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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 7, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Video: Sarkisian says he’d take Barkley over Luck, not bothered by Holt’s comment, and more

If you’ve been following Twitter today, you may already know the high points of UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s press conference today at UW.

Among the more noteworthy items, Sarkisian said if he were an NFL head coach, he’d take USC QB Matt Barkley over Andrew Luck. He also said he’s not bothered by what UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said on Saturday, that he’d rather prepare for USC’s offense than Oregon’s.

Here’s that, and more, in the video below. Following the video are printed excerpts of some Sarkisian’s press conference today:

[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”1263348249001″][/do]

Opening Comments: “Well in review of the ball game last Saturday night, I think the obvious disappointments that were there following the ball game held true. After you really get a chance to look at the film and analyze your team, we were awful offensively. Didn’t perform, for a variety of reasons. And that falls on me as head coach, game-planner, playcaller – we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to perform better up front, we’ve got to make better decisions at the quarterback position, we’ve got to catch the ball, we’ve got to call better plays. And that falls on me, and that’ll get fixed, and that’ll get fixed quickly. I thought defensively our kids played hard. I thought at times we tried a little too hard, and what I mean by that is – instead of staying with the integrity o the defense, we had guys trying maybe to make too many plays, and in turn got themselves out of position to make the plays they should have been making as the game wore on. So with all of that I was pleased and proud of our effort. I don’t think it was for a lack of trying hard or want to. I thought our kids tried hard. They played hard. We just didn’t execute offensively. And that’s not a characteristic of ours that has been who we are throughout the season; we’ve performed well and executed well. And we didn’t Saturday night, so we’ll get that fixed.”

Comparing Luck to Barkley: “If I’m an NFL head coach right now I’d pick Matt Barkley ahead of Andrew Luck. I think where he fits into the NFL in his pocket presence and what Lane (Kiffin) is doing with him, the variety of offense they are playing with, his ability to make all of the throws, throwing them on time and to them accurately. He’s fantastic to me, and I know him personally, so I have a little better insight into what he is and what he represents I think he’s fantastic.”

On who stood out on the defense: “I thought Alameda Ta’amu had his best game of the season Saturday night. I thought he was a presence, did a nice job, disrupted some things internally – forced the ball to the perimeter…did a nice job. I thought Everrette (Thompson) had a nice game, was sound. I thought outside of a couple plays, Sean Parker had a pretty nice ball game. The rest of our…Andrew Hudson, as well. I don’t want to discount Andrew. I thought Andrew did some pretty nice things as well.”

On special significance going up against Lane Kiffin and staying unbeaten against him: “Lane and I are good friends, and we’ve known each other for years now. We haven’t joked about staying undefeated, but we texted each other in the past 24 hours already, and we’ll probably continue to throughout the week. But it’s a healthy friendship and a healthy rivalry; I think we’re both competitive guys that like to win – not for us individually, but for our team and for our kids and coaches. Lane’s done a nice job. He’s got them really improving from week to week to week, and you can see it on the film. And it’s not just in one phase; it’s in all three phases.”

On how their relationship has evolved: “We don’t see each other nearly as often is one of the keys to that. A lot of the communication is over the phone – pre-game, post-game-type stuff about the game and having an opportunity to watch the other guy play. We’re still both the play-callers, so we can analyze it that way. Outside of that, it’s just not seeing each other as frequently as we were used to seeing each other. Anytime that happens with whomever – whatever the relationship is with that person – you can grow apart, in a sense, at times. And then you find your way back a little bit to talk more. But I think the distance has been that factor.”

On Nick Holt’s comment about rather playing USC than Oregon: “I think you could ask every defensive coordinator in our conference the same question and they’d tell you the same thing – Oregon is hard to prepare for because of how unique they are. That doesn’t mean that SC is not really good – I think they are a tremendous football team, and I think Nick would agree with that. The comment was about the preparation of an offensive style, and as we’ve all seen it now for years since Chip has been at Oregon, they are hard to prepare for. The speed and the tempo in which they play at – it’s difficult. If that quote makes SC play better, than it makes them play better. I don’t know. We don’t motivate that way here.”

