When he can, Mason Foster reaches out to his old buddy – and former linebacker mate at the University of Washington – in Donald Butler.
Out for the season with the San Diego Chargers because of an injury gives Butler plenty of opportunities to watch the Huskies play.
Butler hasn’t see quite all of Foster’s 100 tackles this season – the senior is 30 ahead of teammate Nate Williams for the Pacific-10 Conference lead – but he’s seen enough of them, including the career-high 18 he totaled Saturday in the UW’s 41-0 loss to Stanford.
“When (Butler) does call, we usually talk about whatever – not really about, ‘Ah, you should do this, you should do that (on the football field),'” Foster said. “Most of the time, he’ll tell me I had a good game, or if I didn’t have a good game, if he felt like that.”
What game could the former UW captain have possibly criticized the new defensive leader?
“Uh, he definitely pointed out Nebraska … missing tackles,” Foster said. “He’s like a big brother. He’ll let you know, keeps it real.”
Foster hasn’t missed many ball-carriers, whether they are quarterbacks, running backs, receivers – or even the game official who grabs the ball after the play is done.
Currently, he is third in the country in tackles – and on pace for 150 this season. That would be the highest total since linebacker Rickey Andrews racked up 170 in 1988.
“Although I think the world of Mason, it’s unfortunate we are not playing better around Mason because he is a fantastic football player and deserving of any accolades he gets at the end of the year,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s a fantastic football player and another guy with a huge heart.”
Teammate Cort Dennison tabbed Foster “the best linebacker in the country.”
Foster said two factors were key in him having the totals he has. First, it was the switch to outside linebacker. Secondly, the work with UW strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis on his endurance training has paid off handsomely.
“It feels good I’ve made a lot of plays, but really it doesn’t mean nothing,” Foster said. “(The 100 tackles) is something that is cool to look at.”
Other stuff from Monday:
* Sarkisian mentioned after the 41-0 loss Saturday that he would take a collective evaluation about what the team was doing in all facets of its inner-workings.
The conclusion Monday?
“I think, in some degree we’re really pressing as a football team. It’s not about want to; we want to do well. Our kids want to do well,” Sarkisian said. “But I think at times we get a little too tense and guys don’t perform to the best of their abilities. And at other times we’ve got guys that are pressing and trying too hard, and instead of just doing their job they are trying to do everybody’s job and inevitably you get beat that way. So those are the things we have to get fixed, and we have to get fixed quickly, and will be our focus as we move toward Oregon.”
* In retrospect, Sarkisian has second-guessed his decision to staff two true freshmen on the offensive line. They were right tackle Erik Kohler and right guard Colin Porter.
Both were pulled midway through the game.
On Monday, Sarkisian announced that senior Cody Habben would return to the starting lineup ahead of Kohler, although the newcomer would see action.
“Starting two true freshmen next to each other was hard. We tried it. It was hard,” Sarkisian said. “I thought Cody, when he went back into the game showed, ‘Man, he’s still a fifth-year senior.’ He’s got a lot of playing time under his belt. You will see Erik Kohler, he will still play some. I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
* Oregon’s offense is putting up mind-blowing numbers, including scoring (54.9 points per game), total offense (572.9 yards per game) and rushing offense (308.8 ypg).
Sarkisian said he’s seen only one other offense that can boast that type of production – the 2005 USC team.
“That was a pretty explosive offense with (Matt) Leinart and (Reggie) Bush and LenDale White. Dwayne Jarrett. Steve Smith. They really had it rolling,” Sarkisian said.
“Oregon’s doing it right now. And they’re doing it in a real style and fashion that’s fitting their game. It’s such uptempo. They have the playmaking ability from the quarterback, the running back. They do a nice job and they’re efficient in the passing game. They’re throwing the ball downfield more so than I remember them throwing it in the last few years. They’ve kind of got it all going right now and it feels good to them. You can see their confidence. There are no bad plays because they believe in everything, it’s going to work. Whether it’s a screen, a run, a pass down the field. They’re really believing in what’s happening.”
* Surrounded by reporters, one asked Dennison to try and describe Ducks fans at Autzen Stadium in one word.
He used two.
“Just crazy,” the junior said.
And he meant it as a compliment.
“Autzen, by far, is one of the loudest and most hostile environments I’ve ever played at,” Dennison said. “Their fans are nuts. They’re always heckling us. It’s a great rivalry. … That’s fun. You like being in those settings you’re not used to.”
* There was a report out of Stanford’s post-game celebration claiming that coach Jim Harbaugh lived it up about the pasting his team put on the Huskies, especially coming against some of the higher-salary coaches in the league, including Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt.
A fan who called into Sarkisian’s weekly radio show asked if Harbaugh’s comments were out-of-bounds, so to speak.
Sarkisian’s lip curled up: “I have a firm belief that the football gods get you in the end.”
** MONDAY PRACTICE REPORT: It was earlier posted about Jake Locker (broken rib), who will miss the game Saturday. Keith Price is the new starter, and the redshirt freshman took all the first-team snaps Monday as practice was held indoors. He completed six of nine passes for 68 yards against the No. 1 defense, but was picked off by Foster. … Cornerback Desmond Trufant, out of Wilson High, suited up, did some scout-team work but none during the team session. … Tight end Chris Izbicki (sprained foot) and defensive end Cameron Elisara (shoulder stinger) did not practice. … Who gets to try and simulate the quarterback of the fastest offense in college football? Receiver Luther Leonard, who was a signal caller at Evergreen High in Seattle, will play the role of Oregon’s Darron Thomas this week for the UW scout-team offense.