Huskies ID Issues, Move On - And Focus On Selves
SEATTLE - The following, um ... colorful statement should eliminate any notion that Steve Sarkisian and his Huskies are content and resigned to being 38 points inferior to Louisiana State.
"It makes me want to puke, quite honestly," Washington's coach said Monday, two days after the 41-3 loss in Baton Rouge to No. 3 LSU.
That about sums it up, huh?
"You know, that's just how I've felt for 48 hours, because we are better than that," the fourth-year coach said. "That's the part that is so frustrating, because we are a good football team."
The Huskies (1-1) get the chance to prove that Saturday at 1 p.m. against Portland State (1-1) at CenturyLink Field in their last non-conference game (FX television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here again on GoHuskies.com with the exclusive real-time game chat).
The Vikings of the Big Sky Conference are coached by former UW captain Nigel Burton. They beat NAIA Carroll College 38-20 in their opener and lost 45-37 at North Dakota despite gaining 515 yards last weekend.
To Sarkisian and his Huskies, Portland State could be Poulsbo High. Or the Pittsburgh Steelers. This week, it just doesn't matter.
Getting their own Dawg house in order does.
"This week is totally about us, and that's to take nothing away from Nigel and Portland State," Sarkisian said. "For our program to get back on track we have to focus on ourselves right now.
"This is kind of like the healing process. We have to rectify some things schematically on the offensive side of the ball so that we can become the type of offense that I think we're capable of being. ... We have to continually play together on the defensive side...
"There's things that we have to get fixed - and will get fixed."
Fixing their own players' bodies would go a long way to getting the offense untracked. UW has gone seven quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown. After taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter of the 21-12 opening win over San Diego State, the Huskies' only score has been a short field goal by Travis Coons on a three-and-out, four-yard drive. That was immediately after the LSU fumble Will Shamburger recovered on last Saturday's opening kickoff.
Sarkisian said Monday an MRI did not show any more structural damage for Erik Kohler than his knee cap dislocating in the first quarter at LSU, for the second time in a month. Sarkisian said his starting right tackle is likely to miss at least the Portland State game.
Kohler had moved from right guard after Ben Riva broke his forearm in week one. Sarkisian said highly regarded true freshman Shane Brostek from Hawai'i is likely to make his Huskies debut Saturday at right guard. He will split practice time there this week with James Atoe, who made his first college start at LSU. Sarkisian would rather redshirt Brostek but the offense needs him now.
Starting linebacker Travis Feeney sprained his shoulder last weekend, and UW is awaiting MRI results to know how long he may be out. Starting wide receiver Jaydon Mickens has a turf-toe ligament injury that Sarkisian doesn't think will keep the freshman out long. Wide receiver Kevin Smith, who banged his reconstructed knee in the open field at LSU, was held out of Monday's practice with Mickens. Smith said he's OK and vowed to play against Portland State.
Shamburger, who started at safety in the opener, received 14 stitches over the weekend from a cut in his eye caused by his helmet getting rammed down his forehead. The junior's eye was swollen shut Monday. How much that swelling subsides will determine whether he can play Saturday.
In all, Washington has had 17 key contributors miss time with injuries already since preseason practice began last month. That includes Colin Porter, last year's starter at right guard. He retired from the sport in April after learning he had degenerative conditions in both shoulders.
Sarkisian said the near epidemic of injuries has created "probably" the most adversity his program has had since he arrived to turn it around in January 2009.
"We have to become a disciplined football team, a smart football team and one that plays the cards or plays the hand or plays the call from the sideline that they're dealt," Sarkisian said. "(One that) can go out and execute those things at a high level and still play with the tremendous effort and want-to that our kids possess.
"So," he concluded, "we have our work cut out for us."
If Monday's practice is any indication, Sarkisian thinks the Huskies have the right mind-set to absorb the lessons of LSU and move on.
"I believe we've got the character in our locker room and on our coaching staff to do that," the coach said. "From all indications what I saw (Monday) getting back on the practice field, we've got the leadership in place that has our guys moving in the right direction."
Rather than just accept the thud at LSU and move on, Washington's coaches took their players through the missed opportunities - not scoring a touchdown after the fumbled opening kickoff gave UW the ball at the LSU 20 - and the mistakes such as 13 penalties, 11 of which LSU accepted.
They also went over positives: The continued, improved aggressiveness on defense; cornerback Tre Watson making more plays on the ball; linebacker Thomas Tutogi's game-high 12 tackles off the bench; and defensive tackle Danny Shelton's relentless hustle deep into the fourth quarter en route to 10 stops.
"Anytime you play a team of that caliber especially on the road it's difficult to overcome 13 penalties," Sarkisian said. "Miss an assignment, they exploit it. We saw it on both sides of the ball. We blew two protections, they sacked our quarterback. We blew three coverages, they had three big completions, one of which was for a touchdown.
"I take full responsibility for that. We have to clean those things up."
The Huskies are frustrated. But as Watson said Monday, "It's in the past now. We have to move forward.
"Now, it's completely focusing on Portland State," Watson said. "The coaches have told us what we messed up on. Now, it's about progress. It's about continual progress.
"We have to clean it up. We will be better."
Time, at least, is on their side. It's not even midway through September, with the entire Pac-12 season ahead of them.
And time can heal many things. Such as some of those 17 injured players.
"I was kind of talking to some of our training staff and saying, 'Something good is coming around the corner,'" Sarkisian said. "Some of these guys are going to be coming back. And that's how I always see things.
"This is the hand we've been dealt. Sooner or later we are going to get a good hand. We've just got to play it well when we get it dealt. In the meantime, we've just got to keep scratching and pushing and clawing and doing things right."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: UW has distributed just over 50,000 tickets so far for Saturday's game. It's the annual Band Day.