Who is THIS man on the whistle?
Over the past two seasons, whenever it came to the week of an important football showdown, UW Steve Sarkisian normally would tighten up, become terse and bring along a tornado of tension wherever he walked.
It wasn't just with media members (although at times, we would get the brunt of it ... unannounced). Players felt the wrath. Assistant coaches lowered their head. Cheerleaders would stop cheering.
But this week, before the biggest game in Sarkisian's abbreviated tenure at the UW, the third-year UW coach strolled around campus, and patrolled practice like a guy on a steady diet of Flintstones vitamins. Yum, yum - good.
"You know, I enjoy the process. I am learning this football team. I think this is a relatively relaxed team as well," Sarkisian said. "I think they perform better when we are a little bit more relaxed than when we are jarred up."
Maybe the lesson to be learned was at last year's Holiday Bowl - when the Huskies were heavy underdogs to Nebraska. Granted, the pressure was off - they were not expected to win. But all week around practices at the University of San Diego, Sarkisian and the boys were feeling mighty fine.
This week much more resembles that period, and less of the weeks leading up to the first Nebraska game in 2010 (grouchy), the USC game (testy), even the Apple Cup in Pullman (not very nice).
Case in point: At the start of the final team period, when the offense was going through a little of hurry-up, and playing sloppy, the capper was when quarterback Keith Price line up in shotgun, and the snap went over his head.
Sarkisian did not blink. He did not yell. He just kind of looked out perplexed - and moved on to the next series of plays.
"You have to play to the team as well, and to what I think is the best way to motivate them," Sarkisian said.
"I know what to expect from our guys – where our strengths are and where I think we need work. I feel good about where we are. My biggest thing now is we’ll see if it is good enough (Saturday). I don’t know. We’ll see."
* Seems only safety Taz Stevenson (knee), who has played in just two games, will not make the trip to Stanford. Others who are returning to full health are safety James Sample (shoulder) and defensive tackle Danny Shelton (foot). Both practiced Thursday.
* With a bevy of athletic receivers, Sarkisian has called his share of double-move routes - and some Price shake-in-bake in his throws.
The 14-yard touchdown he threw to Chris Polk in the second quarter last week against Colorado was a thing of beauty - a shoulder pump, then a perfect toss to the wide-open tailback.
"I think his (pump fake) is natural. It appears like he’s really throwing the ball," Sarkisian said. "So many guys throw it, and you know he’s not throwing it. It just doesn’t look like (Price is) really making an attempt to throw the ball."