Steve Sarkisian didn’t have a formal Monday press conference today, given the holiday and the short week. But he did meet with reporters for approximately 12 minutes after the Huskies’ practice this afternoon.
Not much news to pass along, other than a few injury notes. Sarkisian said he’s “hopeful” senior safety Will Shamburger will be able to play, but the fact that they play on Friday doesn’t help. Shaq Thompson, who missed some time on Saturday with a stinger, is “good to go,” Sarkisian said.
On to Sarkisian’s additional comments, which include the topic of Myles Jack’s two-way play for the Bruins …
(How does Myles Jack change the equation at tailback for them?) “He’s such a different back from what they have. There other guys are a little more quicker, other scat-back types.
“Myles is obviously a very physical runner. Different style. A little different approach to tackling. But the plays are similar. They’re not running necessarily different plays. They give you a few different formational deals there but he’s a physical player.”
(Did you see him as a two way guy?) “Oh yea, he’s definitely talented enough to do that.”
(Surprised that he is this effective so early?) “I’m not in their coach’s offices. I’m not in their locker room, so I don’t know.”
(Rose Bowl venue mean anything?) “That’s an interesting question because we do have so many kids from Southern California on our team. I think any time you get to go home and play in front of your friends and family that’s a unique experience for them. And two, to play in the Rose Bowl in January is the ultimate goal. So to get a taste of the venue in the regular season at some point in their career I think is really motivating — especially if you go out and you play well.”
(Monday different?) “A little bit. This was kind of a Monday slash Tuesday. We sped the week up a little bit. And then tomorrow will be a true Wednesday in our format. We just pushed things a little bit forward.”
(How did Kevin King play?) “I think he played pretty good. I think any time you’re a freshman… he got great experience. The communication factor is one of the keys when you’re back there. He probably could have played that play a little bit better and done a few other things a little bit better but all in all for his first game starting, pretty good.”
(On this being about this game and not previous road games) “This is about us going and playing a really good game Friday night.”
(Jim Mora and you are buddies?) “Jim’s a really good football coach and I think as much as he was probably assessing how we do things here I was picking his brain as well. I think he’s a good football coach. He’s a good mind. He’s got those guys playing really well. It was a good experience probably for both of us, quite honestly.”
(Still talk?) “I think we talk. In this profession sometimes it’s difficult to just be buddies with guys. We’re both working hard, we have jobs to do, we’re recruiting, we’re coaching, we’re trying to motivate our players. We’re not on the phone every night but when we see each other it’s good, friendly conversation.”
(Brett Hundley?) “He’s a physical guy. I think one thing Brett’s really taken off with doing at the end of last season and doing throughout this season is using his legs, running the football. We saw that the other night against Arizona. A tremendous touchdown run and then he’s throwing the ball down the field really well. I think it’s been impressive, obviously the first play of the game against Arizona on the deep ball to Shaq Evans. Brett’s a physical guy, he’s in a good system for him. I think Noel does a great job of utilizing his strengths and he’s a tough match-up for sure.”
(On how much weather factor plays into recruiting guys from warm areas) “If you can’t play in the rain, I don’t know what’s going to happen if you get drafted by the Seahawks.”
(On if defensive performance was reflection on last couple of weeks) “I think it’s been huge. Our defensive coaches have just been hammering it home and we’ve been working it every single day. As we touched on with the guys, the dam was getting ready to break and it was just a matter of time. It finally broke and hopefully for the next three games, we just have an onslaught on the football. We just continue on from where that third quarter of the second half went from last week’s game, of just forcing fumbles, getting interceptions, tipping passes; expecting that to happen, so when the ball’s in the air, we make those plays. And we create big plays because they’re so huge for momentum. I know we have the athletes to do it, I know we have the scheme to do it, the coaches to make it happen. I’m excited to watch the last three weeks. I really think we’re going to get after the ball still a great deal.”
(On if feels same about special teams) “We’ve continually improved. We keep improving. This is a great challenge for us on teams. UCLA’s very good on special teams. Jeff Ulbrich does a nice job, so we got our work cut out for us in that phase of the game.”
(If it feels like Austin Seferian-Jenkins is ready to break out after Saturday) “I’d like him to. That would be great for us, it would be beneficial. To us, it’s great, he just keeps practicing really good. When you keep doing things right every single day, that just becomes the habit and you go play well. He’s played good for weeks now. He got some opportunities there in the first half, unfortunately we didn’t do a whole lot in the second half, just because of the way the game went. He’ll be an integral part of this game plan.”
