Here’s more of what UW coach Steve Sarkisian had to say at today’s press conference, in handy written form.
On repairing the psyche of the team: “It’s started already. We have to understand where we’re at. We’re a 5-2 football team still, we’re 3-1 in our conference. We’ve lost to two pretty dang good teams on the road. So the process has started, and it’ll be better today after I get a chance to be with the guys again.”
On the dangers of UA’s run game, given how the defense did against Stanford: “I think last week was a little bit of a unique setting. Stanford got into a goal-line offense, and we couldn’t get them out of it. We knew they had the potential to do that. That’s why I felt like offensively, if we could have capitalized and gotten them to try more things…we just weren’t able to do it. And they just wear you out. They are a big, physical team – and again I tip my hat to Stanford. They executed very well. That’s one of the unique traits that they have – they know what they’re doing, they do it very well, they don’t run a bad play, and so I tip my hat to Stanford. They are a good team. Unfortunately part of the plan was to wait ’em out a little bit in the run game, to see if we could put pressure on them with our offense to get them out of their comfort zone, and we just weren’t able to do that. The game plan we went in with, hoping to be successful, didn’t work.”
On Andrew Luck making adjustments at the line: “Sure. He did a great job at the line of scrimmage – whether it was running the power play…if we were lined up in a certain direction, or going back the other way based on the counter play the other way based on our alignments. He knows that line of scrimmage and that formation very well, and it plays to their strengths. And they did a nice job with it.”
On if Stanford is the toughest matchup in the Pac-12: “We’ll find out. We haven’t played Oregon, we haven’t played SC, we haven’t played Arizona State. But I do know that they are a tough matchup for us, and they’ve been so now for three years. We’ll obviously have to re-evaluate our schemes and how we try and defend Stanford, and also how we try to attack them. But also we have to continue to recruit. They are a big, physical team. You look at them in pre-game and you forget how big they are. I try not to remember how big they are until we have to remember how big they are when we play them. But the tight ends, the tackles, the defensive ends on defense, the defensive tackles – they are a big, strong, physical team that play very well straight-ahead, coming at you – and they take their toll on your. It’s one of their unique traits.”
More on the Huskies being tentative: “I don’t know exactly. You could easily say that because we didn’t play great defensively right from the beginning. Y’know, I felt like our guys wanted to be right so much. They wanted to make sure that they were in their gaps so much, and they tax you by giving you extra gaps and extra linemen. I think our guys really made a conscious effort to be gap correct that they didn’t let it go. It’s one thing to be in your gap, but at some point you’ve got to beat the man across from you, you’ve got to get off the block. We need to coach that better. And that will start today.”
On if that’s been a problem all year: “There have been times when we’ve been overaggressive, too aggressive, trying too hard to make a play, and we gave up some big plays that way as well. There’s a fine line there of doing things right but doing it relentlessly and with great tenacity. And there’s a fine line with trying too hard, being overaggressive, trying to make the play and then ultimately getting beat the other way too. There’s a fine line there. For a time there we found that right balance, and obviously we lost it there at Stanford.
On if Nick Foles gets lost in the shuffle of all the good Pac-12 quarterbacks out there? “Sure. I think he’s been playing good football now for quite some time in our conference. They’re a very talented offensive football team, with (receiver Juron) Criner being back now, and (Dan) Buckner, and (David) Douglas in the slot. They tax you throwing the ball. But I think Nick Foles is a tremendous player. And I think he’ll go to have a tremendous NFL career.”
Do they do anything different now that Mike Stoops is gone? “No, not really. They did a few things defensively a little different. They did some bare-front stuff, played a little more man-to-man defense. Offensively, I thought they were committing themselves a little more to the run than they had in the earlier weeks. But nothing that drastically different. It just looked like they loosened up, relaxed and went and had fun playing football. It was evident, even on the film – never mind the TV copy, you definitely notice it on the TV copy, but also on the coaches’ copy of the film, they looked very elusive, free and they played fast. So it’ll be a great challenge.
