College Football – Dawgs Show Their Fangs, Washington Upsets 3rd-Ranked USC Trojans, 16-13

College Football – Dawgs Show Their Fangs, Washington Upsets 3rd-Ranked USC Trojans, 16-13

College Football – Dawgs Show Their Fangs, Washington Upsets 3rd-Ranked USC Trojans, 16-13

A month of Saturdays hit the calendar when the Southern California Trojans traveled north to Seattle recently to face last year’s 0-12 Washington Huskies.

Yes, Southern Cal was currently ranked No. 3 in the nation in the AP Top 25 Poll. Even the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll had them ranked No. 3. And yes, the Trojans had beaten No. 8-ranked Ohio State 18-15 a week earlier on a last minute drive by their new, wunderkind freshman quarterback Matt Barkley.

Southern Cal was headed for another typical USC season-at least 11 wins and BCS bowl game appearances for 7 consecutive years, the most successful football program in the country during the current streak. A huge part of the USC success story was Steve Sarkisian, their offensive coordinator, and Nick Holt, their defensive coordinator.

But that was the last 7 years. This year both Sarkisian and Holt are not only missing at USC, but were the opponents as the Trojans flew north. When last year’s success was said and done, Sarkisian accepted the head coaching job at Washington and brought along Holt. And the coaching changes alone have made all of the difference in the world for the Huskies.

Washington was a team that had forgotten what it was like to win-only the week prior had the Huskies beaten Idaho, 42-23, to break a 15-game losing steak that was tied for the longest in Pac 10 Conference history. And now they were being asked to believe the impossible-that they could not only decipher, but beat the mighty USC juggernaut.

Never underestimate the difference coaching can make. Some sports pundits would have you believe that the players are more important than the coaches. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the coaches who recruit the train the players; not the other way around. Never, ever, forget that.

Sarkisian and Holt could decipher the USC juggernaut; they, as much as anyone, had built it along with head coach Pete Carroll. Part of Carroll’s genius is in hiring good people like Sarkisian and Holt. Now University of Washington President Mark Emmert and Director of Athletics Scott Woodward had done the same.

The results have been nothing short of staggering. In three games under the new coaching staff that inherited an 0-12 team, Washington has snapped a 15-game losing streak, upset No. 3-ranked USC 16-13, and vaulted into the AP Top 25 Poll at No. 24. The ranking was the Huskies first return to the Top 25 since September 2003.

The game itself did not look good for Washington at the outset. USC promptly ran up a 10-0 advantage in its first two drives and made it look as easy as playing a high school team. The Trojans opened holes that a Mack Truck could drive through, and USC backs sped to runs of 38, 25 and 27 yards to set up a touchdown and field goal. dafabet

It looked like Washington might get beat 50-0.

Then junior quarterback Jake Locker, Washington’s most versatile player, completed passes of 12, 16, 14 and 18 yards to 4 different receivers before taking it in from 4 yards out to make it a game at 10-7. Two drives later, sophomore Erik Folk would add a 28-yard field goal to tie it up at 10.

Once it was clear the Husky offense could score, their defense-led by linebackers Donald Butler and Mason Foster-used their new-found belief to dig in, stop the Trojan advance, and let their fellow Huskies on offense go to work. Butler had a game-high 12 tackles (2 for losses), forced a fumble and intercepted a pass. Foster forced another fumble on a 4th-and-1 run play, and deflected 3 passes, 2 of which were on 3rd down plays.

USC, nearly a 3-touchdown favorite, had 3 drives inside the Husky 30-yard line end in turnovers, committed 8 penalties, and had an 0-for-10 conversion rate on 3rd-down plays.

Neither team scored in the 3rd quarter, Erik Folk then added a 46-yard field goal to put Washington up 13-10. USC responded with a 25-yard FG of its own to tie the game a second time at 13 with 4:07 left to play.

Jake Locker, who is quickly becoming an NFL pocket passer for the first time in his playing career, then engineered a 10-play, 63-yard drive that consumed 4 minutes and 4 seconds, leaving just 3 seconds left in the end game when Erik Folk converted a 22-yard FG to win the game, 16-13.

It is called clock management by Steve Sarkisian, and the Huskies have not had such a good game-day coach on the field since the lengendary “Dawgfather” Don James.

During the final, critical drive, Locker was at his best, completing a 21-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse on a 3rd-and-15, rushing for 4 yards on a critical 3rd-and-2 play, completing a 9-yard pass to James Johnson, and completing a 19-yard pass to Kearse.

Locker went 21-for-35 (60%) for 237 yards on the day.

After their stunning upset victory, the Washington Husky football program was once again on the national radar, as evidenced by their moving into the AP Top 25 Poll.

So just what is going on with these Huskies? Many of them played on the same team last year that went 0-12. The difference is clearly the leadership and enthusiasm of the coaching staff led by Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt.

The players now believe in the coaches, believe in the new system, believe in themselves, and understand their improvement is really about work, work and more work, and constant, unrelenting, hard effort.

An excellent example that the players get it came after Washington’s first victory of the year against Idaho, when sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Kearse had this to say:

“The whole philosophy is, if you make plays, and play hard, you get more playing time. I tried to do everything right this week, and I was rewarded.” Amen, Jermaine, Amen. Work hard and play hard. Pay attention. Then work harder and play harder. And did I mention to have fun? Fun? Yes, all of this hard work is just that.

It appears that Sarkisian has two rules for success. The first is: Work Hard, Play Hard, Have Fun and Win. And the second rule? That would be never forget the first rule.

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