SEATTLE — The message had been pushed onto them so often that the University of Washington football team was beginning to believe that it was being coached by another man with the initials S.S.
Steve Sarkisian was beginning to sound like Stuart Smalley.
You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and — doggone it — people like you.
If there was any validation from Saturday night’s 31-23 loss to 11th-ranked LSU, it was that the Huskies were getting the message from a different sender.
The post-game handshake after Saturday’s loss was a little bit like a 10-minute therapy session, complete with daily affirmations from one of the nation’s best teams.
UW cornerback Quinton Richardson was one of several Huskies who relayed the message of LSU players after Saturday’s game. “’You guys are really good,’” Richardson said when asked what the opponents told him after the loss. “’You’re a team to be reckoned with.’”
LSU coach Les Miles told reporters that the Huskies will be “the most-improved team in the” Pac-10 and added that he was “thankful” to escape with a victory Saturday night.
While Sarkisian preached last week that his main objective was to earn other teams’ respect, his thoughts for this Saturday’s game is likely to include a more tangible goal. When UW hosts Idaho on Saturday afternoon, the Huskies expect to win.
On paper, Saturday’s game looks like the Huskies’ best chance to snap the nation’s longest losing streak — currently at 15 games — in the near future. Although the Vandals scored on three of their first five possessions en route to a convincing, 21-6 win over New Mexico State on Saturday, they’re not nearly as good as upcoming UW opponents like USC, Notre Dame and Arizona.
The Vandals (1-0) also are a somewhat familiar opponent to a Huskies coaching staff that includes eight assistants with Idaho ties. UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt used to be the Vandals’ head coach, while offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and running backs coach Joel Thomas are among several assistants who played there.
One thing that was apparent after the LSU loss was that the Huskies were not satisfied with the so-called “moral victory,” a phrase that even Sarkisian himself used Saturday night. Despite piling up 478 yards of offense and staying within striking distance of LSU for most of the evening, the Huskies wanted more.
“I have a feeling they respect the Washington Huskies football team,” Sarkisian said after the game. “With all that being said, that’s not acceptable. You play the game to win.”
Apparently, Sarkisian has a little Herm Edwards in him to go along with the Stuart Smalley. But the message has apparently gotten through.
“I’m really proud of our guys, and I’m proud of the mindset in that locker room afterward,” Sarkisian said. “They’re not accepting this. They’re hungry. They want to go back out, get to work Monday and start getting ready for Idaho.”
And if the Huskies can’t get it done against the Vandals this weekend?
Then a therapist might really be needed.
Idaho has two Snohomish County natives in its starting lineup: wide receiver Eric Greenwood (Edmonds-Woodway High School) and safety Shiloh Keo (Archbishop Murphy). … Ten Huskies made their UW debuts on Saturday: cornerback Justin Glenn, wide receiver James Johnson, safety Greg Walker, kicker Erik Folk, tight end Chris Izbicki, tailback Demitrius Bronson, defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi, cornerback Desmond Trufant, tackle Drew Schaefer and punter Will Mahan. … Sarkisian had planned to “Tweet” during Saturday night’s game, but due to some problems with his Twitter service, he was unable to give updates. … The “Lucky Dawg” for Saturday’s game was Nathaniel Omli, a 10-year old from Snohomish. UW honors one child before each home game to accompany the team captains for the opening coin toss.