UW win big for a number of reasons

LOS ANGELES - I almost missed the winning field goal by Erik Folk, even though I had a great seat for it. As his kick was splitting the uprights and his Washington teammates swarming the field like white bees, I was too busy in the Twitterverse, me and tons of others using 140 characters (or less) to explain how UW had just beaten USC. Again.

It was surreal, a script from down the block in Hollywood; it was almost too cool for Twitter, truth be told.

Preach63 had a little something for the Twitter folk after the game. "First road win was unreal," he typed. Those were the words of senior center Greg Christine.

"Nuts." That was the word junior linebacker Cort Dennison used to describe the scene in Washington's locker room after the game. I think he also used the word bananas.

And without a doubt, there was a very real sense of deja vu when comparing UW's 32-31 win in front of 82,796 fans at the LA Coliseum Saturday night to the 16-13 victory by the Huskies over the Trojans a year ago in Husky Stadium.

Heck, I know they are burning couches on Greek Row as I type this.

Junior linebacker Cort Dennison watched it all unfold live on the field, even the two attempts by USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin to ice Erik Folk, the man who had four field goals in the game and Prestone in his veins. In the end, Kiffin out-smarted himself - only using two of his time outs. He should have done what Tyrone Willingham did to John Anderson back in 2000. Willingham used all three of his time outs to make the then-sophomore kicker sweat it out a little bit.

Kiffin must have thought he was messing with Folk's head. Folk - like Anderson a decade earlier - was utterly impervious.

According to Folk, he was the only one in Los Angeles County that wasn't thinking about what transpired last year. "Not at all," he shared after the game, the perma-grin still attached to his face. "I was just thinking about making it."

Dennison, who played his high school football at a Catholic school just a stone's throw from the University of Utah, knew what his role was in helping his teammate summon a higher authority. "I kept saying prayers," he said. "I said about 15 prayers in two minutes."

Dennison's teammates - Mason Foster, Nate Williams and a few other players - were watching it all on USC's jumbotron, just like they watched it on the Husky jumbotron last year. It was eerie how things transpired.

"Obviously!" UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian exclaimed when asked if he got a little bit of that deja-vu-ish feeling coming down to the final seconds of the game. "We kicked the field goal, didn't we? It's like Yogi Berra said, right? Deja vu all over again."

And Sark's words to Folk as he trotted out for his redux with destiny? "I just told the guys in the huddle tonight that we're going to kick off Sports Center," he said. "Let's go."

While taking care USC two times in two years - with two different head coaches and two different quarterbacks - was the stuff of magic for the Huskies, this game was more important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they stay unbeaten in conference play - their dreams of a Pac-10 championship alive and doing fine with two home games coming up the next couple weeks.

Many of the veteran players on this Washington team had never experienced a road win before Saturday night. It's not fair to pin the 13-game road losing streak on the current staff, but it was noteworthy nonetheless that the Huskies were able to take care of that particular asterisk, if for nothing more than to wipe clean the psyche of those that were carrying the blight - whether it bothered them or not.

It was also big because - while they win and lose as a team - the Huskies have recently mirrored the travails of one Mr. Jake Locker. It's been a simple formula; how he's gone is typically how the team has gone.

Following that pattern, it's not surprising Washington won on Saturday night. His 110 yards on the ground is the most he's had in his career, save a spectacular 157-yard day against Arizona back in 2007. His 310 yards passing was a top-3 career performance too - and it was going to take that kind of a Herculean effort for the Huskies to come out on top of the scoreboard, especially when he had to come back from getting his bell rung and the wind knocked out of him on the same play.

Sarkisian never once doubted that the player who went 4-20 just two weeks ago at home was going to bounce back. "Quarterbacks have bad games, guys," he said. "It's football. We wish we could all be perfect, but we're not. It's a learning process. He showed his true character the way he bounced back.

"He's continuing to grow as a quarterback. I know he got it done tonight."

And according to Locker - who has been saying it ever since his decision to return to Montlake for his senior season - this year is all about making it to a bowl game for the first time since the 2002 Sun Bowl. And this win gets the Huskies back to 2-2. If you extrapolate that out, that means 6-6, and that's good enough to see Locker's vision become reality.

And by extension, a bowl game would give a leg up for Sarkisian when compared to Don James. Fair or unfair, the standard James set in the 70's, 80's and 90's is the one all Husky head coaches will be judged by. And by that's standard, Sark would be looked on very favorably, at least through year two.

And what was interesting was how - to a player and coach - the Huskies were also using this game as a reality check for how much better they still need to become. After all, they gave up 227 yards to Allen Bradford.

"That guy was a War Daddy," Sarkisian said of Bradford, a player he probably recruited to USC. He could have just as easily said that about a number of his own players at UW, and he did.

"We weren't perfect, by any means," Sarkisian added. "But a lot of guys showed up. A lot of guys made plays."

Instead of Jermaine Kearse coming up trumps, it was Locker connecting with D'Andre Goodwin for 18 yards on a fourth-and-11 on the final drive. And Chris Polk's 26-yard burst right up USC's spine paved the way for Folk's kick.

"To come out and beat them like we did, it proves that we can play with anyone in the Pac-10," Dennison said. "It opened our eyes. When we play well, execute our assignments and believe in our coaches, we can do anything."

And of all the reasons that made this night special for the Washington Huskies, perhaps the biggest thing of all just might be the confidence gained as the team goes forward. The Pac-10 appears to be as vicious as ever, but these Dawgs aren't backing down from the fight. Never again.

"We worked so hard in the off-season," Dennison said. "We do everything together. Why can't we win together? This is a great stepping stone for us."

And after the ramifications of UW's win partially digested, I came to a quick realization. What I witnessed Saturday night was something you couldn't describe in 140 characters. Or less.


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