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October 30, 2010For University of Washington football fans, this was sheer gruesome.
A purple-clad crowd of 69,020 came to rain-soaked Husky Stadium in a festive mood in hopes of watching the Washington Huskies tackle a wicked challenge in the No. 13-ranked Stanford Cardinal.
But in a matter of minutes, Husky Stadium started to resemble a House of Horrors as the Huskies were dealt a stunning 41-0 defeat that left Dawg fans and even coach Steve Sarkisian wondering what had just happened.
"In a sense, the saying you've got to hit rock bottom before you can start going back up might hold true," Sarkisian said. "We obviously hit rock bottom tonight."
The defeat was Washington's first shutout loss since 1976 when California beat the Huskies, 7-0.
But the lack of points only told part of the story.
The Cardinal (7-1 overall, 4-1 in the Pac-10) dominated Washington (3-5, 2-3) in every facet of the game, especially in the first half when Stanford built a 28-0 lead after outgaining the Huskies in total yardage, 318 to 35.
The idea of watching this brand of football in the pouring rain didn't appeal to many Husky fans as less than half of the crowd remained for the second half.
Sarkisian had enough trouble watching it himself.
"It's definitely the worst offensive performance I've ever been associated with," he said.
On Halloween eve, Washington gave fans something sour to chew: A numbing loss, hurting the team's bowl chances, with a road game at No. 1 Oregon up next.
The Huskies have to win three out of their final four games to be bowl eligible.
Yet, they go into the Oregon game with a second straight blowout defeat, ending a string of eight consecutive weeks of the following a loss with a victory.
"We've got to get back up Monday and start another week of practice," said Jake Locker, who fared poorly in comparison to Stanford's Andrew Luck in the anticipated matchup of top NFL quarterback prospects. "We still have four games left in our season. We've got to remember that and we've got to approach it that way."
Luck, being touted as possibly the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, lived up to his billing as he completed 19 of 26 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.
He also ran for 92 yards, including a 51-yard dash on third down and 2 for a touchdown on the Cardinal's first possession.
"I think it was a great result for us," Luck said. "We knew Husky Stadium was going to be a tough environment to play in, and we really stressed coming out early and not making mistakes or committing turnovers, and defensively getting after the offense. I think we accomplished all of those goals -- and got the crowd out of it early, and played a pretty mistake-free game."
Stanford, which featured a large, physical and veteran offensive line, scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions and had 15 first downs by halftime playing against a Huskies defense that started two freshmen - Jamora Hau'oli and Sione Potoa'e - up front.
"I don't want to make excuses," Sarkisian said. "We're better than that. I know that much."
"We've got to make more plays. That's what it comes to," said linebacker Mason Foster, who led the Huskies with 18 tackles. "We've got to execute our calls better. We can't give them busted plays and let them run for long yards like that."
Stanford finished with 407 yards of total offense to Washington's 107. The Huskies only passed midfield twice and finished with only seven first downs to Stanford's 22.
"I thought our defense played well," said Locker, who was sacked three times and finished with only 64 yards passing and one yard rushing. "It's hard when you're out there that much and you're not being able to have enough time to rest on the sidelines."
The loss brought back memories of the Huskies' winless season in 2008 under coach Tyrone Willingham.
Foster didn't see the comparison.
"I don't think back to the '08 season at all," Foster said. "We've got a good team. Everybody plays hard. And nobody quits. We're just going to keep playing."
"This is a very disappointing performance," said Sarkisian, who brought excitement back to the Huskies program with a 5-7 record in his first season last year. "I feel for our fans. They deserve better than that. We'll continue to work. Trust me, we'll continue to work. We'll continue to battle. We'll get better. But as of tonight, it's a bad loss, a disappointing loss."
Sarkisian said the play at the line of scrimmage was the biggest factor in his team's inability to produce much of anything offensively.
He said that the team had a great week of practice and was in the right mindset to challenge Stanford.
He was asked if it was a matter of simply not executing.
"I'm not sure to be honest with you," Sarkisian said. "I'm going to have to assess it all. I thought we just didn't perform and they did. Obviously the line of scrimmage was a big factor. But we're going to assess everything and try to figure out why, how and what we can do to fix it."