Some interesting stuff from UW coach Steve Sarkisian on the Pac-12 Coaches Conference Call this morning in the wake of Washington’s 31-14 win over Utah Saturday.
Maybe most notable, Sarkisian talked about the ability of Keith Price to audible, either to entirely change plays or change portions of plays (such as a receiver’s route) or protections. Sarkisian had said before the season that was something he thought Price would be able to do well due to his comfort in the team’s offensive system, having been in it for all three years that Sarkisian has been the coach.
And he said that so far Price has shown a deft ability to call audibles.
“He’s doing quite a bit of it for us,” Sarkisian said. “Really, he did quite a bit of it in the second half of the Utah game, as well. So depending on game plans and within the game of the gameplans of what we are calling for him, it allows for more flexibility for Keith there and he’s done a nice job with it, whether it be changing plays completely or changing portions of plays or changing protections within plays. He’s handling it really, really well for us.”
As Sarkisian noted above, Price’s ability to audible proved a big part of UW’s second-half surge at Utah Saturday night as the Huskies exploded for 24 points and 299 yards.
Sarkisian said the Huskies were able to make some adjustments at halftime to allow for Price to audible more after getting a sense of the surroundings.
“We weren’t sure going in what the crowd noise would be like,” Sarkisian said. “We hadn’t been there before, so we weren’t exactly sure. So we didn’t want to go in relying on audibling at the line of scrimmage if we couldn’t hear very well. And then we felt like coming in at halftime that we could handle it, so we went to it a little bit more and I thought it was successful for us.”
Sarkisian also talked about the team’s improved defensive showing at Utah:
“I think that defensively we have been a young football team here early in the season and we have grown and progressively gotten better. And I think our defense gained a lot of confidence at the end of the Cal game getting the four-play spot there on the goal-line stand there to end that ballgame and it really carried over into the Utah game. I thought our guys played a passionate game, a smart game, we tackled well, ran to the football and were physical and were very opportunistic obviously with the five turnovers, but also eliminating the run game. We knew coming in that Utah was a good running football team and their back was a good runner and we felt like if we could eliminate the run it would give us our best chance to make them one-dimensional and ultimately create some turnovers, which we were able to do. Couldn’t be more proud of our guys. Really feel like we have improved and it’s going to be an aspect of our team that we are definitely going to have to lean on during the second half of the season as these physical ballgames come down our way.”
He said the defensive improvement the last few weeks is evidence of Nick Holt’s ability to teach.
“I think he is a tremendous teacher, and we have seen that now for two-and-a-half years,” Sarkisian said. “We have seen our defense steadily get better each season,and I think that’s a sign of a good teacher, somebody who knows how to motivate but can also continually teach schemes and what we are trying to do week-in and week-out and I think we will see that again this year as our defense continues to grow that our defense plays better and our numbers get better as the year goes on.”
Sarkisian was also asked about having success grooming quarterbacks at USC and UW and what are some of his core philosophies in teaching quarterbacks: “I think we’ve got quite a few, quite honestly. But we believe that we have a system that has withstood the test of time that is quarterback friendly and allows the quarterback to make plays and disperse the football to a lot of different weapons. Also I think we have had a variety of different types of quarterbacks within the system and so one thing we have tried to do is not be stubborn in the types of plays and the style of our offense within our system and play to the quarterback and allow him to do the things that he does well so that he can be successful on Saturdays and not be stubborn to the point to where we are running some types of plays that don’t fit the strengths of the quarterback, and so I think we have been fortunate enough to have some really good players at the position but also I think we have a system that is flexible enough to fit the strengths of those players and allow them to be successful on Saturday afternoons.”
Finally, he was also asked about Stanford’s Andrew Luck being given the ability to call some of his own plays and whether he’s had any quarterbacks he thought could have done it: “I think we have had guys that probably could have done it. The more natural thing is to have guys audible out of plays when they don’t like the look and get to a better play. And I’ve been around it moreso in two-minute drills when quarterbacks have called their own plays in two-minute drills. It’s been somewhat of a lost art in our sport. You go back into the ’60s and ’70s and it was a much more common theme for quarterbacks to call their own plays, you can even think back to John Elway early in his career with the Broncos when quarterbacks were calling their own plays. And one aspect of it makes sense that you would want the guy, like the pitcher on the mound, to throw the pitches or call the plays that he feels most comfortable with. So I don’t in a lot of aspects disagree with that if you have a guy like Andrew Luck who understands their scheme so well, I don’t see it as a bad idea of a guy who can run that to run the stuff that he feels most comfortable with in that moment.”