Coach Quotes - Holiday Bowl

SAN DIEGO - Dawgman.com spoke with Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini after the Huskies redeemed a 35-point loss with a 19-7 victory over Cornhuskers Thursday night in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.

Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian:
General Comments: "Really, really, really proud of our kids and our coaches. we put together a plan for this ballgame that we thought could be a formula for success. The guys executed it beautifully. You know, we knew this was going to be a physical football game. And our ability to eliminate their big plays and stop the run, our ability to try to control the game by running the football, whether it was with Chris (Polk) or with Jake (Locker), we knew it would be imperative. We knew the football would be imperative. Not turning the ball over, creating some turnovers I thought played a big factor in the game. Through it all, our defense was fantastic, really responded to the challenge. Great plan by Nick (Holt) and the guys. Just proud of our offensive line and our running game to create some movement and control the football game. All in all, it was a fantastic effort."

On the turnover at the start of the game: "Well, I think obviously coming into a game when you're underdogs, I didn't waiver on the fact of our sense of belief in that we could go do this. When you get a turnover like that, you can create some momentum, punch it in, get seven points right off the bat, I think the belief gets stronger at that point. It helped everybody involved. The defense to create the turnover and the offense, their ability to run and punch that thing in. Just got the belief of everybody in the stadium that, okay, we're here, we got a great shot."

On the defense, especially given what happened in September: "I think the first thing is, one, we were physical at the point of attack, which had been a big emphasis for us in practice. As you guys know that watch us in practice, we go a lot of one-on-one versus each other. We thought if we could continue to establish ourselves at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, that could set the stage for our backers and our secondary to make their plays. We've been playing really good run defense for the last three or four ball games. Our guys didn't try too hard. They were physical at the point of attack. They held their gaps extremely well. They we tackled. I thought that was the biggest difference from last game. We tackled guys every opportunity we had to eliminate big plays."

On what he meant at the end of the game when he said, 'We're on our way': "Well, it's fantastic. I can't wait to get into this locker room, remind these guys they're champions this year. We're Holiday Bowl champions. We've come a long way in a short amount of time. Third lace in the Pac-10, Holiday Bowl champs. Exactly where we're going, that's for us. We don't have to tell everybody our map. They'll beat us to the treasure before we get there. But we're moving in the right direction. I'm proud for Husky Nation. We've got proud fans. We've got the best fans in America. They've seen a lot of great football in their day. Obviously we hit a little bit of a lull. But we're on our way back to the brand of football that the Huskies are accustomed to playing."

On Locker running the ball: "I think it was two-fold; We knew coming into this game we were going to run the ball with a variety of runs, whether it would be handing the ball to Chris, whether it would be designed runs directly for Jake, or read option stuff where Jake and Chris are going to work their deal like they know how to do so well. All of those facets put together created a run game we thought could be effective. I have the utmost respect for coach Pelini and his staff. They're an excellently coached football team, especially on defense. We knew it would be hard. We didn't think it would be easy. We could not be one-dimensional in this game. We had to have a lot of variety, especially in the run game, because they're good at making their adjustments. I thought our offensive line was great at the point of attack, and I thought Chris and Jake ran extremely hard."

On sending Locker out on a high note: "I think so much of what was made of why he came back was for a Heisman or this and that…the reality of it was he came back for this moment. For him to experience this moment is why we coach. To see the look in these guys' eyes when they make their great plays, they have their special moments is why we do what we do. Sure we want to win. At the end of the day, I've got 110 sons. They're not all perfect, like none of our sons are. To watch them grow and achieve things whether it's on or off the fields why we do what we do."

On what he thought was the turning point: "I thought there was a lot of pivotal points. I don't know. The first turnover I think set a tone for the game. But man, there was a lot of swings back and forth. There were swings in their direction too. We don't score from the one-yard line. Then for us to turn around and get that safety was a pivotal play as well. There was a lot of them in the game. I thought a key drive in the game was the first drive of the second half, to come out and bang, bang, bang - Jake makes a nice throw to D'Andre (Goodwin), then the touchdown run from 25 yards out really kept our team alive, kept our fans alive, was a momentum-builder in the second half."

On the work of the defensive line: "Well, it was fantastic. Without seeing the film, I've got to imagine that Alameda Ta'amu had a fantastic game. Everrette Thompson. But a lot of guys chipped in. De'Shon Matthews, Hauoli Jamora, Kalani Aldrich…we used Mason (Foster) some at defensive end to do his things. A lot of guys did their things on the defensive line that created again, our ability for our backers and our secondary to make their plays to stay true to their fits and not have to try too hard or fight off blocks that were in their lap. They were able to fit their gaps and make their plays."

On the rubber match this fall in Lincoln: "Dude, you're way off. I'm going to enjoy this one." (laughs)

On this game being a typical one for Polk: "For the last month, it's been typical. He's been a war daddy for us. Chris has a very physical brand of running the football. He's a guy that almost excels with contact as the game goes. He did it again tonight. In a sense, it was somewhat typical that way. You know, it happened to be against a very good defense. So it was a great effort by him."

