University of Washington

Sarkisian aggressive play caller

Rain had just started to fall at Notre Dame Stadium. Washington held a slim lead midway through the second quarter, and quarterback Jake Locker had finished an 8-yard scamper on third down.

The Huskies faced a fourth-and-2 from their own 36.

And the offense wasn’t quick to yield to the punting unit.

“We’ll look at Sark (coach Steve Sarkisian), and he’ll think about it for a second,” Huskies running back Chris Polk said. “And if it takes that long, we usually go for it.”

Added tight end Kavario Middleton: “I could tell he wanted to (go for it). But we had a lot of football to be played.”

The inner competitive urge – better known as ego – is something Sarkisian is always fighting. Personally, he’d always go for it on fourth down – he’s that confident in his personnel and his play-calling.

But his urges don’t always win out when weighed against game circumstances.

After a few moments to ponder that play, Sarkisian decided to punt.

“I’m the kind of guy, if we were playing a pickup basketball game, I want to take the last shot. If it’s a baseball game, I want to be up at bat on the last at-bat, or be on the mound,” the first-year UW coach said. “I’ve always had that belief, and I have that belief in football. If we’re going to do this thing on fourth down, let’s do it with us and give me the ball.”

The Huskies are 3-of-7 on fourth downs, not dazzling. That .429 conversion percentage ranks ninth in the Pacific-10 Conference, but the seven attempts rank in the upper third nationally.

And it’s not just fourth downs for Sarkisian. It’s being aggressive on third-and-long, something UW has been remarkably good at. Its 54.4 conversion percentage ranks No. 7 in the country.

“I trust his judgment every time,” UW quarterback Jake Locker said. “He’s put us in good situations, and he has confidence in us, and we have the same in him. It just shows the confidence not only in us as a unit, but in the individual plays as well.”

Consider some calls:

 • Against Louisiana State, the Huskies went for it on fourth-and-1 midway through the fourth quarter from the Tigers’ 49, trailing 24-13. Locker picked it up on a 5-yard run.

 • Against Idaho, the UW went for it on fourth-and-5 late in the first half from the Idaho 45, up 14-6. Polk got the first down with a 5-yard run.

 • On fourth-and-5 against Stanford early in the second half from the Cardinal 33, trailing 24-14, Locker was sacked for a 7-yard loss.

“When we don’t make it, it’s frustrating,” Sarkisian said, “because I have a hard time understanding why.”

 • Against Notre Dame, Sarkisian gambled on fourth-and-goal from the Irish 1 in the third quarter, and Locker was stopped. When faced with the same situation late in the fourth quarter, he kicked the field goal – admitting later he “wanted to go for it.”

“He’s aggressive and he’s a gambler,” Polk said. “I essentially like it, because I don’t really like punting.”

Extra points

Surgery Wednesday will sideline Justin Glenn for the season after the free safety suffered a broken right leg in a collision with linebacker Donald Butler on the first play of the second half at Notre Dame. Junior Victor Aiyewa will get the first crack at replacing him. … In better injury news, receivers Devin Aguilar (knee) and D’Andre Goodwin (concussion), linebacker E.J. Savannah (foot) and strong safety Nate Williams (concussion) are all expected to play Saturday against Arizona. ... Running back Colt Sager, from Burlington, became the first UW true freshman walk-on to play since Olympia’s Scott Ask in 1998. Sager will continue to play on kickoff returns. … Nine walk-ons have played this season.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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