Here’s a full transcript of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian’s Monday press conference.
(Opening statement) “Well, a quick recap of the ballgame, kind of reiterate some of the similar thoughts from Saturday. I thought our kids played really hard. I thought we fought against a good football team. Unfortunately there was a little bit of lack of execution on our part and not great coaching on our part, quite honestly. It wasn’t our best game. To beat that football team you need to play one of your better games. When they win the turnover margin 2-0 and when you have really four opportunities to score touchdowns and you have two turnovers on their side of the ball, when you get the ball late in the first half there on the plus-49 yard-line and come away with no points, and you have a first and goal on the five and come away with only three points, I think those are pretty big defining moments in a ballgame against a good team. To beat a team of that caliber you need to take advantage of those opportunities and we just didn’t do it. That doesn’t take away from our fight. I thought our kids fought extremely hard, I thought they played a physical game. But they were the better team that night and they won that night. And so onward and upward. I really believe that this is for us, every game’s the biggest game of the year and this Saturday’s the biggest game of the year for us going to Arizona State. They’ve got an excellent football team. They’re very well-coached on both sides of the ball. It’s going to take a great week of preparation from us and a good, well-played ballgame to go in there and get a victory, because they’re a good team.”
(Plays you would like to have back?) “I go after every game and when I evaluate the film of the game I evaluate all three phases. I evaluate the players, I evaluate the schemes and I evaluate the play calls. I’m obviously the offensive play caller and there’s always four or five play calls, man I wish I could have that one back or that one back. There was a handful of those in a game that I think could have helped us. Obviously, the first and goal at the five. We liked the call. I didn’t think the play would ever turn out the way it did with the sack of minus-9 yards, but that’s what happened. So I have to live with that call. The third and eight, the interception by Keith (Price). We really were in two-down, four-down territory there, meaning we were going to go for it on fourth down regardless, so that probably wasn’t the best play call to take that shot to Jaydon (Mickens) right there down the field and maybe try something more intermediate to give us a chance to go for it in a fourth and short type situation. So a couple of those types of things I’ll carry with me and learn from and get better from.”
(First down productivity?) “Our execution was OK in the run game early on. Bishop’s (Sankey) a good back and they’re going to key on him and they’ve got a good defensive front and good coaches at Oregon. But we just kept hunting and pecking and sticking with it and obviously the second half the run game really got going for us. I thought more importantly than anything else our passing game really lacked explosive plays in the ballgame, and it didn’t help air out the running game. We’ve been really explosive as a football team coming into the game and to come out of that game with only four explosive passing plays and four explosive running plays for a total of eight, just isn’t up to par for where we’ve been. So I think it all went together. The lack of productivity on first down whether it was running or throwing it I think lent itself to being a little bit more conservative on second down, trying to get ourselves into manageable third downs. Which we were pretty good on third down, 50 percent. First down productivity is big for us and the way we operate, and it just wasn’t where it normally is for us.”
(Giving up explosive plays?) “We can play better. We lost contain a couple times which I think we can do better than we did. We can contain the quarterback better than we did. I thought our eye discipline in the secondary at times was not as good as it’s been. I thought we got caught looking in the backfield and looking at Mariota. And at times we had guys running by us and getting by us that we’re more accustomed to covering. But it’s also a credit to them and their execution. He made a couple throws right on time with anticipation that guys were covered, a couple times guys were double-covered and he fit it in there. So I think it was a combination of things.”
(Worried about hangover?) “I don’t know if worried is the right word but I’m aware of the potential for it to be there. My assessment to the team today was we’re at halftime. We’re in the locker room right now. We’re a 4-2 football team. I think we’re 20th in the country. We played a good first half of football against some really good teams. But just as we’ve been all season long we’re an excellent second half football team. We’re going to go out in the second half and play a great half of the season and it starts Saturday against Arizona State, we’re going to come out of the blocks playing fast, physical football and play like we’re capable of playing. I think the guys understand that. I think the sky is the limit for this football team as we move forward but it’s going to take a great week of preparation to get that done against Arizona State.”
(Special teams changes and reaction?) “I thought Travis (Coons) kicked the ball relatively well especially into the wind there in the third quarter. I thought he was effective. We moved a couple of people around on kickoff coverage and we’ll continue to try and do that to put our best players in position to be successful. I thought John Ross on kickoffs showed us a couple flashes there of what the future can hold. We want the future to be this Saturday. We want it to happen sooner rather than later. All-in-all we’re still a work in progress in that phase of the game. We’ll continue to work at it and emphasize it until it becomes a strength of ours.”
(Is this the biggest game of the year or just another game in your series of games?) “I think a little bit of both. I think it’s a fair question. I think one, it’s the next one. We put so much emphasis on that game that week but also I really believe that just like we’ve done — we’ve played six ballgames, the first drive of the third quarter in every game we’ve played to this point we’ve gone down and scored a touchdown as an offense. We place a huge emphasis on that first drive and setting the momentum there in the third quarter. This is the third quarter of the season. It’s our first drive. We get the ball. What are we going to do with it? I think it’s important for us to come out and make a statement on this drive in the way we play and the way we play this Saturday.”
