In his Monday press conference, UW coach Steve Sarkisian previewed the No. 19 Huskies’ trip to Chicago to play Illinois (2-0) at Soldier Field on Saturday. He said the Illini, after going 2-10 in 2012, appear to have matured, “probably similar to us in some regard, with a senior quarterback (Nathan Scheelhaase) who is playing at an extremely high level.”
In Illinoi’s 45-17 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, Scheelhaase threw four touchdown passes — matching his season total from 10 games in 2012.
“It’s not a dink-and-dunk offense; they’re throwing it down the field,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian said not much has changed since last week with regard to the team’s health or depth. In the game notes released this morning, there weren’t any chances to the two-deep from the Boise State game.
“We’re status quo. We’re all good,” he said.
Sarkisian was asked about the grass at Soldier Field. Because UW doesn’t “have the luxury” of having a grass practice field, Sarkisian said, the Huskies went to the Seahawks’ facility for practice at least twice in August to get accustomed to the grass. That’ll be put to test Saturday, but Sarkisian doesn’t expect the grass to be an issue. The hash marks and yard markers are different — “tighter,” as Sarkisian explained — on NFL fields, but having played last year at CenturyLink Field will benefit UW, he said.
Sarkisian liked having a bye this early, and he said the players came back with a lot of energy
On UW’s hurry-up success against Boise State, Sarkisian reiterated he wasn’t surprised as the Huskies’ offensive production. And he believes they can get better, particularly with the between-the-snaps mechanics that I wrote about last week.
“We need to do a better job of handing the ball to the umpire,” he said. “We were fast; we were getting the ball to officials, but a lot of time they were side judges and different things. We need to get the ball to the umpire so he can spot the ball. That’s the first thing. The second thing is getting set at the line of scrimmage — our offensive tackles, our tight ends … and being more efficient that way. And then when we sub from the sidelines, doing it with a real sense of urgency when we’re changing personnel groupings and communicating with the guy.”
Sark on his players watching football during the bye weekend: “I think we’ve got a lot of football junkies on this team and they like watching college football. I’m glad we’re finally at this point. I don’t know if we were that way five years ago, but I think we’re there today. We’ve got guys that love watching football, playing football, being around it — college, NFL. I think they watch little things. I think they watched the Tampa Bay game yesterday against the Jets and the foolish penalty, a guy hitting the quarterback late out of bounds that cost them a field-goal attempt this morning. They were talking about that stuff this morning. … That part to me is what’s encouraging — that our guys are engaged and they’re watching what’s going on and they’re learning from it.”
On leaving Thursday for Chicago (a day earlier than most trips): “It’s a long trip, just over a four-hour flight. Gives us a chance to get a little bit acclimated. It keeps our Friday efficient, where it’s a normal routine for us with our traditional walk-through and whatnot. It gives us a chance to get to Soldier Field and see the environment and get acclimated there. That’s there reason why. When we go two time-zones over, we traditionally go on Thursday.
Sark on Austin Seferian-Jenkins: “Austin’s obviously a very talented player. He’s a weapon for us in the passing game and the running game. He’ll have a significant role in the game plan to catch the ball, whether it’s short, intermediate or long. … We’re glad to have him back. I think he makes us a better football team. We’ll see how it goes.”
On missed tackles against Boise State: “We’re vastly improved. I’m excited to watch our guys go out and tackle Saturday, because we’re going to need to. Illinois has plenty of players who can make you miss and make big plays. So tackling is going to be a key component for us.”
Here’s the final few minutes of Sarkisian presser: