Washington looks for answers after Nevada's stunning win

Updated: October 12, 2003, 12:02 PM ET

SEATTLE -- Look closely into Washington's washout loss to Nevada, and there's an itsy-bitsy silver lining for the Huskies.

It wasn't a conference game. Whoopee!

"Our goal every year is to compete for the conference title. That goal is still attainable," quarterback Cody Pickett said after Nevada's 28-17 victory Saturday.

True, but searching for positives is a stretch for Washington this week. The Huskies (3-3) looked awful against the Wolf Pack (4-2), who committed 17 penalties and lost just about every statistical matchup.

"We made so many mistakes out there. There's so much room for improvement, even after a great victory like this," said Nevada defensive end Jorge Cordova, who had 16 tackles, five sacks, blocked a field-goal attempt and forced a fumble.

Give credit to the Wolf Pack, though, for playing an inspired game.

Nevada quarterback Andy Heiser threw three touchdown passes, defensive tackle Chris Barry blocked two field-goal tries and cornerback Marlon McLaughlin held Washington's star receiver, Reggie Williams, to three catches for 77 yards.

"Just because they're the Huskies, we're not going to bow down to them," Cordova said.

It was an especially grand homecoming for Wolf Pack coach Chris Tormey, a former Huskies assistant who was interviewed for the Washington job before Rick Neuheisel was hired in 1999.

"There were a lot of mixed emotions for me coming back to Husky Stadium," Tormey said. "But I was focused on my team and what was going on between the lines. I guess the magnitude of this victory really hasn't sunk in yet."

It was a special outcome, all right, arguably the biggest victory ever for the Wolf Pack and certainly the school's biggest win since Nevada moved up from Division I-AA to I-A for the 1992 season.

"It goes back to these players and the way they prepared for this game," Tormey said. "They did not back down."

They also faced an opponent that seems lost right now.

Besides the three blocked field goals, the Huskies hurt themselves by losing two fumbles and committing countless untimely mistakes. Pickett had a mediocre performance, and he was sacked eight times.

He passed for 337 yards and one touchdown but Pickett also threw three interceptions, including one on an overthrown screen pass that Nevada's Chris Handy caught in stride and returned 37 yards for a TD.

"We need to get better in all aspects of the game," Pickett said. "We just didn't play like we're capable. They covered our guys pretty well. A couple of those sacks were coverage sacks. I need to figure out a way to get the ball out of my hand."

The Huskies -- who started the season in the Top 25 -- lost for the second straight week, and they're simply not playing well these days. The Nevada game followed a 46-16 loss at UCLA where Washington was outscored 39-0 in the second half.

Going into next weekend's game at Oregon State, the Huskies are 1-1 in the Pac-10 standings. There are nothing but Pac-10 games from here and in the wide-open conference race, that certainly leaves Washington in the thick of things.

Of course, if the Huskies can't eliminate mistakes or improve individual performances in every phase of football, they won't have any shot at the Rose Bowl, the Holiday Bowl or perhaps any bowl.

"We stunk out there," linebacker Greg Carothers said. "You can't say much else."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index