A Fitting Ending to a Great Beginning

It looks as though Scott Woodward picked the right guy to turn around the fortunes of Husky football. Steve Sarkisian went a long way toward validating Woodward's choice with the Huskies' thorough dismantling of a nationally ranked and totally overwhelmed California Golden Bear team. It was their best performance of the season and they saved it for last.

If you throw in the 30-0 smacking of rival Washington State, then you have the best closing two games to a season since Washington last appeared in the Rose Bowl.

The Cal game was a domination of every facet of the game, with the possible exception of the kicking game, which was only marred by allowing a long kickoff return and one shanked punt. Washington was better at running the football, stopping the run, had no turnovers and produced another pass rush inducing five sacks for the second week in a row.

It was only fitting that defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim got three of those sacks, and in doing so set the all-time school record for dropping quarterbacks. He and Donald Butler have been two of the real leaders on the field who have brought Washington football back to respectability.

It was Sarkisian's will and conviction in how they do things that resulted in knocking the Bears all the way to the Poinsetta Bowl and clearly out of any national ranking. It was the second time in a row that the Bears have gone into hibernation while in Husky Stadium. Let's admit it; Cal looked like they were forced to play this game, while Washington clearly had something to prove.

The Cal players talked before the game about how the weather wouldn't make a difference to them, but it did. It was too cold for them and they played like it. After winning their previous two games against a ranked Arizona and their rival Stanford, the Bears played like they didn't want to go to El Paso and the Sun Bowl. They were flat and simply beaten by a better and more prepared Husky team playing for nothing but pride and the future.

Pride has certainly returned to the Husky defense, who besides giving up only one touchdown, recorded those five sacks to go along with four three-and outs, two takeaways, and nine tackles for loss. They also held the Cal's Kevin Riley to 43 percent passing and gave up only 81 rushing yards to a team known for running the football.

Offensively, the Huskies more than doubled the Bears in rushing, 177-81, while Jake Locker completed 19 of 23 passes and three touchdowns on the night. Locker used Jermaine Kearse in the first half, Devin Aguilar in the second, and Kavario Middleton in-between, as the Huskies totaled 463 yards to Cal's 296.

Washington was clearly the better team, and California had no answers before, during, or after the game. Washington simply thrashed them and they knew it, and as the game wore on they simply folded their tents and packed it in. By the time the fourth quarter started, the game was over.

So ends the first season of the Steve Sarkisian era, and if anyone in the previous administrations understood anything about scheduling, this season would still have one more game to play. That situation won't get any better, because Washington opens next year with BYU, Syracuse, and Nebraska - the same Nebraska that almost knocked Texas out of the national championship.

But the Huskies proved this year they can compete with anyone.

They learned how to get in shape and play whole games. They learned a completely new system and got better as the year went on. They completely changed their way of thinking. They re-established a work ethic and belief system. They learned to deal with adversity and they learned how to put someone away. They learned that attitude and hard work are the keys to winning, and above all that they were capable of beating anyone.

Not parlaying their effort into a bowl game was certainly disappointing, but the win against Cal proved this program has turned the corner and is on the road to respectability. They also re-established Husky Stadium as a home field advantage, winning five of seven games, including the last two by a combined score of 72-10.

They have turned the corner indeed, and much of it goes right back to the hiring of Sarkisian. He has been the best thing that has happened to Husky Football in at least a decade, and he will continue to rebuild this program and eventually win a championship and go back to the Rose Bowl and win it.

So it be said, so it be done.

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