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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

December 31, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Cactus Bowl: Media day highlights with Huskies’ Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton, Deontae Cooper

Here are some quotes and video from the Huskies’ availability at the TicketCity Cactus Bowl media day this morning, two days before Washington plays Oklahoma State in Tempe:

UW junior linebacker SHAQ THOMPSON:

How do you think you evolved as a linebacker?

Thompson: Honestly, I think I improved just being there. John Timu helped me out, opened up my eyes, made me a better linebacker.

Did that include film study, hangingout outside of the facility, all that?

Thompson: Yeah, I mean, I do film study on my own just to get used to it. High school we never really watched  film. That  was something new to me. I had to click on it fast, see what the opponent was doing. High school, my coach just looked at the tape for us, came to practice, told us what to do.

A lot of people don’t know how tobreak film down.

Thompson: There’s a lot to it. You got to really think about what they like to run, their top passes, second-and-10, what they like to do, third-and-5, what they like to do, break down basically what they like to do. Just  imagine yourself on the field playing through your calls and make plays.

What about your decision about the NFL?  Have you made it yet?

Thompson: I haven’t made it yet. After this, I’ll sit down with Coach, go through the pros and cons, see where it goes.

Does that weigh on your mind at all?

Thompson: No, I’m just focused on this game.

UW senior defensive end HAU’OLI KIKAHA:

What do you see from Oklahoma State on tape?

Kikaha: Solid offense. Running the ball effectively, converting on third downs. Pretty good offense, man. Solid. They can really throw the ball.They have some strong arms, some good receivers. All around a good challenge for us.

Not very often three guys on a defense, much less three guys that play in front of a defense, all gather All-America honors. It looks like the three of you guys worked so much in concert, like Danny’s success feeds your success, so on.

Kikaha: It will be like that on any kind of team. Any offenses will focus on certain individuals of whom they choose, and it frees up other guys to get one on ones or plays to make in space. The better guys you have on the team, the more opportunities you’ll have as an individual.

Oklahoma State, they have about six, seven, Polynesian players on their team. Is it good to see Polynesian players getting that respect and now starting to be recruited outside of the West Coast and Utah?

Kikaha: It’s really cool. I’m always happy for our people, I guess you could say. As long as they’re doing things right and dominating on the field, it’s really cool to see.

They have a quarterback with two starts under his belt. How difficult is it to scout a quarterback like that?

Kikaha: You have to look at the plays he’s been in, analyze what he does well, analyze what he doesn’t. Obviously our job is to get after quarterbacks, get into their heads as much as possible. That will be the case Friday night.

What have you seen on film from the offense and who do they compare to?

Kikaha: Gosh, I don’t know if I can make any comparisons because they’ve been doing things better than a few guys in our conference that are comparable. Yeah, man, they have a solid offense that can run the ball and throw as effectively. They have really good protection lately. Obviously they won their last couple games. Those were dogfights. I’m excited for the challenge.

Do you feel like this team has a lot of momentum and you have to play your best to win a game like this, that just had a dogfight to get into a bowl game?

Kikaha: Well, I mean, you always have to play your best game, especially in our conference, then against guys that are lined up against you that are seen as equal. Of course, we have to play our best game on Friday, try not to have any errors, just attack.

How do you feel you’re playing as a defense right now?

Kikaha: We haven’t played for a month and a half, so I don’t know (laughter). Well, it hasn’t been a month and a half, but it feels like that long.

In conference play, we did pretty good, but not good enough, to be honest. We had a lot of bend but don’t break moments. We need to play better smash mouth football.

UW senior nose tackle DANNY SHELTON:

Shelton: My job is to continue to represent our community, be role models for the younger generations, the Polynesian community. Pac-12 has always been recruiting Polynesian players. It’s been great to hear that our Polynesian people are doing great. Marcus Mariota with the Heisman win. That’s just saying it’s possible for our people to grow up and become these new leaders that a lot of people need. It’s awesome to hear that the East Coast and the South are also recruiting Polynesian players. I think I heard that Oklahoma State has some Polynesian players.


And their MVP, offense, defense, everything.

Shelton: Honestly, man. It’s overwhelming just to hear that. We’re probably related, down the line. Tonga, Samoans, Hawaiian, I see a lot of these people as relatives when I play them. PAC 12, we had a pretty strong connection with each other. We’re going to play our hardest against each other, give each other the best looks. At the end of the game, we’ll maybe pray, talk stories together. It’s just awesome to see how far we’ve come and see how much we’ve grown over the years.

What do you see out of Oklahoma State offensively?

Shelton: I mean, they have some great players. The quarterback has stepped up. I commend him, man. He’s really doing a great job with the Oklahoma win. I also see a lot of skilled players, pretty talented. Honestly, we’re just going to have to step up our game. It’s a bowl game. A lot of teams like to kind of slack off. Oklahoma State, they’re a great program. We’re going to have to do our best to lock down these skill players and this quarterback.

UW senior running back DEONTAE COOPER:

Coach Petersen talked about it about November, changing the culture. Was it a gradual change?

Cooper:  It felt like things just came together because we just kept working. We kept working. Things just fell into place. I don’t want to say necessarily anyone did anything different. We just continued working. That’s kind of what happened. People came to work. That’s the motto.

How long do you think it was before the offense felt comfortable with the system?

Cooper: I wouldn’t say that we didn’t feel comfortable. I felt like there was a time where we just weren’t making those plays, the ball wasn’t bouncing our way. But when you start to make those plays, it carries over to everybody else. Everybody else has an impact. That creates momentum for the next couple weeks. You build off the momentum that you have.

How fun is the factor of special plays? He’s considered a master of trick plays. Sometimes you’ll practice one and never run it, but at least you practice it, and that’s the fun of it.

Cooper: It’s fun just because when you grow up as a kid, make those trick plays in the backyard, it brings back the memory of we played this back in the day, and now we’re doing it at a high level.

What do you see in Oklahoma State’s defense?

Cooper: We see a team that’s going to blitz you. Kind of similar to a lot of teams we play in the Pac. It’s going to be exciting to play a team out of conference, really kind of get both teams to put their best foot forward.

You played as many games as anybody because of the trip to Hawaii. Does it feel that way?

Cooper: It really doesn’t. I remember the first day of camp. This season has really flown by. We have one more game, then offseason. We can rest up later. The season has kind of gone by so fast, I can’t even remember 14 games that we played.




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