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Sarkisian Says UW Fell Just Few Plays Shy of Being CFP Team

The Texas football leader coached for five seasons in Montlake.
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Hearing his news-conference introduction, Steve Sarkisian cringed when an Alamo Bowl official on Thursday recited in great detail his previous visit to the San Antonio postseason game as the University of Washington football coach.

Eleven years earlier, Sarkisian and the Huskies lost 67-56 to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears in the highest-scoring bowl game on record, one that came with repercussions.

Things got so out of hand defensively that day, Sarkisian was pressured to fire defensive coordinator and good friend Nick Holt once everyone returned home from Texas. 

"You've got to remind me of that 2011 game?" Sarkisian said after the Alamo rep finished his spiel.

Actually the second-year Texas coach might be staying up late and wondering if his Longhorns can slow down a Kalen DeBoer-coached UW team and its prolific quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who currently leads the nation in passing with 4,354 yards. 

Sarkisian had the highest praise for the DeBoer's wide-open offense that averages 40.8 points and 521.7 total-offense yards per game. The scoring output is tied for fourth nationally with Alabama and the yardage ranks second only to Tennessee, all of which has brought the Huskies a sparkling 10-2 season.

"I'm watching the tape and, man, a couple plays here and there, and they're in the college football playoff," Sarkisian gushed. "The reality is a great challenge for us."

But similar to the Sarkisian of 2011, the current one needs to find a secondary that can get in the way of some of Penix's passes.

"They score a lot of points," the Longhorns coach said. "They throw it around. I wish I could do a clinic with Coach DeBoer. They score on everybody. It doesn't matter the helmet. It doesn't matter who they're playing."

While that previous Alamo Bowl was 11 years ago, Sarkisian resigned from the UW in 2013 after five seasons to take the USC job under circumstances that don't happen often in Montlake.

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He's one of just three people in the UW football program's 133 seasons to use the Husky head-coaching job as a stepping stone to another, joining Gil Dobie, who left for Navy in 1916, and Darrell Royal, who was hired by Texas in 1956.

Every other Husky football leader from Don James to Chris Petersen either retired or got fired.

"My time at Washington was one that I'll never forget," Sarkisian said of his first head-coaching job at any level. "Special time, special place. That place was incredible. The fan base was incredible. I don't take it lightly."

He was hired to fix the 0-12 mess in 2008 left by Tyrone Willingham, who was let go after four dismal seasons. 

Sarkisian coached the Huskies to four winning records out of five and four bowl games while compiling a 33-29 coaching ledger. He was replaced by Petersen and went 0-1 against the UW while with the Trojans, losing 17-12 in 2015.

"You hope you leave a place better than you found it," Sarkisian said. "I think we did that. Coach DeBoer has done a fantastic job with that program. In the end, do I think it was better than when I got there? I think so."

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