Sept. 30, 2009
By Jeremy Cothran
SEATTLE - Turns out, rebuilding a football program is not a one-weekend phenomenon.
That's what Washington discovered after a 34-14 loss by Stanford last weekend. But while the Huskies' progress was temporarily halted in the Bay Area, that doesn't mean the optimism and hard work have stalled as well.
Coach Steve Sarkisian approached the press conference podium on Monday afternoon and didn't waste any time skirting the issue. He praised the effort of his team, but bluntly assessed that the Huskies (2-2, 1-1 in the Pac-10 Conference) just did not play well enough against the Cardinal.
Coach Sarkisian opined that the problem was a combination of poor tackling and misalignment/poor communication among the defense. The consensus among coach and players was that the Huskies defense needs to play better up front on the defensive line, and then show better technique in wrapping up.
"We didn't perform to our standards. But the beauty of football is you get to play again in seven days," Sarkisian said. "We've got to get ourselves ready for a very tough opponent in Notre Dame."
The schedule does the Huskies no favors this week as the team will head to Indiana to face the Fighting Irish (3-1). In order to leave South Bend with a win, Washington has some issues to address this week.
Part of what Sarkisian brought over from USC was a tenet called "Tell the Truth Mondays." This is where position coaches replay film to players and provide unvarnished opinion to those who participated. What is said in the meeting rooms is not for the thin-skinned as players feel the pointed end of the coaches' "constructive criticisms."
But it's a necessary part to correcting mistakes. And after watching the Stanford tape, the Huskies know they have a lot of areas to clean up.
"I left the game hating myself and just down in the dumps," said defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. "But one thing you'll know as the years go on, the film is never as bad as you think if you're playing hard ... It just seemed like missing tackles really hurt us."
No shocker then that the team's top priorities this week are shoring up their play on both sides of the line. Sarkisian believed neither would be an issue going forward, provided the team responded with a spirited week of practice.
"We'll address it. And I think our kids understand it. They've been very good," Sarkisian said. "They didn't want to miss the tackle. They didn't want to block the wrong person. We've got to get it right."
The Huskies have no choice but to improve. Considering how transparent Stanford was in their approach last week, Washington must prove it can stop the run before teams will mix up their game plans.
"That's going to be our focus this week, stopping the run," said linebacker Donald Butler.
Despite mistakes, the Huskies were still in the game against the Cardinal until late in the fourth quarter. If a couple of offensive series had gone differently, Monday's press conference would have had a different tenor.
But the question lingers: how do the Huskies put aside a tough loss and quickly turn to the next opponent?
"The beauty of the 24-hour rule is that it applies to losses just like it does to wins for us," Sarkisian said. "We're moving on."