Dawgs don't get caught looking back

Desmond Trufant isn't one to worry much over stats, but we're going to lobby on his behalf anyway. First, he got a full sack, not the half-sack he'll officially share with teammate Victor Aiyewa. Secondly, we're going to give him some credit for helping Jermaine Kearse realize his potential in YAC - that's yards after the catch, or contact - whichever you prefer.

It was appropriate the Washington Huskies went back to the drawing board this week, coming up trumps in a 41-20 defeat of Syracuse Saturday at Husky Stadium. What was so interesting about the outcome is that it started out so very deja vu-ish. A stalled Orange drive reconstituted by a freshman special teams penalty, followed by Washington having very poor field position to start their offensive game. It was right out of the BYU playbook.

"Games aren't always going to go the way you envision them or draw them up," Sarkisian said after the game. "I don't worry about what happened in the past. We go. We learn from it, we take it with us…I just wanted us to settle down. Once we settled down, I knew we would be OK. I just didn't want to panic and try too hard all of a sudden. We stayed the course, and I think that's why we eventually got back into the game."

It's important to note that neither coach nor team did, in fact, panic. Even down 10-0, the game didn't feel out of reach, didn't feel like it was something they couldn't get back. And just like Billy Tyler, the mythical Iowa halfback from M*A*S*H who recounted a big game win over Minnesota to one Radar O'Reilly, Sarkisian went to the short pass to get everybody on the purple and gold side of Husky Stadium in their comfort zone.

And that's when Kearse started YAC-ing all over the field, slipping tackles and getting outside defenders for big yardage. On two of the junior's three touchdowns, they were simply passes out to the flat where Kearse was able to beat his Orange counterpart and race down the sidelines untouched. His first big yards-after-contact run came on the very first play in the second half. He took a pass in the flat from Locker, beat SU linebacker Marquis Spruill and was off to the races.

"It kept our team alive," Sarkisian said of the play. "Tonight, that play was indicative of what we were going to do in the second half."

That play was just a little different than how the Huskies came out at halftime last weekend. They had leads in both games, but BYU seized momentum early and turned the tables on the visitors. Saturday night, Washington came out determined to re-write the script - led by Kearse's stunning display. He finished with nine catches for 179 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.

"I'm not complacent with it," Kearse said. "I want to have bigger days, but it'll do for now."

SU's Derrell Smith apparently found a copy of UW's script from last week when assessing the game from their point of view. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish," he said. "We just gotta finish the game."

Where have we heard that before?

It's good to know the Huskies have the collective memory of a top defensive back, like Trufant. If they start remembering things, especially the bad things, they are done.

It started with Locker, who threw the ball at a 67 percent clip (22-33) for 289 yards and four touchdowns. Like Tyler's Hawkeyes taming the Golden Gophers, Locker thrived off the quick game, finding receivers with short crossing patterns that just begged for lots of YAC. He used six different receivers (seven, if you count big right guard Ryan Tolar, who did his best Kai Ellis impression to strip Syracuse's Andrew Lewis of what looked to be an interception).

"There were some things in the flat we could take advantage of," Sarkisian said. "If people are going to continue to pressure Jake…if that's their plan…we've got to continue to hurt them in the quick game to make plays for guys."

If it started with Locker, it ended with Sarkisian, who found himself in the position of not having to second-guess hardly any of his in-game decisions, unlike last week. That job went to SU second-year Head Coach Doug Marrone, who rolled the dice at the end of the first half, hoping to come up with a big momentum-builder, and it backfired in spectacular fashion. With seven seconds left and the Orange at the Washington 26, SU quarterback Ryan Nassib went back to pass. Marrone had called for vertical routes in the end zone, but Husky DT Semisi Tokolahi forced a fumble, and time ran out before Marrone could get his troops reassembled.

"I made a poor decision early on," he said. "I was just trying to be aggressive. That's my nature when it comes to offense."

Thankfully for Sarkisian, he just needed to stay the course with his star quarterback and playmakers galore. Like he said Saturday, he didn't need to panic: His top receiver went for over 175 yards; his top running back went for nearly 120 yards and his quarterback accounted for over 300 yards total offense. I'm not the CEO of Weyerhaeuser, but I'd say that's a judicious use of your UW natural resources at work.

"We got better and better as the game went on," Sarkisian said.

What Saturday showed - more than anything - was a Washington team that is continuing to grow despite some youthful discomfort. Freshman cornerback Greg Ducre - he of the roughing penalty at the beginning of the BYU game - came back with an interception Saturday night. They did give up kickoffs at a clip of nearly 26 yards a return, and it's something they will address during this next week's set of practices in preparation for Nebraska.

"There's going to be penalties and mistakes so you just have to play through it regardless of what happens," Trufant said. "We never got our heads down and we knew we were going to be able to bounce back because we believe in the system."

"We've got a lot of young kids out there that are really good athletes…we should continue to improve week after week after week on special teams," added Sarkisian. "We've got to understand that part of it."

Sark's system will be put to the test next Saturday, but for the next 24 hours they can relax and reflect on a job well done. They played the way they are capable of playing, soundly defeating their opponent, while still showing how much potential they still have in the tank.

"I can honestly say this is a better team," Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones said afterward. "Washington was a better team than Akron."

And honestly, Mr. Jones - Nebraska will be a better team than Syracuse.


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