On if a new coach is what makes them dangerous? “I think so. I think there’s something to be said about that. You never know what you’re going to get in those types of games. So our preparation is going to be key, our ability to focus on the task at hand, understanding our game plan, and get back to our brand of football. I thought offensively, we did some nice things against Stanford in the first half. I think there were three-hundred-and-twenty-something yards there against a defense that hadn’t been giving up very much all year, but unfortunately we didn’t capitalize in the red zone in three different instances there. That hurt us in the second quarter. And I thought that set us in a little bit of a tailspin there into the third quarter for our football team. So we’ve got to be able to get that back offensively because I think we can do some things. We need to get back to playing more physical up front. I thought Stanford pushed us around pretty good up front, our offensive line. So there will be some key messages and things that we have to get to this week to get back to that.
On if the Huskies are physically gifted enough on defense: “I think it’s a work in progress. In a perfect world I wish Danny Shelton could really redshirt for us. I wish Alameda Ta’amu was a redshirt junior. I wish Semisi (Tokolahi) was a redshirt freshman. I wish … Johnny Timu was redshirting right now. But we’re in a situation where we’re playing a lot of young guys. Not only mentally but physically those games can take a tole on you so I think we’ll only get better, especially in that type of a ball game. They physically and mentally Stanford to their credit really impose their will on you. If you would have told me going into the game Saturday that Andrew Luck would throw for 160 yards but we’d get beat by 44 points, I wouldn’t have believed you. I didn’t think that was possible, but it did. Obviously we need to continue to mature and grow.”
On describing his role with the defense: “Well, I think in a sense I’m the CEO of this company. You can micro manage every little aspect of it if you like and if I do that I’m not going to last very long. Quite honestly. I’ll be six feet deep here pretty soon. You can’t do that. You have to put people in place that you trust and can count on to do a great job and you allow them to do their job. And you offer advice when you think advice is needed but you allow them to do their job.”
On if he offered advice after the Stanford game? “There is advice needed every day. There is no doubt about that. Advice is needed every day. I think I have a decent perspective of the game of football and I can see things that make sense to me and that don’t make sense to me and I try to offer that advice.”
On if this is wearing on Nick Holt? “I’m sure it’s wearing on him. Nick is a tremendous football coach and has had a great deal of success in his career and it’s frustrating for all of us. We’re not proud of the face we’re not playing defense the way we all think we can. We’re not excited that we gave up 60 points this past Saturday. There is frustration, but I also think we understand there is room for improvement. We can get better and we will get better.”
On any comparisons with the Nebraska game, when things got away from them in the third quarter: “I don’t know. This game it felt like more the second quarter quite honestly. I think we got beat in the second quarter of this game 28-0 or 28-7 but the one score came early in the second quarter. We as a team it could be youth, it could be I’m just not sure what, psyche. When we’ve had opportunities to capitalize on things and to make some plays, to keep the pressure on our opponent and we didn’t do it, it almost feels like the momentum really comes out of our sails and picks their sails up. It’s something that I have to coach to better. I think back to Nebraska obviously we drop a third down conversion there on the first drive of the second half, they score, they kickoff, we fumble the kickoff, they score again, they kickoff, we go down the field, we go for it on fourth-and-2 in the red zone and don’t get it and they score again. That felt eerily similar in this ball game in the second quarter where we drive down, we’ve got a 1st and goal on the 10 yard line, we get a holding penalty, it knocks us back, we missed the field goal, they go down and score, we drive down we think we’re moving again, we throw the pick 6. A lot of the segments in there are very similar to where we have to find a way to capture our guys and refocus them within the ballgame before we even get to the locker room or before we even to the sidelines within a series, I’ve got to do a better job of that.”
