Under the ruling hand of new Washington Huskies football coach Steve Sarkisian, victories like the one his team pulled off Saturday – a 16-13 upset of third-ranked Southern California – have a 24-hour celebration window.
A return to the top-25 rankings does not.
UW players could not help but grin over something they’d never experienced before in Huskyville – a spot at No. 24 in The Associated Press poll that came out the day after the big victory in Seattle.
“We were on cloud nine,” said Huskies linebacker Donald Butler, who was named the Pac-10 defensive player of the week on Monday. “Still are.”
That head-in-the-clouds feeling is something Sarkisian said he and his staff will address with the players up front as the team prepares to make its first road trip of the 2009 season to play Stanford for the outright lead in the Pac-10.
“There aren’t enough hours in the day to be looking at what everybody else is saying, or how we’re going to do something, or what we should do or shouldn’t do,” Sarkisian said. “This is about us, and our preparation. We can’t waver from who we are.”
The last time the UW was ranked heading into a game was in October of 2003. The Huskies were 20th and lost at UCLA that week. That was 69 games ago, and no current player was on the roster at that point.
In contrast, Sarkisian became an assistant at USC in 2001. That whole season, the Trojans were unranked in coach Pete Carroll’s first year.
But in 2002 and 2003, and then coming back to USC in 2005 through last season, Sarkisian never knew anything but the Trojans remaining in the top 25 – a streak of 78 consecutive games. Thirty-two times, they were the No. 1 team in the country.
The first-year coach said he doesn’t want UW players to ignore the program’s first ranking in nearly six seasons. What he wants is for them to keep it all in perspective.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. We have to go play,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got to keep winning, and keep playing and keep battling. Because we’re ranked 24th doesn’t guarantee you anything.
“We’ll talk about it. I think they’ll understand where we’re coming from on that.”
Some of the players had started to grasp it by Monday.
“We’ll just put the last game aside, come in Monday and it’s a new game week,” UW cornerback Quinton Richardson said. “We’ve got a whole new team (to play in Stanford). You can’t dwell too much on the past. We’ve got to keep rolling.”
Starting outside linebacker E.J. Savannah broke another bone in his left hand in the first half Saturday, and had to get fitted for a bigger cast. “I was trying to catch myself on the ground and heard the snapping. I just played with it,” Savannah said. He is not expected to miss any time this week. Sarkisian noted it was the only significant injury of the game. ... Running back Chris Polk carried the ball 25 times Saturday. Sarkisian admitted that is not the steady diet he wants his sophomore to get. “We’re looking to spread that out,” Sarkisian said, adding that Kentwood freshman Demitrius Bronson (shoulder) is close to being fully healthy and could handle some of the inside-running duties. ... Defensive tackle De’Shon Matthews (knee) returned to practice Monday, but defensive end Darrion Jones (knee, foot) sat out. ... Besides Butler, UW placekicker Erik Folk (2-for-2 field goals, including the 22-yard game winner) was named the conference’s special teams player of the week.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442
HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
STANFORD (2-1 OVERALL, 1-0 PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE)
6 p.m. Saturday, Stanford Stadium, Fox College Sports, 950-AM
Coach: Jim Harbaugh (11-16), third season. He was also the coach at the University of San Diego, where he went 22-2 from 2004-06. Harbaugh played 15 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback (1987-2001).
Last season: 5-7, 4-5 in the Pac-10.
Against the Huskies: Washington leads, 40-35-4. The Cardinal has won three of the past five games, including a 35-28 victory last season in Seattle. After California, the Huskies are Stanford’s longest-standing rival.
Washington connections: Three in-state high school players are on the Stanford roster – OG David DeCastro, QB Tavita Pritchard and WR Marcus Rance. Pritchard is a Clover Park High graduate, and an off-and-on starter the past two seasons. ... UW receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty was on Harbaugh’s staff at USD.
Scouting report: The Cardinal knows exactly what the UW was feeling like Saturday. In 2007, Stanford knocked off No. 2 USC in Harbaugh’s first season en route to finishing 4-8. And Harbaugh and new UW coach Steve Sarkisian have demanded a lot of the same things from their teams – toughness, selflessness and a high level of energy. This Stanford team has no real weakness, and is led by running back Toby Gerhart (316 yards, four touchdowns).
Did you know: Harbaugh and Sarkisian have held the same position on the Oakland Raiders’ staff – quarterbacks coach. Harbaugh was there in 2002; Sarkisian in 2004.
Nate Whitaker42 54
Todd Milles, The News Tribune
Sept. 5W 39-13 at WSU
Sept. 12L 24-17 vs. Wake Forest
Sept. 19W 42-17 vs. San Jose St.
Oct. 10at Oregon State
Oct. 17at Arizona
Oct. 24Arizona State
Nov. 14at USC
Nov. 28Notre Dame