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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 17, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Monday Sark bites

UW coach Steve Sarkisian held his usual Monday press conference today in the wake of Saturday’s 52-13 win over Portland State.

Here’s the video:

[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”1846053889001″][/do]

And here’s what he said:

Opening comment: “Just a recap of the ball game this past Saturday, you go back and look at the film sometimes, you don’t get a complete sense of everything. I was proud of the fast start of our football team, it was something I wanted to emphasize coming into the game, playing fast football in all three phases and obviously we were able to do that by getting some points on the board, playing defense the way we were playing, generating the lead that we were hopeful we could generate, it was really encouraging. Really encouraged by our special teams play, continues to impress me, I think we continue to get better there, obviously the fake punt was executed perfectly, the blocked field goal returned for the touchdown, I thought our kick coverage unit was much better. We were extremely close to breaking two kickoff returns. The one we are all aware of was Marvin Hall just stepping out of bounds but there’s another one down the middle that we just missed, so I think we can clean that up. If there is an area that needs continued attention, it is our punting game and then our coverage unit within our punt unit; I think we saw a bit of a breakdown there. I thought it was good that Travis (Coons) was able to hit another field goal, struck the ball well again so I think that phase of the game was good. I was also impressed, really challenged the guys at half time about coming out in the fourth quarter and executing, covering that opening kickoff in the second half, getting the three and out on defense, getting the ball on offense and going down and scoring, which we were able to do. Those things were all really good positives coming out of the game. I thought we got the ball to our playmakers, Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) made his plays, Kasen (Williams) made his plays, Keith (Price) threw the ball well, Bishop (Sankey) I think on 14 carries went over 100 yards, and probably could still find some more yards out there for himself and I think as he gets more comfortable he will.

“Areas that weren’t so good just like any other game – I think we were flagged eight times in the first half again in the game for a variety of penalties which is unacceptable which as we get into these tighter ball games, that’s not going to work, that’s something that’s been addressed by us. Our ability to execute when not all of our starters are on the field I think is a point of emphasis for us as our backups are playing, their ability to go in and execute at the things they need to do and I thought we were spotty at best in the second half at doing that on both sides of the ball so some things there to clean up. I would say just in general for the game, coming out of that thing, we’ve all been a part of them or seen them where those games are close early on or those opponents hang around and get close, and get nerve racking. I thought it was good for our team to come out and have a dominating first half, understand the sense of urgency to start the second half. I thought from our coaching staff’s perspective, the ability to respect the game and respect Nigel (Burton) and their coaching staff and do it there in the second half so all in all it’s a good win, I was trying to count up the other day, we did it with a bevy of starters not able to play for us so it was good, a lot of guys got a lot of extended playing time which they might normally not have gotten, which I think will benefit us down the road. I think we are getting the bye week at a much needed time from not only a health standpoint but from things we need and can work on and get fixed in a short amount of time and then getting ready for Stanford, so it comes at a good time.”

On the bye week coming at a good time, what are the things that really need to be focused on: “Well I think one is, we have an idea of the runs we like now and I think we are starting to figure out what our guys do well so now we can get a little more creative as far as running the ball and getting ourselves to a point of our runners are running with things they are good at and getting multiple reps so that’s at a good time. Back to the drawing board at creating a pass rush, we haven’t done a very good job of that in the first three games so that allows us to spend a good four days of a bye week in generating a pass rush whether that’s through scheme, or technique, or through where guys are playing in certain situations is another area where I think we can only get better at. I think a huge area for us is that we’ve been mixing and matching players in the kickoff return game for us and in the punt return game and I think we know who our guys are now and we can focus on the fundamentals and techniques for them because I think we have the chance to be a special return unit, we’ve got some guys back there that can really go in Marvin Hall and Jaydon Mickens, we haven’t gotten Shaq (Thompson) quite enough returns but I think he as well and then Kevin Smith. I want to use that to our advantage because I think we can be an elite special teams football team in our conference and that’s the one piece to the puzzle that needs to get fixed. And then fixing the punting game, it’s inconsistent right now so we’ll give Travis Coons some opportunities to compete with Korey Durkee at that spot because we cant just live with 30 yard punts and not get good hang time and those guys getting big returns on us so we’ll have to clean that up as well, so that’s a few things, obviously there’s other nuances within the position groups but those are four pretty main ones for us.”

