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Steve Sarkisian By One Metric

Steve Sarkisian's record in one score games: How has he done?

Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

You've probably heard it said that in football, close games are decided by coaching. It gets said from time to time, but we don't really think about it too much. We just accept it. Intuitively though, it makes sense. When you have two teams that are similarly talented, coaching often is the tipping factor. When you have two teams that are close in a game one good or bad decision -- whether going for it on 4th, kicking a field goal or not, or simply what play to call -- can and often will sway the result.

So, with Steve Sarkisian having been the head coach at the University of Washington for over 3 seasons now, and having just won a game that was decided by 1 possession it seems like a good time to look at how the Huskies have performed in such close games.

Starting in 2009, the results have been as follow:

L vs LSU 23-31

W vs USC 16-13

L @Notre Dame 30-37 (OT)

W vs Arizona 36-33

L @Arizona State 17-24

L @UCLA 23-24

Alright, this is not off to great start for coach Sark. Keeping it close against a clearly superior LSU team in his inaugural game was a pleasant surprise and upsetting #3 USC was bliss, but the Notre Dame game was infuriating (thanks refs!), the Arizona game was as big a fluke as you'll ever see, and the Arizona and UCLA games were meltdowns. If not for Aaron Corp starting at USC and a miracle kick save to Mason Foster, Sark could have been looking at 0-6 after year one. Yikes.

Onward, to 2010:

L @BYU 17-23

Bad start, but...

W @USC 32-31

W vs OSU 32-31 (2OT)

W @Cal 16-13

W @WSU 35-28

Now he's cooking with gas. To 2011!:

W vs EWU 30-27

W vs Hawaii 40-32

W vs Cal 31-23

And 2012:

W vs Stan 17-13

Which brings us to a grand total of 10-5. That's a pretty good record in close games for any coach, but the impressive thing is when you look at the past three seasons and Sark has posted an 8-1 record, including 8 straight victories in one score games. There is often talk in football (college especially) about how a program needs to "learn how to win", and if that is true at all then this is data to support it. Coming off of a winless season, the team struggled to win close games, and gained confidence as they experienced more success.

Sure, there's the argument that some of these games shouldn't have been close to begin with (EWU, notably) but for each of those games there's an upset over a top 10 team. And even though you'd like to win every game by 40, there's still something to be said for beating those lesser opponents, because those games often go the other way. And no, you can't always attribute close wins entirely to coaching because there are always other factors at work (one of the reasons we love football -- all the moving parts and variables on every play), but you can't discount it entirely either.

If you want to call it luck that Mason Foster was right there to grab that ball and run it in for a touchdown, yes, luck was a big part, but games aren't won or lost on one play. Even when one play takes the lead or gives it away, there are still a ton of events that had to happen to get the team there. And nobody has a bigger hand in them than the head coach. And as of right now, it looks like Steve Sarkisian is doing his fair share to put the Huskies in position to win more than their share of games that could go either way.