Quotes from Steve Sarkisian after UW’s 27-17 victory over Washington State on Friday:
(Opening comment) I’ll say first of all, I’m proud of our team. You get in these games, you get in rivalry games and you never know how it’s going to go. You think — the first quarter, that’s how it’s going to go, and the game goes on. It was hard. We were very, very choppy offensively in the first half. We were so inconsistent on third down and uncharacteristic of us. I think we were 1 of 6 in the first half on third down. And we just couldn’t get in a rhythm. Defensively we just kind of hung in there and the guys did a good job of keeping us in the game.
What’s been indicative of this team all year long has been our ability to come out in the third quarter, make really good adjustments – the team remained focused and played an awesome third quarter. To get the 17 points, to do what we were doing defensively, get stops. The offense found their rhythm. The guys just played tremendous in the second half.
So it was a great game, and to cap it off at the end the tremendous interception by Greg Ducre, which is challenging because WSU is going to keep throwing the ball at you. It’s hard on the corners because we had a good beat on what routes were coming but it’s hard to keep your hands off them and make your plays when you know what’s coming. But it was a great play by Greg, and then the guys offensively going and capping it off, finishing the thing off with that last drive.”
So I’m proud of our guys, proud of our seniors. As I just got done telling them: They chose to come to the University of Washington when this might not have been the hottest school in our conference or in the country to come and play at. We were talking about getting a new stadium; we were talking about getting a new facility. We were talking about where we were headed and what we were going to go do. These guys chose to come here and they came here and put an investment into this program for the last four or five years and their investment has paid off. They are walking out of here knowing that this football program is in a better place today than it was when they got here. That’s a real credit to those guys and the work they’ve put into it. I’m happy for them that they are going to their fourth-consecutive bowl game. I’m happy for them that they’ve been part of a team that has gotten better from five wins to seven wins and now to eight wins and hopefully a ninth – because they are the catalyst for what we’ve done here. I’m proud of the fact that they were able to walk out of here a winner in their last time at Husky Stadium because I know it means a lot to ‘em.
(How satisfying is it to get over the seven-win hump?) I’m happy about it in that you guys don’t ask me about it anymore, quite honestly. (laughs) It wasn’t a big deal to me in that the number – I’m just tired of answering questions about it quite honestly. We’re a better team today than we were a year ago, and a year ago we were a better team than we were the year before that. Sometimes games go the way they go and you don’t get the call or you don’t get the catch or you make the one bad call as a coach…but that doesn’t mean you’re not a good football team, you’re not a better team than the year before.
We’re a good team. We played hard, we’ve been playing hard all year. We’ve had three lousy quarters, quite honestly, this season. But outside of that our guys have played good football — we haven’t been perfect, but we’ve played good, we’ve played hard. We’ve got good leadership. And I’m excited about the opportunity to go play another game with this group. Because I think they’ll go out and prepare great and perform, and I’m excited for the future of the program and where it’s headed.
(Was there a tipping point with Keith this week when you knew he would start?) I thought he threw really good on Thursday. He was clean, efficient, threw the ball with conviction. And I thought for the most part he threw the ball well tonight.
(I thought the first half…you know these Senior Night games) I remember Matt Leinart’s senior game and we’re playing UCLA and he starts tearing up in the tunnel and gosh, in the first half it’s hard against UCLA in that game for him. I think the first half was just hard for Keith. There’s so much going on – he’s coming off an injury, he didn’t play last week, he wants to play great – he was just a little bit off. Not so much physically, he was just off a little mentally.
Boy, he really regrouped there in the second half and did some good stuff, made some great throws. The touchdown throw to Austin, he gave him an opportunity on that play. A couple throws to Damore’ea (Stringfellow), and then obviously capping it off with a nice zone read there for the touchdown run.
It’s been a great journey for Keith. I think the last five years of his life are going to shape him for the next 60 or 70 years of his life. He’s been through a lot. He’s been through a lot physically, he’s been through a lot emotionally. But every time that guy — that guy’s got tremendous character. He stands tall, he doesn’t waver, he never points the finger. We’re proud that he’s our guy and we get one more opportunity to take the field with him and again, I think he’ll play like he did in the second half and just take off.
(Any doubt in your mind at half that he was going to come back that strong?) I don’t know if doubt is the right word. As a coaching staff and as a head coach you play out scenarios in your mind. I try to do my best at that, regardless of it was Keith or any other player – I’m trying to play out scenarios. So it was just getting a feel…I knew that we were kicking off to Washington State…so are they going to get three? Are they going to get seven? Are we going to get a turnover? So I was just trying to play scenarios at halftime so you can go put your best foot forward and go play a really good third quarter and sure enough, we came out and played a good third quarter. I don’t know if ‘doubt’ was the right word but we try and speculate as best we can. It put any of my potential speculation to rest and I think Keith did by the way he played in the third quarter.
