First-timers key for UW

Apple Cup: 12 Huskies face their first rivalry start; coach wants ’em prepared, grounded

TODD MILLES; Staff writerNovember 25, 2011 

Each year, the Apple Cup rivalry shuffles out the old guard, and shuffles in the new breed.

The game Saturday will be University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian’s third go-around facing Washington State. From the first day, he has said he wants his assistants and players to “embrace” the in-state showdown.

Most importantly, Sarkisian is 2-0 against Paul Wulff, his coaching counterpart for the Cougars.

But not every UW starter has experience preparing for this high-voltage, sometimes-volatile week.

In fact, the Huskies will feature 12 players – six on offense and six on defense – who have never started in an Apple Cup.

Some of them are key performers, such as quarterback Keith Price, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, receiver Kasen Williams, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and strong safety Sean Parker.

Is this a good time to preach the importance of not getting over-hyped for a game against the archrival, even if old friends and teammates from high school play at WSU?

“We talk (about) it, and we just try and get on a common ground as a football team,” Sarkisian said. “Again, I hate to beat a dead horse here – we have embraced the rivalry. I don’t want us to think we are going into this thinking this is some other game. But at the end of the day, when the whistle blows, we have 60 minutes to play football. Regardless of what uniform they are wearing, we have to play – we have to execute and play with great effort.”

Just as Sarkisian was finishing answering that post-Thanksgiving practice question, he was reminded that just two days prior, Williams – who at this time last season was leading Skyline High School to the Class 4A state championship game – had said he intended to make his mark in the Apple Cup starting Saturday at Century Link Field.

Williams’ exact statement: “I know all about the rivalry, and it is finally my time to put my mark on the rivalry. I want people to remember me in this game.”

Enough to make a third-year coach cringe?

Nah.

“I’d like them all to make their mark in the rivalry game, quite honestly. It would be a nice day,” said Sarkisian, howling in laughter.

“There is something to be said about that – about not trying too hard. And that is kind of the stuff we try and talk about here for the next 48 hours, and we still have plenty of time in the buildup to the ballgame.”

EXTRA POINTS

It appears Justin Glenn will start at free safety. Sarkisian said playing Will Shamburger (shoulder) will be a game-time decision. … First-year safety James Sample (shoulder) had season-ending surgery Wednesday, and is out for Saturday. The Sacramento product played in three games earlier this season, but the school will seek a medical redshirt for him. … The team held its 90-minute practice Thursday indoors. … Unlike previous years, Sarkisian said Thanksgiving dinner Thursday was “pretty intimate” with immediate family in Bellevue. … All “The Zone” pre-function activities will be held in the CenturyLink Events Center. … UW officials have stressed to Apple Cup spectators to visit gohuskies.com/ot/11ac-transit.html for answers to questions about game-day transportation services and parking. … Post-Apple Cup, the Huskies will resume workouts Dec. 3.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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