Monday, November 29, 2010

Winning The Right Way

A wild weekend for college football: Auburn's crazy comeback, Nevada's bursting of Boise State's bubble, Stanford's continued march toward immortality.

So leave it to me to focus on a game that got almost zero nationwide attention. I'd like to salute Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian for his all-in decision on the final play of U-W's 16-13 win at Cal.

The game matched a couple of disappointing Pac-10 teams simply hoping to salvage a mediocre season with a 6th win (and thus, a bowl game). Washington needed to beat Cal and also win next week's game against Washington State. Cal just needed to end its regular season by beating the Huskies in the final game before a massive renovation of Berkeley's crumbling Memorial Stadium.

Cal's anemic offense couldn't score a touchdown, yet the Bears clung to a 13-10 lead as Washington got the ball for the last time. Jake Locker's 46-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse put the ball deep in Cal territory and a game-tying field goal attempt seemed likely.

But the Huskies didn't settle for the crapshoot of overtime. Locker, playing with a broken rib, ran three times from inside the 10-yard line, and with 2 seconds left, the ball was still a foot away from the goal line. 4th and goal. Last play. Down 3 points.

And that's when Sarkisian called time, gathered the whole team in a giant huddle, and told the Huskies he was going for it. All or nothing. Win or lose, right here, right now.

Look: I'm a Cal fan. My grandfather played for the Bears back when they built Memorial Stadium, so I'd have been thrilled to see them win the last game in the old facility. But I absolutely love to see coaches let their players play.

Washington's Chris Polk barged into the end zone for the game-winning TD, and the Husky dogpile was an expression of pure joy. OK, maybe not the two best teams in America. Maybe not the best game of the weekend.

But for my money, as great an example of what college sports should be all about as you'll find anywhere. Bravo, Huskies. Bravo, Steve Sarkisian.

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