'Real Season' Starts for Huskies Next Week

SEATTLE - It's hard to believe Washington's non-conference slate could have gone any better after witnessing the Huskies' 56-0 demolition of Idaho State Saturday at Husky Stadium. They finished that portion of their schedule undefeated, the first time the Huskies have started a season 3-0 since 2001.

They averaged 450 yards more on offense than the defense gave up to their opponents, and they appear to be as healthy as you could expect heading into Pac-12 play. They host the Arizona Wildcats Saturday at 4 pm.

"I feel great about where we're at," UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said after the blowout, one where . The goal is to win the Pac-12 North, and that journey begins next Saturday. These three wins were good for us - good building blocks, a good foundation for the season - but the real season starts next Saturday. That's the most important thing."

It's not often you can play every available scholarship player, but Washington did that Saturday. It's not often you score eight touchdowns in a game, by eight different players - but Washington did that too. And it could have been nine by nine if not for an iffy hold on Greg Ducre. It's not often where you can see a player coming back from his third knee injury cap off the game scoring in such a way as to elevate the game to an even higher emotional level - but Deontae Cooper did exactly that on Saturday.

By outscoring Boise State, Illinois, and Idaho State 128-30, Washington set the bar high for the road ahead. They face a daunting start to conference play Saturday versus Arizona at Husky Stadium, but they are prepared. They are taking on the characteristics of a tough, hard-nosed team that runs first, stop the run, and hits the other guys like they've never been hit before. Just ask Bengals returner Cameron Gupton, whose upper torso was probably rearranged for a brief instant by UW freshman wide receiver Darrell Daniels on an Idaho State kickoff return in the first quarter.

In that way, the Huskies are starting to emulate the teams that defined Don James' best during his tenure at Montlake. "I talked to the team last night about coach James and playing a brand of football that he'd be proud of, and I think we're getting really close to doing it," Sark said. "We're almost there."

James wouldn't be proud of all of it, unfortunately. Sixteen penalties for 130 yards is unacceptable by any stretch. While revealing something about Idaho State's approach, Sark never shirked from taking responsibility for his team's shortcomings - even if those shortcomings were justified.

"They were stemming up front, which in my opinion you're not allowed to do that," Sarkisian said of the Bengals' defensive front, noting a technique via either cadence or physical movement to entice movement along the offensive line. "So we had some false starts up front. We will get it fixed. We'll stem at our guys all week long, and if they do it next week - which I think is illegal, but if they do it next week - we'll be prepared for it. We won't flinch."

Those last three words are the most important - we won't flinch. Sarkisian has harped on the idea of 'process' for a long time, believing the Huskies are at their best when they play the same brand of football anywhere, any time, and against anybody. It's the way he wants to go about the business of Washington Football.

"Sometimes these weeks are hard," he said, acknowledging the inner turmoil he dealt with while trying to do his best to make sure Washington wasn't Oregon State to Idaho State's Eastern Washington. "We look around the country and we see other teams get beat in these types of games and I was concerned all the way up until we took the field.

"Were we perfect? No. But I thought all-in-all there were a lot of positives. Sure, there's stuff for us to work on and it'll get fixed and we'll work on it. But I think there were a great deal of positives that we can take away from it."

At least one outsider is impressed.

"We're not Eastern Washington, and they are not Oregon State," said ISU Head Coach Mike Kramer. These guys did not disappoint. They played like a top-ranked team.

"The other thing is, I have been coaching a long time, but the way coach Sarkisian and staff treated us knowing that we were wounded was one of the most outstanding examples of sportsmanship and care of another team that I have ever seen. I really applaud the Husky staff for the way they played."

When you can beat a team 56-0, talk sincerely about the things you need to work on, and still manage to do it in a way that brings about comments like Kramer's, you're doing it the right way. You're doing it the Don James Way.

And now it's starting to become the Steve Sarkisian Way.

It hasn't been quick, and it certainly hasn't been easy - but for the first time in a long time you can see genuine improvement in the program and a legitimate belief that more is in store if they keep playing they way they have so far.

Will it continue? We will know soon enough, when the 'real season' is upon us. That's when the true mettle of Washington Football will be tested.

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