COACH SARKISIAN: Can I just start for a minute? I’ll say the Valero Alamo Bowl and ESPN got what they were hoping for tonight. What a game. What a game to be part of for these guys. That’s a good football team, obviously. We knew coming in it wasn’t just about Robert Griffin, it was their entire offensive football team. They weren’t the No. 2 offense in the country just for a fluke. They were good. We knew the challenges coming in for us offensively were not only that we had to keep pace but set the pace of this game, and I thought we were able to do it.
It’s unfortunate that there’s a couple just missed opportunities for us there in the second half that I think we could have really put a string to hold onto this game and put it in our favor, and we just couldn’t do it. But what a great game to be part of. I thought our kids battled and competed, and it was just a back and forth game, one of those crazy ones that these guys will remember for a lifetime that they were a part of.
Q. Coach, definitely one for the record books. The offense, history out there, but just defensively can you talk about the effort and how frustrating that was for your team?
COACH SARKISIAN: It was frustrating in the sense that we knew they were going to move the ball. You don’t average 571 yards a game over a season on accident. You’re good. And you’ve got a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and a first round draft pick at wide receiver and a 240 pound tailback. I mean, they’re good. Offensive line averages 320 pounds or whatever they do. They’re a good team.
I think the part that was disappointing was the number of big plays that occurred. We just were there, especially early in the game, we’re getting stops, 1st, 2nd, they convert a 3rd, convert a 4th down to keep drives alive, and then the breakdowns occur there in the second half where we just gave up big plays. That’s the part that I think was the most frustrating aspect of it all.
Maybe part of that is their scheme and their offense and maybe we were fatigued to a sense of just how many plays and up and down the field the game was going. But again, frustrating that way, that the big plays occurred, especially in the second half.
Q. Can you talk about Keith’s performance tonight, four touchdown passes and he looked like the healthy Keith Price.
COACH SARKISIAN: I thought he was awesome tonight. I think we’ll have a hard time the rest of the Bowl season to see another quarterback play better than Keith played tonight. And I think I even got probably more excited than I normally do on the one touchdown one just because I was happy for him that he got to play the style of football that I know he’s capable of playing, when he can really utilize his legs as well as throwing the ball down the field.
He had a great bounce in his step. I thought he threw the ball with real conviction down the field, stood in the pocket, and then again showed his creativity to improvise when there was opportunities to do so. But a tremendous performance quite honestly. I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Q. Keith, when you were down 21-7 what were you talking about offensively to get back into the game?
KEITH PRICE: We just knew that we needed to score. We needed to score fast, just to give our defense a boost.
Q. Chris, the play where you fumbled, kind of an unlikely play for you to do that. Did the ball just kind of come out there or what happened?
CHRIS POLK: My helmet was coming off, but great running backs don’t fumble in a situations like that. They hold onto the ball. You know, it’s obviously something I’m going to have to work on. But I really felt like right there I let my team down. I’ve just got to continue to get better and just work extra hard and just have the overall belief.
Q. Steve, you talked about the frustrations on defense, and it was actually a school record for yards allowed in one game. How shocking is that, and does a game like this make you reevaluate some things?
COACH SARKISIAN: I’m not shocked. Those guys averaged 571 yards a game. I saw them, I think, have almost 700 yards against the same Texas defense that held Cal to 100 something yards last night. I’m not shocked that Baylor moved the ball. Again, the disappointment came with the big plays in the second half of the game. That’s the ultimate disappointment. You know, I’d be naïve to think we were going to come in here and shut Baylor out. You just don’t all of a sudden does that occur.
So that part of it is not shocking to me, but there is definite frustration because I think there were opportunities for us to make some plays on them that in turn they made plays on us. The touchdown Robert has on the run, I felt like we had him sacked by three different guys and he escapes and scores a touchdown. The long run there late in the third quarter right down on our sideline, I felt like we got the guy bottled up on our sidelines, and boom, he goes down the sidelines for 70 or 80 or whatever it was.