On if it’s harder refocus for the defense?: “I don’t know. Maybe they go hand in hand. I’m not sure who it affects first. But it is something I am looking at, definitely, and trying to analyze as the head coach. How can we get to the point where we don’t let things snowball on us, where we can stop the bleeding, re-focus and get back going in a positive direction quicker than we have.”
On how Keith Price played: “I thought played a really gutsy performance. I thought Keith played well. They hit him quite a bit. And that can take it’s toll, but I don’t think that affected his decision making. I thought he kept his vision extremely well down the field. There’s always a couple here and there you’d like to have back but the game just got away from us. I thought the best opportunity we had against a very good defense like Stanford was to remain balanced, to be able to run the ball, throw the ball. And we were able to do that early in the game, but as the game got out of hand we became a much more one-dimensional team. And they were able to really pin their ears back and get after Keith. I thought that’s why we really started to sputter more offensively.”
On if future foes just say, ‘we’ve got to hit Price to beat them?’ or is Stanford just that good?: “Oh, I think Stanford’s that good. We knew coming into the game they were leading our conference in sacks. They do a tremendous job of hitting the quarterback, through the echo of the whistle, in my opinion. They do a nice job of understanding what’s late and what’s not and finishing those hits. But that’s one of Stanford’s strengths to how they play defense. I think the reality of it is all of us would love to line up in power I and three tight ends and extra tackle and run power and counter the whole game. That doesn’t fit our personnel. And I think the same think can be said of the defensive side of the ball and how they get after the quarterback and rush the passer.”
On if Stanford did anything different defensively as opposed to previous opponents? “No. As we’d talked about, we saw more ‘cloud’ coverage, two-high safety looks. We were anticipating seeing some of that, and I thought we did a nice job of attacking it and we were able to hit Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) a couple of times down the middle of the field there. And they were able to force some matchups to where they were able to bring one more than we could block at some situations, and put us in some one-on-one matchups where we had to really rely on our receivers to win. And we were able to do that for the most part. We had a couple protection breakdowns where Keith got hit on the release and didn’t allow us to get the ball to the receiver but where I thought we had won in a one-on-one setting.”
On what is the pysche of the Huskies right now? “I’ll know better at 1:30. That’s when I really get them all together. The message will be clear and they will understand what’s needed to be done starting today and as we move forward starting to prepare for Saturday night’s game. Again, we’re a pretty good football team. You get beat, you get beat. I wouldn’t feel any better or any worse if Stanford kicked a field goal with no time left to beat us than I feel right now with them beating us by 44 points. I’ve said this before: Losing sucks. None of us like it. We can sit and dwell on it and feel sorry for ourselves. But the reality is, we are 5-2. We are 3-1 in conference play and there’s a lot of football left to be played. And we need to get right, and we need to get right today. We can’t afford to sit in a lull right now of feeling sorry for ourselves and let this one ball game linger and turn it into one, two, three, four ball games. We need to get this right, get it fixed and get our mentality — and as I said Saturday, get our mojo back. Today.”
On some players saying they’ve been able bounce before after losing big: “First, I hope we are not proud of that, getting blown out and coming back. Again, I’ve touched on this, I think this is an extremely resilient group, especially when we get a chance to assess things and come to a common understanding of where we are as a football team, and that’s why I think we can fix the in-game issues we are having that I touched on earlier. I don’t think it’s for lack of mental toughness or resiliency for these guys, that’s why I want to do a better job in-game. But out of game it’s just coming to a better understanding of where we are at, what needs to be done, what the challenge is that lies ahead and re-focusing, and that’s going to be what we have to get started on today.”
