Oct. 22, 2009
By Todd Dybas
None of coach Steve Sarkisian's mantras has been challenged more than the 24-hour rule.
That poor rule. It's been kicked, then glorified. Beaten down, resurrected.
It's the phrase that Sarkisian opens Monday press conferences with. Every time. After beating USC 16-13, Sarkisian stated postgame the team would take 24 hours to enjoy it. The following Monday, he said the 24-hour rule was in effect, time to move on. Same thing happened this past Monday. The 24-hour rule announcement was made prior to mea culpas and further wonder about what led to the kidney-punch ending in Tempe.
"It's amazing what we've been through," Sarkisian said.
The upset of USC on a last-second field goal. Overtime at Notre Dame. The Immaculate Interception by Mason Foster to beat Arizona. The late TD at Arizona State.
Coaches can yell all they want about the importance of playing every snap. Playing four quarters is a pocketed cliche. The Huskies need to look no further than the first seven weeks of 2009 to realize the truth in those statements.
"That's why they shaped that ball way back in the day the way they did," Sarkisian said. "You don't know which way it's going to bounce. You don't know what's going to happen each game. You just keep playing hard and our kids are understanding that message."
The Huskies' numerous dog fights have left that thought pounded into their head. That 24-hour rule? It's getting tougher and tougher to tangle with, though adhering to it is a necessity.
"It's not really easy, but in a sense you have to whether you want to or not," safety Nate Williams said of following the rule. "Either way you want to look at it, you have to play another game the next week, every week.
"If you're still too hyped up about the win against 'SC or the win against Arizona or the loss against Arizona State, then you're not going to be able practice hard that week. Your mind is going to be all messed up and it is going to wear on you."
Revved up defensive coordinator Nick Holt has to stifle a laugh when thinking about all that has gone on in half a season. His defense has been the central player in many of the endings. From goal-line stands to the Foster interception to the last play against Arizona State. The endings have not diminished his spirit. If anything, it's been the opposite.
"I think it's been one of those years where you've been in every game," Holt said. "Looking back at it, it's fun, it's exciting. Yeah it's nail-biting and you get mad, you get depressed but the next minute you're happy. It's fun to go to work because you have to get ready for the next game. It's such a well-coached conference, everybody is kind of right there. It's stressful, yes, but it's invigorating."
Williams thinks the lessons have sunk in. Opposed to winning or losing by multiple touchdowns, the Huskies grappling to the end of most games this season has taught them to fight through.
"It teaches us how to play hard," Williams said. "When you're hamstring is cramping and when your neck hurts and you have a headache, how to keep on playing until the last snap. (Look at) the Arizona game. You literally never know what could happen."
Linebacker Donald Butler said he has never been associated with such a zany stretch. All of which begs a simple question. What could be next?