As of Friday afternoon, the University of Washington football team was in the Dempsey Center, getting ready for another game.
And practice has never felt so good.
“It’s exciting,” said senior quarterback Jake Locker, one of several veterans who sat out most of Friday’s session while younger players saw the bulk of action. “It’s cool to have practice this time of year.”
It’s been a long time since the Huskies have been active this time of year. No UW team since 2002 has been eligible to practice this far into the calendar year, but the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl game against Nebraska had the Huskies back on the practice field Friday afternoon for the first of 14 pre-bowl workouts.
“I love it,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said after Friday’s practice. “This is why you coach, man. It’s December, and you’re coaching ball, and you’re recruiting, and you get to talk football. This is my favorite time of year, by far.”
In seven years as an assistant at USC, Sarkisian got used to coaching practice in mid- and late-December — and often well into January. But his seven-year run — not including the 2004 season, which he spent as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders — ended last winter when the Huskies went 5-7 in his first year as a head coach.
That meant a long December for the current coach of the Huskies.
“I hated it,” Sarkisian said Friday evening. “It was great that we finished strong last year (by winning the final two games of the regular season), but I hated (not being able to practice after the season finale). It felt wrong, it felt uncomfortable. All of it just left a really bad taste in my mouth.”
UW fans know that feeling all too well. The last time the Huskies made a bowl game was in Dec. 2002, when then-coach Rick Neuheisel led UW into a New Year’s Eve Sun Bowl game against Purdue.
The last time the Huskies won a bowl game was on New Year’s Day in 2001, when quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo carried UW to a 34-24 win over Drew Brees and Purdue in the Rose Bowl.
So just to get a chance for another victory this time of year is a big deal for Washington football.
“This is the biggest reward you can give a football team: to play again, and getting to practice more,” Sarkisian said. “That’s why these guys do what they do. They love playing football.”
And Sarkisian loves coaching it — no matter the time of year.
“I wish it was year-round,” he said. “Let’s start a spring league.”
The Huskies will practice this morning and Sunday morning, then take a few days off before returning to the field late next week. ... Almost all of UW’s starters sat out Friday’s practice while the coaches evaluate younger players. The only regulars to see action Friday were defensive tackle Sione Potoa’e, offensive lineman Gregory Christine, receiver Kevin Smith and tight end Marlion Barnett. ... When the Huskies get to San Diego, they will hold practices at the University of San Diego.
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