Huskies Are 1-0, Yet Far, Far From Happy
Sept. 3, 2012
By Gregg Bell = UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The evolution of Steve Sarkisian's program at Washington took another step inside the CenturyLink Field locker room immediately following last Saturday's season opener.
And it took another Monday when the Huskies (1-0) got back on the practice field to begin preparations for Saturday night's huge test at No. 3 LSU (a 4 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive, real-time chat with play-by-play, analysis and pictures from Baton Rouge).
For these Huskies, merely winning is not nearly enough.
"What I thought was pretty cool is ... I felt like our guys walked out of there with kind of a bad taste in their mouths," Sarkisian said two days following a 21-12 win over San Diego State in which an aggressive defense largely bailed out a skittish Huskies offense. "They know that game could have gone a lot better for us had we taken advantage of a few more opportunities and done a few more things correctly. And that carried right over to (Monday) to our team meeting.
"This is a hungry group they want to get things fixed. They want to put their best foot forward Saturday night. That was something I learned (from the SDSU game).
"I think in the past we may have been happy as all get out that we won."
The coach said that moments after he had announced starting running back Jesse Callier and starting right tackle Ben Riva are each out for a while. Callier tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the opener and will miss the season. Riva fractured his forearm and will miss a "significant amount of time," Sarkisian said.
Plus, Sarkisian announced defensive end Hauoli Jamora's knee surgery last week revealed a torn ACL. He, too, will miss the rest of the season.
Yet the message was clear: No excuses. And no satisfaction with merely getting by. The standards are far higher in Sarkisian's fourth season at UW.
Sarkisian said the Huskies' mindset to begin this week reminds him of watching an NBA game this past hoops season and seeing Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum not get back on defense. Bynum was rewarded for not hustling when the Lakers got a turnover and threw to Bynum ahead of everyone else at the other end for an uncontested dunk.
"Don't condone in victory what you wouldn't in defeat," was the message that Gundy left on the air, and Sarkisian absorbed.
So, no, Sarkisian and the Huskies aren't condoning their inconsistent pass protection in the win over the Aztecs. Or the lack of patience by young running backs anxious behind developing blocks. Or Keith Price's self-described "terrible," 25-for-35 night. Or missed assignments and tackles by the charging defense.
Washington led 14-0 early and 21-6 in the third quarter, after a huge hit by Talia Crichton and fumble recovery for a touchdown by Will Shamburger. But then the Huskies allowed San Diego State back into the game.
"I thought we almost lacked that killer instinct that was needed," Sarkisian said. "I know we can tackle better than that and it'll be a point of emphasis for us this week. We realized they had 90 yards of offense after initial contact, which we can improve on, definitely."
Then the coach added of himself: "I think the guy that calls the plays on offense could have a better game, honestly.
"There were some things that need to be fixed. And we're going to have to do it quickly. We're heading down to LSU Saturday night, (a) great environment for college football. It should be a tremendous setting."
Callier's loss is particularly stinging, given how versatile he is running inside and outside and how adept he is in Sarkisian's passing game. Callier got hurt in a non-contact injury when his knee buckled as he was beginning to cut in the open field early in Saturday's victory.
"Oh, man. That's big" Price said, shaking his head and sighing over Callier's ACL tear. "Jesse is so versatile to our offense.
"We can't afford to lose any more guys. Man, it's going to be rough. It's not going to be an easy."
Even though his season ended one quarter into his role as Chris Polk's primary replacement, Callier remained upbeat Monday. Veryupbeat.
"He's handling it well, better than I would," said Price, who set UW passing records despite three sprained knees last season. "I saw him (Monday) on the sidelines dancing and stuff, so he's going to be all right."
Bishop Sankey had been splitting first-team carries with Callier. Now most will be his. The sophomore from Spokane ran 22 times for 66 yards and a short touchdown against San Diego State but he also lost a fumble inside the Aztecs' 10-yard line. Sarkisian called that turnover "a good learning experience."
The coach would like to see Sankey be more patient waiting for blocks to develop behind the offensive line, and for him to run less conservatively than he thought Sankey did following his third-quarter fumble against San Diego State.
As for that O-line, it's changing again. Riva's broken arm means 6-foot-6, 335-pound redshirt sophomore James Atoe is likely to make his first career start at LSU, at right guard. Atoe spent most of April and August on the first-team line while Erik Kohler recovered from injuries.
Kohler, a two-year starter who began San Diego State at right guard, is moving out to Riva's spot at right tackle now. So is Mike Criste, who finished the game there for Riva against the Aztecs.
With heat and high humidity expected Saturday in Baton Rouge, Sarkisian is expecting to use more than five linemen against LSU.
As Price noted though, resilience is like these new, high standards for the Huskies now - just part of the program.
"It's not over. The season's not over; it's just begun," Price said of the big injuries. "The next guy just has to step in."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Sarkisian said Callier will redshirt this year. Jamora would have to apply for sixth year at UW through a medical-hardship waiver to the NCAA. Sarkisian said a decision on whether Jamora will do that will come later. ... The coach specifically praised CB Desmond Trufant for his aggressive tackling at and sometimes behind the line of scrimmage against San Diego State. The senior has said he loves the new, in-your-face schemes of first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox because that's how he loves to play. ... LSU extended three national-best streaks in routing North Texas 41-10 last weekend. The Bengal Tigers won their 38th consecutive non-conference game dating to a 2002 loss to Virginia Tech; they won their 18th consecutive home game; and they won for the 14th consecutive time in the regular season. ... The early forecast for Saturday's 6 p.m. Central time kickoff in Baton Rouge is temperatures approaching 87 degrees with the South's inherent, high humidity and a 30-percent chance of thunderstorms. ... This will be UW's first game at an SEC opponent since 1983, when the Huskies played at ... LSU. ... The Huskies leave for Louisiana Thursday afternoon following practice. The team does that for September trips across the country when classes are not yet in session.