Steve Sarkisian Hawaii Quotes

SEATTLE - Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian was a man of many words Saturday afternoon, as his Huskies defeated Hawaii 40-32 at Husky Stadium. Their six-game winning streak is currently the fourth-longest in the country. Here's what he had to say.

General - "It's great to be 2-0, obviously. Now we're into year three, I feel like we've seen every scenario that can come about in a football game that taxes us mentally, as well as physically. I'm really, really proud of our kids. I thought they responded extremely well, especially in the first half. They came out playing hard football, the brand of football that we're accustomed to playing. So many guys made some key plays today. Devin Aguilar had a great game offensively - I thought Keith Price had a fantastic game, Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the offensive side of the ball…I thought our offensive line played well. Defensively, Everrette (Thompson) with two blocked kicks, and the sack; Desmond Trufant with the pick, the scoop and score…all in all a great win. Love being 2-0, but the reality is that there is still so much room for improvement and to understand what it takes to close out football games in the fourth quarter when you're up by two scores and how to do that offensively and defensively. Special teams, we didn't handle that well today, so that's something we need to improve upon, but all in all I'm proud of our guys. They responded, and I thought they brought everything we asked them to bring, and that's a good team (Hawai'i). There's a reason they won 10 games last year and they will probably win right around 10 agains this year."

On relaxing up 21 - "No. I thought our guys were really into it. They go down and score and they are going to score some, that's football. It's 21-7 and we have a great drive and turn around and have another really good drive to go right down the field and we are a little late with the ball to Kevin Smith in the end zone, and their kid makes a tremendous interruption and returns it for a touchdown. Boom. Next thing you know, it's 21-14 and I thought it showed a lot of resiliency on our offense to turn right back around, we get the ball, and go back down and score again at the end of the first half to make it 28-14. We knew they were going to move the ball a little bit. They are too good not to. I didn't think our guys relaxed by any means."

On trying to come out aggressive with the play-calling - "I think it was everything. I evaluate myself and our team and our coaches every game, and I was too cautious last week; sometimes for maybe the right reasons, and sometimes maybe for not the right reasons. But when Keith banged his knee, I didn't feel right. Maybe that was the wrong way to go, but I said to myself, 'I'm not going to do that again. If he is healthy to play, he's got to play in our offense'. It's not about the mental aspect of it; it's physically can he do it, because I know he can handle it all mentally. And he sure responded today."

On what he said to Price after the pick-six - "I said 'Hey, it's a five-step drop, no hitch and you throw it. And if you don't like it, reset your feet and come off it'. He was a little late, and I said 'Hey, let's bounce back, we got the ball, we've got timeouts, two-minute drive, let's see if we can get some points on the board'."

On getting a consistent pass rush - "I thought our pass rush was better this week than it was last week. We did some things to rush a few throws from them. We lost containment today, which was a little disappointing. We had some ends coming up and under and losing containment with the quarterback flushing the pocket…but we'll keep working at it. We played more guys today, which I thought was good. I thought our guys were fresh, and it showed up in the fourth quarter. When our pressure mounted even more was later in the fourth quarter, because I think we were fresher up front."

On HI keying on ASJ after his start - "I think so…all of a sudden, it's big 88…and he has opportunities to make more plays like that. We really found a good rhythm there in the first half of the game and even through three quarters…I don't think we had a three-and-out until the fourth quarter. So we found a really good rhythm, and it wasn't just about Austin and getting him involved; it was trying to get people involved, and obviously Devin responded with some plays for himself, and Jermaine in the red zone…so it was a good mix again, but Austin really showed up early in the game, and that was a heckuva touchdown catch."

On the game coming down to the end again - "I'm getting old fast (laughs). That's how tough it gets. It's tough, but I kind of like it. I kind of love it. It's what it's about..it's the battle of the game. It's not about playing a quarter or a half or three quarters…it's four quarters of football, and it's your ability to finish. As I addressed the team in the locker room, we have to start to get used to being up by points in the fourth quarter, and understanding what that is, and what it takes to finish in the close. Obviously we're not there yet, so we have to continue to work on it."

