It's that time of year in college football when nicks and bruises start to pile up. Players are feeling the effects of a grueling eight weeks and sometimes the only cure is rest.
That's certainly the case for a Husky team that has endured one of the toughest schedules in the country and done so with limited depth and an abundance of youth. For Washington, this week's bye couldn't have come at a better time. Because not only have they fought the physical battles, this young team still learning about winning and certainly about themselves have endured a mentally trying season.
There have been highs, upsetting USC and stunning Arizona at home. There have been lows, including three one-score losses and two in a most cruel fashion. And now after their first blowout loss of the season at the hands of rival Oregon, the Huskies get a week off to reflect, repair and just relax.
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"I think the bye came at a great time for us," said Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian. "I think we're a football team that is physically, and a little mentally, beat up. We've got our bumps and bruises physically. We've got guys with shoulders, with hands, with knees and whatnot that need time to heal. But I also think that we're a football team that's been in some really gut-wrenching ball games."
Washington was at it again on Monday, but practice was far from business as usual. Many key players are getting the week off including Jake Locker who watched from the sideline after suffering a quadriceps injury in the first quarter of Saturday's 43-19 loss to Oregon.
"He took a pretty good shot in his quad early in the ballgame versus Oregon that took it's toll on him. He wasn't running like we've all known Jake to run," explained Sarkisian. "You take a pounding as a quarterback. You play eight straight weeks of football and that stuff takes it toll on you, so we'll take it easy on him."
He's not alone and Sarkisian listed E.J. Savannah who re-broke his hand against Oregon along with Mason Foster, Donald Butler, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Chris Polk, and Nate Williams as players to join Locker on a much needed break.
"There's no doubt, we're fighting through a lot of injuries, a lot of bumps and bruises and nicks," Sark continued.
But that's football right? So while many players are resting, others are getting extended auditions. It's no secret these Huskies lack depth and experience and the coaching staff is hoping extra work this week can help in both areas. Quarterbacks Ronnie Fouch and Keith Price will get valuable reps with the number one offense just in case the imaginable occurs.
Running backs Demitrius Bronson and Johri Fogerson will get a closer look in hopes of finding relief for an overworked Polk. On defense where three freshman already start and plenty others get extended action, youngsters like Talia Crichton, Andru Pulu and Semisi Tokolahi can spend time fine tuning their craft with extra work.
"We can't expect just to go the next four games and be a completely healthy football team," exclaimed Sarkisian. "That just doesn't happen. So we need to have guys ready to step in if something does happen to someone, but also maybe give a guy a blow for a series or two because a guy's ready to play."
The season is far from over and a bowl game is still within reach. So while Sarkisian wants to get younger players more work he also needs to balance that need with trying to win games.
"I don't want to go there," Sarkisian said about playing for the future instead of a bowl game. "This is about playing UCLA, but it's also about playing our young guys. If you start going week in and week out, and you go eight straight weeks, it's hard to all of a sudden say, man, this guy can really help us, let's interject him here.
So we've got guys who can't redshirt but aren't playing that much football for us right now," he continued. "So the goal is to assess in these three days, those guys who aren't playing a whole lot for us. Who can we interject back into these last four games that can play a substantial role in what we're doing and give us an opportunity to play better?"
That's the big question for a team looking to end a two-tame losing streak. Who can step up and provide help. Who can get Washington over the top in the final four games and perhaps into a bowl game. The answers won't be easy to find and perhaps there just aren't any. But this week Washington will use the extra time to find out.
"This is a much-needed bye for a lot of reasons," Sarkisian said. "But I think we'll take advantage of it and use it as a positive and benefit and rest mentally and physically as we move forward."