An important two-year anniversary came and went Monday - one that University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian remembers well.
On that date in 2008, the recently hired Sarkisian met with his Huskies team for the first time.
He recalled seeing players who appeared apathetic. Few guys wore UW gear to the team meetings. Many had their heads hidden from view in their sweatshirt hoods.
“They were down,” Sarkisian said. “The program was down.”
The scene is drastically different now. When players arrived on campus after their 35-28 Apple Cup victory over Washington State late Saturday, and returned a day later to see where – and who – they would play in a bowl game, they were visible. They were content. And they were excited to know they were playing Nebraska again, this time Dec. 30 in the Holiday Bowl.
“But I don’t think it’s a relief at all,” Sarkisian said. “I think that for our players and for this program, this is another step in the right direction.”
Sarkisian and his staff already have a plan in place for the days leading up to the team’s first bowl appearance since 2002.
Practices will resume Friday. Younger players will get most of the repetitions for the upcoming three practices while the veterans rest.
Next week, the UW will hold five more practices on campus to implement a game plan for the Cornhuskers.
The team will take a charter flight out of Seattle to San Diego on Dec. 23, and practice at an undisclosed college site a day later – again revisiting the game strategy for facing the Cornhuskers.
“There is obviously joy and excitement that we’re going to play in the Holiday Bowl, which is a great experience,” Sarkisian said. “But we’re going there to play a football game, and to win the game. This isn’t vacation.”
As expected, defensive tackle Semisi Tokolahi (broken left ankle) and receiver Cody Bruns (broken clavicle) will miss the bowl game. Sarkisian is hoping to get safety Sean Parker (shoulder) and defensive end Talia Crichton (knee) back for the game, though. ... With Bruns out, walk-on receiver William Chandler will get a hard look at remaining the holder on field goal and PAT kicks – as he did in the Apple Cup. ... Fresh off his 284-yard rushing effort, UW’s Chris Polk was named the Pacific-10 Conference’s offensive player of the week. ... The Huskies will hold their end-of-the-year banquet tonight.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports