The number “24” figured big for both of the Seattle-area football teams after a busy weekend. For the University of Washington Huskies, the improbable triumph over the supposedly invincible Southern California Trojans vaulted the Dawgs to 24th in the Associated Press national collegiate rankings. It’s the first time for UW in the top 25 since 2003 and comes after those of us on hand for the game agreed that it gets votes for greatest home win in Husky history.
The next day was the Seahawks’ turn to have a whack at a California foe. The Hawks, against division rival San Francisco, also played like a 24th-ranked contingent. Unfortunately, that would be a ranking amid the 32 National Football League teams rather than the 100-plus programs in the college ranks.
Saturday’s 16-13 outcome at Husky Stadium, secured when the team got a field goal with three seconds left, means the Dawgs have officially returned from a half-decade-long trip to the vet. It’s doubtful even UW coach Steve Sarkisian really believed his purple legions could beat the almost pro-caliber team that used to employ Sark as offensive coordinator.
Sunday’s 23-10 loss in the Bay Area means the Hawks have early-season catching up to do, trailing the 49ers now by a game in an attempt to bounce back from last year’s 4-12 collapse. Critical player injuries are mounting. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck didn’t work the second half after taking a shot near the goal line as the first half ran down. The hobbled Hawks, at 1-1, already need to be worrying about making the playoffs. The ‘Niners are 2-0 in the division now, and it isn’t likely an also-ran in the weak National Football League West would qualify for a wild-card berth.
When your game's most-valuable player is the quarterback, as Jake Locker was for the Huskies, you’re likely to win. This isn’t the case when the M.V.P. is the punter. But Seahawk thumper Jon Ryan had seven tries for a 52-yard average: by far the team’s most impressive stat.
Maybe coach Jim Mora ought to work Ryan out at quarterback this week? Instead, of course, Seneca Wallace once again would be the one to inherit the helm, as he did last season when Hasselbeck (said to have sustained a rib injury in San Francisco) twice went down for significant portions of the season. There’s a lot to like about Wallace but throwing precision passes isn’t one of them. Hasselbeck himself hasn’t been that sharp as a passer during his six quarters of the young season. But Wallace hasn’t shown during his seven seasons as a pro that he can complete throws with enough consistency to carry a club to the post-season.
Yet, with Seattle down just 13-10, the game seemed promising as the second half began. It stayed promising for precisely 11 seconds, which is the time it took for San Francisco back Frank Gore to gallop unencumbered for his second long-distance touchdown run of the day. With seven minutes left in the game, the 49ers added a field goal, the culmination of a nine-minute possession: eternity in football time.
The Hawks now have new or ongoing injuries too lengthy to list here (Mora said after the game that 10 of 22 starters are out, to say nothing of back-up players). The list now includes a Pro Bowl-veteran quarterback and a quartet of team-player-caliber guys: linebackers Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupa, cornerback Marcus Trufant and future Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones. Nobody seems to question whether this is a conditioning issue. But it’s also suspicious that this is the second straight season with an inordinately high incidence of owies.
Yet, even a diminished Seahawks team faces a winnable game, especially if Hasselbeck can play, at home next week against a mediocre, 1-1 Chicago Bears contingent. It wouldn’t surprise many if the Huskies also get home with a win at Stanford Sept. 26.
If the latter happens, “20” could be the new key number. The Dawgs might rise as high as 20 in the A.P. poll, and the Hawks could emerge with only 20 guys on the injured list.
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