Here is a link to the full quotes from the press conference of UW coach Steve Sarkisian and Baylor coach Art Briles today.
Here are a few highlights from Sarkisian’s end of it:
Opening comments: “Again, I’d like to thank Valero and the Alamo Bowl for the hospitality we’ve received since we’ve been here. This has been nothing short of a first‚Äëclass event thus far. The hospitality we’ve received not only from the Bowl but from the entire community of San Antonio has been tremendous. I know you our kids have enjoyed ourselves.
Just like anything, come the end of the week, I think we’re excited to go play the game. That’s why we’re here. We’ve got a tremendous opponent in Baylor, and what Coach Briles has done and his team, obviously a very exciting football team. We’re excited to play. The 8:00 kickoff is a killer, long time waiting around tomorrow, but we’ll try to find something to do.
But again, just to reiterate, it’s been a fantastic week. The hospitality has been tremendous, and very honored to represent the University of Washington and the Pac‚Äë12 conference in the game.”
On going against a Heisman winner: “Well, now I’ve kind of been on it from both sides of the fence, having some time at SC there with some different guys, when Carson (Palmer) won it and when Reggie (Bush) won it and heading into those games. I think it generates some obvious national excitement to the game, to where the national media is very interested in our ballgame, maybe a little bit more so than they would be otherwise.
I don’t think that Baylor ourselves are preparing any harder because of Robert winning the Heisman Trophy, but I do know it’s great exposure for both of our clubs in this game because I do think there’s going to be a few more eyes on the ballgame and the interest level is there and it’s piqued there and deservedly so. Robert is a tremendous player, and I think as we learned here, especially throughout the month of December, not only is he a tremendous player, he’s a great person, and you could see that in the interview process.
I think he represents Baylor University extremely well, and I think he represents college football extremely well. On that note, I think it just adds to the excitement of the ballgame. But again, I don’t think that we’re preparing any harder because of that or Coach Briles and his staff are preparing any harder because of that. I think we’ve prepared the same way regardless.”
On what the game means for the seniors who were 0-12 in 2008 and now have gone to two straight bowl games: “Well, it means a lot. As you guys know, I’m not a big, kind of, reflection-type guy, sit back and reflect on the times that we’ve had and what we’ve been able to do. But this month I have in a sense because of — again, because of what our seniors have been through from the very beginning to where they are now, and we kind of do a senior salute here the last day of practice, which was yesterday, with the guys and brought them up and reiterated that to them, as well. None of what we’ve done in three years could have ever been possible without the efforts and the willingness that goes guys put into this thing. They deserve all of this that they’re receiving.
I’m very, very happy for them to get this opportunity to go to their second straight Bowl game, a fantastic game. Again, wouldn’t be where we were without them, and just — you think about the roller coaster that they were on from day one to where they are today, they’ve left a mark on our program, and they should be proud of that.”
On flying under the radar against a Heisman winner: “I don’t know. Again, I talked about this last year, and kind of to reiterate what I said about Robert winning the Heisman. Again, I don’t think that we’re preparing any harder because we’re underdogs. You know, I think we’ve got a formula that we feel like is successful that prepares ourselves for Bowl games, and we utilize the formula. And that wouldn’t matter if we were a 30‚Äëpoint underdog or a two‚Äëtouchdown favorite. That’s never going to change, at least as long as I’m here.
We’ve got a formula that we believe in, and much like last year with Nebraska, revenge last year wasn’t I don’t think a reason why our kids went out and played well in the game. I think it’s because we prepared well, and we believed in the process and believed in the plan and went out and executed the plan and prepared ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally for that moment.
Hopefully one of these days we’ll be a favorite in a game, in a Bowl game. That means we’re getting better and we’re improving. But until then, this is where we are, and we’ve just got to continue to work and grind at it, and that’s not going to — again, that’s not going to affect the way we prepare or the way our kids believe in themselves or whatnot. That’s the perception of what’s going to happen in the game. We have to ultimately go out and play the game.”
