Another practice to try to prepare for the frenetic challenge posed by the Oregon offense meant another day running the scout team for UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
The former BYU QB again ran the scout team during the period when it runs the plays of the opponent as preparation for the defense, something he said he did in large part to prepare for the quick-pace of the Ducks.
Unofficially, he threw five interceptions — which would tie a school record.
“The pressure was a little different today,” he said with a smile by way of explanation. “But it was good. I thought we had good tempo, and that’s the whole point to that period and that’s why I’m doing it is to make sure that the tempo is there and the offensive line is knowing the calls so we don’t have to huddle and read a card. I can tell them exactly what they have to do.”
Sarkisian also manned the controls of the scout team Tuesday and said he felt better Wednesday, tired as opposed to exhausted.
Most importantly, he said he thinks the defense is getting more acclimated to the pace.
“Yeah, I think they are understanding the speed and the tempo,” he said. “I thought they were a lot better today.”
The Huskies, though, obviously have to get A LOT better (and a lot, and a lot, and a lot, and a lot) to hang with the Ducks Saturday.
The season that began with high expectations now finds UW at 3-5 and 36-point underdogs heading to Eugene.
So having no expectations for many the first time all season, Sarkisian is trying to get his players to embrace a nothing-to-lose mentality.
“Our guys are going to go play,” he said. “I think we have played the last couple of weeks with a little pressure on us, like I have touched on. I think we pressed the last couple of weeks, played a little tense, trying a little too hard. We’ve made it a point, let’s just go play and let the plays work and go play and have run and make our plays when we are supposed to make them and support one another if we make a mistake and be there for one another and also high-fiving and chest bumping one another when we make great plays and just go play the game. I think that our guys have really adopted that mentality and it’s showing in practice right now.”
He’s also said that this week is more about the Huskies rediscovering some things about themselves and how they play more than it is worrying about the Ducks. And the respective states of the two teams also means that the heated rivalry so often attached to this game seems as muted as it has been in decades.
“I think our guys are excited to go play down there,” Sarkisian said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to go play on the road against the number one team in the country in their stadium I think we would be fools not to embrace that opportunity regardless of what color uniform they are wearing or what color helmet they have on. It happens to be Oregon, this happens to be in our own conference, they happen to be in first place and the defending Pac-10 champs. So we are going to embrace it and go play.”
There was no significant personnel news. James Johnson and Chris Izbicki are back, Johri Fogerson remains out, as does Cameron Elisara and Talia Crichton. Anthony Gobern also appears out though we didn’t get an explanation. We’ll get more of an injury/personnel update heading Thursday but for now, there doesn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary from what was last seen on the field against Stanford, other than the obvious of Jake Locker.
Keith Price talked to the media afterward since it was a Wednesday (the day we have access to offensive players and coaches) so expect lots of stories on him tomorrow. Sarkisian said that he likes the way Price has handled the week so far. “I don’t know if it could go better,” Sarkisian said. “He’s playing very well, he’s throwing the ball well, on time. He’s understanding his reads, there is not much hesitation and that’s a real key.”
And Sarkisian said he hasn’t noticed any change in Price’s notoriously carefree demeanor now that he’s the starter: “Not really, that’s kind of Keith Price, though. He has got a very carefree mentality, believes in himself. I think what is neat to see is that his teammates believe in him and have rallied behind him. It’s a great opportunity for him so I’m happy for him.”
HERE’S MORE FROM SARKISIAN
On his arm and doing the scout team QB work: “Little sore, back was a little sore. But all in all it’s been fun, it’s been good. It’s gotten practice pretty spirited. Sometimes this late in the year, sometimes, especially during that service period it can get a little mundane and with me at quarterback it keeps it pretty spirited.”
On practice: “Today was a really spirited practice. I thought the offense executed well, especially at the end of the team, both sides brought it but the offense won the day, no turnovers.”
On working so much with the defense as part of the scout team offense instead of spending all his time with the No, 1 offense: “I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve got a real appreciation for our coaches and the way they coach and for the tempo that we are going. For our defense to get lined up every time, we are going as fast as you can go. We are averaging four plays a minute so I think it’s going pretty good.. … I get to be able to coach (Price) a lot off the film, which is fine. All in all it works well. I’m there at the walk-through and the seven, nine-on-seven, team period, all I’m missing is that period.”
On what he did with Mark Sanchez to get him ready for Autzen for his first career start (Sanchez made his first college start there in 2007): “Well, I think the whole key to this thing is, not being distracted. At times at Autzen, you can be distracted – not only by the noise but the frantic atmosphere that is there. I think what’s key is to hone in on what we want to accomplish, focus on the task at hand, but also enjoy the experience of it. You’re not going to be oblivious to it, so you better be able to embrace it and enjoy it, but also focus on the task at hand.”
On the atmosphere at Autzen being reminiscent of anywhere else: “Not really, to be honest with you. It’s definitely a great atmosphere. They do a great job. They are a football-savvy crowd, and their style of play embraces the crowd to really stay in the game. It’s almost got a basketball feel to it.”
On the offensive line rebounding from Stanford: “It’ll be a great challenge for them. Oregon is very good up front. A lot of times, you can miss the fact that they are a great football team because of all their skill and all their athletes and all the interceptions by their DB’s and turnovers they cause, but a lot of that is because of their defensive front. They do a nice job, from the inside with (Brandon) Bair and then you go to the edges with (Kenny) Rowe and (Josh) Kaddu…they do a really nice job.”
On the OL embracing the challenge: “I think so, but you never know until Saturday. I’m a little hesitant to make those major statements until it actually happens. We’re doing a nice job in practice, but we have to do it when the live bullets are flying.”