Football weekend: Beliefs shaken

Both the Huskies and Seahawks made the worst of their situations.

Both the Huskies and Seahawks made the worst of their situations.

It was a local-football weekend to challenge the collective belief system. Did anybody believe that a Husky club that came in a mere three-point under-dawg would lose by 35 at home? Was it fathomable that a Seahawks team seemingly up by six early on could be down 14-0 at halftime in Denver?

Fans who sat through some of both games (many left Husky Stadium long before the 56-21 outcome was final) no doubt have concluded by now that no one area of failure prevailed. The collective 120 minutes were, for local programs that seemed promising a week ago, fraught with coaching blunders and dunderhead execution on the field.

Jake Locker was the obvious goat for the Huskies, the widely hailed quarterback somehow blowing 16 of 20 passing attempts. The Hawk veteran field leader, Matt Hasselbeck, also was suspect, never so much as when he short-ended an early pass that gave Denver an interception after Seattle penalties had already jeopardized an otherwise impressive early possession.

Perhaps lost in some analyses is that both local grid contingents succumbed to better teams, much better in the case of Nebraska.

The Cornhusker attack was men versus boys, the visitors putting up 533 total yards in spurts and blurs against Husky defenders who often couldn’t even see which way the play was going. The Dawgs had just 246 yards, a mere 71 in the air. The total was 41 fewer than that of Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, playing his first away game.

That the Seahawks were away for the first time this season represented every reason, given their road woes, for fan anxiety. That’s why the groaning no doubt was audible throughout every neighborhood in Hawk nation as TV viewers, buoyed by most of the opening drive, saw one-time perennial nemesis Denver rally for the 17-0 lead and win 31-14.

Both local head coaches spoke about poor execution but play-calling also left plenty of room for criticism. When Locker and company needed long yardage on third down, he seemed to follow sideline orders and throw well under coverage. When he had time to throw long, Locker couldn’t put the ball where it belonged.

Seahawks play-calling was never as questionable as when the offense faced fourth and two down 24-7 in the red zone. Instead of taking an easy field goal and making it a potential two-possession game, the play was an improbable toss to the back of the end zone, where the receiver couldn't catch it inbounds.

The college program no doubt will suffer the worse consequences for the loss. After mending the next two weeks the Huskies travel to Los Angeles to play a USC team that should (assuming a win at Wazzu Sept. 25) be 4-0 and bent on revenge for last year's loss in Seattle. The Dawgs, then, probably ought to be penciled in at 1-3 going into the next home date, against Arizona State Oct. 9.

The Seahawks actually have several reasons to smile. But for a few lapses, they easily could have been in a position to win in Denver, where the steamy heat and altitude helped wear down a defense that spent 37 minutes on the field. And officials and followers have to be impressed by several new players, not the least being Golden Tate, the rookie wideout who had a pair of impressive long gains.

And, getting back to the collective belief system, a couple of apparent truths have emerged. One: Unless he puts up 500 total yards a game as the Dawgs plod through the approaching nine-game Pac-10 schedule, Locker's name won't be mentioned anymore with the phrase "Heisman Trophy."

As for the Seahawks, their schedule is such that they could win what appears to be the requisite nine games it will take to triumph in the NFC West, where there are no undefeated teams after just two weeks. Hawks in the ’10 playoffs? Believe it . . . or not.


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