On Keith Price’s condition: “Well, probably the best he’s been since the beginning of the season, since the initial — when he injured his first knee there early in the season there, I think it just — from a movement standpoint he feels good, and I think from a movement standpoint it makes him psychologically feel good, too. He feels better about himself, the smile is probably a little bigger now as he’s getting going, and it’s been obviously advantageous for Keith to have four weeks to get ready for this game, not only mentally and understanding the game plan but physically to get his body right. I do know that he feels good, and it’s noticeable. I can definitely see that he feels much better.”
On how the offense will be different with Price healthier: “Well, I don’t think that we’re going to change a whole lot. I think there were specific games this year especially where I just knew he couldn’t move very well and we had to protect him that way, whether it was via protections or whether it was via getting the ball out of his hands much quicker. I do think now that he’s got the ability to maybe extend plays a little longer like he had been earlier in the year, and so I think you’ll see a little bit more of that maybe just from his natural play maybe more so than what we’re doing schematically offensively.”
On being more impressed with Robert Griffin III after studying him on film: “Robert, he’s just a tad better athlete than I was when I played (laughter), so yeah, I appreciated the heck out of the guy. I mean, he — you watch him, and before you do anything, you always look at a guy’s stats and you look at a team’s stats and you’re wondering, okay, what’s going on here. To think, okay, at I don’t know how many games of the year, Coach, but at one point he’s got more touchdown passes than incompletions, and I think it’s about four games into the season, and you think to yourself, well, he must just be dinking and dunking the ball around, and then you turn on the film, and they are chunking the ball down the field. So the accuracy down the field, I think, was what first got me going, wow, this kid is special.
And then obviously the play‚Äëmaking ability, his understanding of their scheme, his ability to keep the tempo at the up‚Äëtempo speed that they play at, and then to throw in the fact that the guy can run. He’s just one of the best players I’ve seen, and I’ve been around some pretty good ones. But I think more so than just being a great quarterback, he’s a great football player, and that’s what makes great quarterbacks. He’s a great football player.”
On the challenge of facing a balanced offense: “Well, I think that’s the beauty of football in the sense that why I love offensive football, and I’m sure Coach Briles does, as well. The more things you can do really well, the tougher it is to stop, and to have balance on your offensive football team where you can run the football, throw the football, utilize the play action pass game, spread people out, run with the quarterback, the more you do well, the tougher it is to stop. Ultimately in this game these are two teams that can do a lot of different things, and that’s what makes the challenge of playing defense.
I don’t envy our two coordinators in this game, at least on the preparation side of it. Nick was pulling out whatever hairs he had left there getting ready for the game here. That’s a challenge, but that’s the beauty of football. That’s why we do what we do. You love that side of it and you love the preparation aspect of it. You love the teaching to the players of getting them prepared, and it’s in all three phases quite honestly. But these just happen to be two very balanced offensive football teams that are extremely challenging on defenses.”
On Chris Polk: “Well, a tremendous career, first of all, for Chris, up to this point. To go over 1,000 yards three consecutive seasons and to be knocking on the career rushing record’s door here at the University of Washington says a great deal when you look at the quality of backs that have come through this University.
As I’ve touched on with Chris, the growth that he’s made from the day we stepped on campus, not only on the football field but in his personal life, in the classroom, has been the thing that has probably been most impressive to me and makes you as coaches — there’s little things that make you proud along the way, and he’s definitely one of them.
The fact that he’s already earned his degree from the University of Washington, the fact that he’s probably been, and this is not to take anything away from a guy by the name of Jake Locker, away from him, but he’s probably been the biggest reason why we’ve climbed as quickly as we’ve climbed from the depths of 0 and 12 is our ability to win all of the times that have gotten tough on us, to rely on No. 1 to run the football, to win tough games late in the season, and his not only physical but mental toughness to take on those amounts of carries and to practice the way he’s practiced speaks volumes. I think back to the beginning of the season. There’s so much that happened since August to get to this point. Eight days before our first ballgame he’s having knee surgery to get himself prepared to play, and he wasn’t not going to play in that game. He was playing in that game, and he goes out and I think he rushes for 130‚Äësomething yards, and it’s just ho‚Äëhum. Chris goes for 130 and ho‚Äëhum.
