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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 17, 2011 at 2:48 PM

Sark bites — Stanford edition

UW coach Steve Sarkisian talked about the win over Colorado, trying to defend Stanford, and lots of other stuff when he met the media today. Here most of it is in handy word form:

Opening statement: “It’s good to get back into the routine, the playing, the week-to-week and the schedule we’re accustomed to. I think it was great to have the bye and all that, but now to get back into the routine of it is good. Proud of our kids, the way they responded coming off the bye against Colorado, and now we get to go to Stanford and play a tremendous football team, led by coach Shaw – his first year, he’s done a masterful job. It’s always difficult, I think, when you have to come in and replace a coach who so many thought had such an impact on the program. Obviously it’s more than just the coach. David Shaw has done a tremendous job. They are a well-versed football team. I think everyone wants to say it’s all Andrew Luck, but they’ve got a nice team. They obviously run the ball extremely well. They tax you with their tight ends. Very physical up front on defense. And what I love about watching them defensively are their two safeties – they play extremely well with Thomas and Howell. So it’s going to be a great challenge for our football team this week.”

On how big a win over Stanford might be: “That’s looking up the mountain.I’m not looking up the mountain. Next step, it’s playing Stanford.
On if there is relevance to learning from last year’s 41-0 loss to Stanford: “I think you have to learn from stuff. We try to learn. We’ve gone back two years quite honestly and looked at that ball game as well. To see our style of play and the way we played them was very disappointing. I watched it first thing this morning – our game last year – and the same feelings I after the game last year kind of came back again this morning. I didn’t dwell on it too long. We didn’t play well in any phase of the ball game. We weren’t physical. We didn’t execute. Our efficiency in the pass game was poor. All that is on me. I thought we started to rectify that after the game. Even going to Oregon, I thought we played a better brand of football. The result didn’t quite show it. I thought we played a tougher brand. I thought that carried on into the final four ball games of last year and into this year. The key is when you look at that game, when you play a team like a Stanford. They’re a disciplined team, they’re a good football team, they’re physical, ultimately you need to play well. If you want to be competitive with them and have a chance to beat them, you need to play well.”

On the rhythm of the offense right now: “I think we’re in a pretty good rhythm. And I think we’ve been in a pretty good rhythm for a few weeks. We are understanding our own personnel of who does what well and trying to get them in position to do those things that they do well. We are learning the quarterback week after week of what he does well. When you get into a rhythm, it’s rhythm. You don’t want to get out of rhythm, just to get out of it, so you can try to new things. But you have to try to continually evolve. That’s what we are trying to on Saturday.”
On how the offense is different this year than the past two: “We’re not nearly as big of zone read option team as we were with Jake (Locker), or called quarterback runs. Those were things we tried to do to play in Jake’s strengths. Those are not Keith (Price’s) things, especially now when he’s not 100 percent. Those are 5 to 10 more play calls that we are going in a different direction that we did the first two years. So it’s opening up things for us. The addition of the tight ends has obviously opened more things up for us. The versatility you have with that aspect of our game has helped. And also the depth at wide receiver, our ability to go with some four wide sets and be comfortable and do it for an extended period of time because of the depth and how good those guys can play. We feel comfortable putting all four of those guys out there and knowing wherever the ball goes to one fo those four guys they will make plays for us.”
On stopping Chase Thomas: “We’ve got to block him. He’s big and strong, and rushes the passer really well.”

On Stanford playing physical football and if that’s what UW wants to get to: “We’ll find out, see how close we are Saturday. They’ve done a nice job of that and they’ve dedicated themselves to being a physical football team. I think we have as well. We’ll find out how far away we are on Saturday.”

On how you build a physical football team: “I think you have to practice it and you have to coach to it. It has to be talked to and you have to give living examples of it. And you have to play the game that way, and I think you need to call the game that way. We’ve tried to dedicate ourselves to that, but not be stubborn to our approach of not throwing the football and doing some things that are strengths to us. I think it’s a formula that has withstood the test of time: If you really want to win, and win consistently, you play physical on both sides of the ball; you run the ball; you stop the run. You give yourselves a chance to win, regardless of the opponent. I think we’ve seen that with Stanford, in a different way we’ve seen that it Oregon and what they’ve done and their style of play. We’ve seen it with SC for a number of years when they were rolling. So it’s not just one team; it’s withstood the test of time in our conference and around the country. If you really dedicate yourself to running the football and you do it well and you do it with a physical nature and you defend the run physically, you give yourself a chance to win. And you see that with Stanford. They run the ball extremely well, and they defend the run well on top of that.”

