The Jim Owens legacy

I don't know how many of you follow the obituaries, but football fans in our state had to take notice of the passing of 82-year-old Jim Owens.

He was the highly successful Washington Husky coach from the early 1960s and to 1974.

Owens brought Husky football alive when he won Rose Bowls in 1960 and 1961 with the purple and gold in the days of one-platoon football. Eleven guys strapped on the helmets and played both offense and defense back then.

Now, new head coach Steve Sarkisian is at the helm. Washington will begin the new season against Louisiana State on Sept. 5 in Husky Stadium riding a 14-game losing streak dating back to 2007.

Washington dominated the Pac-10 for the first 25 years of its existence but since 2002 the Huskies are 18-53 and no Division I football team is in greater need of a victory or two.

Where did it

all go wrong?

In the Jim Owens days, the Huskies were just plain tough as nails and mean, then came Don James with a no-nonsense approach to football. It was power football at its best and James took advantage of Husky Stadium in foul weather or good weather. The Huskies pounded other teams into submission. James surrounded himself with outstanding coaches and coached his staff, who, in turn coached the kids.

James left the program in a huff and Jim Lambright tried to fill big shoes and could not, then came Rick Neuheisel who moved away from the power game to the more open style of football, and Washington hasn't been the same since.

They tried to regain some stature when Neuheisel left in a gambling cloud, but Keith Gilbertson was not the answer and Tyrone Willingham did not recruit and develop players and those problems were glaring in light of last year's 0-12 season.

Washington's loss streak is the longest in Division I, they were last in stats, lost nine times by 10 or more points and five times lost by 34 or more.

Sark era

Can the former USC assistant coach turn Washington around? Let's hope so. Spring football was intense, but fun for the players.

I watched a couple of practices and there was no down time, it was run, run, run to different stations and coaches were very, very vocal and active and positive, by the way.

They now have a pro-style offense much like USC, as Sarkisian was offensive coordinator for the dominant Trojans.

He has learned, however, that he doesn't have the big studs the Trojans have to make that offense work.

The run and pass will be balanced. Junior quarterback Jake Locker says he likes the new staff and offense that will not rest so much on his shoulders to run and run and pass and pass and pass, as passing is not his strong suit.

Washington will be quicker on offense. The starting linemen have dropped more than 200 pounds among them during winter drills.

Before Locker was injured last year in mid-season, he was running for his life as the huge Husky line was beaten time and time again by swifter players on defense.

Defense has been revamped, the unit that finished last in Pac-10 yards allowed and sacks last year has a new leader in Nick Holt, who brings a lot of emotion to the defensive side of the ball from his days at USC.

A year ago it was painful to watch Washington.

If Locker can prove he can run a pro-style offense, the Dawgs will break that losing streak in week two when they host Idaho.

The next game, also at home, will be USC and that should fill Husky Stadium for the first time in a long time.

Games at Stanford and Notre Dame follow, and then it's home and away with Arizona, ASU, Oregon and UCLA with another trip to Oregon State and home for WSU and Cal.

Scooter Chapman can be reached via e-mail at

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