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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 20, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Sark bites — Post-Nebraska edition

Here is what UW coach Steve Sarkisian had to say at his weekly Monday press luncheon today (though first, a note that Sarkisian will have his own coaches show on KJR-AM today at 4:30 p.m., and will be a guest of Kevin Calabro and Jim Moore on 710 ESPN Seattle today at 3:30 p.m.:
Opening statement: “It’s been 48 hours now and as you guys know we have the 24-hour rule so we are trying to move on. Obviously a disappointing loss on a lot of fronts. We touched on part of this after the ball game. I know we are better than the way we performed and I think our kids understand that. Some things that were disappointing, the missed tackles were disappointing. We are a better tackling football team than that. I thought in the second half there were moments there that we lacked the competitive nature that this program prides itself on, and I was disappointed in that. That will never happen again. You will see us compete for 60 minutes I can promise everybody that. And the overall efficiency on offense was disappointing. Everybody’s going to say ‘well what’s the matter with Jake Locker.’ It’s beyond Jake Locker the way we performed Saturday. It starts with me and what we are calling and what we are doing. Comes to our ability to pass protect and our ability to run routes to get open and then ultimately our ability to throw the ball and catch the ball. I understand everybody wants to see Jake perform at such a high level, as we do too. But we’ve all got to do our part to supply him with the support needed to make that happen.”
On how he noticed the competitive nature lacking: “I’ve seen our guys compete more than they competed. It’s one thing to make a mistake in alignment or assignment. It’s one thing to potentially miss a tackle. But we grade effort first and our ability to battle and compete first and I thought there were at times guys not performing with the same competitive nature that I’ve seen before and that’s not okay.”
Was it just in the fourth quarter?: “I thought there were some lapses here and there but third and even into the fourth and ultimately that’s on me. That’s a mindset that we have to continue to embrace that we are going to compete, it doesn’t matter what the score is or what we are playing, what uniforms we are wearing, who we are playing against. Our ability to compete is something we pride ourselves on and we didn’t do that, in my opinion, especially in the second half Saturday.”
Have you ever seen that before?: “I haven’t. That’s the first time I saw that.”
Did that start with the last drive of the first half? “I think there’s something to that. When we created the turnover to score to make it 14-7, I believe (actually, 21-14) there was 5:18 on the clock there and we had an opportunity to really change the complexion of that game and they put together a drive where they really kind of just ran the football down our throat and we didn’t respond in the manner that I think we should have. And I don’t think it was because guys weren’t battling at that point. I think we got a little consumed with staring at the quarterback and worried about the quarterback running and we lost sight of the fact that they were running inside zone right at us and we’ve got to fit the run better than we did. We got consumed with staring at the quarterback and we needed to, we needed to be alert to him, but that was a responsibility for one guy in this game and not 10 or 11 guys. They hurt us right down the middle or our defense and the middle of the defense has been a strength of ours and they attacked it and hurt us with it and I think that did to some degree have a little bit of an effect on us. It had an effect definitely on the game. To go up by two scores right there took a little bit of the wind out of our sails that we built up to cut the lead to seven.”
Is any of that due to the score? “Sure it does but there are no excuses. We are going to battle, we are going to compete and being around the program enough, seeing us in ballgames, we haven’t been ahead obviously in every football game but we have battled. We have battled from day one here, whether it was LSU, whether it was Oregon, even late in the game against Oregon State when we didn’t play very well on the road I thought our kids competed to the last snap of the game and I don’t know if we did that Saturday and that’s on me and that will not happen again, trust me.”


On how Jake Locker was feeling today: “Ready to go, I think, is the best way to put it. I was actually planning on … generally in a bye week, the starting quarterback gets Monday off, and he made it a point to come into my office and say, ‘Coach, I’m practicing today.’ And that’s who he is. He’s a tremendous competitor, he’s hungry, he’s got a bad taste in his mouth and he just wants to get right and play football. I think he wishes we were playing again tomorrow, and unfortunately we’ve got to wait here a couple weeks.”
