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September 15, 2009Upon further review the Washington Huskies got what they needed and what they deserved last Saturday. The attendance, the weather, the opponent, the statistics; none of it mattered. The only detail of substance was the final score and for the first time in two years Washington came out on top.
"It's good to get back to winning," explained Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday while addressing reporters. "Obviously we got the win Saturday and I thought our kids played really hard. Idaho had a nice game-plan on both sides of the ball. I was proud of our kids for showing resilience and a mental toughness it takes to overcome when things aren't going as perfectly as you like."
Perfection it was not. But redemption was the only thing on the minds of Husky Nation after ending the 15-game losing streak.
"It was good for the fans, it was good for our football team, it was good for our morale," said Sarkisian. "It was good for nine months of working towards something that these guys were able to get to this point. But, by no means are we where we need to be. We need to continue to improve in all phases and I think we will. I think our kids recognize that, our coaches recognize that, and we will keep moving forward."
And their destination? How about a showdown at Husky Stadium with the Trojan's of Southern California?
But are the Huskies ready? The imperfections Sark speaks of would lead me to believe they are not. It only took LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson 19 pass attempts to rack up 172 yards and three touchdowns against Washington in their season opener. Last week against Idaho, a team that only averaged 187 yards passing per game in 2008, the Husky secondary was torched for 349 yards. Vandal quarterback Nathan Enderle threw nearly as many interceptions (17) as he did touchdowns (20) last season against WAC competition, but he was able to make the Husky defense just look whack.
"It's some communication things and guys doing some new things," Sarkisian offered up as explanation for their struggles in pass coverage. "We played a lot of young kids. I don't know if our zone drops were as we would have liked. I don't know if we rushed as hard as I know we can rush the passer. So we're going to clean those things up. I liked how we played red zone defense in our pass coverage. I thought we performed very well.''
Washington did start Justin Glenn at safety, a position he's never played. At one point they also had Adru Pulu and Talia Crichton, both true freshman, playing at defensive end together. Add Semisi Tokolahi, Desmond Trufant, and Cort Dennison to list of players seeing their first significant action on defense and there is no wonder why they struggled.
But a win is a win, and to most it would appear the Huskies are right on track for turning things around. Just don't tell Sarkisian they're where they should be. "I was hoping to be 2-0." Yet, he's still impressed with much of what he's seen the first two games of the season.
"I like the effort that we're eplaying with and I like our attention to detail," he continued. "I think our kids are [paying attention] every snap, every quarter, every half so far we're learning. We're learning what we're expecting out of them from a mental standpoint, a physical standpiotn and a schematic standpoint. Are we perfect? No. But we are getting better as a football team.''
One area the team has vastly improved is on offense. After two games Washington leads the Pac-10 in passing yards per-game, is No. 36 in the country in total yards, and No. 1 in the nation at converting on third downs.
"It's only game two and we need to keep fighting," Sarkisian explained. "I think later on that stat [third down conversion] will be huge, but I love the fact we have been able to sustain drives and convert on third down. We have had some really nice long drives early in the year and it is an important stat to us, but again it's very early in the year and we have a long way to go."
The long road starts this Saturday with a Pac-10 opener against USC.
-- Washington is relatively healthy but DE Darrion Jones and DT De'Shon Matthews both have bruised knees. Both were running at Monday's practice but neither participated in drills. If they are not ready to go, expect to see much more of the freshman along the defensive line. Another reason so many true freshman have played this season along the line is because promising sophomore DE Everrette Thompson is still suffering from an injured ankle. In fact, Sarkisian is looking at redshirting him. "We'll assess it after week three." However, Thompson was running with the one's in place for Jones despite Sark commenting on his redshirt status and also stating that Thompson would only be a backup for Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, not Jones. Perhaps the lack of a pass rush against Idaho is causing him to explore all options.
-- JC safety David Batts was released from team because he broke team rules. Sarkisian would not further comment on the situation but now we know why Batts was not suited up on Saturday.
-- Washington's game against Stanford will not be televised. FSN only had an open slot at 4:00 p.m. and Stanford is only willing to play at 6:00.