The Huskies are off the field following their Wednesday morning practice — and what is also our last chance this week to talk with UW players and coaches in advance of the Friday night game at Cal.
Nothing to significant to report. Obviously we are more limited now than in the past in what we can report. But there also are no real lingering injury issues at the moment with key players — UW hasn’t suffered any significant new injuries in games for a few weeks now. So everybody who played last week should be good to go this week (obviously there are the guys who have been reported out for the year who won’t be back).
The clear focus of the week has been UW’s attempt to snap a six-game road losing streak that dates to a win at Utah on Oct. 1, 2011. The games since have hardly been easy — at Stanford, at USC, at Oregon State, at LSU, at Oregon, at Arizona. They also have hardly been close — UW hasn’t been within 17 points in any of those losses.
Sarkisian said he hasn’t tried to sugarcoat the issue with his team this week.
“We have challenges every week that we’re faced with, and we never shy away from them,” he said. “We almost magnify them because I want the team to know what the challenge is and what we need to respond to. So I don’t think it’s just going to go away until you start to string more games in a row together on the road. But for this week, that’s our challenge. We haven’t won on the road in a year, over a year – and if that doesn’t motivate you to some degree to prepare yourself…it’s not just about 6 o’clock Friday night. Everybody wants to win at 6 o’clock on Friday night. You have to play well on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and your preparation on those days to play well on Friday night is what’s really important.”
You can see more of what Sarkisian had to say in the video below, and there are more transcribed quotes after the video:
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On Jeff Tedford and going against him and being familiar with what Cal does: “It’s not easy at all. Jeff is a tremendous offensive mind, obviously. They do so much on offense, and even now so much with their best success is coming with all the zone read stuff with (Zach) Maynard and (Brendan) Bigelow and the quarterback power with the read option off of it, that’s their best stuff. Twelve years ago that wasn’t Jeff Tedford. So I have a lot of respect for him that he’s been able to kind of adapt with the times and keep his offense going and moving in the right direction, and then obviously a great deal of respect for him as a head coach. What he inherited at Cal and what he has been able to do over the last decade is very impressive.”
On playing on Friday night and other night games and not being like traditional football: “I think what is challenging is we are always trying to find a consistent routine and schedule for our guys. The 18-22-year-old male, when we can keep it as structured and with consistency, they respond better that way. We’ve had to adapt this year, that’s the way it is. In a perfect world we’d wake up Saturday mornings, kick off at 12:30 and all be with our families at 4:30. But that’s just not the case in this day and age with television and what is going on with college football. So I have some mixed emotions because I think it is good for the game, good to get the exposure for college football, the Pac-12, the University of Washington. But inside the confines of our building, we wish we had the same routine and schedule week in and week out. But that’s just not the case these days.”
On how much of a luxury Cody Bruns is with his experience and trusting him on holding and punt returns: “It’s just all of that. He’s our Mr. Utility if you want to refer to him that way. He plays every wide receiver position, he’s our holder, he’s our emergency punter, he could play quarterback if we needed him to. And he’s a senior that understands that when it’s your last go-round that every play matters, every play counts. And we saw that on the fumble by Kendyl (Taylor) last game, he’s playing with such great effort that he’s under that dog pile and he gets his face scratched up and he comes out of there with it, so I love that about him and I’m happy for him that he is having some success his senior year after kind of a long ride and hopefully we can get him some more success here in these last few ballgames.”
On managing games well in the late going and some keys to being able to do that: “We really try to make it a point to practice the special situations of the game. We never run plays just for the sake of running plays. We try to raise our players football IQ and awareness and understanding, whether it’s down and distance, how much time is on the clock, what the score is on the game, what to expect from our opponents, and what we like to do in those situations. And the end result is our guys, when we are in tight ballgames late, they don’t panic. I think they are calm and confident in what we are going to do and how we are going to execute it and then they go make their plays.”
On the game at Cal two years ago being an example of that and being aggressive late: “Every game is different. I’d like to say that yeah we are aggressive all the time. But you have to be smart to the situation and what we are in and what is happening. But sure, we’d love to be aggressive. In a perfect world, always in those situations we like to end the game, especially a tie game like that, with the ball in our possession, that we get the last possession of the game. And I thought that’s what was unique a couple of years ago at Cal. We weren’t quite able to do that Saturday night against Oregon State — we tried to, it didn’t work out that way. But that’s the first goal to make sure they don’t get another possession. And then the ultimate goal is to win the game, and we’ve been fortunate in the real tight ballgames here, less than 10 points, we’ve had a pretty good track record of executing and winning those tight games.”
