BY Todd Dybas 08:13AM 09/04/2010

Path of season for Huskies rests on opener

How much is riding on Washington’s first game of 2010? Oh, everything.

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker could begin his Heisman charge on Saturday afternoon at BYU. (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

The entire 2010 season Huskies season rides on Saturday’s opener.

There. That wasn’t so hard.

Washington heads into Provo, Utah, on Saturday as three-point underdogs among the bettors. The Huskies are 600-point favorites in their own minds.

Not cocky, just believers. They are carrying the end of last season in their thoughts. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has worked to keep memories of the two closing wins, a shutout of hapless Washington State and a dismantling of disinterested Cal, alive.

“We haven’t tried to bury it,” Sarkisian said of the momentum. “I think that feeling of winning, that feeling of playing well, that feeling of enjoyment, the excitement of the lockerroom was inspiring throughout the summer, throughout training camp.

“If that means we’re going to make the play on 3rd-and-1 or not, I don’t know if it carries it that far, but I think it does in the preparation and the buildup and I think it does in the fourth quarter of this game when it’s tight.”

This is all about momentum. The sunburst level of optimism from Sarkisian and his staff will be tested. Everyone believes. No better way to confirm that than with the first road win since 2007.

A  strong performance from Jake Locker starts the Heisman wheels turning. Anticipating a win in week two over downtrodden Syracuse, and the Huskies are 2-0 with Nebraska looming and ESPN salivating. The cameras will come, as will the cash for the finger-crossing renovation plan for Husky Stadium. A win turns Washington into one of the early season storylines.

A loss? Well, that would be a mess. That means Washington still can’t win on the road, perpetuating the storyline. It could lead some players to question if they are really this reinvented 2010 team to be reckoned with or if the horrors of 2008 still linger. That 0-1 could become 1-3 in short order with the fourth game of the season at USC.

Sarkisian is level-headed about it, at least in public.

“We’ll put the same importance into every game,” Sarkisian said. “We’re focused on this game but this game isn’t going to make or break our season.

“If we win this game it doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and be the Pac-10 champs and if we go out and lose this game it doesn’t mean we’re not going to be the Pac-10 champs.”

Sarkisian brought the team to Seahawks headquarters last Friday to emulate a road situation. Those not trying to flush the soul don’t perform an exorcism.

The coach knows the level of importance the opener holds. He knows this can continue the team’s staggering rise from embarrassment.

He also knows there will be a lot of questions should they lose.

A ranking? Moving toward the Rose Bowl which is often mentioned by players? Continuation of the sudden revival? Those things all start on Saturday in Utah.

It also could be the start of deflated hopes.

Either way, the fabric of the season will be riding on it.


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