That part is the frustrating part to me. Numbers are numbers, records are records, all that kind of stuff. That doesn’t change your perception or view of things. There’s a style of play in which I think we need to pride ourselves on playing, and that didn’t happen tonight. That part is the frustrating part.
Q. Keith, can you talk us through that last offensive series? On 3rd down it looked like you might be trying to do a shovel pass and they had it kind of guarded, and what happened on the 4th down play?
KEITH PRICE: I kind of figured I was going to Kasen the whole time and I told him to make a play for me and I threw the ball too hard. If I put that ball on his numbers or throw a catchable ball in there, he’s going to come down with it. He’s been coming down with those catches all year. I’ve just got to throw a better ball.
COACH SARKISIAN: I think to back that up for Keith, to Baylor’s credit, that was a coverage they went to for the first time all night, where we had been getting an isolation back there one on one with Kasen, and they really went to a double coverage on him, and they did a nice job. Credit to them.
3rd down play was a shovel pass with an option, and as we went to run the shovel, actually Chris I think was on the shuffle, kind of got knocked off. Their defensive line got some penetration that negated the opportunity to throw the shovel and we had to go to option two, which was to James, and just off his fingertips.
Q. There was a stretch there where your defense was all over the field, in particular Josh Shirley and Hudson and Ta’amu, all freshmen. Can you talk about how that happened and what it says for
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, I think football, especially college, is about momentum, and there was a point obviously in that game where momentum was really on our side where I felt like our defense was feeding off our offense, our offense was feeding off our defense, and we really got some momentum going there and got a chance to make them a little bit more one dimensional where they had to start throwing the ball more than they would have liked that allowed us to rush the passer a little bit better. It’s some encouraging signs that we’ve got some good young football players that are playing and making plays for us and in my opinion have gotten better as the year has gone on.
Q. Jermaine, five catches, 198 yards, this is your family up here, your second family. How special has this ride been for you at UW and to go into the locker room with the guys?
JERMAINE KEARSE: It was pretty disappointing with the loss, but this has been one of the best times of my life, to get to play this game with these guys up here. Coach Sark has done a great job changing the program. I went from 0 and 12 to two Bowl games in a row, and playing with an amazing quarterback like Keith, he’s always smiling. He’s a great person. I’m glad I got the chance to be around him and play with him and play with a guy like Chris Polk. No matter what happened in the fumble, Chris Polk is a beast, and he’s going to continue to be a beast from now until whenever he stops playing football.
It’s just a good opportunity to play with these guys, and I’m happy I got to.
Q. Steve, 8:15 to go in the game, they were up 60 56 and you got the ball at your own 22. Talk about your thought process in terms of trying to expire the clock and score and what have you. You had a 4th and 1, you went there on your own 31 and so forth. What was the thinking there?
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, the thinking at that point was okay, it’s a one score game, which is what we always like to get to. If you can get to a one score game, my goal was let’s see if I can make this a one possession game, and I thought we had a great chance to do that. We got ourselves across the 50 there, and by running the football, converting some 3rd downs, convert a 4th down, and the idea was to keep working ourselves to get us to 3rd and mediums, 3rd and shorts to keep the clock moving and then ultimately give us a chance in the red zone to win the football game late. And we were on pace to do that, and unfortunately the 2nd down play goes astray, puts us in a 3rd and long, 3rd and long, the shovel, goes astray, and it put us in a difficult 4th and long situation which obviously wasn’t the plan of that.
Again, credit to Baylor. I don’t know how many snaps we had in the game, like 75 snaps, and that was the one snap of the game they doubled Kasen. So credit to them. Good job.