On the schedule this week with the extra time off: “We are game planning for Stanford as we speak. So tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday will be a pretty typical work week as if we were in a game week, Tuesday Wednesday Thursday, but with some emphasis on a little bit more individual time, we’ll extend that individual period to work on the nuances we need to work on. We’ll do a bit more goods on goods so we can stay having a physical practice atmosphere, and then the players will have Friday off and then come back Saturday and Saturday will be what would be the Monday of game week. We get a few extra days to game plan but then come Saturday it’s game week for us.”

On the highs and lows so far they’ve seen as a team: “I think we’ve seen, as you said, highs and lows, we’ve seen a little bit of that inconsistency that is understandable, I think we’ve seen some flashes of them making the plays that we expect them to make and we some mistakes that I expect them to make at times and now we have an idea I think of what they do well and whether that’s on the offense or defensive side of the ball, whether it’s the special teams game. And now it’s our job to try to continually put those guys in position to do those things that they do well when the lights are on and then the things that we want them to better at, we have to practice it, and we have to practice it more and that’s what bye weeks are for. So that’s why it comes at a good time for us, I see some positives in what Erich Wilson does running the ball and then some other things in his game that are pretty glaring holes that need fixing. Same with Jaydon Mickens or Marvin Hall and then you look at the defensive side of the ball and Pio Vatuvei and where he’s at and Shaq in what he’s brought to the defense and some areas where I think we can help him play faster, physical football that we know he’s capable of, so there’s some definite things there I think we can help with our guys.

On Shaq Thompson: “He’s a really mature guy. If you met him in the hall and just talked to him, you wouldn’t think of him as an 18 year old true freshman and whether that was because of the baseball thing and spending time with some grown men on the road or whatever that was, he’s got a real maturity about himself. He recognizes the areas where he needs to work on things, he’s a neat kid, I enjoy having him around, I think he’ll become a natural team leader quicker than most would assume, and the blocked field goal is just a glimpse of what we’re going to see out of this guy and the big play potential he provides us. We saw it in training camp, some guys can slow down when the season begins and the lights are on but we’re starting to see this guy making his plays and reacting a little bit quicker and his physicality is a big plus to that as well because he can get people on the ground right at that moment, he doesn’t get knocked back. I like what he brings. I think this will be a great week for him, to go back to some of the base fundamentals and techniques that are needed to do his job really well. Sometimes when you get into game weeks, it’s more about the game plan and sometimes technique can suffer, so for us to be able to go back and focus on him using his hands, being in the right alignment, understanding the formation and where to get aligned based on where the receiver is, all those things will only help him put himself in position to be the playmaker we think he is capable of being.”

On the nickelback position’s progress in UW’s defensive system: “I think it’s been great. It’s provided a lot of team speed. And obviously we played Saturday without Travis Feeney who is another guy who dropped down to provide the team speed. When we get (Nate) Fellner back I think again another guy of that same type of body type who can really run. I feel like right now and not just talking about Shaq, but just that nickelback. He’s not only a big part of us in the coverage game and stopping the run but the ability to rush the passer and blitz the quarterback has got to get better, as well. And just the timing of blitzes and the willingness to go, because he has that ability, too. So I think that position will only evolve for us and help us down the road as we continue to grow.”

On it being a good week to get Marvin Hall in the game after he didn’t play the first two weeks: “Yeah, it was just where he fit into the game plan and what we were doing and assessing a couple things the first two weeks of what we were doing in the return game and a bit offensively. So I would like to see his role expand. He’s a fast kid and he gives us something different. And to his credit he kept working at it. Some guys they don’t play the first game they say ‘okay, I’m redshirting and this is what it is.’ He battled and competed and wanted to play and earned playing time and did some good things and I think we will see more of him.”

On how the team responded to the halftime challenge and it carrying over to this week: “I think so. For a group that we like to have so much fun together and we have a great relationship with the players and the coaches and so on and so forth, it was a really serious meeting this morning. And not necessarily intended to be one, but from the player’s standpoint. I think there is a real sense of accountability that is taking shape in our locker room and guys understand the responsibility that they have on each and every snap to one another, and instead of us having to go and harp on it, the already have recognized it, and that’s what good teams they. They can recognize the issues they are being faced with and then how they need to fix those issues and what they are going to do about them. So it’s great to win a game in the fashion that we did. But the maturity of this team to recognize that there are plenty of issues that need to be fixed and a let’s get to work mentality I thought was evident today, so I was pleased with that.”