On emotions of going back to the Coliseum and why he’s been able to beat USC two times in a row : “We just try to prepare really well. We don’t change. It’s not about the opponent we’re playing; we just try to prepare really well – mentally, physically and emotionally. I think we’ve had opportunities the last two years to get the game into the fourth quarter where it was a one-possession game, and we’ve executed. We’ve played well in the fourth quarters of those games. The Coliseum to me, growing up in southern California and watching USC play there for years…not just in the Pac-12 but across the country it’s a great stadium to play in. Ninety-thousand-plus people, the great moments, the great wins, the special moments I had a chance to be part of – whether it was on SC’s sidelines or last year on Washington’s sidelines, those moments stay with your for a lifetime. That’s why we coach . We’re going to try and go down there this week and do something that hasn’t been done before since 1937 – that’s beat USC two times in a row for Washington on the road at the Coliseum. And we’ll see if we can get it done.”

On how the offense is different now under Price than Jake Locker: “We’re much more conventional now. We’re back to what I think people down there are much more used to seeing from us offensively, a much more conventional type offense, not nearly as many quarterback runs. But Keith operates extremely well within the system. He’s grown up in the system since the day he stepped into college. He understands the nuances of the system, and that’s why he’s been so successful. I think that’s also one of the reasons why he didn’t play one of his better games Saturday night, because he got away from those nuances of the system and tried a little too hard. So we have to get back to that, and get back to that quickly.”

On feeding the ball to Polk so much early Saturday: “Well, we thought we could do some things running the ball. We knew they could rush the passer, and that obviously reared its ugly head with six sacks. We thought we could do some things running the football. And we just couldn’t get it airy enough to really get Chris going that way. Part of that came from, y’know, you throw a couple picks early in a ball game, and you try to settle your quarterback down. And one of the best ways to do that is to establish yourself on the ground. We just weren’t able to do it the way we thought we’d be able to do it going into the game, and we put ourselves in some difficult third-down situations. We converted a lot of them; we’re 50 percent on third down. But I go back, and the hard part when I look at the stats is just the lack of explosive plays in that ball game. It was hard to get yards. And that’s not typical of our offense. We’re typically an offense that can get yards in chunks, whether it’s on the ground or through the air, and we just weren’t able to do it on Saturday night. You would’ve thought if those were the stats and the numbers on the game, we probably wouldn’t have been good on third down, or we wouldn’t have been good in the red zone. We were actually pretty good in those two areas. We just weren’t able to get the yards in chunks that we’re accustomed to.”

On Keith Price’s struggles Saturday: “He might’ve pressed a little bit. You get into this moment, and the excitement of the stadium, and the game, and it’s Oregon, and all the stuff that went into it. I think he tried a little too hard. I think he wanted to go out and play great. Well, that’s fine, but you end up playing great by playing within the system and relaxing and not feeling the pressure of having to play great in order for us to play great as a football team. That becomes a product of just preparation and doing what you’re asked to do. So we’ve got to get back to that.”

Overall assessment of the offensive line: “We were poor. We were poor, at best, up front. So we’ll get it fixed. (Offensive line coach) Danny (Cozzetto) will get it fixed, I’ll get it fixed. We’ll be much better Saturday night.”

On why that was: “It was a bit of both. They’ve got a couple nice pass rushers off the edge. Kadu, Jordan, they’re nice pass rushers. But we had some breakdowns in protections where we’re turning our line in one direction, and four guys go one way, and one guy goes the other, and we’re turning defensive linemen loose. That’s not characteristic of us. We’ve got to do a better job throughout the week with our communication process of making sure that we’re all on the same page from a protection standpoint.”

On whether Price was tentative: “Maybe a little bit. That’s natural. That can happen. I think I got a bit tentative myself. I thought I’ve got to protect this guy to get his confidence built back up. And in turn, it took away a facet of our offense, our ability to throw it down the field, to tax them not just horizontally but vertically. And it had an impact on the game. They were really able to sit on some things underneath, which made it difficult. I thought Oregon really tackled well, we threw some things underneath where generally we were able to move the ball with some yards and break some tackles on bubble screens and whatnot, and in the game Oregon really tackled well. Three yard passes turned into three yard passes. We weren’t able to turn those three-yard passes into 12- and 13-yard gains.”

On Kasen Williams: “I thought Kasen had a nice game the other night. He was competitive. He made tough catches. And assignment-wise he was sound. He did a nice job.”

