Here’s a bit more of what UW coach Steve Sarkisian had to say at today’s press conference.
Sarkisian talked about what worked well against UCLA, the health of Jake Locker, what it would mean for UW to get to a bowl game, and what he thought of the hit by Nate Williams on UCLA’s Richard Brehaut.
Overview of UCLA game and looking ahead: “Just to reiterate a few thoughts from Thursday night, it was a good November win and a tough Pac-10 game. I thought our defense really played a nice game, not only in the run game but in the pass game. Our special teams might have had one of their better games of the year. And I thought, offensively, in the run game, probably our best day running the football against a very good defense. In a perfect world, we throw the ball better, and maybe the outcome’s a little better than it was. But we’ll take that win, and on to the next one. We’ve got an extremely tough opponent in the California Golden Bears and the last game at Memorial Stadium, Senior Day, all the things that go along with that in a ball game that’s a must-win game for both teams. It shapes up exciting for both programs and the people involved, but it also shapes up as an exciting ball game within the Pac-10, of the implications of not only the bowl game but standings and all those things.”
On the importance of getting to a bowl game: “I think the bowl game would be great for a lot of reasons. Let’s not kid ourselves here. From the first standpoint of, from our seniors, who have had four to five years of adversity, to give them that opportunity, to be in a hotel room for Christmas and to be at a bowl game, and to get gifts and all of those things that that entails. I think it’s important, one, for that. Two, I think it’s important for our young players, to continue to develop them, to get that extra practice time, to get them exposed to that. And then, three, from a program’s perspective, the natural growth is there. Whether or not that means we’re getting better or not, I think it just feels that way. To play a 13th game would be great for the program’s stake. And then lastly, for our fans, to give them that opportunity to travel to a bowl game to support their team, I think they would greatly appreciate that as well.”
On the Williams’ hit: “It was illegal; that’s why he got flagged for it. Nate didn’t intend to go helmet-to-helmet with Richard. He had already started his tackle before the slide began to occur. And really, ultimately, I think it was more of a targeting of the head with his forearm than it was helmet-to-helmet, in a sense. It’s unfortunate. I think that’s why when quarterbacks decide to slide, they really need to make that decision early. If not, sometimes guys are better off diving than they are sliding.”
On injuries: “The only real change is we’re going to have to monitor Ryan Tolar. He’ll be day-to-day with a sprained knee. That’s the real injury update that would matter. On the Jake (Locker) front, he came out of the game healthy, he should only get more healthy as we progress throughout this week, especially with a little extended time off there over the weekend. So, again, we’ll have to monitor him daily as well.”
On Sean Parker: “He just didn’t get the strength back in the shoulder that we wanted to. He’ll be another guy that we’ll monitor at practice. But we were very encouraged last night at practice. He was out there running around last night, so we were encouraged by that.”
On hoping to finish the season strong again like last year: “I hope. I hope we can continue on this trend. I thought last year, at the end of the year, our defense played its best football for sure. And I thought offensively, at the end of the year, we ran the ball better than we had all year. And those two things came to light again Thursday night versus UCLA. I’d like for that trend to continue, and we’ll play to that, because I think that’s the way that you win in November, you’re able to run the ball and you’re able to play defense. That’ll be a big factor in our final two ball games. It’s definitely going to be a big part of it this week. Cal’s a team that really excels at running the football and has for years. And it’s no different this year with Shane Vereen and (Isi) Sofele. They’re doing a nice job of running the ball, not only scheme-wise but with the talent they have. And so the first part for us is that ability to stop the run, to play good defense, and then in turn, to keep them off the field by running the ball, taking care of the clock and ultimately doing better on third down. If we’re really going to play the way we want to play and close out this year, our ability to extend drives has got to get better. We’ve been awful at it. I think we were 1 for 12 last week; that puts us 5 for our last 39 on third down, which is a terrible stat. For us to keep this trend going of playing good defense, running the football and getting better to close the year, that’s the one area that’s got to improve here this week; it’s got to improve right now.”
On the offensive line playing better against UCLA: “I thought we did some things schematically to create space, a little bit of misdirection factor there with Jesse (Callier) and D’Andre (Goodwin), which I thought helped to create some air and some space for Chris (Polk). I thought Chris did a nice job of taking advantage of it. Sometimes what happens to backs, when there’s not a big hole there, they have a tendency to stop sometimes and try to create their space, and then all of a sudden a hole opens up, and they’re still stopping and waiting to create their space. I thought last week, Chris didn’t do that. When holes were there, he hit it and he hit it fast. That’s how he was able to create some big runs. Y’know, unfortunately, he had the long one called back, but all in all, he ran well all night.”
