Washington will have to keep its head on Saturday when dealing with the most volatile player in the conference.
Once again talent trumps sense.
Volatile Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict will not start on Saturday against Washington after delivering an indefensible head-butt to Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz last week, adding to a litany of career violations.
Burfict committed three personal fouls last year against the Huskies. The first came on Washington’s first possession, following an incompletion on third down. The next play, Jake Locker threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Devin Aguilar.
This year, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson is taking a stand against Burfict’s antics. The All-Pac-10 talent is likely to miss the first series on Saturday. That’ll learn ’em.
It’s a pathetic punishment for a repeat offender the coaching staff cannot control. A coach can be seen asking Burfict “Why did you do that?” immediately following the butt against the Beavers. The same could be asked of Erickson.
The minuscule punishment leaves Washington expecting Burfict to be on Saturday’s rainy field throughout. Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian snickered when asked what changes with Burfict off the field.
“He’s going to play,” Sarkisian said. “Seriously, he’s going to play.”
That means Burfict is going to take cheap shots. He will be flagged at some point. He will do something stupid, be yelled at, then put back on the field. It will be the same cycle that has allowed the sophomore to get a way with more garbage in his season-and-a-third than the rest of the league combined. Erickson’s disciplining of Burfict is enough to cause Rick Neuheisel to scratch his head in disbelief.
Let’s repeat: three personal fouls against Washington last season. How does a player stay in a game long enough to commit three personal fouls?
“We took a head-butt last year from him, so we don’t need to warn them,” Sarkisian said of his players. “We’ve got 15 (yards) for the head-butt last year from the guy. I think there were three personal foul penalties in one game. I had never seen that before.”
Sarkisian and quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier are insistent their guys “just play.” That the nonsense Burfict brings to the field doesn’t rattle their crew.
“I don’t think you can ignore him,” Sarkisian said. “If you get caught up playing his game, that’s what he wants. You get back in the huddle and go make your plays.”
Washington dealt with an aggressive defender last week when it faced charged-up USC cornerback Shareece Wright. He yapped enough to get a response from Locker.
But Burfict is a different animal. He’s a ferocious hunter at middle linebacker.
“We’ve already addressed it,” Sarkisian said midweek. “We’ll be OK. I just think, for the integrity of the game, let’s play the game. The stuff between whistles … C’mon, get back in the huddle and play.”
Someone needs to tell that to Burfict. If it doesn’t work, someone needs to take him off the field before another player in injured for good.