In the wake of what Stanford did against the Huskies Saturday — rush for 321 yards, many out of the same basic power running formations — UW coach Steve Sarkisian said today he expects opponents to take the same approach until Washington proves it can stop it.
“Oh, we’ll get it,” Sarkisian said., “There is no doubt we’re going to get it. People should run it at us until we prove we can stop it. And I believe we will. I believe we would have stopped it last week had we just lined up and tackled the guy. We weren’t able to do it. To their credit they hung with it and kept doing it. Sometimes offensive coaches can run something that looks good and you’re thinking in your mind ‘they are going to figure that out, let’s do something else.’ They kept doing it and we really didn’t stop it. We’re going to see it again and we’ve got to be able to stop it. It’s just like any other plays that you get that are successful against you. You’re going to get it week in and week out until you stop it.”
Here’s more on UW’s run defense woes.
And here are a few more comments from Sarkisian from his press conference today:
Opening statement: “The beauty of the 24-hole rule is that it applies to losses just like it does to wins for us. We’re moving on. It was obviously a tough loss at Stanford. It was a game we could have very easily one. We didn’t perform to our standards. But the beauty of football is you get to play again in seven days. We’ve got to get ourselves for a very tough opponent in Notre Dame – a great coaching staff, and very talented team, a team that plays with a lot of resolves, that battles and competes for four quarters. So we’ll get ready, and we’ll play hard.”
What the film showed of the Stanford game: “I saw a game of missed opportunities. It was one offensively, the first drive we went right down the field, and threw a pick on the 1-yard line. You get the ball back again, you go right down the field, you have a third-and-1, you fumble the snap. You score on your next series. You start the second half on your 14-yard-line, you drive down to the 33 with a missed opportunity on a fourth-and-5, a play I think we can execute, and didn’t. We get the ball again, drive down the field, have a makable third down, a makable fourth down, tipped ball and the ball gets knocked down. Defensively, missed opportunities. We could have gotten off the field. As well as they ran the ball, especially early, there was opportunities on a couple third down occasions where we’re hitting him in the backfield, and he’s able to break the tackle and get a first down to keep a drive alive. The most notable one, when we cut the game to 17-14 with 10:05 left in the second quarter, they have almost an eight-minute drive for a touchdown where they make two third downs that are just, one, missed assignments, and two, the ability to tackle a guy in the backfield. To me, that’s a missed opportunity. So when you look at the game from that standpoint, I feel we missed a beautiful opportunity to play the way we’re capable of playing, on the road to get a tough Pac-10 win. We didn’t do it, we didn’t capitalize on it.”
On the missed tackles: “You need to go into a game and you need to give a guy respect for the way he runs. But that doesn’t change the way we tackle. I thought we went in, ‘Man, Toby Gerhart is a great runner,’ which he is and he’s physical, but I don’t think we used the technique that I know we can use. We had guys that were going much lower than they’ve ever gone, and we missed. We had other guys who were trying to hit him and not wrap him up. We’re a team that has wrapped up extremely well. That’s why we’ve been able to play so successful in the red zone against teams that have moved the ball, because we do wrap up, we do tackle well. We didn’t do that this week.”
On causes for bad tackling: “There is some of that (missing tackles in space). They did a nice job with some of their motions and shifts. We need to clean up our communication on our alignments. Ultimately, the game comes down to fundamentals. You need to tackle on defense, and we need to block on offense. I don’t think we blocked very well offensively, either. That is the fundamental aspect of football that comes to play when it gets down to a game like that one was. We knew they were going to run the ball, fit our gaps and tackle. And offensively, we had to take the heat off of Jake. It wasn’t his best performance, he’d be the first one to tell you. And to that, you’ve got to be able to run the ball. And to be able to run the ball, you’ve got to be able to block the right people.”
On the kickoff to start the game: Bottom line, we were supposed to kick the ball to the left, and we kicked it to the right. Our coverage unit was expecting the ball to be kicked left, we kicked it right. By the time we realized the ball was kicked right, he was already at the 35 running back the other way.
Why the kickoff went that way: “I think he just mishit it.
Bad fundamentals in tackling: “We need to address them, one, and understand it wasn’t about our letdown, it wasn’t that we weren’t emotionally ready, it wasn’t that we didn’t understand the game plan. This is a physical game. Ultimately, all the expertise that can go into it, all of the scientific stuff that goes into it – breakdowns, film study and everything that goes into it – the bottom line when a guy has the ball in his hands, and you’re there, we have to tackle him. So we’ll address is this week, and obviously the intensity that we practice in and have them understand it’s not OK to line up right, but then not make a play. We’ll address it. And I think our kids understand it. They’ve been very good. They didn’t want to miss the tackle. They didn’t want to block the wrong person. We’ve got to get right. We didn’t want to throw it to the other team. We’ll get right.”
On Kavario Middleton: “He’s done OK. I think Kavario is a guy, he’s a young sophomore. In a lot of programs, I think he’d be a redshirt freshman. So there’s a roller coaster type factor there. He can play really well at times, and there are times he can make mistakes that he has a tendency to hang and carry with him for a couple plays. The challenge for us, as a football staff, is football’s football. Not every play is going to be perfect. But when that play’s over, we’ve got to be able to re-focus. With Kavario, that’s something that he’s working through, the challenge of: the play’s over, next snap. I think he’ll do that. He’s only, in the future, going to get stronger, mentally and physically, and that’s going to help his game immensely.”
On how the coaches will handle the problem issues of Saturday with the players: “We’ll take it on head on. We’ll address it as far as we need to know where we screwed up. We need to know why it happened and what happened. And that’s what today’s about, getting to the truth of the game. That’s the first thing. Then once you get to the truth, you have to fix what needs to be fixed. And then the third thing is, we need to implement what we think is going to be successful to go beat Notre Dame with. For me, the way I look at it: 1) this is what went wrong guys; 2) let’s fix it, and how it gets fixed is going to vary from position to position; and then 3) here is our game plan; let’s go execute.”
On wanting to get more running backs involved: “We do. I know I come up here and say it every week, and you guys are probably thinking: man, he’s just saying it. It’s just a hard thing to do when you’re not going the way you want to go, and the momentum of the game. I think if we would’ve went down and scored a couple touchdowns, it’s a lot easier to get Demitrius (Bronson) in the game, or Curtis Shaw or someone of that fold. We threw Demitrius in there for a couple of snaps. But it’s just hard to do when you’re trying to get the=2 0rhythm of the game back in your favor. I think it’ll be a lot easier, if we can keep going, to get those guys in.
On the team being physical: “We’re playing physical football. It’s not that we’re not playing physical football; we are playing physical. And we’re playing with great effort. But ultimately, it comes down to the technique side of the game. When it’s time to tackle, it’s about wrapping up and bringing the feet and getting the guy down. And when it comes to blocking, it’s having good pad level, locking on a guy and finishing blocks. So it’s not about our heart; it’s not about our effort. It’s just about our technique, and we’ve got to clean it up.”
On Cort Dennison, who may replace E.J. Savannah if Savannah is out: “Oh, yeah, Cort’s a good football player. Cort’s played good football for us. He’s been a guy we’ve put in games in critical moments, and he’s done nothing but play really well. He’s played really good football. So we’re OK with that. I think something we saw on the last drive of the game is Josh Gage went in and had four tackles on the last drive; he played really well. So I think our depth is coming at the linebacker spot, which we’re going to need. We can’t rely on Donald (Butler), Mason (Foster) and E.J. to play every snap of the season. Other guys have to go in the game and make their plays.”