University of Washington

Southern Cal Showdown: Sarkisian vs. Carroll

By late Saturday afternoon, all of Steve Sarkisian’s energy had been zapped. He made good on his promise, at least for one afternoon, in making Washington a winner again.

He went home, turned on the television and watched his old team – Southern California – do battle against Ohio State in a matchup of top-10 powers. Suddenly, different emotions flooded him. He perked up every time the Trojans did something good. His body twitched nervously when Ohio State countered.

On their final drive, the Trojans pulled out a victory. Sarkisian was elated – and spent – again.

“No doubt, I spent seven great years of my life there, with tremendous moments – special moments – not just with those coaches, but those kids. I know how hard they worked to get to that point,” Sarkisian said. “To say I wasn’t feeling emotion in that game would be wrong. I definitely was.”

Only two games into his tenure as head coach of the Huskies, Sarkisian will oppose the team he served as an assistant for seven seasons under coach Pete Carroll. Third-ranked USC will visit Husky Stadium at 12:30 p.m. Saturday for the teams’ Pacific-10 Conference opener.

The Trojans are still in Sarkisian’s blood. But as he acknowledged Monday at his weekly press conference, the time has come to move on. He’s at Washington now.

“I think our biggest fear is we put too much into this game – we try and build this thing up to be (more) than it is,” Sarkisian said. “This is a Pac-10 football game, and at the end of Saturday, come 4 o’clock – whether it’s a ‘W’ or an ‘L’ –it’s all the same as if it was against Stanford, or UCLA or Cal.”

A thousand miles to the south, in Los Angeles, Carroll was also asked about the reunion Saturday. He appeared more energized by it than Sarkisian. The dean of Pac-10 coaches, he finally gets to do something he’s never done before – coach against one of his former assistants.

“So far, in two weeks’ time, he’s shown a ton of stuff that we did (at USC). I think the things they’re tweaking are because of their personnel, particularly the quarterback,” Carroll said. “Jake (Locker) is such an extraordinary player, and (Sarkisian has) done exactly the types of thing you should do with that guy, utilizing him and adding him to the offense. It makes it more dynamic than it was for us here.”

Asked if he harbors hard feelings over the departure of Sarkisian, who took defensive assistant Nick Holt with him, Carroll vehemently denied it.

“Whoever thought that doesn’t understand, when our guys come through this program, they know I’ll do everything in my power to help them get the job of their dreams,” Carroll said. “I want these guys to have whatever they want.”

It was Carroll who took a chance on a 20-something former quarterback in a career crisis in 2001. Twice, when Sarkisian left for jobs at San Diego State and then the Oakland Raiders that didn’t work out, Carroll took him back at USC.

Finally, in 2005, Carroll elevated Sarkisian to offensive coordinator. He was on track to become a head coach.

“During the game, we would talk all the time about situations that were coming up, things that were happening,” Carroll said. “We never had issues about anything. We were really, really connected on all that stuff. It was a very, very good relationship.”

And, in December, the Huskies came calling. And this time, Carroll knew he would let go for good.

“(I knew) this could be an ideal situation for him,” Carroll said. “Now you guys know him and know how effective he’s going to be, and what a great leader he can be in that program.”

Extra points

Cornerback David Batts, who was mysteriously out of uniform but cheering from the sideline during the UW’s victory over Idaho on Saturday, was dismissed from the team. Sarkisian said the No. 25 jersey he was wearing, honoring the late Curtis Williams, will not be reissued to another player. ... Defensive end Darrion Jones (ankle, knee) and defensive tackle De’Shon Matthews (knee) did not practice, and are questionable for Saturday. Safety Jason Wells (Achilles’) did return to the team’s indoor practice Monday.

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