BY Art Thiel 12:55AM 11/24/2013

After big win, Sarkisian’s job appears to be safe

A ground game of 530 yards led to a record Washington win over the Beavers in Corvallis and quieted both the OSU crowd and some of Sarkisian’s critics back in Seattle.

Steve Sarklsian answered his critics Saturday night in Corvallis. . Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

The case for burying Steve Sarkisian’s coaching career had a setback Saturday night in Corvallis. Borrowing a line from a Monty Python movie  — “I’m not dead yet!” – Sarkisian found the valve the Huskies’ adrenal gland and opened it fully for an astonishing 69-27 victory over Oregon State, their first conference road win of the season.

“It was great for our psyche,” Sarkisian told KJR radio. “The team really hasn’t wavered. We just had to play without the self-inflicted wounds of penalties and turnovers. I’m proud of the guys showing a sense of belief in one another and the system.

“They responded well (to the UCLA loss). We had a practice Thursday with an energy I hadn’t hadn’t seen in quite some time. We challenged them — we wanted the same thing Saturday.”

They delivered, in a rebound game rich with milestones. Fired up from the moment they took the Reser Stadium field, the Huskies scored 17 points on their first three possessions to put away the game and silence not only the Beavers’ crowd but the critics in Seattle that had a field day after Washington’s desultory 41-31 loss at UCLA a week ago Friday.

Going with redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles in his first career start over injured Keith Price, Sarkisian offered up a simpler game plan that relied on Bishop Sankey, who had 179 yards — 128 in the first quarter — and three touchdowns, leading UW’s first win after nine Willamette Valley losses in a row to OSU and Oregon.

The 69 points were the most in the modern, post-World War II era, eclipsing the 66 against Oregon in 1974.

As the listless Beavers (6-5, 4-4) mostly stared instead of tackled, reserve running backs Deontae Cooper and Dwayne Washington nearly caught up to Sankey in the second half. Cooper, who has had three surgeries to repair ACL tears in his Washington career, had 166 yards in 11 carries and 2 TDs. Washington also had 11 carries and 2 TDs, getting 141 yards.

Cooper had runs of 70 and 68 yards that showed his speed has almost completely returned.

“Tuesday in practice, where we tried to keep Sankey out to limit his practice carries, Coop popped in and really was running,” Sarkisian said. “Were saying ‘Jeez, he’s ready, he’s getting close.’ His practice habits have improved, and he ran hard as well as fast.”

Sarkisian even managed to get his foul-prone students to color mostly within the lines – only four penalties for 43 yards, about half their nation-leading average in misdeeds.

He also decided to sit his favorite player, Price, whose shoulder wasn’t 100 percent for the game, in favor of Miles, who finished 15 for 24 with 162 yards and tossed a beautiful ball to WR Kevin Smith for a 28-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

“He had a presence,” Sarkisian said. “Cyler didn’t look like a guy making first start. He did a good job keeping up the tempo. That could have created some uncertainty in his first start.

“Sometimes a young player doesn’t know what real preparation is. He prepared really well this week. He had good command.”

Sarkisian wouldn’t commit to a starter for the Apple Cup Friday, except to say, “Keith is our starter, and if he’s ready to start, he’ll start.”

Whoever open, the 7-4 Huskies are set up better for the Apple Cup than it appeared after last week’s loss in Los Angeles. Washington State should be similarly enthused following their 49-37 win over Utah Saturday that made the 6-5 Cougars bowl-eligible.

In a Pac-12 Conference with seven six-game winners and seven bowl contracts, the Cougars probably need a win to assure the postseason game. The Huskies could use a victory for their first eight-win season in Sarkisian’s tenure, a modest breakthrough that should still some of his hecklers.

The home-standing Huskies have a score to settle after the 31-28 upset loss in Pullman a year ago.

“We still have a bad taste in our mouths,” he said. “When you blow an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter against the rival, you don’t forget it.”

Eleven games into the season, the Huskies remembered how to dominate a middling conference rival. They couldn’t pull it off against the top four teams, but an eighth win, this one over the improving Cougs, might cause some of the purples to put down their pitchforks and torches for another year.


  • Jeff

    “Miles, who finished 15 for 124 with 162 yards” … even Mike Leach would be in awe of the pass attempts.

    Great game by the Huskies, running wild, forcing turnovers, pressuring Mannion. Real clean game until the end, would have been nice to see that cleanliness vs Stanford and UCLA, both very winnable road games were it not for self inflicted wounds

    • art thiel

      Hey, I was just 100 off . . . now fixed.

      Worst I’ve seen Oregon State under Riley.

      • Eric K

        Yeah, they’ve had bad teams but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mike Riley team quit on him the way this one seems to have

  • Sam

    Calling for coaches heads is an industry unto itself, almost a religion, one based on human sacrifice. So it was fun to see that religion turned on its ear and see Sark’s team go Sarknado and make the crowd think they were watching the SYFY channel with Sarks, er, sharks flying through the air wreaking havoc. Go Huskies!