(Keith antsy pre-game?) I think it’s just an emotional time. When I took this job he was the first guy I went to go see. Shoot, this program was 0-12 and at that time he was questioning — is this the right thing? When you’re getting recruited by the Oregons, the Arizona States of the world and you can go do that…and so he entrusted a lot in me and it’s been a long journey. You talk about replacing Jake Locker and all the lore and greatness that Jake did for this program and then you have a tremendous sophomore year and you come back your junior year and you’re fighting injuries and it doesn’t go the way you hoped it would go. And then you come back your senior year and he’s having a great senior season – he’s playing efficient football — and bang! You get hurt. You miss a game and a half of conference play and then you’re healthy enough to go play your final game. It’s the Apple Cup, it’s Husky Stadium, it’s Senior Day – there’s so much emotion that goes into it I don’t blame him for feeling a little antsy or out of sorts.
(on Bishop Sankey) He’s a stud. He’s a stud. I wish he’d get — you guys do a great job of covering us and building him up — (but) he deserves so much recognition nationally and in our conference. The guy is unbelievable. He just — 34 carries, over 200 yards. I think he’s over 1,700 yards now on the season; he’s got the career touchdowns record, the single-season rushing record with another game to go. I’m glad he did it in 12 games so people didn’t say, ‘Oh, he did it in 13 games.’ He did it in 12 and now he can build upon it in the 13th game. He’s a great kid. He comes to work, like I say all the time, he comes to work every single day. It’s not about the flash. He’s not going to stand up in front of anybody and boast about himself. It’s going to be about the guys around him and the process and his coaches. But somebody has to boast about him, so I will: He’s an absolute stud. And I’m hopeful he’ll get the recognition that he deserves
(on recruiting Bishop and Seferian-Jenkins to come back for their senior years) I’ll never recruit them. I’m going to sit down with them, and that starts Monday, and we’re going to put everything on the table about the process. Like I’ve told them from the very beginning, I’m here to educate them on the process. I’m here to be an ear for them on what their concerns are, what their goals are, and we’ll go through it. So at the end of the day, when they make their decision — whether it’s to stay at the University of Washington for another year or go to the NFL — it’s a very educated decision. It’s not emotional, it’s not one that you’re listening to some guy on the street who’s telling you you should go or you should stay and all that. It’s going to be an educated decision so that everybody involved feels great about what their doing. … We’ll get to that point. They’re both really bright kids and it’ll be very clear to them, whether it’s to stay or it’s to go.
(on the 40-yard screen pass to Sankey in the third quarter) Huge play. It was the start of the third quarter, we’re in a third-and-long and it was a nice job by everybody involved. It was a nice job by the coaches at halftime. That was something we’d talked about at halftime, ‘Hey, the first third-and-long we get, let’s go to that screen play,’ based on what we were getting from Washington State. I didn’t anticipate that first third-and-long being the first third down of the third quarter, but sure enough it showed up then. We’d been struggling on third down in the first half, and it was really good execution. Bishop obviously made his plays and had kind of a grind-it-out second half because the yards weren’t easy. Washington State was playing tough up front, but he just found his niches, found his holes and played a tremendous football game.
(Just a coincidence that he needed 30 yards when you guys were at the 30 in the third quarter?) I honestly didn’t know. You guys know me well enough, I don’t think about that stuff. And I haven’t, nor does he. If the record was going to happen, it was meant to happen. It was going happen just because of us doing what we do and playing the way we’re capable of playing. It was never an intent to get him the record today. The intent was to win the game, and we were able to win the game. We got the most important stat, and that was the W, and along the way he got a couple really good records that he gets to hold onto for awhile.
(on WSU’s fourth-and-15 completion, plus targeting on John Timu) Well, first of all, the play was frustrating. I think we have three guys there and no offense to Connor — he played a terrific game and played his tail off — but the pass looked like a punt. It was kind of in the air forever, and there’s a linebacker, a safety and another linebacker and everybody’s there and their kid jumps up and makes a heck of a play. And Timu went to make a play and make a hit on the ball and he never led with his head; it was never helmet-to-helmet contact. That was the never initial call. I thought the officials did a nice job of going to the review and still ruling it a penalty but not ejecting him from the game for a helmet-to-helmet, because that’s not what happened; it was shoulder to shoulder.
(on Shaq Thompson) He’ll be OK. He got a concussion on the opening kickoff of the second.
(Any thoughts on bowl scenarios?) I don’t know. We have time. Where ever they send us, we’ll go play. We’ll prepare and do a great job. Right now, for us it’s about hitting the road recruiting as coaches, and for our players it’s about finishing off this quarter really well, finishing great in school. So that’s where our focus shifts now for the next couple weeks.