Sept. 17, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The Huskies took three things away from their blowout of Portland State:
And anything but satisfaction.
"For a group that likes to have so much fun together, that has a great relationship with the players and coaches, it was a really serious meeting (Monday) morning. It was not necessarily intended to be one, but (it was) from a players' standpoint," coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Washington romped to a 45-0 halftime lead Saturday en route to a 52-13 runaway over the Vikings of the Football Championship Subdivision. Yet the team is still stinging from the angry, animated lecture Sarkisian gave them on the sidelines at the start of halftime last Saturday. That was moments after two false-start penalties on offense, a taunting penalty at the end of Marcus Peters' interception return for a touchdown and a personal foul for driving a Portland State kickoff returner far beyond the sideline.
The coach again called those fouls "unacceptable" on Monday. That was a couple hours after the players had called each other out on the penalties.
"I think there is a real sense of accountability that is taking shape in our locker room," Sarkisian said. "Guys understand the responsibility they have on each and every snap to each other. Instead of us having to go and harp on it, they've already recognized it. That's what good teams have, to recognize the issues it has and then to go fix the issues and what they are going to do about it.
"It's great to win a game in the fashion that we did, but the other thing is to now go ahead and recognize that there are plenty of issues that have to be fixed. That let's-get-to-work mentality was evident (Monday). I am really pleased with that."
The Huskies (2-1) have more time than usual to work on these issues. Their bye gives them 12 days to prepare for their Pac-12 opener on Thursday night Sept. 27 against ninth-ranked Stanford (3-0) at CenturyLink Field.
The coach came home from Saturday early-afternoon's game in downtown Seattle in time to watch on television much of Stanford's upset over then-No. 2 USC. The former Trojans assistant called the tense game fun to watch as a fan.
As for the Cardinal, Sarkisian said: "Stanford looks like Stanford. A big, physical team."
That means another huge test of physicality against the Cardinal for the Washington. The Huskies have been handled at the line of scrimmage in each of the last three meetings with Stanford.
"I think we are getting the bye week at a much-needed time, not only from a health standpoint but (with) things that we need and can work on, that can get fixed in a short amount of time," Sarkisian said.
The Huskies' first three games have revealed the kind of running plays that work best for the changing offensive line blocks, plus the backs including lead runner Bishop Sankey.
"We're starting to figure out what these guys do well," Sarkisian said.
Now he and offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau will work intensely on those kinds of runs in the game plan for Stanford that they began implementing on Monday.
The Huskies will go through that plan this week, take Saturday off then practice the plan again Sunday and next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Huskies will also use the time to further develop continuity along the offensive line that had four first-year starters on it against Portland State because of injuries. Guard Colin Tanigawa and tackles Ben Riva and Erik Kohler have been out. Freshman Shane Brostek made his UW debut and Dexter Charles and Mike Criste made their first career starts against Portland State.
In all, the Huskies were missing eight starters on offense and defense last weekend. End Talia Crichton and linebackers Travis Feeney and Nate Fellner did not play on defense against Portland State. Wide receiver James Johnson and running back Jesse Callier were out on offense.
Sarkisian said he hopes to have some of his injured players back for the Stanford game.
"We have guys whose timelines (for returning) are literally right up until game time," he said. "Believe me, I'm crossing my fingers that we get a few of these guys back."
Though there is no game this week, there is competition.
Sarkisian said it is "back to the drawing board on creating a pass rush." New coordinator Justin Wilcox and his staff are evaluating scheme, personnel and technique to improve upon UW's four sacks through three games. The Huskies thought that would be a strength all season with Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson speeding around the ends.
Sarkisian is not pleased with the punting and resulting loss of field position. So the coach said placekicker Travis Coons will get some opportunities to compete with Korey Durkee to see who will punt against Stanford. Durkee, a freshman from Gig Harbor, Wash., has averaged 36.9 yards on 15 punts through three games. Two of his short punts resulted in LSU drive starts in UW territory two weeks ago. That, in turn, led to two early touchdowns by the Tigers.
UW's net average on punts this season - factoring in opponents returns - is 32.1. An average is the high 30s is considered acceptable.
"We can't just live with 30-yard punts and no hang time, and those guys getting big returns," Sarkisian said.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Sarkisian said he was aware of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott's comments last weekend that he will bring up to league athletic directors the possibility of standardizing reporting procedures for injuries. "I'm all for it," Sarkisian said, five days after the coach declared he would no longer talk about Huskies injuries because many conference rivals do not. He said he doesn't want UW at a competitive disadvantage during game weeks. "If we standardize the mechanism for updating injury reports, that puts everyone on the same playing field in that regard. I'm all for it. I'm hopeful that can happen sooner than later, because I think that would be the best thing for our conference, for me, for (the media), for our fans. ... I would imagine we are going to be talking about it pretty quickly." Washington AD Scott Woodward called Scott on Sunday to applaud the commissioner for broaching the idea, and also fully supports making a standard for all league schools. He said a new policy could be implemented as soon as next month, following a previously scheduled, quarterly meeting of Pac-12 ADs in early October. Woodward and Sarkisian would favor a policy modeled in some way after the NFL's. The pro league mandates its teams identify injured players and their practice participation on Wednesdays and Thursdays then assign those players a probable-questionable-doubtful-or-out status for that weekend's games by Friday. "We need uniformity," Woodward said. "For me, it's about a level playing field. For us to have wide-open practices and everyone report on every hangnail and every eyelash and an eyeball is not fair (compared to) guys that shut out everyone. It puts us at a competitive disadvantage. ... It's a great step ... a great idea."