A few years ago, when I was writing Husky Football in the Don James Era, I interviewed former Husky linebacker Dave Hoffmann. He said something that stuck with me. We were talking about a tough road game environment that the No. 1-rated Huskies faced at Arizona. It was a game Washington lost.
"What a freakin’ war. I hit my ass off that day. I always loved playing in the heat and on the grass. I also loved putting on the black hat and going into the other guy’s backyard. But we had won 22 games in a row, and we were going to have that winning streak snapped… we were ranked No. 1 in the nation, and we were going to lose that too. I knew that it was going to feel devastating. There was only a minute or so left, and I remember getting into my stance and waiting for the snap, feeling dehydrated and hot, and I took a moment there and thought… 'I love this! I love this feeling I have right now. It’s being out here engaged in the fight and it’s what I love. I’m out here pouring everything I’ve got into a great fight, and I’m going to keep coming.' I’m sure all my teammates on the field felt the same way."
I thought about that quote yesterday as the final seconds ran out on Washington’s 31-14 victory over Utah. For so many seasons over the past decade, we’ve seen lethargic football and losing seasons, augmented by excuses coming from a fanbase and UW athletic department that had tragically lowered its standards.
But here was a Husky team going on the road in a conference game and taking over in the second half. We haven’t seen this kind of thing in years. The Huskies kicked Utah’s butt all over the field. Quarterback Keith Price and tailback Chris Polk staked claim as the best run-pass combination in UW history, rivaling Hugh McElhenny and Don Heinrich from the late 1940s/early 1950s.
The psychological coaching job perpetrated by head coach Steve Sarkisian at half time yesterday was one for the ages. The unconventional method of loosening up Price and getting the team fired up really showed itself in the 3rd quarter.
Price should benefit greatly from next week’s BYE, giving his aching knees and ankle a rest. And then, the Huskies face woeful Colorado in a home game at Husky Stadium. Should Washington win that game, they will be 3-0 in the conference and 5-1 overall. They will certainly be ranked. And the season will be crackling will countless possibilities.
With remaining road games at Stanford, USC and Oregon State, the Dawgs will have three more chances to put on the black hats and go into the other guy’s back yard—with newfound attitude and confidence.