On what Locker did wrong Saturday: “There were some throws there that he’d like to have back. There were some decisions there that he’d like to have back. But I can help him through that process – 1, with the play calls that we call, to get him some things that are a little easier completions to get going and 2, just the overall mental psyche of the quarterback; it’s something I’ve prided myself on over my career in coaching, and I didn’t do a very good job of that Saturday, of assessing it and getting him right. I think all and all at the position of quarterback, especially in our system, especially when it’s your senior year, comes a lot of glory and a lot of excitement, which Jake is fortunate enough to get. But also comes some harsh realities of criticism that you have to deal with. But that’s part of playing the position of quarterback. And it comes with the territory.”
On the first interception and how that changes things for Locker: “That was an opportunity and part of the play call, depending on how they played it. They played that route well. I think it was a case for Jake to try to make a play instead of allowing plays to come to him. I’m sure he’d love to have that one back, and that might change the overall outcome of his game, the overall confidence. Anytime you throw an interception, your confidence can get shaken. Part of that is on me to get his confidence back, and I didn’t do a very good job of that.”
On how many yards after contact Nebraska got Saturday: “I don’t have it off the top of my head, but it was a lot. When you have three plays of over 55 yards, that’s not good. I think all of those plays, they broke a tackle to create those yards. I can tell you over 150 right off the top, and whatever it came after that, I don’t know.”
More on how Nebraska shut down UW’s passing: “I’m going to go back to 1, they’re really good. They’re well-coached, and they’ve got some real athletic guys that are long, they’re physical, they’re able to make plays. They got their hands on some balls, they jumped routes, they did a good job. 2, I didn’t feel like we were playing fast enough. I thought our skill kids were thinking, they were trying to figure out coverages instead of really running fast and trying to create separation. And against a good team, if you’re not playing as fast as you can play, and really stair-stepping and trying to get separation against man coverage, you’re going to be covered. And then thirdly, we weren’t great in pass protection. There were guys coming free in Jake’s face early on in the game that had an effect on his footwork as the game went on, that ultimately affected accuracy on throws down the field.”
On the comment by a Nebraska DB that they could read the routes as the receivers came to the line: “I don’t … I mean, they didn’t read it very well on the touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, so I don’t know.”
On some things that they need to work on now: “Well, I think, one is we’ve got to continue to press our young kids to get them mentally tough enough to understand how vital every snap is. I think our young guys are doing some things that are nice – they’re good plays, they’re here, they’re there – but then they have their lapses, potentially in focus or … I would just go with focus. Every snap matters. Every kickoff coverage matters. That’s one. We’ve got to keep pushing those young guys. two, we’ve got to address some things, coverage-wise, in our secondary — one, to cover, but two, understanding down and distance. You look at that ball game, it’s a third-and-16 and third-and-12, and they throw two slant routes and break probably a combined five or six tackles on the plays to convert first downs and eventually go on to score points. That really changed the complexion of the game. To really get the game, understand the down and distance, what routes might be coming. If they catch it, let’s just tackle them for a gain of eight, now they punt it and it’s a field position game. So I’m going to continue to try to stress our overall football knowledge, and understanding the situations of the game are vitally important. And then thirdly, our ability to pick up exotic pressures on offense. We’ve been average at best in the first three ball games. There’s just too many guys coming free, especially when we’re in protections when guys shouldn’t be coming free.”
On whether Locker got gun-shy after the first interception: “I don’t know if gun-shy is the best term; I’d say he became a little hesitant. And when you play hesitant at quarterback, not to mention any other position in sports period. When you become hesitant, you can become late in wanting to see it. Especially against a good defense like that, anticipation is a key factor. I don’t think his anticipation was as good as we’ve seen it. I thought he was waiting to see if guys were open, and when you play like that it can get hard. I thought one throw he tried to anticipate was the pick-six; 15 makes a heckuva play and undercuts Devin Aguilar. Some of those throws come with playing against good defenses, but it can create hesitation. And hesitation is not good from the quarterback position.”
