The Huskies got destroyed by LSU on Saturday. It was embarrassing, there’s not doubt about that. But it’s LSU. That LSU.
One of the marks of a good coach is to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. The mark of a great coach, in many cases, is to occasionally beat teams that you have no business beating. If the Huskies beat LSU on Saturday, that would have been the case. Anyone outraged that the Huskies didn’t beat LSU, or didn’t keep the game close, are probably a bit ill-informed.
You see, the main argument is that in 2009, coming off an 0-12 season, the Huskies kept LSU close. That’s not only really untrue, but also pretty unfair to compare this year’s LSU team to their 2009 counterparts.
First off, for the last nearly-21 minutes of the 2009 match up LSU led by two touchdowns. Kavario Middleton (also known as former Washington Tight End, almost former Nebraska Tight End, former Montana Tight End, and former Seahawks tryout tight end) caught a Jake Locker pass as time ran out in the game. The notion of closeness may have been one that was felt that day, but the reality doesn’t match up with the 31-23 final score.
More importantly though, this year’s LSU team is absolutely sick on defense. They lost Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Matheiu, but are coming off a season where they gave up less than 11 points per game playing in the SEC, and also played Oregon and West Virginia in non-conference games, losing only to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. The same Alabama team they beat, and held to six points in Alabama.
This Huskies team is coming off a couple of historically bad seasons on defense. And while there is promise in their secondary, the linebacking corps is shallow to say the least.
They lost Jesse Callier for the season, and spent most of the game with 40 percent of their first-string offensive line out of the game.
And it’s not like this LSU team came from nowhere. Where they are now is a result of five years of Nick Saban followed by Les Miles, who is now in his eighth year. Comparing Sarkisian’s entry to Montlake coming of an 0-12 season is only a part of the story. Since Don James left the program the Huskies have been on a decline, albeit a gradual one until 2009 when Sark took over. Anyone who thought that the Huskies would be perennially competing for Rose Bowls in a division that includes a pre-sanction Oregon Ducks team is mistaken.
Sarkisian has won some impressive games, too. He’s beaten USC twice, Nebraska, ranked Oregon State and California teams, and gave Baylor about as tough a bowl victory as one can squeeze out.
It’s not that Sarkisian deserves a free pass. If the team isn’t significantly better this year he’ll either deserve to lose his job, or enter next year on the hot seat.
But the season is 12, hopefully 13 games long. Saturday was one game. The team spent a lot of money to bring in Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon, and Tosh Lupoi to improve the team’s defense, both on the field and in the living room.
And it’s not that Sarkisian doesn’t deserve some blame for the struggles of Nick Holt, who he had a large hand in hiring. But they’ve assembled a hell of a coaching staff, have one of the better college quarterbacks in the country, and perhaps one of the most promising offensive minds as their head coach. Overreacting and calling for Sarkisian’s head after a bad loss to a team that is likely to contend for a national title is asinine.