Huskies Are Overdue For A Block Party
Nov. 10, 2011
UW Weekly Notes
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - There are bulldozers and backhoes inside Husky Stadium as Washington practices in the shadows of its renovation.
A few yards away on the east field, the Huskies are re-working their own road graders.
Coach Steve Sarkisian is focused on getting his offense right again Saturday beginning at 12:45 p.m. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, when UW (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12) plays the 18th-ranked Trojans (7-2, 4-2).
That means getting his offensive line right again.
This week's practices have re-emphasized more physicality and consistency from Senio Kelemete, the lone senior on the O-line, plus redshirt freshman Colin Tanigawa, Drew Schaefer, Colin Porter and Erik Kohler.
That has been the starting lineup from left tackle to right tackle since the first day of preseason training camp in early August.
"All these guys need to play better and they know it. Senio on down, they all need to play better," Sarkisian said Wednesday night. "There's a lot of competition going on there right now. And that's a good thing.
"Some guys that have been in there now have to prove they are worthy of being on the field."
Sarkisian said he needed to watch the film of the two-hour practice before deciding if the line will have new starters on it at USC.
"I think that's why you saw such a physical practice (Wednesday night)," the coach said. "Guys are fighting for spots."
The offensive line is a key to Saturday's game. Rush end Nick Perry leads USC with five sacks and 8 ½ tackles for loss on a defensive line that has six players with starting experience from before 2011.
"USC has a tremendous front four that can rush the passer," Sarkisian said of the defense run by former Super Bowl-champion coordinator Monte Kiffin, the father of Trojans coach Lane Kiffin. "So they are able to sit in coverage and play the `Tampa 2' (deep safety coverage) and things that Coach Kiffin likes to do to make it difficult on the offense."
Oregon made it difficult on Sarkisian's offense last week by getting a pass rush off the edges against a Huskies line that has one first-year starter and two in their second season in the lineup. Quarterback Keith Price was sacked a season-high six times and the Huskies scored a season-low 17 points - despite getting into Ducks territory six times.
The Huskies and 1,000-yard running back Chris Polk also rushed for a season-low 82 yards on 36 carries as a team against an Oregon defense that was quick, but one against which Sarkisian expected to gain more than 278 total yards.
"We were poor. We were poor, at best, up front," Sarkisian said. "So we'll get it fixed. Danny (offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto) will get it fixed. I'll get it fixed. We'll be much better Saturday."
An extension of the offensive line is the tight end, and the Huskies know they need to get the ball more often to freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He had just one catch - a throw in the flat that lost six yards -- and just a few more targets by Price last week.
Against Arizona the week before, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end also had just one catch. Seferian-Jenkins had four touchdown receptions in his first six games. He has none in the last three.
"Sometimes it doesn't look like we are trying to get him the ball, and we are, where he is a primary (receiver). And the ball is just not going his way, for a variety of reasons, " Sarkisian said. "It could be coverage. It could be pressure on the quarterback. He could be that he didn't run a good route.
"Obviously, Austin's a very talented kid. And he's still working and finding the consistency at playing at a high level, down after down after down. But without a doubt, we are trying to get him the ball."
As for the rest of the O-line, Sarkisian has demanded his blockers be more physical two other times publically this season - after a 30-27 escape past Eastern Washington in the opener Sept. 3 and following a blowout loss to smash-mouth Stanford last month.
Each time, his blockers have responded. They paved the way to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter of the win over Hawai'i Sept. 10. And a week after Stanford, the line cleared the way for 179 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and another 310 yards passing by Price in a 42-31 win over Arizona.
"It just says we had a bad game. That stuff is going to happen. I don't think one game is going to define our team. It won't define one position group," Sarkisian said of the Oregon game. "We didn't play great. I've seen us play better. I've seen us be more physical. I've seen us communicate better.
"That stuff has to start at the top of what are we doing in the game plan, what responsibilities are we putting on these kids to give them the best chance to go out and be successful."
QUICK HIT: Programming note for Saturday: The game at USC will be on FX television and as usual on the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with a live game chat and GameTracker. At 2 p.m. Saturday, the Huskies men's basketball opener against Georgia State at Alaska Airlines Arena can be heard live on 1150 AM in Seattle, and there will be a live game chat of that game also available here at GoHuskies.com. There is no television coverage of the UW-Georgia State basketball game Saturday. FX is channels 53 (standard) and 665 (high definition) on Seattle-area Comcast cable, channel 248 on DirecTV and 136 on Dish Network. Check your local listings if you have a different provider.