On that being the blueprint for winning a road game and keeping it close to pull it out late: “In a perfect world we’d jump up by a bunch of points and pull away and win a game. We haven’t had that luxury right now and we are not quite there yet. So the point is to go into a ball game and execute really well and make them earn their plays on offense, defense and special teams and not give them too much, and then ultimately taking advantage of opportunities on our end. And then as you move your way into the second half and making the proper adjustments from the stuff we are getting and finishing the ball game in the fourth quarter. That’s just kind of where we’re at right now as a football team. We’re a little bit of a blue-collar, grind-em-out football team, which is fine. That’s a fine way to win and I love winning that way. But at some point I’d like to score some more points and get ahead of people and win that way, too. But for the time being that’s just the way we are built right now.”
On having found an identity and a way to win: “I think so. I think we found some things in the second half about our team and we still have the ability to throw the ball down the field and that was encouraging some of the plays that Kasen (Williams) made, getting Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) open late. So that stuff is still there for us down the field that we want to take advantage of and maybe a little earlier in the ball game. But the end result is that we still have the ability to execute late when it is most needed.”
On the Cal-Utah score not being indicative of how Cal played: “I would definitely agree. It’s been a little typical of sometimes when we’ve gone on the road and you have your own miscues yourself. You beat yourself before the opponent can beat you. That happened a bit with Cal last week in Utah. I thought Cal continued to fight. They got Bigelow really involved and he’s a scary guy. When they get going with the zone read stuff with Maynard and Bigelow, especially the quarterback power and Bigelow kind of on that fly sweep – it’s a dangerous play. That stuff, to me – and they got it going again – regardless of what the scoreboard was against Utah, they got that play going again and then all the stuff off of it. We’re not really concerned with what the score was last week; we know this is going to be a tough ball game Friday night.”
On the offensive line building off Saturday’s performance: “I think it was good for them. We really challenged the offensive line last week about their preparation and then their ability to defeat the man across from them. We knew it was going to be a great challenge versus Oregon State and they’ve got another one this week. There’s some good front seven guys on this Cal defense that we need to battle. For our team, it takes all five of them cohesively, and then you throw in the tight ends to do it, but for it to be cohesive they have to win their one-on-one battles, and that’s been the rallying cry here now for a couple weeks. Hopefully that’ll continue.”
On Micah Hatchie getting a little too comfortable with his role and the coaching having to jump-start him, and if that might be the identity of the OL this year: “We’re gaining maturity by the day up front. But we’re still…we’ve got one senior offensive lineman right now, so we’ve got some young guys that are trying to figure out what’s the right way to do things on a daily basis and from down after down after down. And so that’s the important part for us – to emphasize those opportunities when we can. Not just to keep saying the same message over and over and over, because sooner or later they tune you out. When you have opportunities to jump-start a guy like Micah and for himself to see the results, that really spreads throughout the rest of the offensive line. When they see a guy make that much of a drastic change in his play based on a few conversations that maybe that can help them too. It’s been really good, and we’ll continue to grow up front through those learning experiences.”
On the evolution of the receivers trying to help Keith out in scramble situations: “I’d like to see more, quite honestly. It’s been a point of emphasis this week for us as we all know Keith makes as many plays out of the pocket as he does in the pocket, and when he gets out we have to continue to work for him and understand our rules, our scramble rules when we’re out of the pocket. I’m hopeful that it will continue to improve in this last third of the season, because those are some big play opportunities that we just haven’t capitalized on yet.”
On if Price afford to wait to have receivers break deep: “It always varies. It varies. We saw one today with Derrick Brown where Kevin Smith broke free when he scrambled and made the big play. Those things aren’t scripted. It’s like when you went back to third grade playing in the park…run down to the tree, turn around and I’ll throw it to you, and if I don’t throw it to you then just get open…that’s what happens in those situations. We try to have some rules and guidelines for guys to stay within, but then at the end of the day it’s the decision-making of the quarterback when to make those throws down the field, when to have the courage to throw the ball away and to say okay, I’m winning this play by throwing it away. I’m not going to lose the play by getting sacked or fumbling or forcing an interception. Those are all the tough decisions a quarterback has to make, especially when things weren’t going great a few weeks ago and you’re pressing and things of that nature. I was really proud of Keith last week – I think he threw the ball away three or four times in those types of situations where they covered us and he was out of the pocket and threw it away and we lived to fight another day. So he’s going to be out of the pocket again Friday night and he’s going to get faced with those decisions again. We’re going to have to try to work for him and hopefully we can capitalize on some of those opportunities by making some throws down the field, but he’s probably going to have to throw the ball away a couple of times as well.”
On looking at Brendan Bigelow and his two ACL tears and if it’s similar to Deontae Cooper: “I don’t know exactly what happened to Bigelow…I know he had two, I don’t know exactly what his circumstances were. I do know that he’s back and he’s running fast, and he’s an explosive guy – whether it’s in the run game, the screen game, the kickoff return game – so we need to know where number 5 is every time he’s on the field. It’s a point of emphasis for us.”