On there being enough linemen on the West Coast: “I think so. You don’t have to be the biggest guys to be a physical team. I think we’ve seen that with Oregon here for the past few years. Oregon’s more physical than people give them credit for. They don’t have the biggest linemen either. I think there’s enough bodies to go around to fit what you want to be and how you want to do it. Big doesn’t always necessarily mean physical either, it goes both ways. I think there’s a real characteristic in a player that you’re looking for and a style of play that if it fits your brand of football it can fit. It may not fit another program within the same conference.”

On the evolution of the tight end: “I don’t think it’s change a whole lot, quite honestly. They were always viewed traditionally as a blocker, first and then as a pass catcher second and the really good ones do both, and we’re fortunate enough to have a couple of really good ones and they obviously have a couple really good ones themselves.”

On having an athletic tight end like Austin Seferian-Jenkins: “I don’t know exactly how big Kellen Winslow was but he was pretty athletic back in the day with Dan Fouts and Charlie Joiner and those guys with the Chargers. Keith Jackson what he was doing with the Eagles back in the day, so there have been athletic tight ends before, Tony Gonzalez has been doing it for years now in the National Football League. But those guys are at a premium and when you get guys who can do both you want to try to take advantage of that.”

On being able to develop offensive linemen into being physical: “I think you can develop it. I think sometimes, especially with big kids, they are told their whole lives ‘take it easy on them, take it easy on them, take it easy on them’ and now we are trying to tell them to get after them and beat them up, the whole thing, so there is a little transformation there. But I think it can happen.”

On being a faster offense getting to the edges: “I think we are more athletic up front, our linemen, our ability to pull and get out in front of guys. I think we have generated a little bit more speed. I think Chris (Polk) is faster than he has ever been. I think Jesse (Callier) has always had that element and now Bishop Sankey is a real fast kid to get to the edge, get to the perimeter, and I think our receivers are doing a great job of blocking downfield. That’s something we challenged them on in the off-season that they needed to improve upon if we were going to take another step as a football team and they are playing physical football. I thought Jermaine Kearse had an excellent game last game blocking downfield, he was physical with guys, and James Johnson has been doing it for us down the field blocking, Kevin Smith, Devin Aguilar. We’ll see it with Kasen — he’s a big, physical guy. And if you want to run to the perimeter you need to block really well and I think our receivers have improved there.”

On what is the key to the receivers blocking better: “I think to understand that everything counts at that position, that it’s not just about catching touchdowns but about doing everything. Doing the little things and understanding that if you want to be a regular and playing consistently for our football team you need to be a blocker, you need to be a guy that it’s not about the stats, that the one stat that matters is winning and scoring touchdowns, and when you do that then all the sudden it all comes together and you are seeing the distribution within our system right now, I think our top four guys are within about three catches of each other receiving the ball, so it’s paying off for us.”

On the health:Taz (Stevenson) is out, still. I think Keith gets better by the day. I don’t know percentages wise, I don’t know. I wish they had a gauge for that, one of these smart doctors make something up of what percentage is 100 and hard to gauge what is not 100 and how far off. But Kasen I think is getting better. I was really impressed with him to go in the ballgame and return the punts and catch the punts and he probably could have played wide receiver if we needed him to but I’d rather have him get healthy on that end of it and you’ll see him back out there this week. Johnny Timu got in the game and did some pretty good things and I think he’s 100 percent good to go. … (Garret Gilliland) had a little stinger, he’s okay. Danny Shelton is not 100 percent but is getting close with the foot sprain.”