On if it’s more challenging to rebuild a defense than an offense: “I would say they are remotely the same because one is you’ve got to have playmakers in place to do that, and two you need to have reliable and accountable schemes that can fit your personnel that you can get fixed and get tweaked and get right. And then three is the psyche part of it. And on both sides of the ball those things come into play. It’s hard to be a really good offense if guys aren’t making plays. As much as plays look good and look great on the board when you draw them up, if a guy can’t beat press coverage or man-to-man coverage or if a guy can’t make a throw or your left tackle can’t block a guy, those plays don’t look as good. And the same on defense — if you can’t cover in man coverage or you don’t get off a block, those plays don’t look as good. I think they go hand-in-hand both ways. So you need to understand where your strengths are and play to your strengths and then ultimately you’ve got to have the psyche and the mentality that you are going to make those plays and to go do it. So both of them are challenging to fix when things aren’t going well and it takes time and it takes some success to build upon and it’s not just going to happen overnight. You need to lay a foundation, you need to continue to build and there are going to be bumps in the road but you’ve got to continue to build and not panic and go off in some direction that are uncharted waters for you. If you are a shotgun spread team and you are not throwing the ball well I don’t think it’s real advantageous for you the next week to say we are going to line up in the Power-I 38 snaps and just think you are going to run power — if you weren’t built that way it’s going to be hard to do. It goes both ways.”
On having two straight 7:30 p.m. games: “Nothing changes except for gameday. It’s a little longer wait in the hotel, but outside of that I think for us late October, playing a home game in Husky Stadium at 7:30 at night is advantageous for us, for our fan base, from a weather perspective — I think our kids really enjoy it.”
Any injuries? “(Justin Glenn) hurt his foot a little bit there late in the ballgame, but nothing serious. We came out of it with no serious injuries but just like any ballgame we have our bumps and our bruises we will have to work through early in the week.”
On if he saw the streaker during the Arizona-UCLA game, and then the fight?: “It was funny. Everybody probably has a story from it. I was watching that game with my family. I had just gotten home. When the streaker happened – especially you have young kids you don’t know it’s a streaker because it looked like the official was coming out – we were cracking up, quite honestly. We were laughing and laughing. My son kept telling me, “rewind it, rewind it.” He though it was so funny because they don’t show the guy down in the end zone. They just showed him running on the field trying to get the ball. After rewinding it five or six times, then all of the sudden you see the brawl, and it was “whoa, what just happened.” It captured our attention for a good 30 minutes. But it’s a little unfortunate because I think of our conference as an extremely classy conference. The Pac 12 conference to me is about class – the universities that are in it, the football programs, the coaches and the players that were there before us. I wish it hadn’t occurred. Obviously, I think both universities wish it hadn’t occurred.
On if the Pac-12 is delivering a message with the suspensions: “Sure, pretty significant. You know, pretty significant. It’s a great teaching point for our players, obviously. One, you can’t throw punches. Two, you can’t leave the bench. So we’ve got to do a really good job as a coaching staff if we ever get placed in that instance, let the officials take care of what’s going on the field and let’s make sure that the guys that are on the sideline remain on the sideline.”
On if UA will be affected with losing four defensive backs: “It can in the sense is that Shaq Richardson is obviously a starter and a very good player for them. But they have other guys in place. They’ve recruited well and they’ve done a nice job for years recruiting DBs, I don’t think we’ll see a big drop off that way. Three of the four starters are still playing for them, so I would imagine they will be ok.”
On if seeing Eastern and Hawaii and seeing Arizona a few years ago help any when it comes to game-planning against them? “We saw that two years ago, here really utilizing the quick game and throwing the ball against us. I think we’ve grown in that department in understanding that and the stickiness in our coverage. I’m probably the most delighted they are going to line up in 32 personnel and run power Saturday. Quite honestly, I got a little tired of watching unit.”
On the significance wearing the black uniforms against Arizona: “Wearing the all black uniforms, we did last year for the Thursday night game against UCLA and again in the Holiday Bowl for the night game. It just feels fitting. It’s homecoming;. We are excited about it. I know our kids love wearing them. I think the fanbase is excited about it and our students. Just to get the messaging out today that we are wearing the all blacks, to get the black out for Saturday night and get people excited. We expect Husky Stadium to be rocking. It’s just one more reason to do that.”