Oct. 13, 2009
By TIM BOOTH SEATTLE (AP)
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP)- If Washington hadn't gotten the quirkiest of bounces to beat Arizona, talk of returning to a bowl game would be considered outlandish and inconceivable.
But the Huskies did get the strangest of breaks in beating Arizona 36-33 on Saturday night and the idea of Washington playing football beyond Dec. 5 doesn't seem so far-fetched, either.
The Huskies are now 3-3 after their stunning late win over the Wildcats, where Washington scored 15 points in 18 seconds inside the final 3 minutes, turning a 12-point deficit into an unlikely victory.
And that .500 mark halfway through Sarkisian's first season has fans prospecting the schedule for three more wins that would make the Huskies bowl-eligible.
"Yeah, it's a goal, but the best way to achieve that goal is to approach it like we have every game this season and that's game to game," quarterback Jake Locker said. "As we've seen already there are a lot of good football teams. If you look past anybody or look ahead to anybody it's going to bite you in the butt."
For all the improvement Washington has displayed in Sarkisian's first season, putting the memory of the winless 2008 in the past, there is still one lingering issue still hanging over the Huskies - their inability to win on the road. They'll get another chance to end a nine-game road losing streak at Arizona State on Saturday.
It's closing in on two calendar years since Washington last won a road game, when it won at Stanford on Nov. 3, 2007. In the Huskies nine road losses since, a victory seemed possible on a few occasions only to be spoiled by a combination of mistakes and missed opportunities.
Two years ago, the Huskies led undefeated Hawaii 21-0 before the Warriors rolledoff 35 of the final 42 points for a 35-28 victory. Last season, Washington had an opportunity to avoid its winless stain, leading equally woeful rival Washington State 10-7 in the closing seconds of the Apple Cup. The Cougars rallied to force overtime with a field goal on the final play of regulation, then won in 16-13 in the second overtime.
Perhaps the most painful of the road setbacks came two weeks ago when Notre Dame rallied with some disputed calls and pulled out a 37-30 overtime victory. That loss came a week after the Huskies were routed 34-14 at Stanford.
"We didn't perform very well at Stanford. I thought we rebounded and performed much better and got used to what it's like to be on the road together, and played much better at Notre Dame," Sarkisian said. "And now hopefully we can kind of just take that next step and find a way to get a 'W' this week."
Part of the issue at Stanford was the Huskies' unfamiliarity with being on the road under this coaching staff. Sarkisian believes the comfort of understanding how things run and what schedules are like when the team is away from home was part of the reason they played so well at Notre Dame.
Now comes transferring that to this week against the Sun Devils. A win over Arizona State would move the Huskies within two games of bowl eligibility and put them above .500 at the latest point in the season for the first time since 2006 when Washington started 4-1 before dropping six straight.
Sarkisian was still taking a moment Monday to relish Saturday's shocking victory, when Mason Foster intercepted a pass that deflected off the foot of Arizona receiver Delashaun Dean, and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 left and the winning points.
While Dean told reporters in Tucson, Ariz., on Monday that the ball hit the ground before glancing off his foot, Sarkisian was praising his players for not giving in when they trailed by 12late in the fourth quarter.
"It was huge especially coming off last week's game against Notre Dame where some doubt could have crept in, 'Can we really win a game late that maybe we are not supposed to?'" Sarkisian said. "But our guys they stayed in it ... they kept battling and for us on our end from a coaching standpoint, man there are some really great teachable moments we can take from that for the future."