Sports with Art Thiel
9:00 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Huskies under more pressure than usual to beat Oregon State

After a 5-1 start, the Washington Huskies are now 6-4 heading into Saturday's game against Oregon State.

OSU is 2-8. But KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says that appears to be little comfort to the Huskies and their fans, who are more apprehensive than normal about this game.

Pressure to win

Art says you would expect Washington to win handily in Corvallis. But it's not that cut-and-dry.

"Normally a match-up against a team with a 2-8 record wouldn't be all that big a deal. But, because of their mediocre play over the last few games, head coach Steve Sarkisian really has to maintain some team-wide momentum with this game. And Oregon State is among those teams that can have the one good game against Washington."

Art says if, for some reason, the Huskies lost to the Beavers, they'd have an uphill climb heading into the Apple Cup next weekend against an ever-improving Washington State team. If they were to also lose against the Cougars, that would put them at 6-6 for the year – the same record as last season.

These are all "what if" scenarios, but Art says they help explain why there's more apprehension than normal heading into Saturday's game.

6-6 looked better a year ago 

In his column in Sportspress Northwest this week, Art said 6-6 looked much better on the Huskies last season, when they won three games in a row to get to the Holiday Bowl and were still bouncing back from an 0-12 season in 2008. He says this year, after a 5-1 start, a record of 6-6 would not be as impressive to fans.

"In other situations, when you're down low and you start arcing up, people expect plateaus, maybe setbacks. Not sports fans. Sports fans expect that once you start winning you better keep on winning. It's a ridiculous presumption but it happens all the time, and that's why coaches get fired a lot. It's a long road back from where the Huskies were in 2008 when they lost all 12 games."

And there are bumps along that long road back - including a change at starting quarterback for at least this week.

Price out, Montana in

With starting quarterback Keith Price still nursing his latest injury of a sprained knee, freshman backup quarterback Nick Montana (son of hall-of fame quarterback Joe Montana) got the call Thursday night that he will make his first career start on Saturday. 

Art says the new dilemma is what to do after Saturday's game.

"If Montana does well, do you keep him in for the Apple Cup or beyond?"

Whether they end the season at 8-4, 7-5 or 6-6, what is certain is that the Huskies will make a post-season appearance for the second straight year. They've already qualified for a bowl game with their six wins. Art says that's a victory in and of itself.