Sept. 7, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Time for "big-little" to get "big-big" inside Husky Stadium.
More than once, Coach Steve Sarkisian assessed his Washington Huskies as a dichotomy heading into Saturday's home opener against Syracuse.
"Right now we are a big-little offense," Sarkisian said, looking back on last weekend's 23-17 loss at Brigham Young.
The "big" included 92 yards rushing from Chris Polk, 108 yards receiving from Jermaine Kearse and Jake Locker beginning his senior season by completing 20 of 37 passes for 266 yards, passing to Kearse for one score and running for another
The Dawgs ran up 394 yards - and felt they beat themselves by malfunctioning on third and fourth downs in short yardage.
That was the "little."
"There are some really big plays that look good. And then there are plays that are for zero or minus (yardage)," Sarkisian said. "That is something we will strive for in Jake's game as well as our overall offense."
Asked to assess Locker in particular, Sarkisian said, "I thought he was good. I've seen Jake Locker better.
"I think that's a microcosm of the offense. Big-little, man."
Thinking big is why the Huskies are so eager to get back into Husky Stadium to face the Orange, 29-3 winners at Akron last weekend, and Nebraska. Since 1975, Washington is 35-14 at home following a road loss.
"I think everybody, to a man, feels we were in the game. It was ours to win. We had a lot of opportunities to walk away with a victory," Locker said of the trip to BYU. "I think everybody is confident in the ability of this football team (in) what we're able to accomplish if we play sound and execute down in and down out."
That's the culture Sarkisian has already changed, one game into his second season leading Washington.
"The thing that is most prevalent now is that we have created an environment where losing is unacceptable," the coach said. "We have very high expectations within our locker room and in our team room.
"When you look back, we could have been at home against a lesser opponent and gotten kind of an easy `W' of some sort. But I think we found out a lot about our team and the character that we have and the way we play."
Sarkisian reiterated what he said late Saturday night in Utah, that "we are not going to dwell on this football game. We are going to learn from it, learn from our mistakes and move forward."
The most noticeable lesson will show up when Syracuse kicks off. Deep man Chris Polk will now be getting help, after two troublesome returns at BYU contributed to the Huskies starting six drives inside their own 20. Losing the field-position battle was a big reason Washington lost the game.
"We're changing our return. We are going with two guys who are going to be back together, so we don't have the opportunities when guys shank kickoffs or mis-kick kickoffs (and) the one guy back there has to be the one fielding the ball," Sarkisian said.
Freshman Jesse Callier, who zoomed for 39 yards on his first collegiate carry at BYU and showed dynamic flashes, will be back with Polk on Saturday. Sarkisian said Kevin Smith will also get chances as the co-deep returner.
The other lesson from BYU that will show up in the home opener: Washington's freshman can play. And they can fly.
Sarkisian trotted out a school-record 13 of them at BYU, most of them on special teams.
"They are going to play more," the coach said. "Those guys are athletes. What showed up was, when we didn't have those blunders, we can run with people now. We can sustain blocks. We're going to be a better punt-return team. We'll be a better punt-block team. We're going to be a better kickoff-return team, as well.
"They are good football players. They are going to play more for us."