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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 4, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Sark bites, post-USC edition

There was obviously a different feel for UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s press conference today than the previous two Mondays, when the Huskies were still sifting through the remains of the Nebraska defeat.
The focus today remained on Saturday’s win over USC, and Sarkisian made a few interesting points, including that he thought a real key to the win was that the Huskies played “without fear.”
“I thought our team in general played in the absence of fear,” he said. “We weren’t worried about losing, we weren’t worried about making a mistake. I just thought we played football. You could see it in Jake (Locker’s) game, but I thought we also saw it in our team’s demeanor. On the sidelines, even when things went bad, even after the fumble by Jake, our kids were loose. We weren’t concerned; we just played. That’s the best mentality for us to be in right now.”
Sarkisian also talked about the game plan Saturday, and said he thinks UW may have finally found its offensive identity.
“I think so,” he said. “I think we’re getting there. We have an idea of the things we do well now. I think that’s why the bye week was so critical, to self-scout ourselves to do the things we do well.”
Asked why it took three weeks, he said: “I don’t know. I wish it could take one. It just did. You just get a chance to really look at what you’re doing – you get to look at numbers, and at stats and personnel groupings and play calls in situations, so I don’t why it took three weeks, but I just know when the bye came, we had the chance to do that and really look at ourselves, look at ourselves in the mirror and not just individually but as a group. I think we’ve found a little something here that can kind of keep us rolling.”
Here is some of the rest of what he said:
Opening statement: “Well, good win. Great for our kids – great effort. Showed a lot of perseverance, a lot of mental toughness. By no means were we perfect, and I think that’s the beauty of it for us, we’ve got a lot of room to grow still. But I loved our ability to battle. It will be another great challenge this week with ASU coming in. They’re a scary football team – athletic, tough, physical. It will be a great challenge again this week coming home to Husky Stadium playing in front of our fans.”


On Locker’s play: “Well I thought he played in the absence of fear. I thought he wasn’t concerned about the outcome. I thought he wasn’t concerned about what might or what could happen – he played each snap for that snap, and I thought you saw that in not only in his physical performance but his mental make-up leading to the ballgame. Really, really impressed with him, and it couldn’t happen to better human being. What he had to endure from that Saturday of Nebraska, and two weeks following would be tough on anybody from a psyche standpoint. I thought he responded in beautiful fashion, and played a ballgame that was, in my opinion, a legendary one, at least in these parts.”
On how close ASU has come to winning its last three games: “One, it speaks to how tough this conference is, you know – how competitive it is, and how tough it is. You can play a really good game like they played against Oregon or Oregon State and still come out not on top. They’re a scary football team. The quarterback is throwing it all over the field, the running backs are running, the defense is opportunistic. They’re physical; they create turnovers. They could easily be 2-0 in our conference. They could be undefeated on the year – they lose in a tight one to Nebraska as well. It’s going to be a great ballgame – a physical one and one that hopefully we can minimize some of their big plays because they can create big plays not only on offense, but on defense and on special teams.”
On Locker elevating his game: “Just his competitive nature. You could feel him competing out there. When you’re converting a fourth-and-11 on a two-minute drive to go win a ballgame, and then the run on the third down to put us in really good field position for the field goal at the end, those are plays you write books and movies about. He did it real-life right in front of our very eyes.”
On Locker’s health:: “No, no, he’s OK. He’s a little sore, but he’s OK.”
On the play-calling against USC: “I just tried to put him in position to be effective at what he does well. One was getting him completions in the quick game – we threw much more quick game than we had previously, a lot more slants and things of that nature. We were able to get him in space a little bit more on the edge. And then max-protect for him to get him protection so he could feel good about it with his feet in the pocket, and stand and delivering the football.”
Will that remain the game plan or will it vary? “It can (vary), it can, depending on what we’re doing. We felt like we matched up better with USC spread out. part of what you lose sometimes doing that, you lose a little bit of the mentality of the downhill, physical approach with (Chris) Polk leading way, and you play-action and throw it down the field. It will vary from week to week. I just don’t want to lose that aspect. I thought we lost that versus Nebraska. We’ve got to get back to throwing our quick-game stuff, and getting him on the perimeter.”
On Jesse Callier in fly sweep: “I love Jesse. I love Jesse in all aspects. Sometimes it can go unnoticed, he’s on kickoff coverage, and he makes two tackles for us as well running down on kickoffs. He’s a football player. And then what he provides us on offense, he has got a really high football IQ, he can line up all over the field, he can run, he can catch, he’s smart. So he’s got a big impact on us.”
Was there a sense of relief after winning? “I don’t think there was any sense of relief on our football team, in general. It wasn’t about relief, it was about performing the way we’re capable of performing, and ‘OK, that felt right, let’s go do it again.”