Q. Can you just talk about the chess match going back and forth with Coach Briles and what are your emotions going back and forth when it’s such an offensive slugfest like that
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, I think the emotions are that you can’t go into a shell. You have to stay aggressive. I think the natural thing to think is in a game like this against a team like Baylor you’ve got to try to keep them off the field. The reality is you’ve got to keep pace. You’ve got to score with them. You can’t let them start pulling away. When it got to 21 7 in my mind, we’ve got to score. I probably would have went for it on 4th down on my own 20 on that drive, too. We had to score. And then we got momentum back in our favor to keep the pace and then extend ourselves out.
But again, it’s just unfortunate because I think there were some chances for us there to even extend the game more, and we just couldn’t do it. We just couldn’t take advantage of it.
So you know, back to the drawing board on that end.
Q. Chris, you’ve always been a team first guy, but how cognizant, if any, were you of how close you would have been to the record? You said in the past that was a record you’d like to get. Was that going through your mind?
CHRIS POLK: That was never on my mind. Over here, what got us here is the team, so you come to the Bowl to win, you don’t come just to have individual records. But I’ve never I wasn’t really even thinking about that. I was trying to do whatever it takes to win rather than have 100 rushing yards or two, as long as we get the win, and I did my best, and I didn’t leave my teammates out to dry and did everything I could. That’s good enough for me.
Q. Steve, you talked about getting back to the drawing board in terms of some of those things. Can you talk about the other side of the ball and what that means in terms of getting back to the drawing board?
COACH SARKISIAN: Yeah, we obviously have a position to fill already on that side of the ball with Demetrice there, and that process will begin tomorrow. I didn’t feel like we needed to be distracted with that heading into the Bowl game. Everything we do in our program will be evaluated, myself included. We’ve got to figure out some issues of why things are the way they are and how we can improve as a football team in all three phases and beyond that, more than just the three phases, on the field. Off the field, as well. It’s obvious we need to improve. We need to get better on the defensive side of the ball, and it’ll be addressed and addressed as quickly as possible.
Q. Can you maybe explain the difference between this team and what you saw in Oregon? Were they faster? Was it the same defensive game plan you used, and can you talk about Keith?
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, I think the difference with Oregon and these guys quite honestly is the quarterback’s really ability to throw the ball, and the difference in the back, the back is a lot heavier than what Oregon plays with. The style is very similar in that they’re up tempo and all that, but different styles at quarterback and different styles at running back were different challenges for us. When you’re chasing around LaMichael and De’Anthony and Kenjon Barner, that’s different than really trying to tackle Ganaway pouring right down at you at 200, 245 pounds. Then when they stress you on the edge, then comes that speed factor again.
So different that way. The game plan I think was similar but not identity. But that means we had calls that were similar to what we used against Oregon. We had things that we added for this game, as well.
But they’re a good team. Baylor is a heck of a team, and there’s a reason why that kid won the Heisman Trophy, and there’s a reason why they won ten games and beat some pretty good teams on the schedule.
As far as Keith goes, I can’t say enough about the performance. I felt heading into the game this would be a game where we could see Keith Price’s, what I’ve kind of known that he could be, that his teammates know he could be. It’s just unfortunate he had to fight through injuries all year long and had to be a pure pocket passer. At the end of the day I think that helped him. We obviously see the athleticism that he possesses and the plays he made with his feet tonight, but also the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the football down the field from under center or in the shotgun. He’s a very versed player at the position. He’s got a great understanding of our system, tremendous leadership qualities, a great competitor, one of the best I’ve been around. So I think his future is very bright and I think our future is very bright because of what he brings to the table.
Q. Are you concerned at all moving forward that you may not have the right scheme in place defensively, the right personnel defensively?
COACH SARKISIAN: You can keep asking me the same question, Softy. I’ve answered it three times. I’ll say it one more time. As a program collectively, I’m going to evaluate everything. I am concerned about some schemes for us offensively, as well, and on special teams and on defense. We obviously need to improve, and we’ll look at every facet of it to see if we can improve with what we have or if we’ve got to go in another direction.