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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 31, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Sark bites — Oregon edition

Here it is, the regular Monday collection of quotes straight from UW coach Steve Sarkisian following his weekly press conference. (Though I’ll also pass along the news that the Nov. 12 game at USC has been selected for a national telecast on FX and will kick off at 12:45 p.m.)

On the biggest point of emphasis against the Ducks: “Win, I guess would be the biggest point of emphasis. They obviously present a great deal of challenges with their overall team speed, whether it’s offense, defense, or special teams. And again, our ability to capitalize on opportunities. I feel like the last two years, we’ve been unable to do that. In the first halves of both ball games we’ve been in the red zone and haven’t had the success that we are accustomed to having. We’ve settled for field goals and we’ve gone for it on 4th down and not converted. And in turn, I think we’ve moved the ball relatively well early in the ball games, but haven’t gotten the points on the board needed when you’re playing a team like Oregon. And the other point of emphasis is finding a way in the middle of the third quarter to be fresh defensively so we can hang with ’em. Because I think we’ve played decent defense against them for two-and-a-half quarters for two years in a row now, but have run out of gas in the last 20 plays of the game. That’s where they’ve really hurt us.”

On Keith Price making his first start at Oregon and what he saw: “I saw that the moment wasn’t too big for him. He was able to go into Autzen Stadium against the No. 1 team in the country and play. I don’t think he was perfect. I wish we were a little bit better around him; we had a few drops and we had an illegal formation that got a touchdown called back at the end of the first half, so I would have liked to have played a little better around him, but what I learned was that the moment wasn’t too big for him. He stepped in and played and wasn’t by any means rattled by it.”

On the offensive slow start against Arizona: “It was just us. We were trying too hard. We were too jarred up. Maybe I was trying to make it a point that we were going to come out and play passionate, energetic football, and we tried too hard. We had some penalties that were uncharacteristic for us. I think Jermaine (Kearse) hits a guy late and it’s a 15-yard penalty, and Drew (Schaefer)’s been a tremendous snapper all year, but in shotgun his first snap is a little high and wide…which tells me that we were a little too jarred up, trying a little too hard. But I thought once we were able to settle down and play the way we were capable of playing, it got better for us. But that still didn’t totally hold true; for us to drop two balls and then to get intercepted…things like that are uncharacteristic for the way we play the game. I thought our guys continued to battle and fought through some of that. It wasn’t easy that way. Once games can get going like that, it can get hard on you. It can get tense. And I thought our guys fought through.”

On Oregon’s team speed and is UW better suited to that in terms of style than some other offenses: “I think so. We are not the biggest group in the world. I think that we have adhered to the sense that in this day and age in college football you’d better be able to play in space because there are so many teams that are spreading you out and there is so much movement on the line, slanting and moving on the defensive line, that if your players can’t play in space and redirect you are going to be in trouble over the long haul in college football, and so I’d like to think we are a little better suited towards that. But Oregon can give you that deception that man, they are just going to spread you out and spread you out and then they run power or inside zone right at you and you’d better be able to anchor in and defend those plays as well.”

On Oregon’s defense: “I think they are really good. I think a little bit is, their numbers are a bit skewed because they’ve faced more plays than other teams face because their offense goes so far. But if you look at average yards per play they have a very good number. So they are playing good defense, they just have to defend more snaps than most teams do.”

On getting defensive substitutions in more quickly against Oregon’s no-huddle: “You have to go, and when they sub we have to sub. The rule is if they are going to sub somebody that they have to give us at least three seconds as well, so when they sub you have to sub, it’s very similar to basketball it just happens quicker. When they send someone to the scorer’s table you have to send your guy to the scorer’s table and be on point in your timing with them?”

On Oregon’s QB situation and it if matters if he knows who the starter is: “It’s not a whole lot different. They are running their plays. They both run the ball extremely well when they get their opportunities to. They are accurate passers. I think it’s a nice luxury that they have that they have two guys that they feel like can go in and move their offense and create big plays for them in the run game or the pass game.”

On if the Huskies will go in assuming they will see both of them: “We’ve just got to defend their offense quite honestly. This is nothing against a Darron Thomas or a Bryan Bennett, but our concerns are a little bit more of 21, 24 and 6 (running backs LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas) — if you blink they are in the end zone so we’ve got to make sure we understand where they are at all times whether it’s at running back or in the slot at wide receiver and doing all the things they are doing with those guys.”

