It wasn’t certain that the Huskies would get the victory until the clock read 0:00 Thursday night. But if we’re talking about Chris Petersen vs. Steve Sarkisian — it was clear right away that UW had won, columnist Matt Calkins says.
LOS ANGELES — It is unknown whether a thank-you note has been written, but Washington should do so if it hasn’t.
As a matter of courtesy, the university needs to express its gratitude toward USC for luring away its former coach.
It wasn’t certain that the Huskies would get the victory until the clock read 0:00 Thursday night. But if we’re talking about Chris Petersen vs. Steve Sarkisian — it was clear right away that UW had won.
Washington’s record when a Husky player rushes for 100 yards in a game, since the 1947 season. Myles Gaskin had 134 yards rushing vs. USC.
There was no reason that Washington should have even been within striking distance of the 17th-ranked Trojans on Thursday. In terms of talent, this was a lawnmower vs. a blade of grass.
Associated Press voters viewed USC as a national-title contender coming into the season. But at the L.A. Coliseum, the JV team from Seattle manhandled the varsity.
Please, don’t interpret that as an insult toward the Dawgs. A realist should look upon this season as a 13-week practice in which incremental progress — not whiplash-inducing wins — is the objective.
The Huskies are young, green and, in many ways, in over their heads. But with Petersen on the sideline, they’re in just about every game.
Just look at what UW was able to accomplish Thursday. Its defense, which produced four of the top 44 picks in last year’s NFL draft, was facing the top-ranked offense in the Pac-12.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler entered the game with the second-best passer rating in the country and was playing for a team averaging 46.8 points and 532 yards per game. Against the Huskies, though, the juggernaut was reduced to jugger-not.
In its 17-12 win, Washington held the Trojans to just 4.9 yards per pass and 5.0 yards per play. It intercepted Kessler twice, forced and recovered a fumble, and let the country know that there are two football teams in Seattle that play lockdown D.
Was the UW offense anywhere close to as inspiring? No. But did it do just enough to win? Well, you can probably thank the head coach for that, too.
It wasn’t as though the Huskies’ offensive game plan was misguided. Freshman quarterback Jake Browning repeatedly overthrew receivers who were open. The shortcomings weren’t the result of a lack of ingenuity so much as they were a lack of execution.
That is until Petersen, in typical fashion, treated Huskies fans with a signature trick.
With UW down 6-3 in the third quarter, Browning tossed a backward pass to receiver Marvin Hall, who then threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Perkins. Washington took a four-point lead on the play, then an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, then walked off the field with a five-point win.
Those looking solely at the talent disproportion would have viewed the result as a shock. Those familiar with Sarkisian-coached teams, however, might not have been so surprised.
This was the coach whose 2009 Huskies beat No. 3 USC in the third week of the season, then lost to Stanford in the fourth. This was the coach whose 2012 Huskies beat No. 8 Stanford in the fourth week of the season, then lost by 31 to Oregon in the fifth. This the coach who experienced a three-game losing streak in each of his five seasons in Seattle.
But Petersen? Petersen doesn’t really seem to disappoint.
His Boise State teams were incessant BCS bowl-game contenders. His Washington teams, while short on major victories before Thursday night, don’t lose games they are supposed to win, and play tight with more skilled opposition.
Obviously, fans don’t know if the second-year coach is going to lead the Huskies back to national prominence. But they have to feel confident that, under Petersen, the valleys will never be as low as the peaks are high.
After the game, Sarkisian faced the press but did not bring his players up to join him. He wanted to make clear that the loss was on him and him alone.
“My job is to get guys ready to play all four quarters at the highest levels, and we didn’t do that,” Sarkisian said.
Petersen did, though.
And if his past is an indication, he will continue to do so.
By the way, Petersen was a candidate for the vacant USC position two years ago. But for whatever reason, the two-time Fiesta Bowl winner didn’t end up with the gig.
Instead, Sarkisian got himself a job.
They got themselves a coach.