We’ll post the video of Monday’s formal press conference, though it’s mostly just introductory stuff that won’t be of much interest to those who already follow the team closely.
Washington coach Marques Tuiasosopo and a few players, though, spoke with reporters in smaller groups afterward, and we have some of Tuiasosopo’s comments from about a 10-minute session to pass along.
(On having gone through similar situation with coaching change at UW) “When you’ve gone through something and you’ve experienced something, you have a little credibility to talk them through it. I just say, ‘hey, I know what it feels like to have what you thought was going to be four years.’ It’s gone now. But that doesn’t mean it’s all going downhill. We had some uncertainty, our new coach came in and we went to the Holiday Bowl and the Rose Bowl. So there can be a huge positive here. My message to them early on was come together as a team. Take control. New coach comes in here and you guys are policing yourselves, let them deal with football, come together and create something special here. I think they bought into that.
“The seniors have a lot to play for this last game. They’ve done a nice job. I know it’s been talked about a lot, but I really believe they want it. Whether that happens on Friday night still remains to be seen. But I know this. They’re going to play their hearts out. They’re going to play hard.”
(On Keith Price’s progression as a starter) “He’s grown a lot. He’s a tremendous competitor. He loves football, has passion for it, he’s not afraid, and he’s tough. One thing I love about Keith is he always comes back. He’s resilient. I’ve seen him grow in leadership. Before he was more of an example guy, now he’s starting to step up vocally at time when he feels the need to. He’s done a nice job. We had a hiccup in the middle of the season there with three losses in a row, and he came back strong. And I know he wished he would have played probably a little bit better, and he answered the call to finish the season well and he’s fired up to finish his season right on Friday night.”
(On Cleveland Wallace transfer) “I think that was in the works. I don’t know the exact details.”
(Was it related to coaching change?) “From my understanding it was not.”
(On avoiding Tosh Lupoi distraction) “I think just because it’s not right in front of them, they don’t see that. They don’t feel it. They may read about it in the paper. I really think they set their focus on preparing for this game, and with Coach Sark leaving, I don’t know if there would be anything bigger than that for them to really focus on. Obviously they’ve done a good job of just staying together and just focusing on preparing for this game.”
(On Lupoi’s status with the team) “Right now, everyone’s investigating it. The proper officials are investigating at our school. Until something comes out officially, for sure, then he’s still coaching this week until we hear otherwise.”
(On talks with Chris Petersen about future at UW) “Right now we’re right in the same place. I’m going to finish this game and then decide what’s going to be in my future here in the next probably week or two.”
(You’ll decide, or he’ll decide?) “I’ll decide.”
(Does that mean you have an offer to return?) “Whatever’s going to happen will happen. My focus right now it just to get this game done and do it the right way. Soon enough.”
(On Keith Price playing career through injury) “It’s part of being a warrior. Obviously you want to be smart and play that you’re not going to re-injure anything worse than what it is, so you make the decision, if I can’t injure it more, then I can go play. You develop a bond with your teammates, you work so hard, you spend a lot of time at it, and you don’t want to let your buddies down. And I know for me, I used to tell my coach, listen, you’re going to have to pull me out if I’m not playing up to the standard so that we can operate in a winning way, because I’m going to fight with these guys. We commit to each other to try to go win and win championships, and if you get banged up, you don’t want to leave the field unless you can’t physically play.”
(On seeing that attitude from Price) “Before him it was Jake Locker. He was tough. He played through pain. And Keith’s the same way. He played basically all of last year either injured or hurt, and not a lot of people knew it. And they gave him a lot of flak, from a perception standpoint, for not playing as well. And maybe he didn’t but it’s understandable that when you’re not 100 percent, you may not do some of the same things you did before and you still might be better than what the options are to play. So you play. You gut it out.”
(On how Price handles criticism) “You try to focus on the things you can control. But you don’t live in a bubble. So you hear it, whether you’re acticely listening or reading it in the paper. But there’s so many people around you that tell you. And he handled it great. Obviosuyl he had a chip on his shoulder. He knew what he could do and he wanted to come back and get back to basics and get back to who he is. And he’s a guy that is going to compete and lay it all on the line. I think maybe he got into a deal where he would force it last year, trying to make things happen, but that’s hard sometimes to come back from. Because now when things don’t go well, you’re like man, I’m not throwing as many touchdown passes, or I’m not leading the team down to score touchdowns. It can mess with your mind. But he did a great job this spring of really just staying focused and getting better each day. I challenged him on a daily basis on just really learning the skill of checking the ball down or being smart with the football. Sometimes your desire to do something great is also the same thing that hurts you. You’ve just got to know when and how, when to and when not to. He was fantastic all year. He didn’t let anything from the past come back this year. At times he could have went the other way, and he stayed strong with the things we had talked about, and was a big-time competitor.”
(On Hau’oli Kikaha’s season) “Fantastic. 10 sacks, I think? That’s unbelievable. Most people who have 10 sacks, people know about them. I don’t know how many people know about Hau’oli. I don’t know what the expectation was, but he really was the heart and soul guy, not only on that defense but of the team. He plays so stinkin’ hard and he doesn’t quit and he doesn’t stop. He’s got a big time motor. Kind of reminds me of Daniel Te’o Nesheim. He kind of took that as his MO and he’s done a fantastic job for us as a guy that we can count on. He’s hungry. There was some uncertainty in his career and he came back strong through rehab and he had a great year.”