On any common threads to the three losses this year against ranked teams: “I’d say, fortunately for us when we’ve come out of ball games where we didn’t perform real well in what were supposed to be big ball games, we’ve typically responded really well. And we’ve done that again this year. After Nebraska, we played Cal and we played pretty well. After Stanford, we come back to play Arizona and we play pretty well and we get the win. Even going back to last year at home here we have the big game with Nebraska, we get beat 56-21. And we get back up off the mat, go to the Coliseum to play SC at we were able to win that game. So, we’ve — again, fortunately or unfortunately — have been in that situation before. I think our kids understand how to handle it. Our coaching staff knows how to handle it. And I’d expect us to get back up off the mat again and try to put our best foot forward. That’s all we can ask ourselves to do. We can’t be concerned about the stadium or the other team or what happened last year or what coach said what. It’s got to be about our ability to prepare so that we can put our best foot forward.”

Was it just circrumstance? “I’m hopeful not. Maybe it has been. Those are the kind of things that I look at now, but also when I analyze our season, to figure out where we can improve and get better. We’ve been in a lot of big games, if feels like to me, in three years now. And I believe we’ve knocked off five or six top 25 opponents that we’ve beaten in that time. But unfortunately we have played a lot of them and we’ve gotten beaten in those games as well. So at this point of it all, I don’t think games are too big for our guys. We are used to playing top-25 teams. That seems to happen every other week in this conference. And here comes another one this Saturday.”

On what concerns him most about USC: “Offensively, their ability to throw the football. Matt is playing so well. And the two receivers are just electric, you know. They are electric. You look at the box score for Colorado — one guy catches nine for 130, the other one catches nine for 125 and each has two touchdowns. I mean, that’s, like, crazy to think that. That’s a scary, scary thought for me, their ability to throw the football.”

On if there was a domino effect hampering the passing game of Oregon’s pressure: “The domino effect – a couple of those came from that we were just wrong assignment-wise. It wasn’t so much that the three-man rush was beating us. We have what should be a double team on the nose tackle and the center goes one way and the guard goes the other and the nose tackle is running free toward your quarterback. So that was part of it. The domino effect is to get to your point. When you are only rushing three or four guys that’s eight or seven guys deployed into coverage. And they can mix coverages and they can make it harder on the quarterback if that’s all they need to do to pressure. This is going to be another game like that. USC has a tremendous front four that can rush the passer so they are able to sit in coverage and play the Tampa 2 and things that Coach Kiffin likes to do to make it difficult on the offense.”

On what it says about the offensive line to have struggles this late in the season: “It just says we had a bad game. That stuff is going to happen. I don’t think one game is going to define our team. It won’t define one position group. We didn’t play great. I’ve seen us play better. I’ve seen us be more physical. I’ve seen us communicate better. That stuff has to start at the top of what are we doing in the game plan, what responsibilities are we putting on these kids to give them the best chance to go out and be successful. We have to analyze that to make sure we are doing that. That starts today in our preparation for USC on Saturday, and analyzing not just the Oregon game but games further back in the season where we played well and we didn’t play so well. And what are some of those common threads that we can use to build upon.”

On not using the tight end more Saturday: “I’ve seen Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) play better. That’s not just to be critical of Austin. I’ve seen him play better. I’ve seen him run crisper routes and different things. The timing just wasn’t great. There was things that were called for him where he was the primary read, whether keith threw it to him and we missed, or whether Keith decided not to throw it to him because he felt he was covered, are plays that we can get Austin open on and Keith can throw it to him and complete it to him when we execute it really well. That didn’t happen on Saturday night. That goes back to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we’ve got to make sure we are crisp and sharp in our details of what we are coaching, to ensure we get the end results.”

On the two key plays of the game — the long pass to David Paulson for Oregon and UW’s failed fourth down on the next drive: “We didn’t get a great re-route on the seam route. We pressured him and we actually had a free rusher that didn’t quite get there. We got a hit on the quarterback just after he releases the ball. It was a nice throw by Darron Thomas. We allowed Paulson to get down the seam without getting re-routed which isn’t okay, so we have to go back and re-teach. … The fourth and four was a play that we had a couple of options for Keith. Hindsight being 20-20, he looks to the other side of the field. If we execute it, we get a first down. He’s got Austin open for a first down. It didn’t happen. That again, falls back on us to make sure we understand the plays we are calling in those situations and what we are trying to get done.”