On the players understanding the message about cutting down penalties: “I hope. I think in the second half we got two penalties, as opposed to eight in the first. I’m a realist that penalties are going to happen. I’m not going to think that we are going to go out next Thursday night and have zero penalties. I understand that that is part of the game. But there are specific penalties that we can eliminate, and there are others that we can minimize. And those are the ones that I think have us all frustrated. Delay of games, those shouldn’t happen and for us to be doing that is absurd. To have two false starts at home in our stadium is absurd to me. To hit a guy late out of bounds, doesn’t make sense. To taunt a guy 20 yards behind an interception for a touchdown doesn’t make sense to me. Those are the ones that we need to fix. I get that we are going to be called for a holding penalty here or there. I get that we are going to get called for pass interference here or there — that’s the game of football. But the self-inflicted wounds are the ones I’m talking about that I think we can get cleaned up.”

On the Stanford-USC game: “That was exciting. You guys know me well enough that I am a fan of college football. That’s why we all love playing the 1 p.m. games, you guys probably included. You play and the game is done and then you get to be a fan in the afternoon and evening. I thought it was an exciting game and a great game for our conference, a competitive game. Stanford looks like Stanford — big physical team, going to run the football, going to defend the run. And there are a bunch of really close bang-bang plays that you could probably add up on one hand that made the difference in the ball game. So good for our conference and good game. I’m just getting started on Stanford so I can’t give you the specifics of all that happened but it was a good game and they held a very talented USC team in check.”

On this being a key stretch for the Huskies: “Yeah, I would agree. And the way our schedule is set up to have the first three and then the bye and then start conference play, it kind of was a natural. Like we are heading into the second quarter. The first quarter is done, a long TV timeout here, and then we get to head into conference play and get the three teams that have had the best records in our conference the last four years combined. So I’m hopeful we get some of these guys back that haven’t been able to play for us. I’m excited to have an opportunity to play a nationally televised game on a Thursday night with the entire country watching and with our fans there rocking and rolling like Huskies know how to do it — I’m pumped for that opportunity. But we’ve got quite a bit of time until that moment and when that time comes we will worry about it. Until then the focus is going to remain on us and doing the little things that are going to make a difference in tight ball games late in the fourth quarter.”

On how the offensive line played: “Not bad, not bad. Again I’m learning them, as well. I’m learning Shane Brostek, I’m learning James Atoe, I’m learning Dexter Charles. I thought Micah Hatchie had a very impressive game. The kid Marquis Jackson is a big-time player for Portland State. He’s a two-time all-conference guy, transferring in and somebody we were actually contemplating bringing in here and I thought Micah had a nice ballgame on him. I thought Drew Schaefer was in good command in the middle of the thing. I thought Dexter and Shane flashed, they do some really good stuff and other stuff they will get better at with experience. So all in all a good performance for those guys. Do we need to play better as we move forward? Sure we do, but for the first time for a few of those guys really playing an extended amount of time, I was pleased.”

On the Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott saying he might standardized injury reports: “I did see that. It’s funny you ask that. I spoke to (UW AD) Scott Woodard, our athletic director, after I read that and the first thing that came to mind for me was ‘I’m all for it.’ If we standardize the mechanism for updating injury reports and it puts everybody on the same, competitive playing field in that regard then I’m all for it. And I’m hopeful that can happen sooner rather than later because I think it would be the best thing for our conference, for me, for you guys, for everybody involved in this, for our fans, to make that happen.”

On if it’s been discussed in the past by Pac-12 coaches: “It hasn’t been a topic of discussion but I would imagine that we are going to be talking about it pretty quickly.”

On the NFL policy and that being effective when he was there: “I think everybody is going to try to find a loophole through something there, but at least it forces your hand to do something and it puts everybody under the same rules and regulations rather than it being nothing, which is where we are today. I think that it serves its purpose in the NFL. Is it ideal? I don’t know. Maybe Larry Scott can come up with something better than what the NFL utilizes. But I’d definitely be in favor of something that at least puts an umbrella over all of us that says ‘these are the guidelines that you have to operate within.’ And I think that would help everybody.”

