SEATTLE (AP) — Steve Sarkisian's concern that Washington's blowout loss to Stanford would carry over manifested itself for the first 15 minutes against Arizona.
"We were trying too hard. We were too jarred up," Sarkisian said on Monday. "Maybe I was trying to make it a point that we were going to come out and play passionate, energetic football, and we tried too hard."
Washington eventually settled down and got the rebound victory it needed, pulling away late for a 42-31 win over the Wildcats. That gave the Huskies their sixth win and made them bowl eligible for the second straight season after not going to the postseason between 2003 and 2009.
And it sets up Saturday's matchup against No. 6 Oregon during which the Huskies get their shot at proving they're better than the team that was routed 65-21 by Stanford.
"I'm just proud of the guys for sticking with it. We had a game against Stanford where we were pretty beat up. You can do two things when you get beat up: you can stay down or get up and start swinging again," Washington linebacker Cort Dennison said. "That's what we did last week in order to become bowl eligible and we were really resilient."
Saturday night is the final game at Husky Stadium prior to an 18-month, $250 million renovation project. Along with acknowledging the history of the stadium, the school is also honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1991 Huskies that shared the national title with Miami.
Washington has played two ranked teams this season. Both times, at Nebraska and at Stanford, it was blown out, allowing 116 points in the two games.
Saturday will also be a chance for Washington to end a streak. The Huskies have lost seven consecutive games against Oregon, all by at least 20 points.
"I realize they're a great team with a lot of speed and they've been successful in the past for a reason, because they do things right," Dennison said. "When you do things wrong, they are going to take advantage of you. When you watch them on film, they're impressive and you can tell with their record and how high they're ranked."
Oregon leads the Pac-12 in rushing offense. It has used two quarterbacks, Darron Thomas and Bryan Bennett, but ranks just 10th in the conference in passing offense. That's left a focus for Sarkisian on the trio of athletes in the Ducks backfield that are the most dangerous.
"This is nothing against a Darron Thomas or Brian Bennett, but our concerns are a little bit more of (LaMichael James), (Kenjon Barner) and (De'Anthony Thomas)," Sarkisian said. "If you blink, they're in the end zone. So you have to make sure you understand where they are at all times."
Each has runs of at least 62 yards. Thomas has the fewest rushing touchdowns, four, but has done it in just 40 carries. Either quarterback is also a capable runner.
That reflects the team speed Oregon possesses. It is fast to the line of scrimmage, to start its plays and in its personnel. So fast, that Sarkisian will play quarterback for the Washington scout team in practice this week for the second consecutive season in an attempt to emulate Oregon's offensive pace.
It didn't matter last season, a 53-16 loss at Oregon that was the first start for Washington QB Keith Price.
In addition to playing the sixth-ranked team, an emphatic rival and final game at Husky Stadium on senior night to stir emotions, Washington will honor the undefeated championship team of 20 years ago and former coach Don James will participate in the coin flip.
Washington will have to deal with heightened emotions.
"I think one of the most unique challenges for us is focusing on the task at hand, which is playing the Oregon Ducks," Sarkisian said. "We have to make sure we're focused on the football team of the Oregon Ducks and not get caught up in all the things surrounding the ball game."