Winning Out Is All That Matters Now

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (US PRESSWIRE)

SEATTLE - To quote a former Washington Head Coach - Scoreboard, Baby. But if you were a Washington fan watching from afar, their 21-13 win over California Friday night on national television was an ugly reminder of just how excruciating college football can be.

Turnovers, penalties by the bushel and lack of execution by both teams made the game feel like the one that didn't shoot themselves in the foot in the crucial moment would prevail.

For the Huskies, it hurts so good right now. It was painful at times, borderline unbearable. But like the best horror flicks, the game kept you on the edge of your seat and your hands partially over your eyes. You couldn't look away, because the game was always perilously perched for one of the teams to just snatch it away from the other.

And then with 10:27 left and the Huskies up by one the game went into a hyper-scramble. First a Keith Price fumble, then a botched handoff between Cal's Zach Maynard and C.J. Anderson, then a fumble by Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins - and finally a Maynard pass was picked off by Shaq Thompson - a Cal legacy - who trucked downfield 33 yards to the California 28, eventually sparking the offensive drive that would tally the final margin of victory when sophomore running back Bishop Sankey plunged in from one-yard out.

"Don't panic," Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian told his team while they were in the middle of playing Hot Potato with the Golden Bears. "Relax. It's just football."

Washington hadn't played two games in less than a week since 1944, so it's no surprise the game felt like the 13-7 slugfest played out in Berkeley just three years later between Cal's Pappy Waldorf and UW's Ralph Welch. But it also had a similar tone to the 16-13 win by Sarkisian two years ago when he decided to rely on a higher power to take care of the Huskies' fortunes on the last play of the game.

Technically Friday night's Halloween hangover horror show wouldn't be decided until Cal backup quarterback Allen Bridgford - who came in late for an injured Maynard - threw incomplete to Anderson on a pass in front of the Washington bench with 68 seconds left to seal the victory for the away team.

"If you would have told me the game would have come down to Josh Shirley defending a wheel route on fourth-and-five…we could talk for days about our defense," Sarkisian said after the game. "I don't know if it's because we wore suits and ties - I don't know what it was, but at the end of the day we found a way to win. We won another tight ball game in the fourth quarter that we're starting to get pretty accustomed to doing.

It may have been a victory seemingly covered in Memorial Stadium leftovers, but for Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies it was as precious as a Willy Wonka golden ticket. And make no mistake - road wins have been as scarce as golden tickets as far as the Huskies are concerned; UW had been winless their last six games away from Seattle, but the road Dawgs couldn't have picked a better time to come up big when it mattered most.

Sarkisian leaned on his playmakers on offense - Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins - who combined for 349 of the Huskies 409 total yards, or 85 percent of everything Washington got on that side of the ball. "When our Jimmy is better than your Joe, sometimes you've got to go to your Jimmy," Sarkisian would say after the game when the 6-foot-6 Seferian-Jenkins out-leaped the 5-foot-10 Cal cornerback Steve Williams for Washington's go-ahead score with 41 ticks left on the third quarter clock.

Sarkisian and the Huskies have been through a long season so far when it comes to Jimmies and Joes; Jeff Sagarin still has Washington with the toughest schedule in the country. As of Friday night, UW had played six of the BCS top-25 teams in their nine games; by comparison Oregon has played one, Oregon State one, USC two, Stanford three and Arizona has played five.

If you would have given Sarkisian a scenario where he could seal bowl eligibility at home, I think he would have taken it - and he has a chance to do that a week from Saturday against Utah. Washington has gone through a gauntlet the likes of which they've rarely seen before, but they've come out of the nine-game stretch with a winning record. I have a feeling Sark would have taken that at the beginning of the season too - because it means the Huskies have a chance to finish with three consecutive road wins - something UW hasn't done since the end of their 2000 Rose Bowl campaign (and into the beginning of 2001, if you extrapolate).

The Washington coaches and players won't look ahead; they are programmed to focus on what's right in front of them - which is a November 10 date with the Utah Utes at CenturyLink Field. Looking ahead is what we get to do, and if the Huskies can prevail at home and then take care of business against Colorado and Washington State on the road - a 9-4 record is more than attainable.

If the Huskies are going to be as good as everyone believes they will be in 2013, 9-4 should be mandatory. They've played way too many tough games against BCS competition to allow a slip up this late in the schedule, especially to teams that on paper just don't stack up. A loss to the Utes - especially with the way Washington has played so far at home - is almost unthinkable. But the beauty in winning ugly is that there's still plenty of preparation needed to dress up that pig one more time - and the UW coaches don't know anything other than hard work to get them through this rough stretch - a patch of games where they haven't scored more than 21 points against FBS teams this season.

"There's going to be games these next three weeks where we're going to need more than 21 points," he said, matter-of-factly.

"Coach Sark told us that we're going to be faced with adversity but if we stick together we'll get through it," added Sankey. "It's all about relying on your Husky Family to help you out. We just have to keep it going throughout these next few weeks. We have to do it next week for our seniors."

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