Coach Steve Sarkisian said star receiver Kasen Williams was scheduled for a MRI today and is expected to have surgery Tuesday to repair a broken left leg and foot injury suffered in Saturday’s 41-17 win over California.
Williams will almost certainly miss the remaining four regular-season games, but Sarkisian refused to say the junior standout, who is third on the team in receptions (29) and receiving yards (421), is done for the season.
“To Kasen’s credit he’s in good spirits,” Sarkisian said. “He came to Coach (Don) James’ service yesterday. He was with the team today. He’ll take it like a champion. He’ll do whatever we need him to do to get healthy and he’ll be back.”
When asked if Williams could return for a bowl game, Sarkisian said: “I’m hesitant to talk on specifics until the doctors get with him.”
Sarkisian said the bye week is coming at a good time for the Huskies because several players are “banged up,” although he declined to be anymore specific. However, he believes everyone – with the exception of Williams – will be available for the Nov. 9 game against Colorado.
Here’s a partial transcription of the press conference.
(Opening statement) “All in all it was great to get back in the win column. As we touched on Saturday night, I thought our kids played hard. I thought we minimized the big play from Cal which was important – unfortunately until the fourth quarter there where they had the big run. All in all we kept the ball in front of us. We tackled better. I thought offensively, we created explosive plays, which is a big part of what we need to do offensively to make us the complete offense that we need to be. We had some explosive plays in the run game and in the passing game. I thought Bishop (Sankey) was tremendous again, just an unbelievable workhorse that he is. I thought Travis Coons had an excellent night for us in all three phases. I thought Jaydon Mickens – obviously the numbers bear it – but played extremely well. I thought Hau’oli Kikaha had a tremendous game. This guy is having a great season so far and he’s really improving as the year’s gone on. He’s got six sacks now on the year, he’s got quarterback hurries. He’s playing at a high level. So all in all it was good for us to get back in the win column. There’s plenty of things for us to work on in this bye week – obviously emphasizing our young players and developing them. It is midterms for us this week, so having our guys focus on school and getting that stuff done for them on that end of it. And then getting healthy. We’re a little nicked up right now – a little beat up. To get ourselves fresh and ready for the fourth quarter of the season in a stretch of the season which we really believe all four are all winnable ball games. But ballgames that we’re going to have to prepare for extremely well and then ultimately go out and perform.”
(What’s the latest on Kasen Williams) “He’s got an MRI this afternoon. He’s scheduled for surgery tomorrow. We’ll be able to talk more specifically after the surgery – after the MRI and ultimately after the surgery of where he’s at. To Kasen’s credit he’s in good spirits. He came to coach (Don) James’ service yesterday. He was with the team today. He’ll take it like a champion and he’ll do whatever we need him to do to get healthy and he’ll be back.”
(If he were to return, would it be for a bowl game?) “I don’t know exactly. I would imagine so. But I’m hesitant to talk on specifics until the doctors get with him.”
(Injury updates on the rest of the players) “We’re just banged up. It’s nothing serious injury-wise. We’re just a banged up team right now. We had a physical run of teams that we went up against and it’s taken its toll. We’ve got some quad contusions. We’ve got some shoulder bruises. We’ve got some calf strains, quad strains – so we’ve got kind of the things, the whole spectrum of injuries. I don’t really want to call them injuries because if we were playing Saturday the majority of those guys could play and would play. But it’s a great time for us based on the injuries and the bumps and bruises that we have to get healthy so we’re ready for the stretch run.”
(Anyone besides Williams ruled out for Colorado due to injury?) “Not that I’m aware of.”
(What will this week look like?) “It’ll look like developing our younger players – developing those guys. Focusing on a few new schemes that we’ll need to have ready for the fourth quarter (of the season). And getting fresh, getting healthy. It’s not so much different than what other bye weeks have looked like for us. It’s focusing on the young guys (and) continuing to develop them. Making sure that we’re sound in special teams and any schemes that we might want to work on there. And then giving the guys time to really focus on their school work. This is a pivotal moment in their quarter to get themselves ready for their midterms and do well in school. So there’s a lot that goes on. I think so many times we focus on just their athletic performance, but they have an academic performance that they do a great job with as well. And as well as their personal lives. So this is a good time for us to have a bye week to kind of get re-focused and come back kind of energized and ready to go next Monday.”
(With Williams out, who steps up?) “Kasen’s a great player, don’t get me wrong but this is a great opportunity to expand Jaydon (Micken’s) role, to expand John Ross’ role, for Damore’ea Stringfellow to try to take the next step. I think what we saw with Marvin Hall in the punt return game (he) has an opportunity to do some special things for us. So we’ve got good depth at the position. We’ll miss him because he’s a great player, but we’ve got good depth.”
