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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 20, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Thursday practice notes — Huskies loose heading to Stanford

The Huskies have wrapped up their final practice of the week in preparation for Saturday’s game at Stanford.

And if the team seemed a little loose as it departed the Dempsey Indoor, that was just fine with UW coach Steve Sarkisian. Any sense of big-game tightness that might be expected of a coach heading into what some have called UW’s biggest regular-season game in maybe a decade wasn’t apparent when Sarkisian talked with the media afterward.

“I don’t know — ask my wife about how relaxed I am,” Sarkisian initially joked when asked if he seemed a little looser before this game than he maybe has been in the past.

Then he continued.

“You know, I enjoy the process,” he said. “I am learning this football team. I think this is a relatively relaxed team, as well. I think they perform better when we are a little bit more relaxed than when we are jarred up. So, you have to play to the team as well, and to what I think is the best way to motivate them.”

And part of learning about this team is also beginning to understand what to expect each week. That might have been an issue against Eastern Washington. But the five games since then have proven to Sarkisian that he can pretty much count on a certain level of performance from his players each week.

“I know a little bit I know what to expect from our guys – where our strengths are and where I think we need work,” he said. “I feel good about where we are. My biggest thing now is we’ll see if it is good enough. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Indeed, the Stanford game looms as the proverbial “litmus test” for UW, a game that will show not just Sarkisian, but everyone else who follows college football, how far the Huskies have come and how far they may still have to go. He was reminded Thursday that when he took the job, he said he didn’t think UW had that far to go to get back to the top and was asked if he thinks it still won’t take that long.

“You know, I don’t know, because I think there is a lot of work left to be done,” he said. “I really didn’t know how long ‘not very long’ was – that was kind of I guess, the reason for the statement. I don’t know how long very long is, but I did think we could get back to where we were competing for conference championships. This is kind of one of those types of games – this Saturday at Stanford. I think we’re in it.”

What also adds to the confidence is a relatively healthy team heading to Stanford.

Receiver Kasen Williams had another solid day of work and appears good to go.

Sarkisian also said DT Danny Shelton is recovered from a foot injury that slowed him a little the last couple games.

Safety James Sample continues to deal with a shoulder injury, but practiced again Thursday. “Yeah, he’s getting back there,” Sarkisian said. “We’re dealing with this shoulder thing, it keeps lingering. We would like to get him 100 percent healthy before we put him back out there, but we’re half-way through the season and we need to try and get him going.”

He also said he thinks Keith Price is getting healthier. “I thought he moved around pretty well today,” Sarkisian said. “He always gets really healthy here in the next 48 hours because it’s so limited work-wise and he’s off his feet and his body can really recuperate and he can get a lot of treatment in that time. As we’ve noticed throughout the weeks, these next 48 hours are great for him.”

He even said there’s a chance safety Taz Stevenson, who has had a knee injury of late and has missed the last three games, could make the trip. “Potentially, yeah,” he said, adding the travel roster would be finalized after practice.

IN A FEW OTHER NOTES. …

— Sarkisian had this to say about the news that Stanford will be without starting strong safety Delano Howell: “I know Howell is an excellent player; he’s very physical, he’s got very good command of their defense in the secondary. He’s really in control, almost the quarterback of their defense. And he’s probably one of, if not the most physical player in our confence, never mind their team. So I think there’s some significance to it.”

— Here’s what he said when asked if he’s found any tendencies in Andrew Luck and Stanford’s offense to possibly exploit: “I think there’s things – never mind just quarterbacks – there’s always things at the end of the week you end up with kind of a laundry list of things that you look for based off of tendencies and looks and whatnot. Stanford, like everybody, has their own, just like we have our own, and you have to make those decisions; even though it’s a tendency, do we change it, or do we keep on doing it? And that’s the stuff – you compile all this information and you take it to Saturday and you see what holds true and what’s different…and then you make your adjustments off that.”

— Asked if there’s a balance between being reactive and proactive to Luck and his ability to change calls at the line, he said: “I think the biggest thing is that you’ve got to play your call and you have to play it really well. This isn’t a time to out-smart each other; they’re probably a little smarter than we are. So we need to play our call and play it hard, fast, and physical.”

— And asked about Stanford’s quick starts to each half — 50-0 in the first quarter, 78-6 in the third — he said: “I think there’s some merit to it. You add up the first quarter and the third quarter, it’s 128-6, so it tells me they have a real plan when they go into a game and when they come out of halftime. They have a real plan offensively for what they’re doing as well as defensively of what they’re doing. I think it’s important for us to have our energy right when we come out of the locker room for both of those two settings, and that we need to execute our plan really well in those first and third quarters. Those are really big quarters against them.”

— Finally, there was a funny exchange when Sarkisian was asked why he began using the metaphor of “climbing the mountain” now instead of earlier in th year: “I didn’t think of it then, honestly. I wish I would have, but I didn’t. It kind of just came to me. I think it’s fitting. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, for every team, but I think it’s fitting for us and where we’ve begun and to where we’ve gotten to. I think teams make mistakes that are new to this of saying, wow, look at all we’ve accomplished. And then you slide back down because you feel like you’ve made it. And then teams make mistakes when you look up and you say, ‘I can’t wait until I get to there and get to there and there,’ and they miss what’s right in front of them. So we’re just really trying to take this one step at a time, and this next step happens to be Stanford.”

You can see Sarkisian’s post-practice media briefing below:

[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”1229662603001″][/do]

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