Steve Sarkisian isn’t one to pull any punches when it comes to trying to get through to his players.
So imagine when practice rolled around Tuesday for the University of Washington football team, and unsuspecting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins – already bummed over how his 2013 has started – was delivered a pointed message by his coach.
It surely wasn’t for the faint at heart. But it was effective.
Seferian-Jenkins played much more like the team’s superstar and future high NFL draft pick during the UW’s 56-0 victory over Idaho State at Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The junior from Fox Island led the Huskies with five receptions for 62 yards. One of them was his first touchdown of the season – a 6-yard pass from Keith Price in the second quarter – and 14th score of his career, tying him for ninth all-time in UW history with Anthony Allen and Fred Coleman.
Twice on the UW’s first drive, he was targeted, including the first play from scrimmage on an 8-yard completion. In fact, half of Price’s first eight passes went in the big man’s direction.
That was Sarkisian’s plan all along – to see where Seferian-Jenkins’ head was early on, and if his effort followed.
“We had one of those player-coach moments on Tuesday where we really challenged him – and I challenged him,” Sarkisian said. “I thought Austin did a tremendous job Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of really responding to the challenge about taking his game to the next level, and to catch up to where the rest of the team is at.”
Seferian-Jenkins nearly had his first touchdown late in the first quarter. He turned up the field on a short pass, bulled full speed ahead and crashed through two Idaho State defenders as he reached out toward the goal line on a 34-yard completion but was ruled just short of a score.
“I think (the referees) messed up – I want to see the replay,” Seferian-Jenkins said with a wry smile. “Jaydon (Mickens) sticks his little arms out there and gets a touchdown. I am 6-6, I should get that touchdown.”
Eventually the touchdown did come for Seferian-Jenkins – and with it, a whole lot of relief. He missed the Huskies’ opener against Boise State to serve a one-game suspension for his offseason arrest for driving under the influence, then was a non-factor last week at Illinois (three catches, eight yards).
“(In) Chicago, I was embarrassed by the way I played, and it really got to me and really bothered me,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Coach (Sarkisian) challenged me on Monday and Tuesday to come out and be a better football player, and I did. I think everyone saw that today. I think I played better.
“I think I answered the call.”
Cooper touchdown heartwarming
Eight different UW players scored touchdowns Saturday.
None had the overall impact of tailback Deontae Cooper’s 4-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Considering what his junior has been through – three season-ending knee surgeries in three years – Sarkisian said he made it a priority to try and get Cooper his first career TD.
“I wanted to get him in the end zone,” Sarkisian said. “I felt like he deserved it.”
As soon as Cooper crossed the goal line, the crowd erupted. So did cheers from the UW sideline.
“I knew it was going to be a special moment for me and my teammates and my coaches,” Cooper said. “They have seen me put all the hard work in, all the time through the injuries.”
Sarkisian said all eligible UW players saw action Saturday – 75 of them. ... With his 37-yard run on the first offensive series, running back Bishop Sankey went over 2,000 yards in his 28th career game. Only Hugh McElhenny (24) and Chris Polk (24) reached that mark faster. ... Defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Jamora) recorded his first sack since the 2011 opener against Eastern Washington. He suffered a season-ending knee injury that season. ... Lakes High product Jamaal Kearse picked up his first career sack with 12:17 to go in the third quarter. The 11-yard loss helped preserve the shutout as ISU kicker Brendon Garcia missed a 47-yard field goal.