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September 27, 2009

Inside Slant

After a win over USC the previous week that seemed to trumpet the rebirth of the Washington Huskies, the team fell back to earth hard Saturday at Stanford.

The Huskies were simply dominated on both sides of the ball in a 34-14 defeat at Stanford that indicated that there's still a lot of growth left for UW.

"There's plenty of work to do," said first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. "A lot of work to do. We are a young football team, but the goal is to continually get better and strive to get better day in and day out, week in and week out. I don't know if we did that today."

In fact, UW had its sloppiest game of the season with three turnovers -- two interceptions and a lost fumble -- as well as allowing a touchdown on the opening kickoff in falling to 2-2 on the season.

The Huskies never led after allowing a 91-yard kickoff return by Chris Owusu to start the game, and trailed the final three quarters after forging a 7-7 tie early on.

"It got them going but I don't think the opening kickoff set the stage for the rest of the game," Sarkisian said. "They were just the more physical football team on both sides of the ball."

Indeed, Stanford outrushed UW 321-100, exploiting a Husky weakness that seemed evident at times in the first three games but was masked by some fine play by QB Jake Locker and some gutty play all-around.

But Locker had his most erratic game of the season with the two interceptions and completing just 16-of-31 passes for 190 yards and UW scored just one offensive touchdown.

Stanford's Toby Gerhart, meanwhile, rushed for 200 yards on 27 carries as the Cardinal mostly just lined up and went right at UW's defense, usually to great success.

"We couldn't get them to stop running the football," said Sarkisian of the Cardinal. "They controlled the game that way, and in turn we couldn't get the momentum back in our favor by being able to run the ball and being able to control the game."

NOTES, QUOTES

• Two more true freshmen saw their first playing time-running back Demitrius Bronson and safety Nathan Fellner - and nine have now played for the Huskies this season.

• Stanford's 321 rushing yards was the sixth-highest total allowed by UW this decade, one that hasn't been highlighted by great defense.

Game Ball Goes To: Sophomore WR Jermaine Kearse provided much of UW's offense with three catches for a team-high 54 yards, including a 19-yard TD grab in the first quarter for Washington's only offensive touchdown.

Keep An Eye On: Backup weak-side linebacker Cort Dennison played the entire second half in place of an injured E.J. Savannah and was third on the team with eight tackles, one for a loss. Savannah has a plantar fasciitis injury and it's uncertain how long he may be out.

Quote To Note: "I made a couple of poor decisions and we just weren't able to execute like we wanted to."-UW quarterback Jake Locker.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Looking Good: TB Chris Polk continues to run hard and had 75 yards on 19 carries despite often having little room to run. He also caught three passes.

• Punter Will Mahan bounced back from an erratic outing against USC to average 50.3 yards on three kicks including a 61-yarder that pinned Stanford at its own 1.

• MLB Donald Butler continued his steady play with 12 tackles.

STILL NEEDS WORK:

• The defensive line was dominated most of the night as the Cardinal rushed for 321 yards and 6.4 per attempt, often getting to the back seven before being touched.

• The UW offensive line couldn't counter Stanford's push and couldn't help the Huskies get a running game going of its own, nor buy much time for Jake Locker to throw.

• The special teams were a problem all night as Stanford's Chris Owusu returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown while UW had five kickoff returns of its own that didn't get past Stanford's 21, three pinned inside the 15.

ROSTER REPORT:

• Starting WR Devin Aguilar, who had seven catches in the first three games, didn't make the trip after suffering an MCL knee injury in practice Wednesday. Coaches said he could have played if absolutely necessary but decided to give him the week off. He should be ready for next Saturday's game at Notre Dame.

• True frosh Desmond Trufant has essentially taken over as the starter at one cornerback spot ahead of junior Vonzell McDowell, Jr.

• The career of redshirt freshman OL Craig Noble is in jeopardy after he was discovered to have a heart condition. Further tests will determine the condition. Noble was a highly-regarded DL recruit out of the LA area for the Class of 2008 and had recently been moved to offense.

• The only new injury was suffered by LB E.J.Savannah (plantar fasciitis) and his status for next week is uncertain.

• OG Senio Kelemete left Saturday's game for a short spell when he had muscle cramps.


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