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Apple Cup 2011: Washington Huskies Progressively Improving

The Washington Huskies haven't been very good down the stretch, particularly on the defensive side of the field. The Apple Cup presented similar inconsistencies on that side of the field. Those sort of troubles probably mean Nick Holt will be looking for a new job next year.

Still a win is a win, and Washington continues their upward tick from the dregs of the Ty Willingham era.

Washington now finishes with another slight regular season improvement in the Steve Sarkisian era, and it looks as if the Huskies are on the right track.  Washington does have a lot of things going their way, and Sark is taking full advantage of it.

Just like Cal this year, Washington will be in transition next season. Just like Cal, Washington has a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow with brand new facilities that should rival some of the best in the conference. It'll be a great selling point to the best recruits in the conference to become part of a growing program with long-term historical success.

Washington also has at least two years of liable quarterback play left. Keith Price has proven that he can handle Sark's offense and is pretty embedded in the system. Washington should be able to function during these growing years, and Price will be leading things on the field if he can stay on it.

Probably most importantly of all, Sarkisian's West Coast offense has proven to be very friendly to skill position players. Chris Polk has been a workhorse when his line hasn't been totally overwhelmed. Price has thrived in the system, and he has distributed it to almost every receiver evenly. Seniors Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse have gotten their touches, as have the talented frosh Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. The trend continued tonight, with Price distributing the ball to seven receivers and taking advantage of mismatches with Cougar defenders all night long.

That kind of innovative playcalling is what's needed from Washington if they plan on rising to the top of conferences, especially with the type of offensive firepower Oregon and USC tend to dispatch on the rest of the conference. It certainly is also a compelling case for top Northwestern recruits, particularly for those who get shut out by the current Pac-12 powers.

There are still lots of problems for Washington. The defense is a mess, which might need another coordinator and a huge personnel overhaul to fix. The Huskies will need some drastic improvement from the offensive line to protect Price and make sure the playmakers get the ball. And UW still has to prove they can beat real strong teams on the gridiron.

But Sark doesn't have to worry about that yet. He can enjoy a third straight Apple Cup victory, another strong bowl appearance thanks to a top-heavy Pac-12, and dream of the possibilities that lie ahead for him and UW.