Sept. 23, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Thomas Tutogi did two things he rarely gets to do on a fall weekend: Chill out and watch college football.
Yes, seeing his brother Taimi's Arizona Wildcats on television Saturday night against Oregon wasn't so much fun for him. But the Huskies' linebacker welcomed the mental break of Washington's bye week.
So did Semisi Tokolahi. The native of Hawaii had his parents in town while players were off from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.
"Enjoyed time with the family. Got my mind right - which was good," the senior defensive tackle said following Sunday's practice at East Field. "Stanford is a good team. We are going to need prepare well.
"It was good to get out of the football environment for a day. Now that we're back here, we're locked in. It's all about Stanford from here on."
Great for the Dawgs that Tutogi and Tokolahi are refreshed after the bye. Those two run stoppers are big - literally huge -- keys to Washington (2-1) trying to upset eight-ranked Stanford (3-0) on a blackout Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. at CenturyLink Field (ESPN, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive real-time chat).
Tutogi is the Huskies' heaviest inside linebacker at 242 pounds. Games like the pounding one UW is expecting for the fourth consecutive season from physical Stanford are Tutogi's specialty. Three weekends ago, the junior had a career-high 12 tackles against LSU's power-rushing offense.
Tutogi smiled when reminded he is regarded as Washington's physical, run-stopping linebacker.
"Yessir!" he said, chuckling. "I'm OK with that.
"I tend to focus a little more on being aggressive downhill (for games like this), more than dropping into pass coverage or whatnot."
The 340-pound Tokolahi is Washington's most experienced interior defensive lineman. He will be working alongside sophomore Danny Shelton Thursday.
They will be Washington's nearly 700-pound answer to Stanford's pulling guards, trapping tackles and multiple tight-end formations. Those have been leading running back Stepfan Taylor through the line an average of 22 times per game this month - including in a 21-14 upset of then No.-2 USC eight days ago.
"Just sticking to our technique. Just bringing, like Coach says, a fighting mentality," Tokolahi said. "Stanford's a tough team. They are good up front. In order for us to have a good game, it's up to us to stick to our technique, be tough, be physical, and we'll see how the game goes.
"It's just the man that competes the hardest (in one-on-one battles). We need 11 guys, across the board, all doing their job."
To the Huskies' defense it's not so such stopping Taylor, who has 338 yards rushing and three touchdowns through three games. Or Josh Nunes, who has completed 53 percent of his 88 passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions in Stanford's games after Andrew Luck.
The way for Washington to win Thursday is to beat the line that blocks for Taylor and Nunes.
"We've got to stop their offensive linemen, the pulling guards. Whoever is pulling, we've got to stop them." Tutogi said. "That's who Stepfan Taylor follows. And that's what we've got to do."
When a guard pulls, Tutogi and fellow inside linebacker John Timu have one job. And it's not to beat that guard to the spot through the line.
"It's to run right through him," Tutogi said simply.
This, of course, isn't last year's Stanford line. Standout left guard David DeCastro from Bellevue High School left to the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Left tackle Jonathan Martin is now with the Miami Dolphins. And 2011 right tackle Tyler Mabry graduated.
The Cardinal's three new starters up front are directed by fifth-year senior center Sam Schwartzstein.
"They are very well-coached. They execute extremely well," Sarkisian said. "They are very unique offensively in that they keep multiple tight ends on the field just about all of the time.
"They are committed to the running game. They don't rip off runs of 10 yards every time. They have 1- or 2-yard runs. But they stick with it. And they are able to stick with it because they play good defense. The game never gets away from them too much."
Essentially, the team that is the toughest up front will be 1-0 in the Pac-12 North Friday morning.
Then again, Sarkisian is striving to make physicality the key to every Washington game. This week just happens to be the perfect time to hammer home that theme.
"The fact of it is - and I think we are starting to recognize it as a team - we should never change how we prepare, whether it is physically, mentally or emotionally, regardless of who are opponent is," he said. "We started really hammering that home last week before the Portland State game.
"The preparation is about us and doing things our way, the Husky way, playing our brand of football. That message shouldn't change for who the opponent is."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Sarkisian was pleased to see what he called "an edge" in the players' practicing Saturday upon its return from the day off, and again on a rare Sunday of work on the field. Asked if these practices have been physical enough for him, the coach thought of all the shoulder pads popping the last two days. "It's sounded that way," he said. "Sometimes you can tell by what it sounds like." ... Sarkisian recruited in California Thursday and Friday nights then got back to run the Huskies through practice Saturday afternoon. He did have time to watch some of the Pac-12's weekend games and do some scouting via his television. After Oregon State upset UCLA, Colorado got its first win by rallying from 17 points down midway through the final quarter at Washington State and Oregon walloped previously unbeaten and ranked Arizona, Sarkisian said: "Man, our conference is pretty crazy. I think there's a lot of parity in this conference, maybe more than people realized." ... Forecasters say this will be the third great weather day in as many Huskies home games. Thursday in Seattle is supposed to be sunny with highs in the 70s, getting into the 60s during the game, with a zero-percent chance of rain.