On DeAnthony Thomas: “Electric player. For the number of touches he has in comparison to how many touchdowns he has already scored, it’s an unbelievable stat. And now he is doing it in the kick return game, as well. We saw that last week. So really, again the ultimate challenge in this game is understanding where those three guys are because they move them around constantly. They are motioning them and they’ve got different formations and to recognize where they are has got to be one of the key components to the game.”

On Sarkisian’s relationship with Chip Kelly:“I think the world of Chip. We’ve got a very good relationship. I probably communicate with Chip as much as any other coach in our conference in season or out of season. I think he’s done a tremendous job at Oregon and they’ve gotten better since he’s taken over. It’s a real tribute and credit to him. I think that a lot of the natural things that you do when you take over a program that is successful already is say ‘let’s just stay the course and keep doing what they are doing.’ And I think Chip really went in and said I want to change all of these things and different things and you see the changes they have made and they have improved because of it.”

On if the 1991 team will speak to the team: “The 91 team is coming. I don’t think I’ll have anything formal where they’ll talk to our team.”

On the importance of facilities in recruiting: “I think it’s a real factor. From a facilities standpoint Oregon has done a really nice job of staying at the front of the line with the things they are doing. I think it’s a factor. Kids want to know whether it’s the weight room, the training room, the locker room that they are at a state of the art facilities and it’s just like anything. It’s like being in the National Football League and you’re a free agent on a tour around and you go to some of the new facilities and you go somewhere like the VMAC and that’s why they’re able to sign free agents and that kind of thing, because guys like those features and opportunities to have when they go to school somewhere.”

On trying not to get too overhyped for the game: “I’m going to talk to it today as soon as I get with these guys. It’s going to be one of the first things we touch on. We all want to play well Saturday night, that goes without saying and for all the right reasons. But for us to play well Saturday night, we have to practice well today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and friday and in order for us to practice well we need to prepare well mentally and physically, emotionally and to do that we can’t get caught up in the things that are going on around us. Whether Lincoln Kennedy is in town or Steve Emtman is in town or it’s senior night and how many tickets are being given out to this person or Coach (Don) James is there, there is so much other stuff involved for us to enjoy that experience saturday night our focus has to be on that game and that has to start today.”

On if the spread offense is ever going away: “Oregon has elite talent. I don’t think it’s just going to go away. I don’t think it will go away for ever, but I do think the spread offense has evolved. I think the spread offense was put in place initially for teams to throw the ball, that could get the ball out of their hands quickly, the quick game, spread teams out and I’m going back and thinking Purdue with Drew Brees and that offense when they were getting going. And now the spread offense has evolved into more of a running offense and formations where teams are getting into the spread to get an extra blocker with the quarterback and the zone read stuff and the true quarterback runs, so I don’t know if it’s ever going to go away completely but I do think it’s continually evolving. We refer to Oregon as a spread offense, but you watch them on film and they’re in a bunch of two tight end sets and a bunch of two back and tight end sets, so we talk about them as a spread offense but they’re not nearly as spread as they use to be a few years ago, so I think it’s an evolving offense that will continue to evolve.”

On UW’s success in the red zone: “It’s a real credit to the respect that Chris (Polk) gets in the red zone and the coverages we get and it’s a tribute to Keith and his ability to be efficient in the red zone. He’s been extremely accurate, he’s throwing it to the right guys and we’ve made our plays in the red zone. it’s nice when you can be balanced and you don’t know if it’s a run or a pass and things of that nature but keith is allowing the system to work and No. 1 when we get the coverages that we want is physical enough to score the ball running the ball, but has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and do the things he’s doing there as well. We’ve got quite a bit of versatility to our offense that when we’re in the red zone we’re not nearly as one dimensional as we use to be.”

On if he got an explanation for the Nate Fellner hit? “I haven’t gotten that one completely. I think part of that is the defenseless receiver. And it’s getting called everywhere right now. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for our kids of how to tackle. Because at some point, the lower they keep going, he’s endangering himself by putting his head down to go low. There’s a fine line there. Obviously no one wants to get hurt on either side of the ball. But football is football. I don’t want to take our kids’ stinger away from them when they have opportunities to make hits like that and to be a presence and a factor in the middle of the field. But we need to do that in the within the guidelines of the rules.”

