Even though it’s on to Apple Cup week, I couldn’t resist taking one last little look back at the Cal game for my story for today’s paper.
And as part of that story, I talked a little bit yesterday with former UW coach Don James, who as the story notes, didn’t watch the game, not realizing until too late that his cable system didn’t have it, instead relying on texts from his family, and then in the final minutes huddling near a speaker phone to get updates.
When I asked James what he would have done in that situation, he quickly noted that he was never in that exact situation since overtime didn’t come into play until 1996. James had a few ties in his time, and a couple, he said, were in situations were a tie helped the Huskies in terms of the conference race so that’s what he went ahead and played for (notably a 17-17 tie against UCLA in 1986 which kept the Huskies in the race, though they ended up second).
He also said that there’s so much that coaches know that those on the outside don’t that it’s impossible to be in the exact same shoes. In this case, that apparently turned out to be that Sarkisian knew he had a play on fourth down he was certain would work, and had in fact been setting it up since second down just in case.
Sarkisian said yesterday that while the decision was spur-of-the-moment — made once they got to the one — that it was also calculated in the sense that the minute he made the decision to go for it he also made the decision of what plays he would run next.
James said his first thought was that the offense had been struggling all day to move and maybe it was better to just try to win it there. “A lot of times you sit there and say ‘our best chance to win is right now,”’ he said.
I also asked James for a quick thought on the Apple Cup. He said he learned in his first game, in 1975 — the memorable UW comeback from 13 points down in the final three minutes — that anything is possible.
“We had won all of our conference games except Stanford and Cal, and we lost those by just field goals, and Jim Owens had left a lot of seniors — we were playing good,” James said. “And the Cougars (who would fire coach Jim Sweeney at the end of the year) had struggled towards the end. I told our team every year after that that ‘the team you see on Saturday will be a lot different than the team you see on film all week because they are playing you.’ We should have lost that game by three touchdowns but those were the breaks of the game. We didn’t deserve to win.”
Instead, UW rallied for a 28-27 win on the famous Warren Moon-to-Spider Gaines pass at the end.
James also told me that he spends all of his Saturday afternoons watching every college game he can since he remains one of the voters in the Legends Poll, a rating of the teams by retired coaches.
James said he continues to vote for Oregon as the No. 1 team in the country.
“I thought Auburn was very fortunate to win the Alabama game — if they (Alabama) don’t have that fumble and the guy catches that one ball, they should have had two more touchdowns,” James said.
IN OTHER NEWS. ….
— There’s snow on the ground in Pullman. But don’t expect another Snow Bowl.
— The game won’t split the Locker family.
— And WSU QB Jeff Tuel learned quickly how much the Apple Cup means to the Cougars.
— Here’s a WSU practice report as well as links from Vince Grippi.
— The Spokesman-Review has its first look at the game, and says the key matchup is that of Jake Locker vs. WSU’s linebackers.
— SportsChatPlace.com says to take the Cougars.
— The Eugene Register-Guard looks at possible coaching changes in the conference this year and has UW rated No. 4 in its weekly power poll.
— ESPN.com’s Ted Miller has a quick look at the Pac-10 games this week.
— Ken Goe has everything on the Civil War and more around the conference.
All for now.
November 30, 2010 at 9:18 AM
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.