Since the 2000 Rose Bowl season Washington has been on the losing end of more extreme blow outs than fans care to remember. In the time period from that Rose Bowl through the current season, the Huskies had suffered 14 defeats of four touchdowns or more. Granted, five of them game in the doomed 2008 season, but that is still a rather high number. Seven out of the 14 came during Coach Willingham's tenure.
Even not considering the 2008 season, Willingham led Husky teams were embarrassed by more than four TDs twice in three years. In 2005 Washington was handled by California to the tune of 56-17. The Huskies were able to bounce back against a softer opponent the next week in Idaho 34-6. The second large blow out for the 2005 season was the loss to USC 51-23. Washington was unable to duplicate the turn around of the California loss as their next opponent after USC was ASU, who downed the Huskies 44-20.
Following that 2005 season, the Huskies, with a healthy Jake Locker, were able to avoid such lopsided blow outs for the two years prior to the 2008 season. The 2008 season is of course where everything went over the edge. No Locker and a team that had quit on their Coach produced five extreme blow outs.
Sarkisian and Holt quickly brought the respectability back after that disastrous season, and led the Huskies to no extreme blow outs during the 2009 season. That isn't to say everything went well, a combined 91-40 score against the schools from Oregon show that. Still the lack of a huge blow out was a bit encouraging.
The streak of no extreme blow outs ended in the third game of season number two. The Nebraska Cornhuskers came into Seattle and annihilated them 56-21. It was a painful reminder that the Huskies were indeed still early in the rebuilding process.
Conveniently skipping the 2008 season, the Huskies had made progress from the 4-9 2007 season to the 5-7 2009 finish. Due to the preseason hype for Jake Locker and upsetting a top 5 team at the time in USC in 2009 made a lot of people hopeful the arrow trending upward for wins would make a big leap.
While the blow out was a reminder that progress was going steady, the encouraging sign for that 2010 season is how the Huskies responded. After suffering that embarrassing loss at home, the Huskies went to Southern California and upset the Trojans for the second strait season. After a loss to ASU and beating Oregon State, the Huskies again fell back into the depths.
First came the 44-14 loss at Arizona, followed by a 41-0 loss to Stanford. The apparent nail in the coffin looked to come when Oregon gave UW it's third extreme blow out in a row 53-16. Sitting at 3-6 this Husky team looked doomed to suffer another bowl less season. Instead, the Huskies responded against easier competition and finished the PAC-10 season with 3 strait wins to reach bowl eligibility.
With the bowl eligibility came the chance to repay those Cornhuskers for wiping the floor with them in Seattle. The Huskies took full advantage of a second chance, and perhaps a disinterested Husker team who had BCS Bowl dreams until losing in the Big 12 title game. The result was a low scoring defensive battle that the Huskies won 19-7, garnering some semblance of revenge.
Going into the 2011 season Washington had already suffered three extreme blow outs in Sarkisian tenure. This was hopefully going to be the season where the Huskies continued to progress, and several of us felt that that days of extreme blow outs could be over. First challenge came in the form of Nebraska (Again), and while the Huskies didn't match their Holiday Bowl performance, they were at least able to fight back after a disastrous 3rd quarter, and finish within 14. the Huskies responded well after that loss rolling through their next three PAC-12 games with ease.
Then came Stanford.
Stanford physically dominated the Huskies in an arguably more impressive fashion than the 2009 Cornhusker team did, pilling on touchdown after touchdown and finally finishing with 65 points to Washington's 21.
For those who managed to make it through the whole game, and for the Seattle media, it has been open season on Nick Holt and his defense. This loss made it the forth extreme blowout in just season three of the new regime, so there is little confusion as to the cause of the uproar. The cause of the flat performances and lack of substancial numerical improvement for the defense is certainly up for debate, but what has been encouraging is the Huskies have responded.
Even after getting pounded for three strait loss of over 28 points- The Huskies clawed to bowl eligibility. After a 3rd quarter in Lincoln that looked to a precursor for another 4 TD plus blow out, the Huskies refocused and fought back.
Perhaps that is what makes this loss against Stanford so galling. It isn't the fact they lost, but in the manor in which Stanford dominated. With a much weaker opponent in Arizona this next week recent history tells us the Huskies should bounce back. Under Sarkisian the Huskies have always found a way to get off the mat and fight back.
Sure the 2010 win streak to bowl eligibility was against weaker competition than the three teams previous, but the fact they did not give up on the season is encouraging. The fact that they were able to scrap to bowl eligibility after three consecutive knock outs gives us hope that this Husky team can forget the Stanford game and take care of business against Arizona, not letting Stanford beat them twice.
Sitting at 5-2 there is still plenty of reason to be optimistic about this season, but the question still lingering on Washington fans minds is, 'When will these embarrassing blow outs end?'