Coaching to success
Just three years ago the Washington Huskies were going through a very painful 0-12 season under fourth year head coach Tyrone Willingham. After the season Willingham was fired and the mighty Huskies were 12-47 during a five year stretch.
The Huskies were about to hire their fourth head coach in a span of seven seasons. The team had zero confidence as they were used to losing. The players were ashamed to even wear Husky football shirts in fear of being made fun of.
Then one man changed everything for the Huskies mindset. That man was young energetic but first time head coach Steve Sarkisian.
When Sarkisian took over the first thing he did was install confidence into his team. Unlike the two previous head coaches the players actually like Sarkisian and want to play for Sarkisian. Sarkisian right off the bat saw his team experience some success by upsetting #3 ranked USC Trojans 16-13 on my birthday September 19th, 2009.
The Huskies started off 3-3 under Sarkisian then went on a four game losing streak falling to 3-7. Since falling to 3-7 Sarkisian is now 12-7 at Washington including a third place finish last year in the Pac-10 and a 19-7 victory over #18 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Sarkisian is known for taking plenty of risks during games and isn’t afraid to fail.
That is the one thing he stresses to his players is that he coaches to success. Sarkisian doesn’t call plays in fear of something negative happening instead he expects a positive outcome.
Look no further than the offense to prove Sarkisian’s case of coaching to success instead of failure. This year the Huskies defense has allowed 21 scores where the Huskies had possession next. The Huskies have scored eight touchdowns in response, three field goals and only punted two times. When the Huskies give up a score there is no hanging your hands the offense just responds with a nice drive of their own.
Keith Pricehas been terrific this season but the few times he hasn’t like throwing three interceptions he has bounced back. In fact one interception ended the Nebraska game while the other two interceptions Price has thrown a touchdown pass the very next drive.
Price has benefitted the most from Sarkisian. Price who is replacing Jake Locker (8th pick overall in the draft) and many felt he would be replaced by Nick Montana (son of Joe Montana) has exceeded all expectations. Price for the season is 75-112(67.0%) for 983 yards(245.8 per game) with 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. The school record for touchdown passes in a season was by Cody Pickett in the 2002 campaign while Price only needs 15 touchdowns in eight games possibly nine games.
Sarkisian stated in the offseason there is no quarterback controversy and he trusts Price with the offense. After the week one win over Eastern Washington he has allowed Price to open up the playbook. This dates back to last year against USC Jake Locker was injured for a moment on the USC one yard line. With the Huskies trailing 28-23 in the fourth quarter on came freshman quarter Price and with everyone expecting a run called Sarkisian trusted Price to throw the ball. Price would throw the go ahead touchdown.
That is what Sarkisian does he preaches success to these kids so they start to believe it themselves.
A perfect example of Sarkisian trusting his players happened very recently. During the Nebraska 51-38 loss true freshman running back Bishop Sankey fumbled the kickoff on the one yard line which changed the game. Sankey was down on himself but as Sarkisian pointed out to Sankey a man named Chris Polk did that just last year.
Polk would rush for over 1,400 yards and be named Holiday Bowl MVP. Sankey had his best week of practice during the week and Sarkisian rewarded him against California. Sankey had two carries for 16 yards on the Huskies touchdown scoring drive. Sarkisian didn’t bury the true freshman on the depth chart instead he rewarded him.
In conlcusion, as a Huskies fan it has been great to watch this program evolve under Sarkisian.
Two years ago the Huskies were a bunch of overachievers who surprised everyone by going 5-7. Then last year had way too high expectations and saw the Huskies finish 7-6 with a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. This year despite losing Jake Locker I predicted improvement with an 8-4 maybe even 9-3 record.
The players love to play for Sarkisian and they aren’t afraid to fail one bit. The team has won seven straight games in which the outcome was decided by under 10 points showing the mental toughness of the team. Sarkisian is recruiting at an incredible clip and the Huskies are also converting those key fourth and ones that they failed in the past.
Sarkisian said eventually the team will believe in getting those first downs. Such as last year against California instead of going to overtime Sarkisian went for the win on fourth and goal from the one yard line trailing 13-10. The Huskies scored a touchdown from Chris Polk on the play.
With Sarkisian the team is going in the right direction and as a Huskies fan I couldn’t be happier!