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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 1, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Monday Sark bites — and video

UW coach Steve Sarkisian held his usual Monday press conference today, and here is what he had to say.

I’ve split the video into two halves, and also have some of the transcribed quotes below:

First half:

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Second half:

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Opening comment: “From a personnel news standpoint, Lawrence Lagafuaina will be out the rest of the season. It’s good to have a couple extra days coming off the Thursday game versus Stanford, obviously in preparation for Oregon and the uniqueness of their football team. It’s a great opportunity for our team to go on the road and try to get to 2-0 in conference play.”

On going into a hostile environment and already having done that at LSU: “I think we’ve tried to pride ourselves on how we’ve always dealt with adversity and to never carry the woe-is-me mentality but really focus on the next snap and the task at hand. I think we showed a lot of that resolve last Thursday night versus Stanford. I think we’re gradually maturing as a football team in that we understand how to deal with some of the adverse situations we get faced with. And with that, I believe we’re becoming a much more mentally tough football team, which is encouraging.”

On if being a Top 25 means anything to him: “Not really. Again, rankings to me – until the end – it’s a perception of your program, you know? It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who you are – good, bad or anything in-between. It’s the perception of what people think of you. You ultimately have to go play the games. For us, if people perceive us to be a Top 25 team, I’m sure that’s exciting for our fans and all that. For us, it’s never even been brought up. It didn’t get brought up in yesterday’s team meeting, it was never brought up with any of the players. It’s about focusing on the stuff that we can control, and that’s our ability to prepare for a really good opponent Saturday.”

On mental toughness and what has changed: “Earlier in this season, if we would have thrown that pick-six like we did against Stanford there late in the third quarter to go down 13-3, a two-score game against that quality of an opponent…I don’t know if we could have responded the way that we did. So for us to go out and respond and to ultimately score a touchdown on that drive and then come back and continually get stops on defense, and the defense to stand up and not feel like, ‘Oh geez, the offense let us down,’ I thought we showed a great deal of maturity there and continued to fight, continued to try and execute. It wasn’t a matter of what the score was or what just happened to us. It was about – what are we going to do now and how are we going to be successful from this point forward.”

On who or what led the charge when it comes to having mental toughness: “I don’t know. I think you start to learn about your team…I really felt young coming out of LSU. It felt like we had some guys…as a whole I felt like we lacked a bit of the inexperience in being dealt with adversity. So many times when you’re young guys, when it’s good it’s really easy to keep playing good, but when it gets hard how do you respond? I thought our maturity got a little bit better there against Portland State in their responding to some of the challenges, especially at halftime. And then obviously the points of emphasis for this ballgame against Stanford and what it was going to take to play a disciplined, physical football team – and in turn having to play a disciplined, physical brand of football to compete with them and then get faced with that adversity – I think the messaging has just become more consistent: It’s about us and our ability to prepare and to do the little things – the attention to details within our game plans and the messaging to put ourselves in the best position to be successful on Saturday. And so that will continue to be that way.”

On Stanford game review: “I really thought our defense played a tremendous football game. Again, it could have been even a little bit better if we hadn’t blown a couple of coverages. From a special teams standpoint – just about…there were one of two kickoffs where we don’t fit it exactly right but we covered well. We’re two inches away from returning a punt for a touchdown, so I was really encouraged with the special teams play. I thought Travis punted the ball well. He makes up for the tough snap and punts the one ball left-footed. He bangs the one field goal and his kickoffs were much better. Offensively we knew going in it was going to be a grind-it-out game against that front for Stanford. Sure I would liked to have blocked ’em better, but to come out of that ball game with Bishop Sankey 20 carries for nearly 150 yards – I would have taken that every day of the week last week if you would have told me that’s what he was going to have. For Kasen (Williams) to have 10 catches for almost 130 yards…I sure would have liked to get Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) more involved. I thought Keith (Price) showed a great deal of leadership and mental toughness when it got hard – especially after the interception – but continued to stand in there and lead the football team. Impressed with our guys the way they finished the game. Do we need to execute better? That goes without saying. But as we come out of it there were a great deal of positives, there was a bunch to work on that we’re going to have to continually work on – red zone offense being one of those. We had a couple of opportunities this game to put seven on the board early and weren’t able to capitalize on that and maybe could have changed the momentum of that game even earlier. That will be a big focus as far as this week.”