On if one conference does it but others do not: “I don’t know, if they have something in there that says when you have non-conference games that you don’t report. I’m not trying to be an expert on it by any means, but again I would be in favor of something that would put us all within the guidelines of what we operate in and then it would make all of our lives a lot easier.”

On why this all came to a head now: “I don’t know. I’m not sure. Because I think there have been schools in our conference that have been doing it for years where they haven’t reported injuries but for whatever reason we decided not to and it’s become a pretty big deal that maybe I wasn’t expecting.”

On if there’s more confidence now: “I think it helped. I think the way the game went helped. If we had gone out and went to the locker room at halftime with a three point lead or down three or it’s late in the fourth quarter and we need a stop…we lived this game a year ago with Eastern Washington. So the way the game went was I think encouraging to them and to me that the way we started the ball game…we started with a purpose, we played with a real sense of purpose and I thought we practiced that way last week – with a real sense of purpose, and we were able to carry that over to the ball game. And that was probably the most encouraging thing to the players as well as the coaches – when you practice a certain way and you apply what you practice from the moment that first kickoff starts the ball game that you can perform at a certain level and good things come out of that – that was the most encouraging thing they got out of that and helped them come back to work this week knowing there’s still more things to work on. When they work on ’em with a purpose and then carry that over to a game, I think they are understanding that more good things can come. So from that perspective that definitely helped.”

On the screen game and blocking with the smaller WR’s: “We’ve done pretty good. We’ve gotten Kasen on the perimeter with some of that stuff. We’ve never been a huge screen team – we average probably about 3-4 screens a game…there’s other games we’ll call more and other games we won’t, but the effect that it has – when you have athletic linemen that can get downfield is a big advantage for us. As we’re going forward with the Shane Brostek’s, the Dexter Charles’, those types of guys that can get to the second level, I would imagine that can become part of our offense – to utilize what those guys do well. When you’re got young receivers where there’s so much concentration and attention to detail to line up and run the right route downfield – when you have an opportunity to get them involved in the game by getting them a bubble screen or a hitch screen to where they have the ball and they can run and can get tackled and get in the flow of the game…that’s another reason why we would do stuff like that, so it works both ways for us. It’s been fine so far, but we can be better at it because I think we have the personnel that can be pretty good at that type of stuff.”

On how important it is for Price to find a third receiver: “I think it’s helpful, and right now it’s kind of coming by committee. We were all hopeful James Johnson could be that guy in training camp, but that obviously didn’t turn out so great. Kevin Smith stepped up and had a couple of pretty nice catches against LSU, wasn’t able to go last week. DiAndre Campbell steps in and has a couple of big catches, his first touchdown catch. I’d like to think that we’ll get more out of Jaydon Mickens than what we’ve gotten so far. I think Marvin Hall will bring something to the table, I think Kendyl Taylor is going to help, I think Cody Bruns is going to help. I don’t know if we’re going to have a bonafide third wide receiver that we’re going to completely lean on, but I think we have enough people within our personnel that can do specific different things that there might be some games where one of them catches four or five balls and the next week it could be somebody different. And I’m okay with that.”

On Stanford and how they recruit to their style of play: “They recruit to what they want and they do a good job of recruiting length on both sides of the ball. They are a taller football team. They play long, they play with good hands. I think that is what they are going to do and that’s what they recruit to and I think they do a nice job of it. I don’t know if you just went to the game and you saw them warm up and you saw USC warm up you’d say Stanford is that much bigger and stronger so they are just going to be able to run the ball and defend the run better. I think there’s a mentality they play with as well that helps them. When you combine the two that makes them really effective and that’s what they’ve done a nice job of.”

On players coming back: “I don’t know as much today. I’ll know more about that kind of stuff as we move through the week, and especially into Saturday. We’ve got some guys…their timeline is amazing, it’s literally leading up to the ball game, so I’m going to have to see guys move around more before I can give you the specifics on that stuff – but believe me, I’m crossing my fingers that we can get a couple of these guys back.”



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