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Washington football: Steve Sarkisian's gutsy decisions coax the Huskies to upset Stanford

Steve Sarkisian's decisions to go for it on 4th down were the playcalls that launched the Washington Huskies to a huge 17-13 upset comeback victory over the Stanford Cardinal

Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Washington Huskies looked all but dead. It was 13-3 after a Stanford pick-six off a blown screen play, and considering the way the offenses had been moving the football, there was no real reason to think Washington can score twice.

Then Steve Sarkisian threw everything out there; the Washington head coach decided to go for it on 4th and 1.

The 4th and 1 part isn't so surprising. But on his own 39?

On paper, it was a baffling decision. Here was Stanford, one of the best run defenses in the country, facing a Washington offensive line that had struggled in keeping Keith Price upright and had barely been much better in getting the run going. If it backfires the game is almost essentially over, because even with Stanford's sputtering offense, you'd figure the Cardinal would have a high probability of scoring at least a field goal with just a few more yards, meaning two touchdowns would have been needed in 15 minutes.

But Sarkisian got Washington ready for the 4th and 1 playcall with incredible urgency. Up lined the Huskies before the end of the 3rd quarter against a slow to react Stanford defense. Then a Cardinal defender tripped up at the line, two Stanford linemen had trouble maintaining their footing, then an opening was available for Bishop Sankey to sneak through, and suddenly one backline defender was missing a tackle, and then the safety took a poor angle...

61 yard touchdown. Three point game. Anyone's game. Washington was back in this thing, and threw the pressure right back at Stanford.

In the 4th quarter Washington got the short field they needed, another 4th-and-1 conversion in their own territory, and took advantage of another defensive mistake to take the lead and notch the upset.

Sark gambled and won. So did Washington, now 3-1 and showing themselves as contenders in the Pac-12 North.

If Washington ends up doing great things these next few years, look at this moment as the one where Sarkisian turned Husky football back in the right direction. There was Washington, staggering back to .500 with Oregon and USC looming to land the death blows. But now the pressure is off, and suddenly the Huskies can start thinking about not only being a win or two away from being upset kings, but legitimate Pac-12 championship contenders.

Here was Sarkisian, daring his Washington offense to pick up one yard. It might be the first yard to something greater for Husky football, the first yard toward banishing a decade of underachieving in Seattle.