On why Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t involved more: “I don’t know if they were doing so much with him in that they were making an extreme attempt to take him away. I think they were aware of where he was on the field. I think we probably could have called some things better for him to get him some more opportunities especially early in the game. I think he’d be the first one to tell you he could play better than he played too. So that’s the beauty of having another go-to guy in Kasen and for Kasen to respond the way he did.”

On the offensive line and how it played against Stanford: “We’ve got to find better schemes, better plays. I thought we run blocked very well. I thought our guys came off the football against a physical front. That was a big emphasis for us. We felt like we had to run the football in that type of ball game against them. We just have to shore things up from a protection stand point. Scheme-wise, I think we have some things in place to help them. The key for those guys up front is to believe in the protection, trust the protection and ultimately execute the protection. Those two things have to go hand in hand together and then the comes moment of truth where your technique has to be right when you’re blocking a guy. We’ll continue to hammer that home. I’m a realist in understand that was a good defensive front that we went against. Very well coached challenged us with a lotta different looks but we’re going to see other good ones too so we’ve gotta be prepared for that.”

On if the play of the defense was a surprise: “I thought our guys they played well. We were disciplined in our assignments which is always key when you’re playing a team like Stanford. They’ll tax you tax you tax you until you get out of your assignment get out of your gap and that’s when they’ll hurt you. I thought we played fast we got to the football and ultimately we finished plays. We tackled well and knocked piles back and did it with an attitude that was highly encouraging for all of us. You go to the LSU game some of those piles were falling in our direction and it was important for us to knock the piles back and set the tone and we did that.”

On Kendyl Taylor being listed at running back: “He kinda does both. I’m just trying to put guys on here (the depth chart) so that I don’t feel like I’m leaving people out. I wanna get Marvin Hall on here because he plays some at wide receiver so Kendyl is listed as a running back but he does both.”

On if playing Oregon provides more external motivation this week: “I’m kind of over the external motivators. Maybe you learn a lesson as a coach I think this team I don’t think external motivators are what pushes their buttons. I’ve said this now for a few weeks this is a serious group. Very close knit, they were excited to win the game Thursday believe me but when we came back to work Saturday there wasn’t a whole lot of hoopin’ and hollerin’ and smiling and okay now we’re back we get to play Oregon this week. It was okay we won, we did what we were suppose to do and okay coach what do we need to do this week so we can hopefully be success next Saturday. It’s not about that we’re playing Oregon or that its at Autzen or what uniforms they’re wearing or what uniforms we’re wearing. It’s about getting to 2-0 in conference play. That’s what all these guys think I actually really enjoy it. When you have to start looking for external motivators it can get dicey for you because you don’t know if you pushed the exact right buttons to get them excited to play. They’ll be ready to play because they wanna be ready to play. All that preparation has already begun and they gotta great look in their eye about what it’s gonna take to get us to a point to where we have a chance to be successful on Saturday.”

On if he watched the WSU-Oregon game: “Yeah, I watched it on TV. At the end of the day, WSU played hard. They tried really hard. They played really hard in the game. I think that’s the biggest thing you take from it: When you play good teams you need to play hard. You need to play disciplined but you need to play hard. You need to finish plays. That’s the biggest thing they got out of it. They played hard against them.”

On comparing the offenses of Oregon and Stanford: “We’ve been fortunate in that we have a little extra time for both weeks. So we have a couple extra practices here for Oregon. We’ve implemented enough no-huddle in our own schemes offensively and we practice it enough that now that we are devoting a whole week to no-huddle offense I don’t think it will be so foreign to our guys because they see it so much from us through the weeks as we get ready to play. They are different in how they do it, but at the end of the day they both believe in running the football and utilizing the play-action pass. They just do it — one’s conventionally and one’s a little bit unconventionally nowadays. You’ve got to be able to be disciplined in your alignment and assignment. You’ve got to tackle, really, really well. And you’ve got to have really good eye discipline so that when they do play-action pass, when we ar ein coverage we are covering the right guys. And those principles hold true regardless of the style of offense that we are playing.”

