Its easy to forget, given the programs illustrious history, that the Washington Huskies football team was 0-12 in 2008.
Its been a slow, steady climb out of that hole in the four years since all under coach Steve Sarkisian, the former USC offensive coordinator.
Five wins in 2009. Six regular-season wins and a bowl triumph in 2010. Seven wins and a bowl loss in 2011.
The next logical step: eight wins which requires the Huskies (7-5) to beat the No. 20 Boise State Broncos (10-2) on Dec. 22 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
It would be awesome for our seniors to continue the path theyve been on with this program from the day they got here, to continue to improve, Sarkisian told Seattle reporters earlier this week. That eighth win is a big one for us. I think its something that we all want, and to do that we have to defeat a very good Boise State team and its going to be a great challenge.
The Huskies know plenty about challenge.
They have played four Top 15 teams this season No. 5 Oregon, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 LSU and No. 15 Oregon State and beaten two of them.
Stanford has two losses one was a controversial overtime defeat at No. 1 Notre Dame, the other was in Seattle.
What it tells us and what it shows us is what were capable of, Sarkisian said. Thats the Pac-12 champion, and we were the one team that can say we could beat them in our conference. Thats what were capable of. The thing you can also point to with Stanford is the consistency with which they play week in, week out home, road, doesnt matter. That, for us, has to be something we continue to strive for.
The Huskies, in fact, are 5-1 at home they also upset Oregon State there and 2-4 on the road.
They followed the upset of Stanford with three straight losses and spoiled a late-season four-game winning streak by blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in an overtime loss at Washington State.
It was up and down, said senior cornerback Desmond Trufant, the teams only All-Pac-12 first-teamer. We have an opportunity to finish the season strong, so we just have to take advantage.
If the Huskies who played Stanford and Oregon State show up, the Broncos could face their most difficult test of the season.
Its always easier to play at home, Trufant said. We really showed up those games. Sometimes it happens that way when you go against better competition, you step up.
Said Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick: That says a lot about their coaching staff, getting them ready for big games. This will be a big game. Were going to go in there expecting well get their best shot.
But the Huskies also are coming off their worst moment of the season that Apple Cup loss to Washington State. The Cougars finished 3-9.
We still believe were a good football team, Sarkisian said. We didnt play a great game. We especially didnt play a good fourth quarter, when you blow an 18-point lead. But we believe were a good football team.
And the Huskies should be better next year, when the Broncos visit Husky Stadium for the Aug. 31 re-opening of the renovated venue.
The defense the strength of this years team under first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox, the former Boise State coordinator (2006-09) starts three seniors. The offense which could list as many as eight offensive linemen as returning starters next year because of injuries starts two.
Boise State, by contrast, will start about a dozen seniors in the bowl game.
I know theyve got a young team and theyre getting better all the time, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. I have heard that next year is their year, or now is their time.
The Huskies should be more consistent on defense in 2013. The group has improved from 106th in the nation last year to 30th this year in total defense (yards allowed) despite its youth.
And they should be more potent on offense, with a healthier line and more experience at receiver to help junior quarterback Keith Price. Price has been turnover prone in 2012 after finishing seventh in the nation in pass efficiency in 2011.
Trufant wont be on that team but he expects the upward trend to continue.
Every year, weve improved, he said. We might not have the record we wanted to have or we might have lost some games we felt like we could have won, but I feel like were on the right path. Weve got to keep it going next year.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat