Washington Huskies' Achilles Heel Is Road Games, Team Limping Towards Bowl Bid

Pete TreperinasCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Head coach Steve Sarkisian of the Washington Huskies walks the sidelines during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It's happened multiple times this year for Steve Sarkisian's team—they'll build up momentum after a big home win, only to hit the road and make mistakes that cost them football games. 

After the colossal upset of No. 3 USC, Washington traveled to Palo Alto to face Stanford. A 20-point loss to the Cardinal knocked the Dawgs down a few pegs, but not out.

The following week, the foe was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. A healthy favorite, Notre Dame had trouble containing the Huskies' offense throughout the game, and it turned into a shoot-out of star quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen and Jake Locker.

A series of failed goal-line tries for Washington ultimately led to an overtime loss to the Irish, and a two-game skid.

A return to Husky Stadium to face Arizona brought the spirit back into this team, and it had people talking about a bowl game for Washington. 

As I had mentioned last week, the Oct. 17 showdown with Arizona State would rely heavily on the strength of the Huskies' defense. How'd that game end? A 50-yard touchdown pass to ASU wide receiver Chris McGaha when overtime was all but certain.

That play pretty much summarized how Washington's defense performed throughout the game. In addition, the game was plagued by penalties for Washington, who were lucky to even have a shot at overtime, considering how poorly they played overall.

Sarkisian took some heat after the ASU loss, but I look at the overall lack of running game and the defense as the primary causes for Washington dropping to 3-4 on the year, 2-2 in conference. 

In almost every road game, we've seen a different variation of a Husky team. Yet at home, the running game is stable, Jake Locker and his receivers are completely on the same page, and Nick Holt's defense is usually capable of playing consistently as well. 

All three of the Huskies' wins have come in Seattle, and their only home loss came to LSU—a game that Washington could have potentially won.

The college football environment is truly unlike any other sport. Being at home can potentially be the difference for a mediocre team to pull off an upset, a la Dawgs-over-Trojans earlier this year. 

A big test awaits Washington this coming Saturday, as they face No. 11 Oregon at home. A potent Ducks offense will be yet another test for this Husky defense.

Washington will need to win three of their next four games to be bowl-worthy, and two of those are road games (Oregon State, UCLA).

If Sarkisian's team is for real, this Achilles Heel has got to be a thing of the past, and his motto of "expect to win" can't be limited to Husky Stadium.