On trying to teach to that rule in practice: “We try. I’ve tried. I will continue to try. That’s part of coaching. In my humble opinion of the play, I didn’t think that was a penalty. But that’s neither here nor there. As you go through it, you have to accept the calls as they come and you have to learn from them. Part of it in practice is really protecting our team, we want to make sure we play wll on Saturday. I don’t need hitting guys in our practice that are defenseless if that could hinder us on Saturday. ”

On Chris Polk’s evolution at UW: “You know, in high school he was really more of a scat back. He was a guy who played some running back, some wide receiver, some in the slot. But the one thing that was very clear even in high school was how physically he finished runs. Even when he was a wide receiver, on the sidelines, he was a physical guy. Now, where he’s at, he’s a pure tailback. You guys see where he’s lined up. He’s in the I formation and he does all the kinds of runs, the powers, the inside zones, the outside zone, the toss play. He still finished runs extremely well. That’s why he gets so many yards after contact. And, a credit to our offensive staff, I think we are utilizing his receiving skills much better than we have in the past. So he’s definitely evolved.”

On if Polk is worthy of being in the Heisman discussion: “Sure. I mean, I think he’s playing at a very high level. And he’s doing in a variety of ways. He’s not a one-dimensional player. There’s a lot that goes into the Heisman. I understand that. I’ve been around it enough to know that it comes down to the guy who is on the team that is winning moreso than maybe the best player all the time. But I do know if you are going to have a Heisman Trophy conversation, Chris Polk should be in that conversation.”

On UW now being bowl eligible: “Well, part of that is, that was good for us. That felt like playoff football for us at the end of last season. How important every game was, and the preparation for each ball game. Now, I think we can still keep that edge because there’s still a lot out there for us, but it’s also in a sense of, in my opinion, sometimes we play our best football when it’s not as tense, when we are a little bit more relaxed. We are a pretty fun-loving group, having fun, but yet intense and enthusiastic and energetic and all the things that go into who we are, I am kind of excited to watch us play now. We are kind of playing with house money a little bit. We’ve brought what we’ve brought, and we’ve got what we needed to get, and now we get to go play and have fun playing the game like we know we are capable of playing. And so it will be interesting to watch. Again, it’s a little bit foreign territory for us in our tenure here. There will be some things that need to get talked to and get talked about, to make sure that we are in the right frame of mind as we head into these ball games here down the last month of the seasons.”

On being in games against Oregon for about a half the last few years and how to prepare for Oregon’s pace of play: “Well, I get to go back and play quarterback this week, which is fun. Get my workout in, running around. I think one of things for us, and something we haven’t been able to do the last couple years that I think we can do now, is we’ve got to play more guys on defense. And we’ve got to play them early in the game. We can’t wait until they are tired to substitute for them. You have to substitute them earlier. And I think we have enough depth on special teams to combat some of that. I’ve thought special teams has been a real area where they have taken advantage of us the last couple years, and I think that’s a phase in our game where we are much improved. So hopefully that, to go along with our efficiency in the red zone, will help us to, let’s get this game into the fourth quarter and keep playing with them.”

On if he would change offensive philosophy to try to play more ball control: “Nah. We’ve got to score. I think we’re at a point as a football team that one of our strengths is our ability to be efficient and to score, especially in the red zone, to create some big plays. And I don’t want to lose that about us. So I’m not trying to go in here to milk the clock and things of that nature. We’ve got to try to score. We’ve got to try to move the ball.”

On the quick tempo plays against Arizona: “It’s something that we used to do in the past mostly in short yardage or goal line-type situations. We felt like if it can work in those settings, then why can’t it just be part of our offense in a sense. It was pretty effective for us the other night. Some games it s more effective than others, depending on the style of defense we are playing and the way they line up. I thought it was good for us the other night. Obviously n ot just in the middle field but in some of the goal line settings.”

On the big play to Kasen Williams: “He was the primary read on the play. The challenge with Kasen as we were getting going with the high ankle sprain is how much the ankle could handle and how it was coming. I think he had his best week of work last week. I think he got 10 offensive plays and was pretty productive in the 10 plays he was in. I would expect his role to be increased this week just because of the health factor. He’s getting back into the flow of the game. He’s such a strong catcher and such a physical guy that when he gets those one on one matchups, he can make plays for us.”

On the injury situation:James (Johnson) is still pretty nicked up. He’s in a walking boot with the ankle. Tony Gobern coming off the concussion is making all the right progress to be ready to play Saturday.”

On if Justin Glenn has a chance to play: “He just wasn’t quite right. He knew it. Even at halftime, we talked to him and he just didn’t feel quite right. We have enough depth at the safety spot to be okay. But I’d like to have Justin available this week so that we can really roll our safeties and keep them fresh.”

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