On comparing Cal and UCLA defensively: “Well, Cal’s predominantly a 3-4 team that plays multiple fronts but has, definitely, some four-down fronts to it, where UCLA is more of a four-down team. I think from a stature and a personnel standpoint, they’re very, very similar. Both fronts are big and powerful, long guys, long arms that like to play with their hands. From that aspect they’re very similar, personnel-wise. Scheme-wise, they’re a little bit different. But I think we’ve got some things there that we can take advantage of to make sure we can run the ball effectively.”
On whether going to a bowl would be any less rewarding since there are now so many: “Not to me. I want to get there. I think that it’s a real reward for your hard work and your efforts, to not only your kids and your players but everybody involved in your program: the training staff, the academic support people, the administration. There’s so much time and effort that gets put into the season, to reward them with that game, I think is pretty special. So it hasn’t lost its excitement for us, that’s for sure.”
On who he would vote for for the Heisman: “I don’t want to overlook anybody, so I’m just making sure I don’t miss anybody here… Without knowing all the details of the situation, I haven’t been able to follow it, just based on watching a guy play, I’d have a hard time voting against Cam Newton, just because I’ve seen him play three or four times. He’s a dominant football player, that’s for sure.”
On if it matters that Cal lost to Stanford Saturday: “I don’t think like that, no. I think either way Cal was going to come to play versus us. It’s the last game at Memorial Stadium. It’s Senior Day. I don’t think like that. The way I view it is really good teams, and good coaches, regardless of what happens they prepare for the task at hand. And I’m sure Coach (Jeff) Tedford and his staff are doing that.”
On if he was surprised at the Cal-Stanford score given how Cal had held down Oregon the week before: “No, that’s two totally different teams, two completely different styles. Oregon is a spread-oriented team, a shotgun-oriented team. Stanford is a more power-oriented team, more tight ends, more power football in a sense — two completely different styles. Now, was I surprised that’s how the game went? Yeah, I was surprised. I thought it would be a much tighter ball game. But I’m not surprised based on what happened with Oregon.”
On why the defense is playing better: “Well, actually I thought we had some nice spurts in the beginning of the year, too. Most notably, Oregon State, I thought our guys had some nice quarters in there as well. I think a couple of things have happened. One, we are much more stout with our guys up front. We’re able to hang in there against the run, and our gap integrity is better. And, two, our level of play in the secondary has slowly but surely increased and gotten better and better. Most notably, I think Quinton Richardson has really had his best two ball games the last two games. I thought Desmond Trufant had a nice game the other night. Nate Fellner has risen his level of play. And Nate Williams is being Nate Williams — he’s making a bunch of tackles. So I think it’s two-fold. One, our defensive line is playing more stout against the run, but, two, in the back end we are playing the ball better, we are around the ball more and we are creating turnovers.”
On Locker getting an X-ray: “They are taking one today, is what I was notified of. Just to get an idea.”
On if there were any big hits on him in the game: “I don’t think so. He had the one big run on their sideline where he kind of broke a couple tackles. But there were no direct shots on it, and he came out of it feeling pretty good. We are going to get an assessment of where it is at with the X-ray and again we will monitor him. I am anticipating that he will play, unless there is some short of setback along the way.”
On whether the rib is impacting Locker’s accuracy: “I think it is having an effect. Whether it’s a direct effect, the feeling that you have when you throw, there can be an effect on (in that) we are all human. When you have pain — if I’ve got a hurt arm here, I really don’t want you to hit it so you can move your body in a certain way to try to avoid hits, or feeling a sense of hits. So I think that feeling is there. The more healthy he gets, the more comfortable he feels with the rib and the injury, the more comfortable he will be in the pocket. And ultimately, his feet will be better, his decision making will be better and his accuracy will be better.”
On the impact of the black jerseys: “I think emotionally sometimes when you have a change-up like that, it’s exciting for the players. I think it was a great gift to our seniors on the way out the door. I thought our students were tremendous Thursday night – all of our fans. It was a fun theme to do. I thought it came off not only great in our own community, but around the country, national television – the response has been tremendous. The atmosphere, the stadium was rocking on television, the uniforms looked good, so I think all in all, it was a success.