‘Defeaning’ at Qwest Field

Al Michaels just called Qwest Field “absolutely deafening.” I got goosebumps.

It reminded me of 2005. It was a cool Seattle night and I stood on the Seahawks sideline as the home team put the finishing touches on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. Lisa Gangel stood next to me and we both tried to say something to the other — something along the lines of how amazing it all was to take in — but we literally couldn’t hear each other. Even as we screamed to each other.

Of course, that was that amazing year the Pittsburgh Steelers met (and beat) the Seahawks in the Super Bowl in Detroit from the Wild Card spot. And, of course, Seahawks fans are still bitter about that glorious February night. So, of course, I won’t gloat but will rather say this post is about a little Seattle pride.

This game on NBC tonight is a celebration of mediocrity, but someone has to win the division and it seems good things are happening in the Pacific Northwest.

I got goosebumps on Dec. 30, too. When the Washington Huskies beat the 18th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl. I don’t know how a team can look so horrible during a three-week stretch against Arizona, Stanford and Oregon, then look so lucky against Cal and Washington State, and then look so good against Nebraska.

Something has to be said about Steve Sarkisian that I have yet to read. Yes, he’s enthusiastic, clearly a motivator, obviously a good coach. But I think Sarkisian also did something that went against everything in him — he changed his style. This former BYU quarterback grooms quarterbacks, prides himself on his mentorship of Heisman Trophy-winning QBs. The man believes in throwing the ball.

After helping Jake Locker improve as a passer in 2009, Sarkisian was ready to sling the ball around, ready to get back to what he loved.

But the Huskies weren’t built to do that. Locker did not emerge as a finely-tuned passer. The offensive line, young and often injured, struggled in pass protection. It wasn’t pretty.

So, Sarkisian had to change his M.O.

Given the brash young coach’s stubbornness and penchant for taking himself quite seriously, I wasn’t convinced Sarkisian would be able to do it.

But he did and the results were brilliant.

Chris Polk emerged as an absolute star (and, if LaMichael James weren’t the Pac-10’s dominant running back, the rest of the nation would know who Polk is.) Jesse Callier shined. And, once healthy, Locker got his own wheels back.

The defense, which has been atrocious the last six or seven years, played an outstanding game. Seniors like Nate Williams, Mason Foster, DeShon Matthews, and Quinton Richardson deserved that game. They had been beaten, maligned, left for dead. And they were the guys that beat Nebraska the night before New Year’s Eve. Cheers to them and the defensive coaching staff.

Defense and running the ball. It’s so basic, but had to have been a change of mindset for Sarkisian. Good coaches prove to be the most flexible coaches. Congratulations, Sark.

*     *     *

Good things in the Pacific Northwest?

The Seahawks are up 7-0. The shine of the bowl win still sparkles, and the Huskies basketball team picked up a pair of wins in Southern California.

Good things.

*     *     *

More soon on TCU’s victory, the Columbus Dispatch’s vindicatory coverage of the Buckeyes, Troy Polamalu, and how my thesis is about a week away from being FINISHED.

I can’t imagine that I’ll be able to keep quiet about some ugly coaching messes that have sprouted all over the country, NCAA violations, NCAA hypocrisy, and the media’s perpetuation of the BCS, either.





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