Dick Baird is not only one of the true characters who follows the University of Washington football program even after his tenure has long expired, he's also a staunch supporter.
To hear him put the UW's 16-13 victory over third-ranked Southern California in proper perspective was warming, especially for a guy like me, who hasn't been around the program very long.
"Might be the biggest one ever," Baird said in between hugs with former UW players, and other athletes. "We'd never been 0-12 before."
Doesn't 0-12 seem like many moons ago?
Never miss a local story.
This was clearly a signature moment in this program's history, not because the Huskies beat a ranked team, or a defending seven-time Pacific-10 Conference champion. It's because change is here.
The rowdy, colorful atmosphere Saturday, in front of an announced 61,889 at the Dawg-House, was similar to that of the season opener against Louisiana State – a game the UW easily could have won (and a game that should tell LSU fans to get off the back of the Tigers. The UW is pretty good, as their coach Les Miles said afterward).
The emotion was real. Fans screamed their heads off, especially on the UW's game-winning drive. And after Erik Folk's 22-yard field goal sailed through with three seconds to go, the sight was something to behold.
After 60 minutes of intensely hard-fought football, it took about 90 seconds for the stadium's excited participants to spill onto the field, almost completely covering the green of the turf and creating a circle of thousands around the UW football players celebrating – laughing, crying, jumping and yelling.
Fans in the aisles, coming down the concrete corridors from the upper level, screamed and cheered with one another, as if they were the ones who converted the necessary two third-down plays on the final drive.
The players, too, were beside themselves in easily the single-biggest accomplishment of their lives as a member of the Huskies.
"I haven't quite figured out," said Huskies receiver Jermaine Kearse, "what I'm feeling."
Quarterback Jake Locker said he was one of the figures in the middle of the sea of purple, and felt a little claustrophobic.
"I had to get out of the middle because I didn't feel like I could breathe," Locker said.
Of course, the man who has clearly signaled a change – a new era – is a former Trojan, Sarkisian.
The intensely-competitive coach put more time and energy into this week's preparation than anybody can imagine. He said little publicly, but behind the scenes, he was as demanding as he's been in his 81/2 months on Montlake.
"It's amazing. It's amazing," Sarkisian said. "We've talked a long time about things that we wanted to get accomplished. We said early on that it wasn't going to take us very long, and I firmly believe that. I think maybe some people in the world, maybe outside our own little domain, thought that this was just press-conference speak.
"But when you get around our kids, you get around our coaches, I firmly believe that it's not going to take us very long. We've got a very good football team that knows how to prepare and play hard."
Some quick-hit stuff from the game:• Sarkisian and USC coach Pete Carroll held a quiet 30-second conference outside the locker room. Specifics were not revealed by either coach. Immense respect for each other was.
• After making a season-long 46-yard field goal and the game-winning 22-yarder in the fourth quarter Saturday, Folk is now 5-of-6 on the season.
His fall-camp inconsistency has been widely reported on since August. He explained some of that after the game.
"I changed a couple of things with my form at the end of camp – kept my eyes back a little bit more," Folk said. "During camp at the beginning, I was thinking about my kicks too much, like whether I was going to make it or not, whether my hip and back were going to hurt. I really had to concentrate not thinking about those things."
• After the UW defense's debut, the staff decided to go with Wilson High product Desmond Trufant for an extended period – 5-6 drives – at cornerback opposite Quinton Richardson.
The head-scratcher was Trufant's defense on USC receiver Damian Williams, the Arkansas transfer, on a play at the end of the third quarter. On a seam route, Trufant came back and reached around Williams to poke a pass away.
Much to the dismay of Sarkisian and his staff, Trufant was flagged for a 14-yard pass interference penalty.
"It might have been a penalty," Trufant later admitted. "It's the game. I was just out there playing hard. We won, so whatever."
• At one point in the second quarter, you saw Crichton in there. You saw Everrette Thompson in there at defensive end. You saw Cort Dennison in there at linebacker.
Sarkisian said after the first two drives when USC scored twice (TD and FG) – when USC center Kris O'Dowd basically manhandled whoever stood in his way when he pulled on runs to the right side – he opted to go with a speed lineup to disrupt things.
• USC won't be leading the country in third-down conversion anytime soon. The Trojans were 0-for-10 Saturday (and 0-for-1 on fourth down).