On moving Cody Habben around vs USC: “We were just trying to get matchups. They had really big (defensive) ends – (Armond) Armstead is a 300-pound defensive end, and it wasn’t a great matchup for Marlion (Barnett) or (Chris) Izbicki, so we just tried to get tackles on them.”
On whether there is a need to get Locker designed runs early: “I used to think that, but I don’t anymore, because we’ve done that in games and given him runs in the first series, and he didn’t necessarily play his best game. I used to think, ‘Man, I just want to get him running.’ But he needs them in the game plan, he needs a few of those in the game plan to make those things happen. I don’t think it has to be in the first series, no.”
What would be the ideal number of carries for Locker early: “In general, if he’s carrying the football, whether it’s designed or scrambling, 8-10 times, that number is right.”
On the USC win being the best day of his life other than when kids born: “Yep.”
Elaborate on that?: “It was pretty special. To go home, and play in front of 60 family members and friends and family, at you’re old job where you used to work, in front of a lot of the kids you recruited, and against one of your very good friends. To win in that fashion was very special to me. And then because of what had to take place for two weeks from a coaching perspective, too, with this team. It was a big day for me. I enjoyed it.”
On whether he talked to Pete Carroll afterward: “I did speak to him that night, yeah.”
What did Carroll say: “He was just happy, ‘Way to go.’ You’ve got to remember, Pete’s a defensive guy. I think he would have preferred the score to be a little lower. He was happy for us.”
On USC not using timeouts late: “No. I can’t speak for Lane (Kiffin) … but there are two ways of thinking: You either are calling them all, or you’re letting (time) run out, and you’re going to try and ice the guy. He went with the latter, which I don’t think is wrong. There are two schools of thoughts there.”
On what he would have done: “It would’ve depended on the game. I don’t know how the game was going. My big thing was I didn’t want to give them the ball back again. So I was going to try to milk it until the end.”
On whether USC looked tired at the end of the game: “They looked tired up front, I thought that. That’s why we were running the ball.”
On the evolution of the fly sweep in the offense: “We’ve had sprinkles of it. We did a little bit of that last year. But we felt like it could help us in our style of play, and we’ve kind of done it a little bit more.”
On what option the fourth-down pass to D’Andre Goodwin was?: “It’s a second, third read, yeah. But he went through his progression, had a nice game. I was really happy for D’Andre. He’s really bounced back. It was a nice play by everybody involved.”
On Jake’s footwork being better: “That’s just what he does well. And when you complete a couple, your confidence goes up; that’s all a part of it. I thought he threw the ball well. He could have had better numbers; we’ve got to catch a few more.”
On the receivers dropping passes: “Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not as worried about Jermaine Kearse dropping a couple of slants. He’s caught a lot of big balls for us, and Devin (Aguilar’s) caught a lot of big balls for us. So, I think physical errors are physical errors. That’s going to happen sometimes. What I was pleased with that it didn’t affect our psyche. The guys kept battling.”
Injuries?: “Kevin Smith fractured a thumb. So he’ll be out for a couple weeks.”
On the hit on Locker that knocked him out for a play: “”He was woozy, but the other side was that he got the wind knocked out of him. So he was getting the double whammy. His head was ringing pretty good, and he was out of breath. So I think that’s what caused them both to come together and him to feel the way he felt. But he was fine. Our doctors did a great job; they were diligent in their analysis of him, and when they deemed him ready to go back in, we put him back in.”
Cameron Elisara’s health? “He got a little shoulder stinger. Probably could have come back in the game and played, but we held him out. He should be OK.”
Who’ll replace Kevin Smith on kickoff returns? “Jesse Callier will be back with Sean Parker. Could see Taz Stevenson some as well.”
On the horse-collar rule not being called on Locker: “He’s gotta tackle him. It’s not a penalty by rule. I don’t know if that’s the spirit of the rule, but by definition of the rule, it’s not a penalty. I still think the ball went out of bounds before it went out of the end zone, though. That’s why I challenged it. And I still think it today after I saw the coaches’ film.”
Was there a better camera angle? “Unfortunately, you don’t get that on the sideline. I don’t know that, but our players were sure of it on the field, and so that’s why I challenged it. And then looking at the coaches’ copy of the film, it’s clear. Big turning point in the game, really. That puts us up 24-14. In turn, they go down and score and we fall behind.”
On how the offensive line is coming together? “I thought they played well yesterday, against a good defense, an excellent one. One sack, I thought we blocked the run well, I’m proud of them.”
On calling a pass play for Keith Price: “I think a lot of people thought it was interesting: our own staff. It was a play we wanted down there. And I just didn’t want to put him under center. He hadn’t gotten a real snap yet, I wanted to put him in the gun, and felt like it was a good call for him. He made a good play; it was a nice throw.”