On what he is going to do after the game: "We can't tell you that. Start school on Monday. (laughs) We're going to enjoy this, for sure. These guys deserve it. It has not been pretty, as Jake said. But we've been an extremely resilient group. We are understanding how to deal with adversity. Through it all, it's a real tribute, especially to the seniors. When we were 3-6, it didn't look great. To their credit, to the kids' credit, they believed in what we were doing. They didn't waiver. We took it one game at a time truly. None of them were perfect. They were all different. They all came down to fourth-quarter plays, our ability to finish, to do things right. Through it all we're going to enjoy this. This is why we do what we do, to get into bowl season to win games like this. We'll enjoy it just like anything and get on a plane tomorrow, head back to Seattle, start all over again."

On what went through his head when Locker went down: "My reaction obviously was I was very concerned initially. Felt like by the time I walked out there, I looked back and Jake's Dad was there. We got to get him off the field. Then I went back and I saw they got his helmet up. I saw the look in his eye. He was fine. Our doctors and the medical people did all the precautionary work to make sure. I asked him right then and he answered clearly and quickly. I felt fine. He was okay."

On where UW goes from here: "You know, we'll assess it all. That's the first thing. We have to look ta ourselves, where we're at, what we did, how we did it. The easy thing is to say the number of wins and all of that. Ultimately every year we go into a season, our goal is to win what was the Pac-10, and is now the Pac-12 conference. At that point when you can set that goal, then you look at it game-by-game-by-game. We just want to play really good, hard football. We want our opponents to respect us after the ball game is done. If that's good enough to win, it is. If it isn't, it isn't. And as we move forward, we'd like to think that more wins will come. But that's why the football is shaped the way it is. Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't. Hopefully if you're playing with good effort, you prepare extremely well, when the opportunity is there, it bounces your way."

On what he expects from Locker, looking ahead: "I think his future is very bright. He's a great young man. He has tremendous leadership qualities. He's extremely humble. He'll do fine. He'll move on to the next level. He's got obviously the physical tools. He's got the mindset, the willingness to go to work every day to get better. I actually think he'll probably be a better pro because he's got a real pro mentality than maybe he was as a college player, if that makes sense. I just think he'd got the work ethic and the drive to make that happen. So somebody's going to get a special guy here in a few months."


Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini:
On being prepared for the game: "I thought they were. Like I say, I'm embarrassed. I obviously didn't get them ready to play. I thought we were ready to play. I liked our plan. We didn't execute very well. We obviously didn't play our best football."

On the health of Taylor Martinez: "He'll be fine."

On if he could have come back: "Probably not."

On the holding call in the end zone: "If they call holding and it's in the end zone, it's a safety."

On arguing that call with the officials: "That wasn't what I was talking to them about. I was talking about something else. I wasn't arguing about that."

On why Martinez struggled: "Didn't play well. We didn't play around him. We didn't play well front to back. I was just a ridiculous performance. Everyone wants to focus on the quarterback. Our struggles went way beyond the quarterback."

On talking before about the game being decided in the trenches: "I thought they played better than us up front. That's the bottom line. I don't know what we ran the ball for, but it wasn't what we should have run the ball for."

On their defensive struggles: "Tackling I thought was sloppy. But, you know, we didn't play horrible defensively. Just one of those games. We just couldn't get over the hump. That first drive of the second half, I put that on me. I made a bad call on third down. We didn't execute well on that touchdown from Locker. I put that drive on me. That other drive was 20 yards, you know. But we had our back against the wall. We had to make stops. They were able to play a little differently because we weren't able to put the ball in the end zone and do anything offensively. That plays a lot into it, the way the game was going."

On where they go now into the off-season: "What do you mean, where does it put it? 10-4. Go into the off-season and get ready for next year. This won't affect us, this won't affect the off-season one bit. I mean, it doesn't change what you do, what you have to get done. It will be a new team next year, new challenges. This won't have any effect on it."

On offensive struggles: "I thought we were lousy up front. We play lousy up front. We didn't protect (Martinez) well. He created some of those situations. I thought he maybe should have hung in the pocket a little bit more on a couple occasions. But we didn't protect him well enough. We didn't adjust to some things. We had some technique errors. Give them credit. I give Washington credit."

On wanting Shawn Watson back as OC: "I evaluate everybody across the board. I mean, that's kind of a crazy question. I expect everybody to be back, yes."

On handling UW earlier in the season: "I said earlier it doesn't matter what happens earlier in the season. We didn't play well. They played well, we didn't. Pretty simple. That's the way the game is played. Teams that make plays are going to win. September had nothing to do with it."

On the early turnover: "That hurt us. I thought that was a big point in the game. I thought we were driving. I thought we had some momentum. We couldn't finish the drive. They got momentum. We just didn't make plays. Bottom line, we execute consistently. When that happens, you're not going to win a football game. We didn't play well. We didn't play at our standard."

On being pleased with the preparation: "Uh-huh. I felt really good about our preparation."

On general feeling about the season: "We won 10. I wish we would have won 14. We didn't reach our goal."

On trying to contain Jake Locker: "He didn't have to do anything through the air. You know, I thought we covered well down the field. Our rush lanes hurt us at times, missed tackles. I thought he scrambled well. He's a good football player. He's a good athlete."


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