On what he sees in Oregon’s defense: “Very good. Great length on the edges, with Dion Jordan and (Boseko) Lokombo setting the edges and forcing the ball inside where they’ve got some of their bigger body types with (Taylor) Hart, (Isaac) Remington and those guys, and then (Kiko) Alonso and (Michael) Clay in the middle (at linebacker). Their corners have a great deal of confidence right now, they have a great deal of confidence on the perimeter, to where when they are getting put in their one-on-one settings they are making their plays. When you’ve got all those things going for you that’s a recipe for a good defense. And they are playing a lot of guys. They are playing about 22 guys on defense. It’s not just the 11 front-line guys. They are rotating quite a bit.”

On what he sees out of Marcus Mariota: “He’s fast. He’s faster than the last few guys they’ve had. Go all the way back to Dennis Dixon and then (Jeremiah) Masoli, and (Darron) Thomas last year. He’s much faster than those guys. His ability to create plays with his legs — not necessarily by design on runs, which he can do, but when he drops back and things aren’t there, his ability to create plays with his feet. We saw it the other night in that game when he scrambled for the touchdown. That’s the biggest thing that jumps out to me. The offense is still the offense, and Chip (Kelly) does a great job. But it’s his ability to improve when the play breaks down.”

On if he is worried about the team having a letdown following the Stanford game: “We did talk about that. We didn’t belabor the point, but we did talk to it so that I wanted to make sure they knew where I was coming from and the state of mind that I was in. But, really, it was … Saturday we reviewed the game, and when we came back to work last night you wouldn’t have known who we played last Thursday. There wasn’t a mention of it. So that’s a good thing.”

On Danny Shelton’s play and playing with a club on his hand: “Yeah, we knew we’d have him. He’s got a sore hand but (he chuckles), he’s a D-lineman. Get used to it, buddy. He probably has two sore hands this week, I don’t know. I thought Danny had a nice game. It was critical for us, whenever you play a power-running football team like Stanford, taking care of the middle core of your defense, and I thought Danny did that. I thought Semisi Tokolahi had a nice game. I thought the emergence of Josh Banks, getting his first action of the year for us, he had a nice game. So all those guys inside that were rotating through did a nice job for us.”

On if that was as well as Shelton has played this year: “I think I may have seen him a little better than that. I think he can be better than what he did. He still played a good game, but I think Danny, when he is really, really going, I mean, he’s a dominant, dominant nose tackle. So there’s definitely room for improvement for him. We’re going to need more of that type of play, and even better, this week at Oregon.

On doing more tackling in practice: “Well, we’ve changed a little bit of an emphasis from our team standpoint. You go back to even training camp, and we’ve made it a point to have really physical practices. We felt like that was something we needed to do from a team standpoint, if we were going to be able to defend the run, to run the football the way we were capable of, and then openly tackle that way, you have to practice it. You can’t just expect to show up on Saturdays and become a really good tackling team, a physical football team and have good pad level. All of those things have been a point of emphasis since training camp. They became an even bigger point of emphasis of ours during the bye week, when we stressed it, we emphasized it, we continued to practice it. And then the obvious fundamentals and techniques that go along with that. I really believe you have to practice those things. It’s like anything. If you want to be a good free throw shooter, you’ve got to practice free throws. If you want to be a good tackling football team, you have to practice that stuff. We’ve done it, and maybe at the expense of getting a few more bumps and bruises and a few guys getting banged up, but the end result, I think we’re better for it as a football team.”

On what he talked about with Justin Wilcox when he arrived: “We talked philosophically about what we wanted to be and the personnel that we had on our roster, and then what other type of personnel that we wanted to recruit so that we could shape it to even more of what we want. And Justin’s taken those ideas and ran with it. He’s done a tremendous job. He’s an excellent coach, a great communicator and teacher – not only to the players but to the assistant coaches, and those guys realying the messages and the details of it all. I think they’ve done a tremendous job of it to this point.”

On what he liked about Wilcox: “I follow guys, and there were a handful of guys that I was looking at. What I appreciate about Justin is the versatility that he presented at each of his places – what he came from at Cal to what he implemented at Boise to then what he played when he was in Tennessee to now and what he’s doing with us. They’re almost three different defenses. And that’s a sign of a good coach, a guy who has the ability to implement a defense and schemes to fit the personnel and the team that he has and the styles of offense that he’ll be faced with. That’s been the biggest thing that’s stood out with me.”

