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Why Are So Many Husky Games Coming Down to the Wire?

This is Part I of a two part series analyzing whether all these final second finishes in the Steve Sarkisian Era are a result of him being a great 4th quarter coach or the team just being lucky. In Part I, we’ll recap all the late game finishes and go into deeper analysis next time.

30 seconds left, Cal is at the 2-yard line after a long 18 play/91 yard drive that included three 3rd down conversions and a 4th down conversion along the way. Yet again, for the third time in four games, the Washington Huskies took a game down to the final seconds before the victor was decided. This time, it was an errant throw by Zach Maynard on 4th down that decided the game after two run stops at the 1-yard line by the much maligned Husky defense.

These types of games seem to be a recurring theme of the Steve Sarkisian era don’t they? Heart attacks, nail-biting, final second finishes seem to be Sark’s forte. But, the question is, is Steve Sarkisian (and to some extent Nick Holt) a great 4th quarter coach to pull out so many late victories or keep the Huskies in these games until the end, or have the Huskies just been getting lucky?

I detailed in a previous post how the Huskies seem to win the close games and get blown out in the losses. But, I think it is worth examing the details a little more closely to see why this pattern of close games keeps happening. Steve Sarkisian is now 15-14 as Husky head coach. Let’s look and see just how many of these games have been decided in the final minutes. I looked back at all 29 games and determined which ones were still undecided with under 2:00 minutes left in the game.

I found a total of 14 games where it was decided in the final two minutes or went into overtime. In those games, the Huskies are 9-5. That is nearly 50% of the games that have been played since Steve Sarkisian took over that have come down to the wire. But, it is 60% of his total victories. Even more significant is that the Huskies are 7-1 in the last eight games that have been decided at the very end!

Despite only losing by only 8-points (one TD) to LSU in Steve Sarkisian’s first game, I did not include that in the analysis. It is true that UW was only down 8 points (24-16) with 2-minutes left in the game, but LSU was completing a long drive that would result in a touchdown seconds later to go up by 15. By the time the Huskies finally went down to score that last touchdown, the clock struck zero and the game was essentially decided prior to that anyways.

2009

9/19/2009: USC- Erik Folk hits a 22-yard field goal as time expires to be #3 USC 16-13.

10/3/2009: Notre Dame- Erik Folk hits a 30-yard field goal with 6 seconds left to tie it at 30-30 before Notre Dame goes on to win it in overtime 37-30. This game will always be remembered for the two goal line stands that Washington could not score a TD from 1 yard out, including that 6-play goal line stand with just 7-minutes left in the game.

10/11/2009: Arizona- Immaculate Interception…That is all you have to say. Mason Foster grabs the ball off the foot of the receiver, runs it back for a Pick-6 to give the Huskies the lead. Desmond Trufant intercepts Nick Foles with 36-seconds left to seal the deal at 36-33.

10/17/2009: Arizona State- With just seconds left and the score tied at 17-17, it looked like the game was headed to overtime. Then, inexplicitly Danny Sullivan heaves a ball straight down the middle of the field to a wide open Chris McGaha for a 50 yard touchdown pass with just 5 seconds left for the win.

11/7/2009: UCLA- Down by just 1 point, 24-23, the Huskies were driving. With just one minute left, they had advanced to the UCLA 46 yard line before Jake Locker threw an interception to seal the win for UCLA. 

2010

9-4-2010: BYU- Down by only 6, Jake Locker lead the Huskies down to the BYU 27 yard line before throwing an incompletion on 4th down with 1:51 left in the game to give BYU the victory.

10/6/2010: USC- In a repeat of 2009, Erik Folk hit a game winning field goal as time expired from 32-yards out for the 32-31 victory. That was after USC had missed a field goal that hit the uprights with 2:27 left in the game.

10/16/2010: Oregon State- It took double overtime to decide this game with the Beavers. After the teams traded touchdowns in the first OT, Washington scored first in the 2nd OT. After Oregon State answered with another touchdown by Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State decided to go for the 2-point conversion and the victory. Fortunately for the Huskies the pass was incomplete and UW won 35-34.

11/27/2010: California- Jake Locker lead the Huskies on yet another final minute drive as the Huskies decided to go for the win on the final play of the game, rather than the game-tying field goal that would have sent it into overtime. With one yard to go and 2 seconds left, Chris Polk ran it in for the 16-13 victory.

12/3/2010: Washington State- In yet another wild Apple Cup, the Washington Huskies scored a TD on a pass from Jake Locker to Jermaine Kearse with just 44 seconds left to take a 35-28 lead. But, the Cougars strolled down the field and appeared poised to score a game tying touchdown. But, time ran out on the Cougars and Jeff Tuel’s final desperation pass fell incomplete for the Husky victory.

2011

9/3/2011: Eastern Washington- In a game that should not have been close, except that the Husky secondary can not stop the passing attack, Eastern Washington had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Down 30-27, Eastern decided to go for the win on the road rather than set up for a potential game-tying field goal to send it into overtime. But, Bo Levi Mitchell’s pass into the end zone with 29 seconds left was intercepted by Desmond Trufant to save the Huskies from an embarrassing loss.

9/10/2011: Hawaii- In a shootout that once again showed the vulnerability of the Husky secondary, the Washington Huskies controlled the game, but could not put Hawaii away until late. With under three minutes to go, Hawaii recieved the ball at the Husky 27-yard line after Kiel Rasp’s odd -5 yard punt that hit the back of another player. Hawaii scored quickly to make it 38-32. But, on the extra point attempt, it was blocked for the 2nd time that day and Desmond Trufant ran it back for a defensive 2-point conversion to give the Huskies the 40-32 lead with 1:39 left in the game. Only after the Huskies recovered the onside kick could they breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, this is just a cursory look back at the last 2 1/3 seasons under Steve Sarkisian. If you can recall another game that came down to the wire that I forgot about, please go ahead and include that in the comments section!

So, what does this recap all mean? I’ll go into more analysis in Part II of this series on whether all these nerve-racking finishes are the result of great coaching by Steve Sarkisian or the inability to put the games away earlier.

Tags: Arizona State Sun Devils Arizona Wildcats California Golden Bears Chris Polk Desmond Trufant Eastern Washington Eagles Erik Folk Hawaii Warriors Jake Locker Keith Price LSU Tigers Mason Foster Nick Holt Steve Sarkisian UCLA Bruins USC Trojans Washington Huskies Washington State Cougars

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