On if Sark second-guessed the fourth-down call: “No, not at all. Not against Oregon. I think you have to play an aggressive style against them. You can’t be passive. And we knew that going in. When you take those shots and you understand the ramifications of field posoitons and things, but at that point in the game with what Oregon had been doing offensively, and getting rolling, that was the right decision to make. … The bigger one for me looking back on it was the fourth and 10 in the fourth quarter and possibly kicking the field goal game and at least making it a two possession. Part of that might been frustration of a couple plays previous to that. We had a couple guys open and we just don’t make the catch. So I felt good about the plays we were calling it just didn’t happen.”

On if this game was more disappointing than the Stanford loss: “Yes, in a sense for everybody involved and for what it meant to the Husky fans and the ex-players and coaches and Husky Stadium. Every game you want to go out and play well, but I wanted to perform well. The stadium was tremendous, the electricity in the air was just awesome. It’s what you love about college football. I wish we just would have played better. Even though we weren’t playing well, it’s still 24-17 in the middle of the third quarter. It’s a ball game and we just couldn’t get right.”

On Price’s first pass against USC last year turning into a TD: “First thing I remember, I didn’t want to put him under center. I think so many times you put in a new quarterback, one of the biggest issues is getting the snap from center. So the first thought is let’s put him in the gun because that’s the easiest exchange to take for a quarterback. So the second one was, what do we have in a goal line situation that’s in the gun and that was one of a couple plays I felt like that play could be there for us. I said, “hey do you feel good about this,” and he said, “sure coach,” smiling like he always does and he went in and threw a touchdown pass.”

Why was Keith Price missing high on his passes Saturday: “Yeah, he did. I think so. Maybe overstriding a bit and the ball sailing on you. Again, just trying to be perfect and let it go and the ball got away from him.”

On if he had second thoughts about not taking the holding penalty prior to Oregon’s first field goal: “I didn’t want to give them another snap, quite honestly. A team like Oregon you try to minimize their snaps. I thought about it, you’re right I just felt like ‘why give them another play?’ I think back to the Cal game when we had a penalty on us on third and one and they accepted the penalty and gave us another down to convert and we converted a third down play there so I just tried to minimize their snaps.”

More on USC:Marquise Lee is a tremendous player. You look at SC offensively and you look at Barkley obviously and you look at (Matt) Kalil at left tackle and you look at (Robert) Woods, you look at Lee — those are four first-round NFL Draft picks on the offensive side of the ball and I don’t know what other potentials they have of the younger guys that aren’t playing quite as much. Then you flip over to defense you look at T.J. McDonald, you look at Nick Perry, there’s another two first-round draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, not to mention some other guys that are playing real well, Nickell Robey, Devon Kennard, Wes Horton — they are a talented, talented team. Probably still the most talented team in our conference. They are deeply talented.”

On James’ Johnson’s status: “He has a chance for sure. He got better as the week went on, but as we all know a high ankle sprain is a high ankle sprain and those things can linger so we’ll see how quickly he can get back.”

On the emotions of the wins over USC the last two years: “The first one was such a great, respect I guess. I respect Pete (Carroll) so much as a coach, he really kick started my coaching career and taught me a great deal as a mentor, not only on the field but off the field and I know the type of work ethic and all that he has. For our kids to play as passionate as they did that day against SC here to get that win was a little bit of a surreal moment I guess. You look across the field at the guy that you’ve been on the headsets with for seven years and to get that win was a bit one.The one last year was probably a bit more emotional, quite honestly. Being in Southern Calfornia in front of friends, family, in that same stadium that I had so many great moments with SC with as well as a couple of tough moments, bad losses that occured to. So I think a little more emotional last year would be the case but both of them were special moments that I’ll carry with me for a lifetime.”

On bringing in a lot of recruits last weekend: “I think the atmosphere is key. that’s one of them and obviuolsly the atmosphere we have at Husky Stadium the types of fans we have, and the passion that they bring is important. I think what was important for this game that worked out for us was that it was a night game and we were able to spend a lot of time with those recruits prior to the game and them getting to know us as coaches. One of the drawbacks fo bringing kids in on weekends when you have ballgames, it’s hard for the coaching staff to spend time with the kids for them to get to know us. I think that is one of our biggest attributes is who we are as people. And ultimately they kids are aware. Oregon is a good football team. And the kids are aware we didn’t play our best football game and it was still a pretty compettitive one there into the fourth quarter and they recognize areas where maybe they can come in and contribute and help early.”

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