5-2 Dawgs Begin Week Of Renewal, Preparation For 'Cats
Oct. 24, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow" rap song blared throughout Husky Stadium as Keith Price threw smooth passes.
Receivers were zooming to snare them. Steve Sarkisian was driving his players toward precision in overseeing yet another drill. And the defense was flying to the ball.
Back to normal on another routine Huskies practice day.
"It's always good when you come off a ball game like last Saturday that you get to play again the very next week," Sarkisian said Monday, two days after a 65-21 loss at undefeated Stanford.
Renewal was the theme for Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) as it began preparing for Saturday's 7:30 p.m. homecoming "blackout" game against Arizona (2-5, 1-4) at Husky Stadium (ROOT Sports regionally, Fox Sports Network nationally, the Washington IMG College radio network and here again on GoHuskies.com for the live game chat).
Sarkisian began the process of repairing the formerly ranked Huskies' psyche Sunday night, 24 hours after the coach felt the Huskies were tentative, especially on defense, at Stanford.
Monday Sarkisian announced a players' favorite to get them going: The Huskies will wear their all-black uniforms for the third time ever Saturday night, and for the first time since December's Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
"It's started already," Sarkisian said of the renewal process. "We have to understand where we're at. We're a 5-2 football team still. We're 3-1 in our conference (a game behind Stanford and Oregon in the Pac-12 North). "We've lost to two pretty dang good teams on the road. So the process has started."
Stanford ran up 446 rushing yards while scoring the most points UW had allowed since Nov. 24, 2001, at Miami.
"Oh, it definitely surprised us. I didn't expect to lose like that," quarterback Keith Price said of a night the nation's fourth-leading touchdown passer with 22 had a season-low one.
Price said he was "embarrassed" by the performance and the result.
"Anytime you go in expecting to win and the results are that far off, you know, it's tough," he said.
The Cardinal stayed with what was essentially a goal-line offense for much of Saturday night's game, running power plays off tackle and counter plays inside. Stanford effectively double-teamed Washington's best run stuffer, Alameda Ta'amu, inside. They got one of their big, veteran offensive linemen on smaller middle linebacker Cort Dennison. And its three tight ends locked onto UW's smaller outside linebackers. That left ball carriers often reaching UW's secondary before encountering a potential tackler.
Afterward outside Stanford Stadium, defensive coordinator Nick Holt acknowledged his unit has to get bigger and stronger through recruiting and development to effectively go "toe to toe" with Stanford.
Back home Monday, Sarkisian acknowledged big, physical Stanford is simply a bad matchup for his Huskies.
That's not easy for the coach to admit. He's spent 2 ½ seasons instilling a mindset and style of increased physicality and toughness.
Asked if Stanford is the toughest matchup in the Pac-12 right now, Sarkisian said: "We'll find out. We haven't played Oregon (they will Nov. 5). We haven't played `SC (they will Nov. 12). We haven't played Arizona State (they don't have ASU on the schedule).
"But I do know that they are a tough matchup for us, and they've been so now for three years. We'll obviously have to re-evaluate our schemes and how we try and defend Stanford, and also how we try to attack them. But also we have to continue to recruit. They are a big, physical team. You look at them in pre-game and you forget how big they are."
Then Sarkisian offered some levity by joking: "I try not to remember how big they are -- until we have to remember how big they are when we play them."
This week's challenge is wholly different.
Arizona's Nick Foles is one of the most prolific passers on the West Coast, and his receivers can fly. You just don't hear much about them because the Wildcats fired coach Mike Stoops this month amid defensive breakdowns and a losing spate that started late last season and carried into the middle of this one.
Sarkisian acknowledged how good Arizona's quick-passing game is and has been for two years. Then he joked in the next breath: "I'm probably the most delighted they are going to line up in `32' (three tight ends, two running backs) personnel and run power Saturday. Quite honestly, I got a little tired of watching that."
From putting Stanford behind them to their play on defense to their overall preparation for Arizona, speed is of the essence for the Huskies this week.
"We've got to do a better job of preparing our players and then ultimately get our players to a point where they play free, fast football again," Sarkisian said. "I thought we took a step back that way (Saturday). I thought we looked tentative again.
"That will be a point of emphasis for us this week as we get ready to play an extremely dangerous Arizona team obviously led by Nick Foles, a guy that can throw it all over the field. ...
"So it's a great task for us. It's good to be coming home to Husky Stadium, to get in front of our fans. First night (home) game. Should be exciting."
QUICK HITS: The Pac-12 informed UW the Nov. 5 game against Oregon will begin at 7:30 p.m. and be televised nationally by Fox Sports Network/ROOT Sports. It's the finale in Husky Stadium as we know it, before renovations begin on the 91-year-old venue Nov. 7. The home finale, this season's Apple Cup, will be played Nov. 26 at the Seattle Seahawks' CenturyLink Field downtown. ... Sarkisian said there were no major injuries coming out of Stanford. Starting S Justin Glenn was limping after the game with a foot pain that the coach described as minor.