A hearty congratulations to all the long-suffering UW football fans who finally get to enjoy something they haven't in almost a decade later this month - a bowl game.
Thought the 103rd Apple Cup was one of the better rivalry games I've seen. Washington was very good early; Washington State was gritty later and finally the Huskies finished off the game in the final minute for a 35-28 victory at Martin Stadium.
A thought also stuck with me after the game, and into today as I drove up the winding highway from Pullman to Spokane for my late-afternoon flight back to Seattle - the Huskies were ultimately rewarded for their late-game inefficiency.
First, let's rewind to the first play of the fourth quarter:
* It's fourth-and-goal at the Cougars' 1. The UW has a 21-14 lead. Earlier in the drive, Chris Polk scooted for a career-long 72-yard run to get the Huskies in position to score.
The UW has quarterback Jake Locker, who looked as spry and healthy as he has all season running the football. The play that coach Steve Sarkisain called wasn't so much a mind-tickler - it was a designed quarterback run - but the formation was.
Locker was lined up in shotgun with an empty backfield. And running back Jesse Callier was sent in a fly-sweep formation.
When Caller came across as Locker was faking the handoff, the two players got so close to each other, the ball was jarred out of Locker's grasp for a fumble, which was recovered and returned by WSU's Kevin Kooyman.
After the game, Sarkisian proclaimed it was the same play called in the first quarter when Locker went 77 yards for a touchdown - only to be called back because of an offensive holding penalty. And he said on this instance, the crease was there for Locker to score a touchdown in short yardage.
Great. How about something simpler where the possibility of an exchange - and fumble - didn't exist? This was one of a few moments this season where your jaw drops and wonder if the coach out-strategized himself.
Then fast-forward to the Huskies' final drive with the game tied at 28:
* It's fourth-and-1 again for the Huskies, this time from the Cougars' 31-yard line. Locker has just been stopped short of a first down on a 5-yard run to the right sideline.
Without hesitation, Sarkisian sent on the field-goal unit to try and kick to take the lead. I'm convinced if that Erik Folk attempt took place, the UW would have lost the game.
This isn't an indictment on Folk - he's an excellent kicker. But at the time, the conditions don't set up well for what would have been a 48-yard field goal. Consider:
1, It was 25 degrees out.2, The prevailing east-to-west breeze had been gusting most of the second half, so the attempt would have been into a bit of a wind.3, Folk is 4-of-9 on attempts of 40 yards or longer.
But there was Folk, out there "air kicking" - stretching out his leg ready to go.
If it didn't take so long to get set up for a Folk kick, Sarkisian would likely not have called a timeout to think over what he was deciding on.
"I was standing right next to the official, and I was itching and twinging," Sarkisian said. "I knew our center (long snapper Brendan Lopez) hadn’t even put his hands on the ball yet, so I knew I had plenty of time to make the decision."
What if Folk missed the field goal, giving the Cougars the ball back at their own 38 with 1:21 to go? Anybody not convinced given what was going on in the fourth quarter, Jeff Tuel would not have driven WSU in position for a game-winning score?
During the timeout, Sarkisian reconsidered the ploy - and went to the correct one, giving Polk a handoff that gained 15 yards off the right side.
And seconds later, a Locker-to-Jermaine Kearse touchdown connection won the UW the game.
"I was surprised and happy (we went for it)," Kearse said. "Thought we were going to kick the field goal, but (Sarkisian) went for the touchdown. I ain't go no problems with that."
Maybe in the offseason, a computer whiz with a statistics background should present Sarkisian a packet of football-related scenarios -with success percentages computed. That way, at least second-year coach is aware of what the conventional play would be.