I couldn’t thank probably one player more than this guy for what he’s given to our program and hopefully we get him for 13 more after this one, but we’ll see. Chris and his family and myself have a tough decision to make after this game, and we’ll put all the facts and the much needed information on the table, and again, we’ll make a really educated decision. He’ll make an educated decision, one that he feels great about and his family feels great about and one which we can support him with, whatever that is.”
On how the team has handled the departure of cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin: “I didn’t notice it, quite honestly. I think Donte Williams has done a tremendous job, our graduate assistant, stepping in and coaching the corners. That’s his specialty. As you guys all well know, our practices are pretty spirited as it is, and so quite honestly no, and that’s not to slight Demetrice. Demetrice is a very good football coach. I just think that one individual or two or three aren’t going to change the way that 130 go out and approach the day, and so I thought our guys have practiced extremely well. It’s been spirited, it’s been competitive, and so that’s where I feel like we’re at. I feel like we’ve had a nice month to get ready for the game.”
On preparing the defense for Baylor’s offense: “Well, I think the first is, especially early on in our preparation, the one thing that is the hardest to simulate when you’re getting prepared for an offense like Baylor is the speed factor. Kendall Wright is a tremendous receiver, and the speed at which he plays the game, he’s got tremendous football speed.
So one thing we did try to do earlier in this preparation process is we did a lot of ones versus ones to where Sean Parker, Cort Dennison, Desmond Trufant were defending Jermaine Kearse, Kasen Williams, Devin Aguilar, Keith Price, Chris Polk, so to get the speed of that to where it needs to be to get themselves prepared, but ultimately you’ve got to understand schemes and you’ve got to understand leverage, and you’d better know which guys are fast and which guys aren’t so you take good leverage, because if you don’t they’re going to run right by you.”
On Baylor’s offensive tempo being similar to Oregon’s: “I think it’s helpful for sure. Our guys have seen the speed at which they go and I think that what we’ve done offensively in incorporating some no huddle stuff and an up-tempo level of play dating all the way back to last spring has helped in that as well. That was strategically part of why we did it. It’s added a dimension to our football team that has been good for our offense, but has helped our defense to feel comfortable in that setting. I think that so much of the no huddle offense is that it doesn’t feel comfortable for many; it almost feels chaotic and that’s the worst-case scenario for a defense. You’ve got to find your comfort zone and I think our defense has done a better job of that.”
On how hard it is to substitute against a no-huddle offense: “I think they key is that you need to sub early in the game. You can’t wait until a guy gets tired. You have to have a rotation in place. You have to sub early so that in the third and fourth quarters of the game, your guys are still somewhat fresh and not so fatigued.
On Chris Polk’s future and the dynamics involved in the decision: “The dynamic is just the different position and assessing the draft that way. For Chris at this point, this is a business decision. This isn’t a matter of what feels fun or what feels right. He’s earned his degree and played great football for us. Now the question is, ‘Is this the right draft for me?’ and ‘Am I projected in the right spot to do what I know I’m capable of doing?’ and ‘Could I benefit more and could I improve more by coming back next season and what might the draft look like next year?’. That’s what a lot of the discussion needs to be about. It’s not about emotion or taking a certain number of carries. That’s the tough realities to go through. We’ll go through it all and we’ll do it the right way.”
On when the evaluation will come: “We’ll assess it right when we get back, quite honestly. The NFL advisory is back, we know.”
On closing practices down here: “Yeah. I felt like it was needed for us. We’ve been exposed now for quite some time and I felt like when you come down here and we get ready for the game, we needed an intimate setting for us. I thought it has gone very well and our kids have responded to it. In some aspects, they’ve almost embraced it. That’s not forever. For these five practices, I felt it was needed and it’s gone well for us.”
On if there will be a change in anything due to the closed practices: “I don’t think you can change everything. I think as always when you have good coaching staffs that there’s going to be new wrinkles to different things. You can’t install a brand new offense or defense in three weeks. But there will be some wrinkles I’m sure for both teams that will be unique to this game. Some will go unnoticed quite honestly and some will be obvious to the common fan’s eyes.”