(Was the play on which Williams was injured designed to go farther down field?) “It could have gone a little further down the field, but it’s a play that Kasen routinely makes. We’ve grown accustomed to him jumping up and making those plays. It was just an odd play where the defensive back landed right on the back of his leg. With all the force caused a break in the leg and then the injury to the foot.”
(Have you talked to Price who seemed to take the blame for Williams’ injury?) “That’s just Keith. That’s his mentality. He’s always one to take the blame and give the praise. I don’t need to talk to him so specifically that way about it. It’s his personality. And that’s what makes Keith a great teammate and that’s why his teammates respect him so much. He’ll always look for the little things where he can improve and he’s quick to take the blame when things don’t go great and he’s quick to give praise when things do go well to the other guys. That’s why he’s a great leader for our football team.”
(Does Price rest any more this week than normal?) “No. It’ll be the same. He looks great.”
(On having five-straight 1000-yard rushers) “I’ve always had a firm belief in running the football and that comes from Pete (Carroll) quite honestly and our time at SC. We were always a run-first team then and we’re a run-first team now. I know people always want to keep labeling me as a passing guy, but every year we sure know how to run the football pretty well and we’re doing a great job of it right now. I think for as much of the criticism the offensive line took two weeks ago after the Arizona State game they came out and really produced some big time holes for Bishop to run through and then Bishop capitalized on it. So we’re running the football well and we’re going to need to. When you win in November in this conference you have to be able to run the football – especially playing up here because the weather and the elements – you never know what you’re going to get. Y0u have to have a strong foundation of running the ball and we obviously have the talent to do it with the back that we have and the offensive line. We have to make sure that our schemes are correct and in order so we can continue to do it here against good football teams down the stretch.”
(Did you envision a potential record-breaking season from Sankey when you signed him?) “We knew he was a good player. You never know in recruiting. Bob (Rondeau) had mentioned it on the radio show Monday when he asked Don James on Signing Day what do you think of this class and he said ‘Ask me in four years’. I think that’s true with all these guys. We sign them and they have all the accolades, all the stars and all the stuff, but you never really know of how guys mature and how they take it all on. And Bishop has been a pro since the day he’s gotten here. I think back to the dropped kickoff at Nebraska where they get the ball on the one-yard line. We didn’t give up on him and he didn’t give up on himself. Now we have a guy that might be arguably the MVP of our conference or at least he’s in the discussion of it. And deservedly so.”
(On O-line’s confidence compared to last week) “I think it’s better. I think if you asked Coach Cozzetto he’ll give you a little better description of how the offensive line played this weekend as opposed to last. I think that they performed well. I think more guys played. James Atoe got an opportunity to play. Jake Eldrenkamp got in the ball game. So we’ve got good depth. I think there’s always things for us to work on and we’ll continue to because we have some pretty good defensive fronts that we’re going to be going up against here in the last month of the season that we’re going to have to perform well up front offensively to have the production and efficiency on the offensive side of the ball that we’re going to need to win those games.”
(On reduction in penalties recently) ”I’d like to give myself credit for that, but unfortunately it’s just an emphasis. It’s us talking about it. Trying to learn from one another. We obviously had a couple of big ones on kickoff return the other night that negated a touchdown and negated a long return so we have to continue to improve.”
(More on the O-line) “I just think they executed. They communicated well. They blocked the runs the way they were capable of blocking them with the right schemes and the right communication, the right technique. I think their effort was good. I think sometimes when you get some momentum, you get some confidence, all of a sudden your effort gets a little bit better. You finish plays a little bit better. You finish your pass protection a little bit better. You strain to finish to allow that quarterback to get the throw off and I think that was pivotal on a couple of the deep touchdown passes by Keith.”
(On Jaydon getting downfield Saturday) “We had some pretty favorable matchups with him one-on-one with safeties. Jaydon can really run. We see that in the short game, but he got opportunities down the field on these safeties one-on-one and Keith recognized it and got him the ball. And Jaydon made his plays.”
(With Williams out, will Austin Seferian-Jenkins get more looks?) “We’re going to run our offense. We’ve never tried to get anybody the ball. We’re going to run our plays and the quarterback is going to throw it where the reads tell him to throw it. We have this discussion every week, but we’re going to run out offense.”
(How has the bye week philosophy changed during your tenure?) “We have more depth now. We have the opportunity to really develop our younger players. We have quite a few freshman that are either redshirting or just producing on special teams that we know are going to be players down the road for us. The emphasis on those guys has gradually increased as our bye weeks have come where early on it was just try to get healthy and get ready for the next week. Now there’s a real emphasis placed on those guys and developing them to get them prepared for their playing time down the road.”