An e-mail showed up in Seb Sarkisian’s inbox Monday – a clear and accurate reflection of how folks are feeling about this weekend’s Pacific-10 Conference game between Washington and Southern California in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Many want UW coach Steve Sarkisian – Seb’s son who grew up in nearby Torrance, Calif. – to enjoy a great deal of success as coach of the Huskies.
And they want the hometown Trojans to win.
“A close friend sent me the e-mail,” Seb said. “He said, ‘Either way, I’m going to lose.’”
Probably the busiest person during the final part of Steve Sarkisian’s whirlwind “Return Home” tour in his second season at UW is his wife, Stefanie.
“When you’ve got 35 to 40 people coming to the game, that’s one thing,” Sarkisian said. “Luckily for me, my wife handles all the ticket issues and all the stuff going on.”
Last season when Sarkisian returned to Los Angeles with the Huskies to face UCLA, loyalties were not compromised. Hating the Bruins and rooting for a former USC assistant could be accomplished in one big swoop.
In September, the Huskies opened this season at Brigham Young where Sarkisian played his final two seasons of college ball.
Of all the trips “home,” this likely will be the one that gets to Sarkisian emotionally, even if it comes facing one of his good friends in Lane Kiffin, now the USC coach, instead of mentor Pete Carroll, who is back in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.
Sarkisian got a preview of what might come. During the Huskies’ bye week, he was back in Los Angeles last weekend recruiting.
“Everyone knows the Huskies are coming this week,” he said. “We got a chance to go to a lot of different high schools and see a lot of players and meet with a lot of coaches, which was great. I thought the reception was good. I think there’s respect for what we are trying to get accomplished up here.”
What Sarkisian won’t let happen is this road trip to USC becoming a distraction to his players.
“Today, he’ll probably tell us not to worry about all that stuff, because that has no effect on the game,” UW safety Nate Williams said. “Whether he or the other L.A boys (defensive coordinator Nick Holt is also returning to USC) have two people at the game, or 100 ... they don’t have an influence on the game. It’s about us.”
Almost all of Sarkisian’s family members, as well as many of his friends, will be in attendance Saturday – everybody except his mother, Sally, who has yet to watch her son coach for the UW in person.
“She doesn’t like the crowds,” Seb said. “She’d rather watch it at home.”
To get UW quarterback Jake Locker straightened out after his dismal 4-of-20 showing against Nebraska, coaches noticed on film that the senior’s footwork had gotten bouncy on errant throws, and emphasized that during the bye week. “Good athletes have a tendency ... to almost bounce in that pocket because they feel good on their toes,” Sarkisian said. “When you’re a quarterback, you want two feet on the ground.” ... The Huskies are at full strength as receiver James Johnson (ankle), linebacker Cort Dennison (concussion) and running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) were all full-practice participants. Only Fogerson is questionable for Saturday. ... Sarkisian said Johnson, fullback Zach Fogerson and receiver Kevin Smith will see increased snaps. ... True freshman Erik Kohler will remain the starter at left guard ahead of veteran Gregory Christine. ... To get the team ready for the rowdy environment of the Los Angeles Coliseum, Sarkisian had “Conquest” – a song played after every USC touchdown – blaring loudly throughout the 90-minute practice Monday. ... Kickoff for the Arizona State game Oct. 9 at Husky Stadium is set for 7 p.m., and will be televised on Fox Sports Northwest.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442
The HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
NO. 18 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (4-0 OVERALL, 1-0 PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE)
5 p.m. Saturday, Los Angeles Coliseum
Radio: 950-AM.Television: ESPN2.
Coach: Lane Kiffin, first season.
Last week: The Trojans piled up 613 yards in a 50-16 conference-opening victory at Washington State. UW had the weekend off.
Against the Trojans: USC leads, 49-27-4, but the Huskies snapped a seven-game skid with their 16-13 upset of the Trojans last season in Seattle. USC is 30-10 against the Huskies in Los Angeles.
Washington connections: USC tight ends coach Keary Colbert played for the Seattle Seahawks in 2008 before joining the coaching ranks this season as a graduate assistant.
Scouting report: New week, same emphasis for the Huskies – stopping the running game. And unlike facing Nebraska’s read-option ground game, the Trojans are more traditional in their approach. They will come right at the UW defense, led by three standout tailbacks in Marc Tyler, Allen Bradford and newcomer Dillon Baxter, in addition to NFL prospect fullback Stanley Havili. Oh yeah, then there’s quarterback Matt Barkley, who did not play last season against the Huskies because of injury but already is in the upper echelon of the Pacific-10 Conference. USC’s talented but young secondary has given up a ton of big plays (282.2 ypg) this season.
Did you know? With a win Saturday, Kiffin would become the third Trojans coach to start his USC tenure 5-0, matching Harvey Holmes (1904) and Jess Hill (1951).
Mitch Mustain 9666.7910
Todd Milles, staff writer
Sept. 2@ HawaiiW, 49-36
Sept. 11VirginiaW, 17-14
Sept. 18@ MinnesotaW, 32-21
Sept. 25@ WSUW, 50-16
Oct 9@ Stanford
Nov. 6Arizona State
Nov. 13@ Arizona
Nov. 20@ Oregon State
Nov. 27Notre Dame
Dec. 4@ UCLA