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Originally published Monday, December 6, 2010 at 5:03 PM

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Bowl game is proof Washington football is moving in right direction, coach Sarkisian says

Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said he is pleased with the progress of the Huskies' football program in two years under coach Steve Sarkisian.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dec. 30

Holiday Bowl, Washington vs. Nebraska, 7 p.m., ESPN

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Two years to the day after he was announced as Washington's football coach, Steve Sarkisian began planning for a Holiday Bowl rematch with Nebraska.

And as he took a break from those duties to talk to reporters on Monday, Sarkisian said the bowl berth is tangible evidence the rebuilding process that started when he was hired on Dec. 6, 2008, is on track.

"I think that for our players and for this program, this is another step in the right direction," he said. "There have been a lot of things accomplished here in two years, whether it's road wins, wins in Los Angeles, Pac-10 wins to break streaks, as we've moved along. This is another one of those milestones."

Agreeing with that sentiment is Sarkisian's boss, UW athletic director Scott Woodward. Woodward hired Sarkisian as his first significant move after being named permanent AD.

"My philosophy is that I want a solid base foundation of building this program and I think we made a very, very good step forward in achieving postseason play," Woodward said. "He inherited an 0-12 season with a lot of unrest and Steve did a hell of a job last year to turning that around to a 5-7, very competitive football team. And this year we achieved that next step, which is postseason play. So from that standpoint I couldn't be more pleased.

"Do you want more wins? Of course you do. But we want this to be built on a solid foundation, which means solid coaching and solid character kids and great recruiting, and I see all of those things happening. And they need to continue happening, going forward."

Woodward said he felt the same way when UW was 3-6 a month ago, a time when some national observers were including the Huskies on their lists of most disappointing teams, and some Huskies fans were questioning the progress of Sarkisian's program.

"I had no doubts in my mind, even at 3-6," Woodward said, saying that even after disappointing losses "you have to look at the big picture." And that, he said, has been moving in the right path since day one, citing improved recruiting and the fact that "our kids were believing in what they were doing."

He said the comeback from 3-6 to a bowl berth "is a testament to the kids and the coaching job that coach Sarkisian and his staff did."

When he was hired, Sarkisian signed a five-year contract, which runs through the 2013 season. Woodward said it is possible that deal will be extended after the season. He said "sure," when asked if he would be amenable to giving Sarkisian an extension, but said that has not been discussed. "He and I will have that discussion at the appropriate time," Woodward said.

On Monday, Sarkisian was more concerned with figuring out a way to beat the Cornhuskers, whose 56-21 win over the Huskies in Seattle on Sept. 18 was one of the low points of the season.

Sarkisian said the Huskies are embracing the opportunity to have another shot at Nebraska and said, "I'd just like to go out and put our best foot forward."

Sarkisian said the bowl game was a proper reward for a senior class that he said had done all that was asked of it to help turn the program around, saying "this is a very special time" for them.

But he also said the work is far from done,

"We are going there to play a football game and to win the game," he said. "This isn't a vacation."

Notes

• RB Chris Polk was named the Pac-10's offensive player of the week after rushing for 284 yards — second-most in school history — in the Apple Cup win over Washington State. It's the first time he has won the award.

• Sarkisian said safety Sean Parker (out the past three games with a stinger) and DE Talia Crichton (out the past six with a knee injury) could be back for the bowl game.

• WR Cody Bruns will miss the Holiday Bowl with a broken clavicle. His duties as holder on field goals will be taken by walk-on WR William Chandler of Skyline High.

• UW is off this week before returning to practice on Friday. The team will travel to San Diego on Dec. 23.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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