UW Football Coach Steve Sarkisian Under Pressure

Nov 22, 2013

The University of Washington football team plays Oregon State in Corvallis Saturday night. UW's starting quarterback is nursing an injury and they’re coming off a big loss against UCLA last week. 

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says there’s no rest for the weary; Washington State is waiting in the wings.

Bowl-Eligible, but Bowl-Bound?

The Huskies are 6-4. That record has made them eligible to be in a bowl game. But it's not a sure thing.Art says their 41-31 loss last week to UCLA put more pressure on coach Steve Sarkisian to win Saturday night against Oregon State and Fri., Nov. 29, in the Apple Cup against Washington State in Seattle.

"The masses are restless at Montlake because there are expectations for this program that ratcheted up this  year," Art said. "They were articulated by Sarkisian himself when he said last year they were supposed to take the next step—this year as well—and it really hasn't happened."

Give Sark Credit

Art said the Huskies need to win one of the last two games to get to seven wins.

"And they need to win both to get to eight, which would be a mark of improvement, because they've had three 7-6 seasons in a row and the fans really don't like that," he said. "The 'Fire Sark' thinking is out there already. I personally don't agree with it yet because the 0-12 ditch that Sark inherited was deep."

The 2008 Huskies were the first 0-12 team in Pac-10 conference history and the only team in the country to finish the 2008 season without a victory.

Art said Husky fans can't expect instant gratification.

"It's a long process to get to a successful team that can start to beat the top teams in the Pac-12. They have a ways to go. Sark deserves the chance to get there but it is difficult. Winning Saturday at Oregon State is close to imperative," he said. 

Room for Improvement

Art points out that when Sarkisian was hired five years ago at age 34 he was among the youngest college coaches in the nation and he'd never been a head coach before.

"I've always said that Sark is a young guy and there's a learning curve," Art said. "He still tends to be impulsive in his decisions. His teams reflect that impulsiveness."

"There is some recklessness," Art continued. "They lead the nation in most penalties. It's also a function of the Pac-12 and its officiating because they tend to call a closer game - and a more screwball game as far as I'm concerned. The Huskies really need discipline. They really need to be less impulsive. Just like their coach."

Price in our out?

UW's starting quarterback Keith Price may not start Saturday night's game, due to an injury to his throwing shoulder suffered in the UCLA game. Art said that has given Husky fans even more reason to be nervous about the outcome of the last two games of the season, and whether the team can make it to a bowl game.

Meanwhile in Pullman...

The 5-5 Washington State Cougars are one win away from becoming bowl-eligible themselves. They've had two upsets this season—a 10-7 victory over USC and a 24-17 win over Arizona. And they beat UW in last year's Apple Cup.

"Washington State is in a great position to win Saturday and come over to the Apple Cup in Seattle the day after Thanksgiving and beat the Huskies, spoil their season, put Sark's job in jeopardy," Art said. "I don't think there's any notion that the Husky fans should be taking the Cougs lightly, because this is just the thing that Coug fans want to do, is ruin the Huskies' holidays."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.