in them this season, as long as Leach hasn't lost them completely with his zombies comments.
- Colorado - This is a terrible, terrible team. They will be eternally grateful that the Cougs gifted them a win, thus avoiding what should have been a winless season for this program. Embree has to hope this year is rock-bottom and that things will improve, but it looks like a long journey.