On if he would have done more tackling anyway or if that was Wilcox’s influence: “I think it was probably a combination of both. You’re always trying to find ways to get better. If we’re deep enough to practice the way I want to practice, with the physicality and the inside run drills, even in season like we have now, and to continually practice that way, I was hopeful that we could do that. They were obviously, definitely, on board. And that’s not the only time we’re working on our tackling stuff – it’s going on in individuals, when we stress it and all that. So that part’s been a real positive, that we’ve been on the same page that way and it’s carried over in practice.”

On if the recruiting on the defensive side of the ball is being tailored to fit any one style of offense: “I think our conference is too unique. You go from Stanford one week to Oregon the next to USC the next to Arizona the next to Oregon State the next. And every one of those is a different offensive style and brand of football. I think at the end of the day you want to recruit good football players with a high football IQ. Guys who are long that can run fast, that are willing to be violent but have a very high football IQ so that they can fit and understand why we are doing what we are doing from week to week based on the opponent we are getting faced with.”

On struggling in the past in October (UW is 6-7 in that month under Sarkisian): “The one big emphasis about this month that is unique to September and November is this is the month of school starting. We are into the second week of school now and as we all now, with school comes actual classes. It becomes more students on campus, it becomes time management, it becomes having the ability to go to sleep at night so you are getting your rest. So part of that comes with why we shifted to the A.M. practices so that when we are getting up in the morning in season, especially in this month of October, we are fresh in mind and body so that we can put our best practice on the field and then go off to school rather than vice versa where we are in school all day and then practice at 4:30 in the afternoon. So we are trying to do some different things in the month of October and emphasize what it takes to be successful in this month. But it’s a great point because I have felt like there have been times in this month of the season where we have struggled. I don’t know if it’s from a sheer fatigue standpoint that maybe we haven’t prepared as good as we could have because of some extraneous things going on.”

On if there is a lesson to be learned in the losses that followed the last two times UW was ranked under Sarkisian: “I don’t know that there was much to learn. The one biggest thing we learned early on is, I believe after the USC game the first year, is man it was easy to walk around and get patted on the back a whole lot all the way up to kickoff of that Stanford game the next week. I think our guys recognize that okay that was a good win but there is plenty of room for improvement and we’ve got a tremendous challenge next week and 100 percent of our focus and energy needs to be on our preparation for this game and not living in the past of the last one. And not that we are by any means trying to knock our guys back down but that is great, that’s the perception of who we are as a program. The reality is that we need to go recreate that this Saturday in a tough environment against a good football team, a well-coached football team, and that’s where our focus has been placed. Not to diminish where we are ranked, not to diminish what’s happened in the past but really where we are right now. I’ve said this numerous times that this is a different team than we’ve had in the past. I think teams in the past we had guys who had lived through a whole bunch of adversity in the past and all that. We’ve got the majority of this roster is here with the expectation that we are going to win a championship in their time here and that’s what their focus is.”

On if the team is more prepared now than at any other time he has been here to handle Oregon. “I like our depth going into this week, I’ll say that, because I think that when you look at the three previous years we played them they were very hard-fought first halves, even into the third quarter and then they’ve pulled away from us late in the third quarter, fourth quarter. I think last year it was 24-17 with nine minutes left in the third quarter and then they pull out to a 34-17 lead which is ultimately the final. And two years ago it was 18-13 at their place with 6-7 minutes left in the third quarter and then they pull away from us and it ends up (53-16). And three years ago I can’t remember the exact score but it was 15-6 or something like that at halftime. So the games have been there and then they have pulled away. So I would like to think that through our recruiting we have some pretty good depth in place to where we can minimize them trying to pull away there late third, early fourth quarter.”

On Mike Leach talking about Oregon’s explosive plays following the game Saturday: “I think it’s something Oregon does a nice job of is there up-tempo, there is a rhyme and reason to it. They run really good football plays but the reality of it is those plays become even better when you are wrong on defense and you make mistakes and you get out of your gap and maybe you are a little bit fatigued and maybe you don’t get the call and communicate as well with the guy next to you and you get out of your gap. And then they are explosive athletes who create big plays, and so for us the depth kicks in to where you are not waiting until the third quarter to sub guys, you are subbing in the first quarter and the second quarter so that when we are in the late third, early fourth quarter, I don’t know if we are going to necessarily be a fresh football team but we shouldn’t be as fatigued as we have been in the past.”

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