This report was filed by The News Tribune's Doug Pacey, who was part of the four-man coverage team Saturday night in the UW's season-opening 31-23 loss to No. 11 Louisiana State:
Coach Steve Sarkisian just finished up his first post-game press conference. The outcome of the game – a 31-23 LSU victory – might have been closer than what many Huskies fans had dared to hope for, but Sarkisian made it clear that wasn't the priority.
"I'll say first that there are no moral victories, but I'm very proud of our football team," he said. "They played hard, they played physical, they fought through adversity, they competed until the last second on the clock. That's all we could have asked for coming into this ball game. I think the initial goal I set earlier in the weeks is that when this game was done, that other football team respected us. I have a feeling they respect the Washington Husky football team."
He was right-on. Washington earned the Tigers' respect.
"I've got to give props to Washington," LSU running back Charles Scott said. "They came out played a hell of a game, they made a stand against us, and they dominated. We just had to fight back, make a few adjustments, and overcome some stuff that we're not used to seeing."
Washington controlled the ball, holding it for nearly 37 minutes. The Huskies outgained the Tigers in total offense, 478-321, but stalled drives in the red zone hampered the Huskies all night.
"We play to win the game and unfortunately we were in the red zone five times and we settled for four field goals and had a turnover. That's how you can lose," Sarkisian said. "We talked about the turnover battle coming in and we talked about red zone execution and those were two areas that didn't happen for us and I think that was the key to the ball game.
"I'm going to take some of (the responsibility). I call the plays. Obviously the plays we were calling weren't good enough."
Sarkisian was pleased with quarterback Jake Locker's performance. Locker completed 25 of 45 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"I saw accuracy in throws that I don't think he had before," Sarkisian said. "I saw a really good understanding of an offense that is going to allow him to only continue to grow."
He liked running back Chris Polk's toughness, too.
"Chris Polk brought a physical nature to his game that he hasn't shown before. He's been showing it in training camp, but he didn't show it last year. You're always wondering if it's going to show up when a real game comes around and he was able to do that."
&bull Among the true freshmen, receiver James Johnson saw the most extensive playing time. For one, he started the game at receiver. And the 6-foot, 193-pounder from Valley Center, Calif., played like a savvy veteran.
Johnson's first catch as a Husky was a 17-yard touchdown toss from Jake Locker that gave Washington a 7-0 lead. He was Locker's favorite target, hauling in six receptions for 63 yards.
"He lived up to his name – 'Big Game James,'" UW tailback Johri Fogerson said. "He makes plays."
The other freshmen who played were former Wilson star Desmond Trufant (cornerback), former Kentwood star Demetrius Bronson (special teams), defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (reserve) and defensive end Andru Pulu (reserve), the Federal Way High product.
&bull Lakes High product Kavario Middleton was right in the action for the Huskies on Saturday night, catching his first career touchdown on the final play of the game – a 9-yard strike from Locker.
And during one drive in the second quarter, he caught passes of 4 and 14 yards, doubling the amount of catches he had in the final three games of last season.
&bull Emotion has returned to the UW sideline.
If it wasn't evident that Sarkisian and former coach Tyrone Willingham have different personalities, it was clearly on display during the game. While Willingham rarely showed emotion – a fist pump was about as expressive as he got – Sarkisian screamed, leaped and motioned for players and fans to grow louder throughout the contest.
When Washinton forced LSU to go three-and-out on its first possession of the second half, Sarkisian met the defense as it came off the field, high-fiving the players.
&bull Quick-hit stuff: Washington is 81-33-6 all-time in season openers, and 0-2 against LSU. The Tigers are the third Southeastern Conference team to visit Husky Stadium, and the first since Alabama in 1978. … The 7:38 p.m. kickoff is the latest ever for a Washington home game.