(On relationship between Keith Price and Jaydon Mickens) “He’s definitely a tough matchup when it’s one, zone coverage, because he gets that ball in space and he can make people miss. Then, when he’s matched up one-on-one against safeties, he’s really good guy running down the seam because he’s so quick. Those balls, maybe a year ago, that he was juggling or having a tough time catching, now he’s making those catches look routine. That was a heck of a catch the other night on the seam route down the far sideline. Hopefully we can continue to build on that. I know Keith, there’s no hesitation, let’s say. I don’t know if there’s a great bond, but there is no hesitation. He’s letting it rip when Jaydon’s got one-on-one coverage.”
(On offensive line) “I thought they played well. I thought they played well. There was obviously, after every game, things to work on. We can always just look at the scoreboard and say, ‘Oh, we played great.’ But there’s always those things that you say, ‘Hey, we can fix this, fix that, be better at this.’ We’ll need to be that way this week, for sure.”
(On what would be number one in category to fix) “We had a couple communication breakdowns. One of the sacks, we lacked communication from the tight end to the tackle on the right side of the line, which caused the sack there. Another, just a couple times we got just a little penetration and when we had our pullers come around, we got knocked off. We need to be a little bit more stout at the point of attack, so our pullers can get around. Because when they do, we’re pretty good. Bishop is good in space that way.”
(On Damore’ea Stringfellow, Marvin Hall) “Marvin played well, String played well. He didn’t get the balls that we would have like. But three tackles on kickoff and blocked well and ran good routes, the ball just didn’t come his way. He and Marvin will both play again. I think they’ll both play with a little more confidence now that they got to play an entire football game last week. We’re going to need them to at the pace we’re operating at. If that was a tighter game last week — I think we ran almost 60 plays in the first half against Colorado — if that was a tighter game, you’re eclipsing 90, getting close to 100 plays, we’re going to need to rotate those receivers. We’re going to need both those guys.”
(On Mickens altercation at half) “We had it right at halftime. Actually, that was the first thing I did when I got in the locker room, was address it. Emotions run high, they’re going to run high Friday night. Just because your emotions are high doesn’t mean you get an excuse for making a poor decision. So we got to keep making great decisions and hopefully that’s a valuable lesson for us to learn from.”
(On Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva) “I think they’ve done well. One thing, I don’t think Micah gets enough credit. He’s been playing left tackle all year for us and has done a great job. You’re going to give up a sack or two if you play left tackle and you throw the ball the way we do. But all in all I think Micah’s had a really good year for us. Productive in the pass game, productive, really productive in the run game. I think Ben as well. Those two guys are good football players. I think it’s been helpful for Micah to have Dexter back. When you have your guy next to you. All in all, they’re an integral part of what we do. We run to that tackle area quite a bit in our offense. It’s the combination of those two guys to go with Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) and what he does. It’s big in what we do and they’ve had a good year doing it.”
(On Dexter Charles’ penalties) “I think a little overzealous. A little excited. He had one jump. He had the one he knocked the guy in the back. I think he was just fired up to be back out there playing again. As we’ve touched on before with our penalties, I’d much rather it be that way than a guy taking the field being timid and not wanting to be out there or uncertain. He was fired up to be out there. He settled down. He was fine.”
(On this being a “next step” kind of game) “It’s big more so than anything else about this month of November. I think this month is about the next step, quite honestly. We think we have a great opportunity to close out the season the way we’re capable of doing it and this is the next game on the schedule to make that happen. It’s going to be a hard fought ballgame. That’s a good football game at UCLA. It won’t be an easy environment to play in on a Friday night. We have to be mentally prepared for kind of a physical football game from a physical standpoint but also mentally, the mental toughness that’s going to be needed in this game because it’s going to go back and forth. They’re going to make some plays. They’re going to make their tackles and we have to be able to move onto that next play and focus on the task at hand. For us, from the next step standpoint it’s doing that and it’s doing that for 60 minutes against a really good football team on the road.
(Have you had to do that yet?) “There’s been plenty of games we had to do it. We’ve gone into halftime of a bunch of games where it wasn’t just going easy for us. Quite honestly, we’ve played two poor quarters this season. You look at the fourth quarter against Oregon and you look at the second quarter against ArizonaState, we didn’t play very good football, and in the end that got us. I would say the rest of the season, for the most part we’ve played pretty good and been pretty sound and for the most part done good things.”
(On bubble screen being a go-to play) “I just think our offensive staff does a good job of recognizing when we have a play we like and we feel like the adjustment isn’t quite there from the defensive side of the ball, that we’ll keep running the same play. There’s no rule that says you can’t. We did it at Illinois with a running play for seven consecutive plays. We’ve done it at times with the bubble screen and different things. It is productive for us, especially when a guy like John Ross is getting the ball in his hands in space and can make people miss. But again, we’re just trying to find formations and plays that look good and that work and force the defense to make adjustments and then to make sure that we have a counter to their adjustment when they make it. So it’s a credit to our offensive staff and the communication on the headsets to make that happen.”