Commentary: Six wins in a row is still six wins
Saturday, September 10, 2011
SEATTLE — Pssst, want to know a secret?
A little closer.
Now listen carefully: Washington has a six-game winning streak.
After a 40-32 victory Saturday over Hawai’i, after improving to 2-0 following a four-game winning streak to end last year, after holding on down the stretch for the second week in a row … the Huskies have won six straight games.
Now, as winning streaks go, this might be like the Harlem Globetrotters rather than the UCLA Bruins. The Huskies beat three teams with losing records to close the 2010 regular season, and they defeated lower-division Eastern Washington and lesser-pedigree Hawai’i to start this year.
Even the Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska last December comes with an asterisk, considering how desperately the Cornhuskers wanted to be anywhere other than San Diego.
But six wins is six wins, and they are important for a program that not all that long ago lost 15 in a row.
“It’s great to be 2-0, obviously,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Now that we’re in Year 3, I think we’ve seen about every scenario that taxes us mentally.
“All in all, great win, good win, love being 2-0. But the reality is there’s still so much room for improvement.”
Yes there is.
After facing against offenses that like to spread the field and play hot potato with the football the past two weeks, the Huskies’ defensive statistics look like they have been matched up against Tom Brady. On Saturday, Hawai’i’s Bryant Moniz completed 31 of 45 passes for 333 yards.
And still Washington managed to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
“As I told the team, we have to get used to being up in the fourth quarter and what it means to close out the game,” Sarkisian said.
We’ll see about the getting used to being ahead. The Huskies are at Nebraska next week, and then they begin conference play.
But we won’t allow ourselves to be overly curmudgeonly about this whole thing. Washington hasn’t started 2-0 since 2007, and it hasn’t won six in a row since the 2001-02 seasons. For a program that was starving a couple years ago, this six-game winning streak is a delicious sandwich, if not quite filet mignon.
“I thought we played the brand of football that makes Husky Nation proud,” Sarkisian said. “They came out playing hard football, the brand of football that we are accustomed to playing.”
For Sarkisian, that means gritty, physical, hard-nosed football. Yet that is the area in which Washington still is lacking. That is the area in which the Huskies need to grow to get from second-tier bowl to Rose Bowl contender.
Washington smacked Hawai’i in the mouth in the first quarter, building a quick 21-0 lead behind a series of downfield passes. And then it let the Warriors get off the mat and come out swinging.
A vintage Washington team, a Top-15 or Top-10 team, would have built the big lead and spent the rest of the afternoon terrorizing Moniz. The Huskies aren’t quite there. Yet.
They have some exciting skill-position players, and a dynamic coach who is refreshing in his openness, and a passion and a flair for the game. They have come a long way in the past couple years, and the next step in the revival will be to collect some of what Keith Jackson used to call “the big uglies.”
And there’s nothing secret about that.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To “Like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian.”