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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 21, 2009 at 4:39 PM

A few comments from Sark

Here are a few highlights from Steve Sarkisian’s meeting with the media today:
Opening statement: You guys enjoyed anything lately the last couple days? It’s been obviously a lot of excitement in the air. I think well-deserved for a lot of people involved in this – for our community, for our university, for our athletic department, for our kids, for our football team, for our coaches, I think it’s been a long time coming. Hopefully we’re seeing the benefits of it. I know our ticket-office phone is ringing off the hook, I know a lot of supporters are involved that have been around the program are excited. Hopefully we can keep that excitement and that energy going. That was something we were hoping to get accomplished when we first got going here. I now understand it takes a win like this to really generate that and get it going. I think that’s occurred now. The obvious challenges are we can refocus, we can lock back in and understand the value of preparation, understand the value of practice to get ready for a very tough opponent in Stanford on the road – our first road game, our first road conference game, for a team that we’re playing against we’re tied with atop the Pac-10 standings. A very physical team, a very well-coached team, so there is a lot that goes into this week. It’s going to be challenging on myself, challenging on our coaching staff, challenging on our kids to get to that level of focus as quickly as possible so we can have the best week of preparation we’ve had all year.
On Stanford’s defense: I see one, a very physical front seven. There’s a lot of familiar names up there on that front seven, with (Ekom) Udofia, Erik Lorig, with (Will) Powers, with (Clinton) Snyder. I feel like a couple of the guys have been longer than four years. I don’t know, I’ve got to check on that with coach Harbaugh. … In the back end, they have become more athletic. Bo McNally is still back there, and he’s the leader and a very physical player. You add Delano Howell, you get Richard Sherman over there, you get Corey Gatewood over there, these guys are more athletic and it’s allowing them to play a little more man coverage than they have in the past. And they present some real issues because they can keep the box loaded up with eight-man front stuff and two back, or seven-man front stuff and one back and be able to play some man-to-man on the outside.
On whether Stanford’s defensive backfield is vulnerable: I don’t know how vulnerable the secondary has been. I think what they’ve done here in all three of their games, they’ve jumped on opponents very early, whether it was Washington State, whether it was Wake Forest, they jumped out 17-0, and obviously last week vs. San Jose State. What happens when you get ahead, the other teams starts throwing the ball more. The numbers can be sometimes misleading. I’m not as concerned by the fact they’re giving up some yardage in the back end instead of the fact they start very quickly – on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to get ourselves prepared for a fast-paced, energetic first quarter coming from the Stanford Cardinal.
What about this team made USC upset possible: Well, I saw a team that was willing. We asked them to do a lot of things, on and off the field, to make some sacrifices, to changes some habits and they’ve been extremely willing. Everything we’ve asked these kids to do, they’ve responded. They’ve given us everything they had. That, in and of itself, tells you there’s possibilities, because they’re trying. Are we perfect? By no means are we perfect. But our kids are playing hard, and giving us everything they have and that’s a great trait.
Any turning points along the way?: I think daily. The more things we asked them to do – the way we practiced, the way we prepare, some of the things we’re doing schematically, these guys have bought in. They’ve bought into the physicality that we want to play with, they’ve bought into the tempo and the urgency that we like to practice with. In turn, they’ve understood how that can correlate and translate into playing well on Saturday. To me, that is the biggest thing that we’re seeing.
On the play where it looked like Jake Locker could have run for a TD and instead threw incomplete in the end zone — is that a residue of the play to have him stay in the pocket more?: Well it is. We’ve obviously hammered home the fact that we would like him to stay in the pocket and stay with the progression and keep his vision. When you look at the film you go ‘dang it why didn’t he run, it’s a touchdown for him.’ But that’s part of the process. That’s part of decision-making and making decisions in a hostile game and a lot of stuff going on against a very good defense. There are always plays from a players standpoint and a coaches standpoint where you make decisions split second decisions that sometimes you would love to have back. And I’m sure he would love to have that one back. But we will learn from it and move forward.
On Jermaine Kearse and what has changed to get him on the field more since the LSU game: It was just the wide receiver rotation and some of the personnel groupings we had in the game didn’t allow him the opportunities in that first game against LSU to make a lot of plays. So we adjusted some things to make the reps where he is on the field more and it’s showing up that he’s a playmaker. He made a nice play there at the end of the second quarter on a nice ball from Jake and did it again in the fourth quarter with two big catches on that last drive. He definitely has big-play ability. He has the ability to go up and catch the football. He’s got great leaping ability, nice hand-eye coordination, and we’ve just got to continue to use all those guys. It’s a deep receiving corps and they bring different things to the table and we need to utilize them.
On the sideline interference penalty against Nick Holt: Well we’ve just got to be smart. He didn’t see the official was behind him is what happened and a lot of times when you stay behind the play, the officials are out of your way and it’s okay to come out a little bit. What happened was the official was behind the play too and moved with the football and bumped into Nick and that’s how the penalty occurred we just need to understand our surroundings and enhance our spatial awareness on the sidelines knowing what is going on around us.
On wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty: Jimmie’s got a good feel for the game. I like having a quarterback in that position because he’s not just teaching the position of wide receiver he’s teaching them the game. In our offense it’s key to understand zone defenses, man defenses, how the quarterback is reading the play, how to run the route to time up so we have a rhythm passing attack, and I think Jimmie has done a great job with those kids. They have responded extremely well in all areas. Something they did really well in this game that might get overlooked is their ability to block downfield. They were physical with a physical defensive back team and they just keep getting better. They just keep growing.
Was there any special message for the offense before that last drive?: I wanted them to understand and savor the moment. We just talked about there is four minutes left, it’s a tie game with SC, we are at Husky Stadium, the crowd is rocking, everybody in the country is watching this, man, let’s take it in and smile and enjoy it. And then let’s go execute. And so much for my speech we went out and took a 12-yard sack the first play. They performed well. They battled, they executed beautifully. To go in knowing we wanted that to be the last drive of the game and for it to happen the way it happened was huge.
On the issue of letdowns and how to avoid them: I want our kids to get used to the arena that we are in right now because this is where we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be playing big games and when you get used to and comfortable in that arena that’s when letdowns don’t occur that you feel comfortable where you are at you don’t get caught looking at the last game, you enjoy why we won the last game and relish in the moment and then realize man I want to enjoy that same feeling again so let prepare really well so we can get back to that point. I think as we keep moving forward we will get more comfortable in these arenas and we just need to keep talking through it and understand what we are trying to get accomplished.
On what he told Erik Folk before the last kick: Nothing. Let him go kick it. Just go kick the ball and you know, ultimately a kicker is out there sometimes because other guys screwed up. If we are kicking a field goal maybe Jake screwed up, the O-line screwed, maybe I made a bad call. So don’t worry about making a mistake and go kick the ball.
Did you know it was good immediately?: I like to see the hands go up in the air, that makes me feel better.
On Chris Polk: A really, really great effort. Those were some of the best 71 yards on 25 carries I’ve ever seen. It was not flashy — on paper it was not flashy. But he ran hard and he ran through tough tackles he took care of the football on some plays where we were getting hit in the backfield and held onto the ball which was huge and allowed us to maintain a management style of game which was able to work the clock and keep their team off the field and limit them to 55 plays which I thought was critical.
Is there any concern that Polk is being used too much?: Yeah it is. I just felt in that game the way they were playing on defnse he needed to be the guy carrying the ball . We are going to assess it this week. I think Demitrius Bronson is getting more healthy with his shoulder to where he might be able to handle some of that power running stuff that’s going on inside. We have to utilize Johri more and obviously Curtis and Willie. Ideally no I don’t want him carrying 25 times a game all year because the pounding you take all year you just don’t last in my opinion so we are looking to spread that out more.
On rotating the safeties in earlier games and not doing it against USC: I thought they were playing well.Early on in that game when they were running through big holes and it’s Joe McKnight and (Stanley) Havili and Staffon Johnson, I was proud of Nate (Williams) and Justin (Glenn) to make those tackles in the open field because those could have easily been touchdowns of 70 or more like we see in football all the time. Those two guys tackled welland I felt like they were the best two tackles in space. To Nick’s credit and to Jeff Mills’ credit they stuck with those guys and they did a great job open field tackling. It allowed us to settle down and stay in the game and paid dividends for us.
On USC’s three and outs in the second quarter after what happened early: It’s a credit to Nick and our defensive staff to not panic and not go with calls that could have got us out of position. We went right back to the basics of calling our defense the way we know how to do it. I think we got our run fits better and then we tackled. We tackled and not only did we tackle, we tackled the football and that showed up. The ball was out more than the turnovers that occurred. Quinton Richardson’s tackle on the big run by McKnight to force that fumble we could have easily recovered. The ball was out in that game we did a nice job in our zone defense of getting after the football in the pass game. I thought the emphasis was out there to get after the football and I thought that showed up and I thought that caused them to play a little more tentatively on their end.
Did anyone ever try to talk you out of thinking this could turn around quickly? I don’t think anyone wanted to get into that conversation with me. I think everyone’s just kind of jumped on board and it’s a mind set, it’s a belief and I truly believe it. It’s not just press conference talk, it’s a belief. I don’t think it’s going to take us very long. But by no means we are not here yet. We’re not here yet. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of room for improvement. What was encouraging for me to go out and upset USC in that game and to know we didn’t play great. We played hard and with great effort but we didn’t play a great football game. It didn’t take some superhuman effort from Jake Locker or Chris Polk or Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. We just played football hard and with great effort but we can execute a lot better than we did.

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