On using a lot of different formations on offense: “Yeah, definitely. I think that’s one of our strengths. That’s something that’s unique to our brand of football. We believe in personnel groupings and shifts and motions and a lot of multiplicity in that aspect. Each week, we try to come up with a couple new wrinkles that 1, are advantageous to our gameplan, but 2, our kids embrace and they can have fun with. Last week, we motioned Devin out of the backfield a couple times – we lined him up in the backfield and brought him out as a running back. So different things like that that keep our kids interested and having fun with what we do, but also is effective to the game plan that can then help us to attack our opponent. As we’re going through and looking at Stanford and trying to find some holes in that defense, there will probably be a few new things that we do that we haven’t shown before.”
On Andrew Luck: “Oh, he’s a pretty good player. I think what Andrew has, and I’ve appreciated this about him watching him – they’ve been on TV quite a bit – obviously, the physical tools; I mean, he’s 6-4, maybe more now, 245 pounds. He can run, he’s got great arm strength, he’s got great anticipation. But they don’t run a bad play. And that’s because of him. That’s because of his ability to prepare mentally. And so I just haven’t seen him make a bunch of poor throws or throw into coverage or make a bad play. And that’s the beauty of him. For a kid in college to be doing all that stuff is pretty impressive.”
On being ranked: “Our perception’s changing, I guess, of who we are. … People are ranking us higher, so they must think we’re better than what they thought of us a week ago. Our perception of ourselves hasn’t changed; it’s the perception of what other people think of us has changed. As we continue to grow … To me, that’s what polls are about. They’re perception. We really don’t know. I think about people voting on LSU or Alabama – who’s better? How do you really know until they play? That’s the perception of those two teams. And Oklahoma, for that matter. Our perception is where we are. We came into the top 25, and that doesn’t have to be the reality if we don’t want it to be. We can perform better than that, or we can perform worse than that, given every Saturday. The challenge is to play to the perception of ourselves.”
On the team having more depth this year: “Without a doubt, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I knew we had the depth offensively, with the receivers, the tight end, the backs. But now defensively, at the safety spot, to play four safeties. At the linebacker spot, I think we played six or seven linebackers at that spot. At the corner position. So that depth there is critical for us as we move forward, against a physical team like Stanford, against an up-tempo team like Arizona, against another up-tempo team like Oregon, you’ve got to have depth in this conference. I’ve been saying it since Day 1, and now we finally get to reap some of the benefits. We can substitute guys and play guys and trust them and count on them, and they’re playing good football for us.”

On Stanford also having a lot of formations: “Yeah, especially the two tight-end stuff. They’re going to be in empty one snap, and the next snap it looks like they’re in goal-line offense. So they challenge you that way. And now they’ve incorporated some no-huddle with it. It’s a taxing offense that they throw at you, and Luck operates it extremely well.”

