Steve Sarkisian Faces Lane Kiffin When Washington Travels To USC

Back in the glory days of USC Football - before Reggie Bush forfeited his Heisman, Matt Leinart turned into a substantial NFL bust and Pete Carroll rode a golden parachute to the Seattle Seahawks - two fresh-faced assistant coaches, Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin, helped, Carroll put together the Trojan dynasty.

In 2006, the pair drew praise from ESPN's Pat Forde after they took over for departing offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

So the nation wondered how USC would do when Chow left for the NFL last winter. Especially when he was replaced by the youngest offensive coordinator in Division I-A, 30-year-old Lane Kiffin, and his 31-year-old sidekick, quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian.
Is this any way to replace a high priest? With a pair of altar boys?

As it turns out, yes. The Trojans haven't just survived without Chow. They have improved.

One year later, Gary Klein of the Los Angeles times noted that both Sarkisian and Kiffin were hot names on the coaching circuit.

USC's impressive Rose Bowl victory over Michigan has generated interest in Trojans assistant coaches Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin.

Sarkisian wound up at the University of Washington. Kiffin went to the NFL (briefly) before heading to Tennessee (briefly) and, flash forward to 2010, he has taken over the reigns as USC head coach.  

On Saturday, Washington will travel to Los Angeles to play USC, giving Sarkisian and Kiffin a chance to face off for the title of Pete Carroll's Favorite Son.

Greg Johns of the Seattle PI writes that Carroll plans to watch the match-up.

"I'm just excited for them," Carroll said Monday. "I'm thrilled for whatever these guys get done. I'm a little closer to the SC program than to the Washington program, but we'll be rooting for everybody."

"I think it'd be really interesting to watch the game and see how it goes and I'm going to make sure and see this one. I don't know if I'll get it on replay or whatever, but I'll see it.    

David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times writes that Sarkisian and Kiffin remain close.

Not that Saturday's matchup between USC and Washington is reason to cancel the weekly call. Kiffin and Sarkisian have been connected at the hip - or at least by telephone - since their days as fledgling assistants a decade ago.

"I'm sure we'll talk," Sarkisian said.

Kiffin explained: "Nothing changes."

Except, perhaps, the truthfulness of the conversation.

"We'll probably joke with each other about the plays we're going to run," Sarkisian said. "Just mentally mess with the other guy." 

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Sarkisian and Kiffin like to bounce ideas off of each other.

"Different thoughts, different ideas, different frustrations that maybe you don't want everyone else to see, but you can bounce it off him and he understands," said Sarkisian, Washington's coach.

Condotta also notes that Sarkisian quipped that he and Kiffin weren't the biggest storyline heading into Saturday's Pac-10 game.

Said Sarkisian at his weekly news conference Monday: "Fortunately for everybody involved, Lane and I aren't going to be blocking or tackling or running or throwing or catching Saturday. So we're all OK there. These are both jobs we thought were special ones, especially in the Pac-10. It's a unique experience, this early in our careers, to be facing each other in such a pivotal ballgame in the Pac-10 race."

Scott M. Johnson of HeraldNet.com notes that Sarkisian consider's Saturday's game a homecoming.

"Anytime you go home you want to perform well," said Sarkisian, who estimates to have 35 to 40 friends and family planning to attend Saturday's game at the L.A. Coliseum. "You've got your high school coach watching, your junior college coach is watching, and your buddy is watching, and your family is watching. So you want to make sure you put your best foot forward. That's about the extent of it."

One person who won't be on hand for Sarkisian's Saturday homecoming is his mother, writes Todd Miles of the Tacoma News Tribune.

Almost all of Sarkisian's family members, as well as many of his friends, will be in attendance Saturday - everybody except his mother, Sally, who has yet to watch her son coach for the UW in person.

"She doesn't like the crowds," Seb said. "She'd rather watch it at home."

Ted Miller of ESPN.com sums it up well: Friendships and shared history aside, Saturday's game is huge for Sarkisian, whose Huskies looked pathetic in a home loss to Nebraska prior to their bye week.

It's simple, Huskies. Win at USC, reclaim the season.     

And, for a day, reclaim that Trojan glory.

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