On whether there was a big physical discrepancy along the lines: “No, I don’t think that. I believe we’re better than the way we played. We’re more physical up front on defense than the way we played. I think we got enamored with staring at the quarterback, and in turn they were driving us off the football, knocking us off the ball. I thought we ran the ball well offensively; I thought we did some things against a pretty good front. I wish we could have matched that with our passing game, and we would have had a pretty nice game offensively.”
On whether UW got away from the run too early: “We only called 21 or 22 passes, and I think it was 40 runs, so I don’t know…I guess I could have for them…they called 14 passes and got sacked three times and had 11 attempts. So I don’t know.”
On how the team was Monday: “I think they are disappointed. They have high expectations for themselves and they’ve set the bar extremely high for themselves and they want to perform well. They want to understand why, so that’s why I think it’s important to get to the truth on a Monday so we can move on and we can improve and get better and fix the things that need to get fixed. They are obviously not happy with the results, but they also understand that there’s a great opportunity here starting with Pac-10 play in two weeks to go accomplish some really good things. And they get that, and I’m proud of them for that. We’ve got some older guys that have been through some really tough and hard times around here, and they want to ensure that that doesn’t happen again. And we have some young kids that have come here to battle and compete that want to be a part of something special. So it creates a very competitive team room and one that guys want to get back out, and they’re itching to get back out on the field and get back playing again.”
On what you can do mid-season to improve tackling: “I think one, you have to trust your technique. We had too many guys leaving their feet to tackle Saturday, and when you do that you miss. Your head goes down, you leave your feet, you miss. We pride ourselves on five hard steps when you tackle, and we didn’t see that. The second thing you have to do when we’re in our service periods is, we’ve got to tackle. It’s not just about wrapping up and fitting up – you’ve got to tackle. Our practices will become a little more physical than they have been.”
On what he wants to see to become satisfied in the kick cover game: “They need to continue to improve. The first kick (against Nebraska) was just a lack of recognition by a couple guys…we knew which way the return was coming and we completely avoided the completely wrong way. We knew what it was and we worked on it all week…we avoided the wrong way and Erik Folk makes a great tackle. The second one, we went with a popover kick. We kicked the ball popover right, and the ball goes deep down the middle and our coverage is converging right and they return it the opposite direction, which created another big return. I think one, we just have to do what we talked about and taught and worked on all week, and we’ll be a lot better. When we did that, we were much better. I thought our punt unit coverage was better. The one big return they had was a block in the back. I think the punt unit is getting there; the kickoff coverage unit is close. I want our kids to really believe in what we’re doing. And right now when you’ve got young kids, they have a tendency to wander and think they might know. They are seeing it on film…OK, coach you’re right, because the second time I did do it the way you talked about and boom! We made the play.”
On Senio Kelemete not being at practice today: “He’s sick. He’s got the flu.”
On how Kohler and Gilliland did: “They both played pretty good. Erik Kohler, for going against an All-American, played a pretty danged good football game. I’m very proud of him. For a guy making his first start, I thought he was physical in the run game, I thought he did a nice job in pass protection. A couple of MAs in pass protection on third down with some of the exotic pressures we saw, but all in all pretty danged good. And Garret Gilliland did fine. It wasn’t too big for him. There’s couple times he got knocked off the ball a little bit, but he’s a true freshman playing middle linebacker against a big, physical football team.”
On Cort Dennison’s long-term prognosis: “He should be fine. I think if we were playing today he’d really pass the test. It was really an unfortunate situation. He got his bell rung Wednesday at practice. Didn’t know that’s what it was. He gets sick in the locker room after practice. We assume it’s the flu. Comes in the next day —
‘I’ve still got a headache’ — as the day goes on, then we get him tested for a concussion, and he just couldn’t meet the timeline to get back on the field. So we’re going to treat those things very, very seriously, but I don’t think it’s serious as a lot of concussions have been but we are going to monitor it. We are in no rush to get him back out, but I don’t think it’s going to be a long, long-term thing.”