On the key to slowing down Stanford’s tight ends: “You need to cover them. I think where they make their biggest plays is, they lull you to sleep running the ball, then they play action pass and there goes (Coby) Fleener on a post route and there is no one within 20 yards, or there goes the new kid, 11 (Levine Toilolo) — I was just watching him with Nick Holt — play-action pass and there goes 11 behind everybody by 20 yards. You’ve got to cover him. If that’s your man, you are assigned to him, if that’s your zone you need to be disciplined and cover him. That’s where they get you. They pound on you, wear on you, running the ball, but where they really get you is in the play-action pass game and those tight ends that can run get behind you for chunks of yards at a time.”
On who to match up on the tight ends: “They beat corners — that Fleener can run, man. I don’t know what he runs, or what he runs at the combine, but he can run. That guy, he’s a wide receiver that can run. He can run. It’s not just linebackers. They are throwing seam routes and go routes and corner routes on defensive backs, and they make plays.”
On if the tight ends catch defenders off-guard with their speed: “I think so. The perception is, ‘He’s not going to be because he’s a big guy.’ The perception is, and then you get locked in defending the run, and your run integrity and gap integrity. That’s the beauty of running the ball, and of play-action passing. It presents a great challenge. But that’s been the history of football. The play-action pass, that’s when the biggest plays happen.”
On thoughts on the team at the halfway point of the season: “We’re better. We’re a better team, just in general. We play a much more consistent brand of football. The last two years we’d been very spotty, hit and miss. We’d play very good one week and not very good the next. I think we’re finding the consistency within our game as a team that we need from an approach standpoint, from a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and also to our execution on game day, of doing things right. That in and of itself tells me, I don’t envision us going there and just completely laying an egg like we have last year and like we really did two years ago. I don’t think we played very well two years ago, either. I thought we did some nice things early in the game and just fell apart in a sense. And that’s a tribute to Stanford. They are a great team, and when they get ahead of you, that’s their style of play and they can get you there. What’s encouraging to me is I think we’ll play a more consistent game Saturday and that starts today with our preparation mentally and physically. And I think we will execute better on Saturday. And we’ll find out if that’s good enough to win. I don’t know if that’s good enough to win or not.”
On Stanford’s first-quarter success: “Yeah, I think they are beating their opponents 60-0 (actually 50-0) in the first quarter. So we better show up early. Don’t wait.”
On running the ball more to control the clock more: “I want to score, you know?. We didn’t score against them last year. So I think that’s the first task. We need to score. We are not foolish enough to think that Stanford is not going to score. So that’s the first task, to make sure we score. And, two, make this thing a game into the second half. If that means minimizing some possessions there’s a possibility of that. But I also don’t want to lose the rhythm of this offense right now. We’re in the infancy stages of game planning for this ball game right now, and it will become a lot more clear to us Tuesday, Wednesday and then into Thursday we will be able to make a better assessment there. I thought the no-huddle stuff was good for us last week and got us into a good rhythm. But I also think there is the old adage of wanting to keep their best player off the field by using play clock. So we’ll have to figure that out. We’ll have a game plan that fits what we thinks gives us the best chance to be successful on Saturday. And we haven’t gotten to that conclusion yet.”
On the sideline interference penalty against Colorado: “It was really, it wasn’t on a coach. It was on a member of our staff that was walking down the sidelines and the official ran into him. we’re probably leading the country in sideline interference penalties right now.”

On Jim Harbaugh: “I think Jim is a fiery guy. He’s a competitor. That’s OK. He probably loves what he does, like we do.”

On if the Huskies are where he thought they’d be at this point of the season: “I guess it’s relatively close. I like our brand of football, I like the way we’re playing. I know there is so much room for improvement though. That’s why I’m so hesitant to say ‘this is exactly where I wanted to be.’ But I do know that we have a chance to get better even from here. I don’t feel like we’ve reached our potential to say that and I think we’ve got a group of kids that are very hungry and a coaching staff that is dilligent in their efforts to work at this and put our players in the best position to be successful. What I am really proud of is how close we are as a team. I think this is the closest team we’ve had in three years. We’re very family oriented. We stick together. We hang together. We’re in this thing together, win or lose, good times or bad and that in and of itself has provided us opporunties to be successful late in games and when games are on the line. I’ve been proud of our guys and whether it’s from the first year till now we’ve grown and gotten better at our ability to finish ball games in the fourth quarter and I think that is due in part that we’re very close and we count on one another and we’re going to be there for each other and it’s paid off.”

On if Stanford comes at a good time: “I don’t know if Stanford ever comes at a great time. They’re pretty good. Sooner or later you’ve got to play them all and I feel like we’re performing at a pretty high level. That doesn’t mean you wave the magic wand and we’re going to go out and perform great on Saturday. We need to practice and prepare really well and that’s what it takes to play well and perform well. But I think we’re finding the rhythm in that and what Monday means and what Tuesday’s mean and what Wednesday’s mean from a mental preparation standpoint of understanding the game plan and also physical preparation of healing from the last game, preparing your body for the next game, getting your sleep at night, getting your rest, eating the right foods to get yourself prepared for that and I think we’re a lot closer to understanding that consistently than we ever have been in the past so I think for that I don’t know if it’s the best time for it but we’re as healthy as we could be at this point and we’re understanding what it takes to be successful.”

On Nick Montana’s game against Colorado: “It was good for him. I think the first play was good for him quite honestly. You’ve got to hold on to the ball in this conference. He’ll leanr from that first play and he’ll leanr from other plays. I was happy for him that he was in on the touchdown drive there at the end to get some momentum and a couple completions there and getting the huddle and developing a presence and all those things was huge for him to play and play through that. If that was his last play I would have felt that could wear on a kid but he got through it. He’ll be fine.”



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