    • Ty

      Sark is doing a great job rebuilding this program. His critics seem to forgotten the days of Keith Gilbertson and Ty Willingham (0-12).

    • art thiel

      Human sacrifice? I suppose so. Hmm. We do have volcanoes around here. You can be sure that if the TV networks demand human sacrifice, the colleges will provide.

      Sarknado . . . May have to steal that.

  • Effzee

    What a brilliant offense! Amazing play calls! I love the no-huddle…. Now. I’m sure it was just coincidence that Miles was the QB though. Right? I’m sure that had nothing to do with anything. KP should totally start the Apple Cup if he’s healthy. Oh wait… Can you smell it?? The sarcasm?? Yeah…. Sark may have saved his job… But if he starts KP in the Apple Cup, he is just lying to himself.

    • Eric K

      you seriously think Keith Price or the offense has been a problem in any of their losses? The only game that he hasn’t been good to great was the ASU game, when he was clearly hurt and should have been pulled. In the other 3 losses it was Defense and Special teams,

      And while Miles looked great we need to keep in mind that the Beavers have made a lot of QBs look great, their D is horrible.

      • art thiel

        The main problem Price has is Sark puts too much faith in him when he’s hurt. Price, like most hyper-competitive athletes, will almost never admit he can’t do the job. Sark needs to be more cold-blooded in those personnel moments.

        • Eric K

          In fairness to him most coaches have those blinders with their starting QBs. And really the ASU game was the only one where he was hurting them

    • art thiel

      Nice to see your near conversion, brother effzee.

      Price, when healthy, is still the better QB.

  • jafabian

    Nice to see the team that upset Boise State return as well as seeing the defense to finally have a good game. Sark had a much more conservative game plan (though it looked like they had a fake punt to do but it was nullified by a false start) and it didn’t come back to bite the team. You don’t see a Mike Riley team get blasted like this very often, especially on their home turf. Looks like losing Price to graduation won’t be an issue as Miles had a solid game.

    Got to have another big win in the Apple Cup. It could be the difference between going to a bowl like the Alamo Bowl as opposed to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

    • Eric K

      they won’t get the Alamo Bowl, they’ll be pretty far down even with 2 wins to end the season, there are a bunch of attractive Pac 12 teams.

      Alamo will probably take the Stanford-ASU loser, especially if it is ASU with Phoenix an easy trip to San Antonio. Holiday will take Oregon or the UCLA-USC winner, with the Sun taking whoever the Holiday doesn’t.

      That puts the Huskies & USC/UCLA loser as the next two picks, so Huskies likely get Las Vegas or New Mexico. Though Arizona is a wildcard being so close to both so Huskies could get dropped all the way to the Kraft Fight Hunger.

      • art thiel

        Good assessment, Eric. The SF game looks likeliest, matching Sark with his alma mater.

        • Eric K

          I really hope my scenario of Ducks to the Sun plays out, they could use a little humility, Sheesh they win one Rose Bowl in 96 years and now think that it is beneath them…

    • art thiel

      Getting Miles the work in a much needed road win will pay dividends in 2014. He made himself known to his teammates. Sark had everyone amped, but not recklessly.

  • Jamo57

    The core of this team is barely reaching their junior year. It’s worth being mindful how often the broadcasters will refer to a player as ‘the freshman……’ or the ‘sophomore……..’ (fill in the position). Having said that I was feeling concerned that next year Sark would have his first truly veteran team on the field being led by a novice QB. Cyler Miles’ game last night may be an underrated outcome of the game, and has me feeling {guardedly} more optimistic about ’14 when maybe the program can finally get over the hump.

    • art thiel

      This team is the deepest Sark has had, and they can fill most graduation holes. Miles’ experience now will be most helpful.

      • Eric K

        The other thing They haven’t really had until this year was the big blowouts where the young guys get experience, I was thinking of that when OSU was scoring late and Huard was naming all the freshman playing on D, that game experience even in garbage time is useful for depth in the future (contrary to what a Nick Alioti thinks you want your back ups playing a team that is still trying:-))

        That is part of why this year is an improvement even if they only win one more regular season game overall. None of the wins are fluky or lucky, they definitively won them all

  • dharmabruce

    I’m fine sticking with Sark, above average is better than the previous decade. But it almost hurt to see Oregon lose; it exposed this year as a squandered opportunity to steal the north.

  • Hammtime

    Did not see this game coming – WOW. I hope they bring that game on Friday!

    Oh, and Art, I love the Monty Python reference. Now I have that in my head – “He’s getting better!”

  • Will

    Granted, it was a good win …. but the key is, it was one win against a so-so opponent. The real push in the “Fire Sark Movement” will come from moneyed alumni IF the Huskies lose the Apple Cup.