On who else is beat up and needs some time off: “Well, Devin Aguilar’s got kind of a swollen foot. Chris Polk’s got a swollen ankle. We’ve got a couple shoulders that are beat up. Nate Williams’ got a hamstring that’s sore. Sean Parker’s got a sore hamstring. So we’ve just kind of got a variety of things. Nothing is to keep a guy out if we were going to play. But I want to get guys healthy so that when we start this Pac-10 run we are as healthy as football team as we can be.”
Any of the injuries major? “No, I don’t expect that at all.”
Does the offensive line stay the same: “I think so, for this week, we’ll see how it goes. With Senio, we’ll see how long this flu lasts, it moves Erik Kohler back out to tackle and moves some guys around inside. That part remains to be seen. We’re always going to continue to look to get better, but I thought in the run game, for their first game together, we were much better in the run game consistently this game than we were in the previous two. I thought we were much better than we began running the football.”
On whether Johri Fogerson and James Johnson will be available for the USC game: “I would think so. They were both back out today. I thought James, for the first time in six weeks, wasn’t limping today. And as a wide out, that’s a big factor. You need your legs, you need your ankles, you need your feet to be able to run. So that was good. Johri was able to get back out there. We’ll see if Chris’ swelling doesn’t get back down where we need it to. I’m going to hold him out until he’s healthy.”
On whether there is any gameplanning for USC this week: “There will be some things we’ll do game-plan wise. It won’t be a formal as a normal week would be. But there will be some things. Obviously, they are very similar to us schematically. There isn’t a lot service team card work. We can almost make calls in what they do in both phases.”
On young guys who may get a close look during the bye: “I’m going to take a good hard look at Josh Shirley again. He’s really come on the last three weeks. I’m going to get a good hard look at him. Colin Porter is going to get hard look at guard. Kevin Smith is going to get thrown back into it at wideout. Hes kind of faded a little the last couple of weeks offensively. We need to get him back into the fold. Hau’oli Jamora, I thought he played pretty well on Saturday. We gotta keep pushing him. Keep pushing Sione (Potoa’e) and we gotta keep pushing Greg Ducree. I think he could help us in man-to-man coverage. We just got to get his confidence up.
So could Josh Shirley could still play this season? “Potentially, yes. At (defensive) end.”
On the Pac-10 having five rated teams: “As I touched on it at Pac 10 media day, I think this is a very tough conference. I think there is an awful lot of parity. And not parity in a bad way. But parity in a good way. I think programs are continuing to get better. There are not too many that are going backward right now. It’s going to be challenging week in and week out. It’s going to be interesting to watch as teams get knocked off and how they respond. There’s a long, long way to go to find out who’s the Pac 10 champ.”
Do you still have the same expectation of being involved in the Pac-10 race? “There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. We just have to find a way to play to our potential. And that will be the goal the next two weeks. So when we go take the field at the (Los Angeles Memorial) Coliseum in two weeks at five o’clock, that we play to our potential. If that’s good enough to win, so be it. If not, at least we know we played the way we are capable of playing.”
When you see a guy like Jake pressing, do you see the rest of the team take on that personality? “I don’t know. I think just like everybody involved, our kids believe in Jake Locker. They believe in him as a leader and a quarterback and his ability to make plays. When he’s struggling, I don’t know if they mirror his demeanor at the time. But I think there is some wondering, well why isn’t Jake playing good? What’s the issue? What’s going on? Again, I think that’s where I can help. That’s where I can help with, one, his demeanor, his approach and where his thoughts are. And two, the types of plays we are running to get him back on track to not only get himself feeling good, but getting everyone else feeling good too. ”
Does that mean paring it down and simplifying? No.

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