With only 8 days until the start of the Washington football season and the beginning of the Chris Petersen era, anticipation is at an all time high. It has been 8 months since the Huskies have stormed the field but the last 3 weeks alone have made it feel like an eternity. In an effort to calm the nerves and deflect focus from the upcoming season, in this piece I will look back at the five best games during the Sarkisian era.
When Sark exited stage left to return to his SoCal roots he rubbed a lot of the Husky faithful the wrong way. Much of the criticism is unwarranted. Sark inherited a Washington football team that was in the depths of despair and was experiencing team wide apathy. In five years he returned the team to winning ways, helped a new stadium get built, and left the program in an attractive enough spot to lure Petersen away from Boise. What more could you ask of a guy who was always destined to leave either for USC or the NFL?
Sark had many exciting games during his tenure which makes narrowing it down to five rather difficult, but I will do my best. In judging best games of the Sark era I am not only focusing on impact wins from a coaching standpoint but also overall excitement from a fans perspective. If there is a game I left out or a game that you think carried more significance, please mention it in the comments section.
5. Arizona @ UW (Sat, Oct. 10 2009)
Probably the most exciting ending to a game I have ever witnessed, the “Miracle at Montlake” will forever be etched into my mind. Five games into the season and Sark had already earned two wins, a marked improvement from 0-12. The year prior the Huskies had suffered a 48-14 beatdown in the desert at the hands of the Wildcats and it was imperative that Sark proved he had turned this team around and could fair better against Nick Foles and the Arizona passing game.
After 4 quarters of Foles dumping bubble screen after bubble screen on a weak Husky defense, Mason Foster made a play that will forever be remembered by Husky fans. Foster read the bubble and reacted. With a little bit of luck, the pass deflects off of the receiver’s foot and miraculously lands in the hands of Foster, who knew what to do with it from there. The Huskies went on to win the game 36-33 and the ensuing celebration was something that I am skeptical I will ever experience again. For that, I thank Coach Sark and Mason Foster.
4. Boise St.(#19) @ UW (Sat, Aug. 31 2013)
Sark was starting to feel his seat heat up at the beginning of last season and a strong start was necessary to quiet the skeptics. Failure to eclipse the 7 win mark in his fist 4 years was wearing fans thin. On top of that, the opening of the new Husky Stadium had fans eager for a big performance in the season opener. Sark and the Washington football team did not disappoint.
The Huskies handled the Broncos all game, ultimately ending in a 38-6 beating and a proper opening of the new stadium. It also gave Petersen the chance to see first hand the talent and atmosphere that the Washington football program had reestablished during the Sark era. The Huskies were able to ride the momentum from the home opener and produce there most successful season under Sark.
In case you want to relive the glory of that dominating victory, here are the highlights.
3. Stanford(#8) @ UW (Thu, Sept 27 2012)
One of Sark’s most impressive victories as coach of the Huskies, he proved his play calling proficiency by orchestrating a flawless gameplan against Stanford. Unlike many coaches in PAC-12 who try to counter Stanford’s physicality with finesse, Sark implemented a gameplan that mimicked that of Stanford’s.
The Huskies came out physical, hitting hard on defense and sticking to running the ball between the tackles. The game wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but winning is always pretty, and Sark knew that. He continued to feed Bishop Sankey between the tackles until finally he broke loose on a hurry up, fourth down run (a staple during Sark’s tenure) to end the 3rd quarter.
The momentum shifted from there and the Huskies got their 2nd victory against a top 10 opponent under Sark, beating Stanford 17-13 at Century Link Field.
2. UW vs Nebraska(#20) (Thu, Dec 30 2010) Holiday Bowl
In just his second season as head coach of the Washington football team, Sark had done the impossible. He took an 0-12 team and brought them to a bowl game, the first bowl game since 2003. Only one problem: the Huskies were playing Nebraska. The same Nebraska team that came up to Seattle in mid September and leveled the Huskies with a 56-21 victory.
Every expert on ESPN picked Nebraska to win the game and labeled it their most confident pick of the bowl season. Never have ‘experts’ been so wrong, and that is saying something when regarding the talking hair pieces at ESPN.
The Huskies had the benefit of playing an uninspired Nebraska team that had just barely missed a BCS bowl game. They were sure to make the most of it. The Husky defense, a unit that looked awful under DC Nick Holt, played inspired football and held the Cornhuskers to a measly 7 points.
Chris Polk was a workhorse of a running back, carrying the ball 34 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. Jake Locker did not have his most impressive game statistically, but he did what was necessary to win the game. He threw passes out of bounds when nothing was there instead of throwing interceptions and he tucked the ball and ran when it was open, moving the chains and resting the defense.
All of this lead to the Huskies winning the Holiday Bowl 19-7 and putting the team back on the map and out of obscurity. Arguably, this could be considered Sark’s best game as coach of the Huskies. However, there is one game that still stands above all the rest. That brings us to #1….
1. USC(#3) @ UW (Sat, Sept 19, 2009)
In just his third game as head coach of the Washington football team, Sark pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history. Just one week prior, Sark had got his first win against an over-matched Idaho team. That win snapped a 15 game losing streak that spanned back to the 2007 season. Fans were excited to see the team win again, but not many expected to carry on the winning ways so quickly.
After a hard fought 56 minutes of football, the game was tied 13-13. With 4 minutes left in the game, Jake Locker took over and willed the Washington football team to victory. After a ten yard sack on first down, the hopes of a late drive became bleak. But then Locker did what he did best: make big plays when the team needs it most. The highlights of the drive being a third down strike to Jermaine Kearse to move the chains early in the drive, then again finding Kearse on the sideline at the 15 yard line. From there, all it took was a Eric Folk chip shot to complete an upset that Husky fans will never forget. You can watch all ten plays of the final drive here.
Fans rushed the field, myself included, and on that day, everyone was proud to be a Husky. A team that had just recently snapped a 15 game losing streak had knocked off the #3 team in the nation and Sark beat his former team. If that game wasn’t Sark’s crown jewel of his tenure as head coach of the Washington football team, I don’t know what is.
Agree with the list? Think I left a game out? Let your voice be heard in the comment box.
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