(Thoughts on Arizona State?) ”Very good football team, very good football team at home. I think the quarterback (Taylor Kelly) has got just a lot of game to him. I’m probably giving myself too much credit. He kind of reminds me of me. No, I’m just kidding. He’s just a scrappy guy, man who makes all the plays when he has to make them. He runs when he has to run. He throws it. He throws the back-shoulder fade to Jaelen Strong extremely well. (Marion) Grice, their running back, is probably the best running back that nobody’s heard of. He’s leading the country in touchdowns right now. A very active defense, an active defensive front. Will Sutton and (Carl) Bradford and those guys and their defensive front. On the back end (Alden) Darby and those guys get after the football. We have a tall order this Saturday going to Arizona State, 3 o’clock kickoff in the heat, in that environment. It’s a tall task but I think it’s one that we can be up to if we do it right this week.”
(Are you guys road dogs?) ”I think so. These last two games have been tough hard nosed football games. Two different styles offensively with Stanford and Oregon because they’ve been physical games on both sides of the ball. We came to practice and put on our shoulder pads and helmets and shoulder pads and get after it goods on good again. There wasn’t guys complaining. There weren’t guys tapping out. I think we are a little bit more mentally tough than we have been in years past. I think guys kind of embrace this role of going on the road now. It will be another great challenge. I think that they see this more as an opportunity than a challenge. We have an opportunity to do something really cool on the road Saturday that if we do it the right way we can accomplish it.
(Is there a common theme of giving up big plays after you score the last two weeks?) “I think that’s a product of playing really good teams. Of course we want to create another turnover in there and get us a short field. We’re trying. We’re trying. When it all happens look out. We’re doing all of this right now without that happening so when that happens it’ll be even better for us. We’re trying. We’re placing an emphasis on it. I think collectively the team has been really strong together as playing as a team, which I love. We’ll be fine. It’ll happen for us. And when we do, like I said, look out.”
(What about Oregon’s offense makes it so successful?) “I think it’s one, they have a good scheme. I think two, having a quarterback who really understands the scheme and plays within the scheme. I think three, a guy who has really good talented players around him when he delivers the football accurately. And four, when things aren’t there, he’s not forcing it. He’s pulling the ball down and he’s able to escape on third down and run for 12 yards and convert a third down conversion. So he’s not put in a position to where he has to force the ball because he has a whole ‘nother weapon in his arsenal of being able to escape and buy time to create more plays.
(On if ASJ needs more touches) “The point of emphasis for us is to score as many points as we can and be the most efficient offense we can be. We’ve got a talented offensive football team in a lot of phases and we know we’re better when we’re balanced. With that being said, would I like Austin to have more catches coming out of ball games? Sure. Same with Kasen (Williams), same with Kevin Smith, same with Jaydon Mickens, same with John Ross and Bishop Sankey, and all that. That’s the point of, we’ve got to go faster. We only ran 74 plays Saturday and that’s not good enough.”
(On why they didn’t go as fast on Saturday) “I don’t know. Maybe we were changing personnel groupings too much, and formations. Oregon, I think, ran 81 plays in the game, roughly. I’m not exactly sure of that. All in all, it just wasn’t there for us. We just weren’t clicking the way we’re capable of clicking offensively. That’s a credit to their defense, they’ve got a good defensive players. Number 14, probably the best defensive player we’ve seen this year for Oregon. That kid is a special player. Just wasn’t clicking the way we’re capable of playing. Kind of clawed our way back into the game there with 17 points in the third quarter. But, like I said before, I think we left points on the board. We had four opportunities to score touchdowns and came away with a total of three points, and you’re not going to beat a team like Oregon when that happens.”
(More on ASJ getting more looks) “I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I think we’re a top 10 offense in America. So I feel good about where we’re at as an offensive football team.”
(On why officials stand over the ball to slow down the game) “That happens generally on substitutions. So if either team substitutes while they’re on offense, you automatically give the defense an opportunity to substitute. You get three seconds to sub. That can happen on that, that can happen if an official is out of position. They can hold it for him. So we can help ourselves there by not substituting and staying within the same formation that we’re in.”
(Bishop Sankey getting more respect from defenses?) “He should. I don’t know. You have to ask those guys. He should. He’s leading the country in rushing right now halfway through the season. I don’t know. I’d have to ask them. What I see is people playing defense and trying to defend a complete offensive football team. I think that’s what we have. Our balance is good. We weren’t great throwing the football Saturday, unfortunately, it could have helped on both sides — running it and throwing it. But we weren’t great throwing the ball on Saturday night and I think that effected it some. But we’re relatively a very balanced team, which we force you to defend both. We need to continue to strive for that.”
(On what Utah beating Stanford says about the Pac-12) “I’ve said it every week. If you don’t come to play week in and week out, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you can get beat. Utah took UCLA down to the wire the week before and came back the next week and got Stanford at home. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you better be ready to go or you can get beat.”
(On Price’s thumb) ”He went and he did everything normal today that he would normally do.”
(On if any other injuries after Oregon game) “We have some bumps and bruises, but like I said, we went to practice today and everybody practiced, which was really cool.”