SEATTLE -- Seven weeks after what was believed to be a landmark victory over then-No. 3 Southern California that would expedite the quick turnaround Steve Sarkisian preached was going to happen at Washington, the Huskies spent Monday trying to digest a third close loss in their last five games.
This time it was a 24-23 setback at UCLA on Saturday that dropped Washington to 3-6 overall (2-4 Pac-10), and put its fledgling hopes of becoming bowl eligible in Sarkisian's first year on the brink of extinction. Washington would need wins in its last three games, beginning this weekend at Oregon State, to get the needed six victories.
And now frustration is beginning to set in after the Huskies' road losing streak was extended to 11 in a game they had multiple chances to take control of and win.
"Our kids are playing hard. We're doing things right. Somewhere in here, we're going to find the ability to finish games. And when we do, look out," Sarkisian said. "We're a pretty dangerous football team that is still getting used to playing in the fourth quarter of games with the game on the line. When we solve that portion of the game, I think our team is going to continue to grow and only going to grow in leaps and bounds from that point on."
Two days after the loss to UCLA, the Huskies were left lamenting blowing a 23-14 lead in the third quarter and the numerous mistakes that accompanied it. There was not challenging the juggling touchdown by UCLA's Terrance Austin that pulled the Bruins within two. There was Erik Folk's missed 38-yard field goal that could have given the Huskies the lead early in the fourth quarter. And finally, Jake Locker's forced pass that was intercepted near the UCLA 20 in the final minute.
"You think about this game, you think about Arizona State, you think about Notre Dame, in a blink, we're a 6-3 football team right now instead of 3-6 and this is a whole different press conference right now," Sarkisian said.
It's been a run of fourth-quarter road failures since Washington's 16-13 upset of USC where the Huskies methodically drove for the winning field goal with three seconds left.
Against Notre Dame, it was Washington's inability to get into the end zone inside the Irish 5 that eventually led to a 37-30 overtime setback. At Arizona State, poor clock management by Sarkisian and a blown defensive coverage gave the Sun Devils a stunning 24-17 win on a 50-yard TD pass with five seconds left.
Then came Saturday at UCLA. Down by one with 10:41 left, Folk missed badly on a 38-yard field goal attempt, his first miss inside 40 yards this season. Washington's defense held and the Huskies got the ball back at their 11 with 4:21 left.
Locker quickly moved the Huskies into UCLA territory using short, smart passes and a few runs by Locker and Chris Polk. On second-and-3 at the UCLA 46, Locker saw single-coverage on receiver Jermaine Kearse, who made two acrobatic touchdown catches earlier in the game. Locker decided before the snap he was throwing to Kearse. But the toss was underthrown, deflected and landed in the hands of UCLA's Rahim Moore.
"It's really easy at that point to second guess what you've done and done something else with the ball, but looking back, at the time I felt good about it," Locker said Monday. "I felt that was one of our best options. You can't take it back."
One of the biggest hanging questions from Saturday was why Sarkisian didn't take a timeout to give replay officials more time to look at Austin's juggling touchdown reception. It was ruled a catch on the field and television replays were inconclusive whether the ball touched the ground before the ball popped into the air and fell back into Austin's hands as he rolled over.
Sarkisian said he believed the play was going to be reviewed based off two reviews just minutes earlier, one on Kearse's 34-yard TD catch. By the time Sarkisian realized a timeout wasn't coming from the replay booth he said he attempted to run down the sideline to catch the attention of an official and call timeout, but it came after UCLA snapped the extra point try.
"I wanted to challenge it to see what happened," Sarkisian said. "We just didn't get it done in the time frame."