On the third-and-18 play to Cody Bruns: “Great job by Jake of avoiding the sack, one. And two, he was really a primary on that play. It was really almost designed for him. Great play by Jake avoiding the sack and then Cody making the catch.”
On Everette Thompson moving from outside to inside: “SC is really good. They’re good up front, and they know how to run the ball. So I thought it was effective at times. I thought Alameda and Everette did OK. We weren’t good on the edges again, and when you aren’t very good on the edges against a team that’s running a lot of outside zone, you’re in trouble. We’ve got to try to solidify that.”
On the two defensive stops at the end of the game: “Yeah. Our defense, I’m as critical as anybody of them running the football and doing what they did, but those were two huge stops in the fourth quarter to hold them to those two field-goal attempts. There’s a little bit of a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, and I thought we really showed that there in the fourth quarter. Those were the two biggest drives, and to hold them to those two field goal attempts were huge.”
On the kickoff coverage: “We’re getting there. It felt good, felt good, felt good, and then, bang, they hit the big one on us. We just have to keep working it. We’re going to keep coaching it hard, the kids are going to keep working at it, and we need to because ASU is an excellent kickoff return team . That might be the best thing they do. So it’ll be a huge point of emphasis in this ball game.”
Who graded out well? “I don’t know if I’d want to just single anybody out. I thought guys made plays, which was really cool to see. Everyone wants to look at Erik Folk; obviously, that was a big kick, but the protection, the snap, the hold, those things are vitally important. D’Andre’s play, the o-line, Chris Polk the last drive. So there were a lot of good things.”
On Erik Folk: “He’s got ice in his veins. It’s unbelievable. Doesn’t say much. Just goes out there and kicks it, and doesn’t say much afterwards. Just kind of goes and does it (chuckles). Doesn’t get affected much. I don’t know where he gets it from, but he’s got a knack for it.”
Do you have jokes for situations when they try to ice the kicker? “I have jokes for everything. No, I don’t think it’s orchestrated. It’s whatever comes to you, whatever you feel like talking about at that time. I don’t Google a good joke to have ready for my kicker for when he’s about to kick, you know? (laughs) I just have whatever comes off the top of my head.”
How do you feel about icing the kicker? “It’s effective, I think. I wish they would institute the rule you get to do it once, you know. But it’s an effective tactic. It’s been proven that it works.”
Did you expect a third time out there?: “I really didn’t. The mind game of it is you don’t do the third one so hopefully the kicker is expecting the time out and it doesn’t happen and here comes the snap. So, I thought Lane used the right gamesmanship — at least I would have done the same thing.”
More on Locker being tested for a concussion: “They did everything. Our doctors did everything that was needed to get done. They were diligent. They handled it beautifully. They gave him every test that needed to be done, and he passed them all easily. It wasn’t like wondering, wondering. He passed them all.”
On Erik Kohler: “Well, he brings a lot of athleticism. He’s can really pull. He’s a good puller for us, and he brings some size in there. He’s a 300-pound kid in there that can handle these defensive tackles that we see.”
On the message to the team this week: “Let’s go play hard. Let’s get right back to business. Let’s prepare hard and let’s play hard. Let’s battle and compete and let’s not worry about the outcome of what might occur on a snap or at the end of the game. Let’s just play really hard and see what happens in the end.”
Was being worried about the hype an issue against Nebraska? “I don’t know about the hype. I thought we played concerned football. We were worried about things. We don’t need to worry about anything. Let’s go out and just go play.”
You felt they played worried in the two losses? “Yeah, in all three of them. I felt we played that way against Syracuse, as well.”
On how he got the team to play without fear: “Well, you have to talk to it. You can’t try to avoid it. You can’t leave it the big elephant in the room. You have to talk to it. You’ve got to get to it individually and you’ve got to get to it specifically in the groups and you’ve got to get to the whole groups. I thought our coaches did a good job of getting our message across. I thought our leaders on our team accepted our message. And as a team, we accepted the message, and I think it showed in our play. Our defense could have folded up, man. And to get those two stops, that was huge. After that day and them running the ball the way they were, to get those two stops there was huge. That’s them just battling and competing. For Keith Price to come in the game and throw a touchdown pass on his first play, he’s not worried about the mistake of it. He’s just playing football. So hopefully we can continue down that road, and that is what the message will be.”
On what he said to Kiffin afterward: “Yeah, we said, ‘Good job. Good luck.’ Moved on. I spoke to him last night probably for an hour on the phone, so we’re still good friends.”
For an hour? “Yeah, about the game and about thoughts and notes. Now that that hurdle’s over, that we played each other, now we can really share with each other thoughts about each other’s teams and upcoming opponents.”
On what Kiffin said about Locker: “He wished he would have come out and gone pro last year.”

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