On what the defensive game plan was going in - "Mix coverages, definitely. You can't sit in one thing against this guy. He's just too good. You have to disguise your stuff as best you can and hang in there, because he's really talented. One of our biggest concerns coming in was him running the ball, because of what happened last week. And so we didn't just want to get too overly exotic when you pressure, because when you pressure, that's when they go to their speed option stuff, and their zone read stuff, and he'll kill you with his legs. So we didn't want to just get crazy with our pressures; we wanted to play good, sound defense. And I thought we did that, especially earlier in the game - get after the football and get after their receivers…we knew the ball was going to be thrown inside a bunch. And when they did, our goal was to try and punish their receivers as best we could to hopefully get a few alligator arms and maybe punch a few balls out, which we were able to do."

On how good Keith Price can be - "I think he can be as good as he wants to be. He has all the game. For me, with Keith - I've always known that. Sometimes as the general public, it's hard to see that because the kid is only doing it in practice, or he's only had one or two starts, and he has the ability to do that. He understands our offense extremely well. By those two things, he anticipates throws really, really well, and knows where the ball should be going the majority of the time. It's not easy to be right all the time as a quarterback. I thought he was spot-on 85 percent of the time with where the ball should be going. And the next step is throwing it accurately."

On his decision-making - "It'll only get better. One of the plays that eats at me as a head coach is the third down play with five minutes left, four-and-a-half minutes left. He gets flushed out of the pocket and throws the ball away. We've got to coach better. That's a veteran quarterback, and he'll learn from this…falls down, keeps the clock running. So there's a lot of little things in the game that his decision making will only get better. But I thought all in all - reading coverages, going to the right man, audibilizing plays at the line of scrimmage - I thought his decision-making was great."

On getting better on third down defense - "Part of it is pressuring the quarterback, and we've got to play tighter coverage. It's just gotta happen. We've seen now over 110 passes in two weeks, so we have to figure out if it's fatigue, or what we're calling on third down…we're going to have to look at all that stuff. And on the flip side, we haven't been very good. We haven't been good enough on third down. It's another area where we have to improve as a football team."

On Greg Ducre - "The huge one was the two-point conversion in the end zone. He's getting better, and Greg's only going to get better. He's still a young player, and as his confidence grows he'll start making more of those plays. He'll start getting more interceptions and being more active."

On Rasp getting the rugby punt wrong - "He didn't hit it right. It was a rugby-style kick, and we knew the pressure would be coming from our left. We've been practicing with Kiel for two years now really, but weeks now - and he's never hit one like that. Hopefully it's just an anomaly. We'll see. We'll look at it."

On the advantage of the rugby kick - "Especially when they are coming from the left - which is what we anticipated they would do - it gives you a zone blocking scheme. It's similar to rolling out your quarterback, moving the launch point, changing where they are attacking to block. It's one of the safest protections you can use, obviously. But there is some gymnastics involved for the punter. I don't know if you know Kiel's background, but he's a rugby player. That's where we found him, so he's very accustomed to that style of kick. Obviously we were all very surprised that he didn't strike the ball better than he did."

On playing more physical than last week - "Oh for sure, for sure. I thought we played the brand of football that makes Husky Nation proud. I thought we played with amazing effort, amazing enthusiasm. And that's what it takes. And then at the moment of truth, we were physical. And the key for us as we move forward is that this wasn't just something to respond to my challenge, but this is who we are. We'll have to get to the point where we can recreate all those things next week. I always try and take a little time to step back and figure out what are the right buttons to push. We'll see what buttons those are to motivate our guys to the point where they feel great about themselves, about what they need to do come the ball game…that's what I'm always looking for. I'm always looking for what we can do as a staff and me personally so that when we take the field on Saturday our guys feel great about what they are doing and are in the right frame of mind mentally, emotionally to go out and perform at a high level the way we're capable of performing."

On what HI did to get Aguilar going early - "There were some things where we thought we could get some single-coverage with Devin, and it worked out great. I thought Devin really responded…he had a really good week of work. I was joking with the staff before I came up here that on Wednesday I went into the offensive staff meeting and I said, 'If this were the stock market, I'd buy stock in No. 9.', and sure enough it showed up. He had a great week of work, and the plan set up to where he'd get some single coverage where they were doubling on the other side with Jermaine, and it worked out well."

On if it's common for teams to key on both Kearse and Aguilar - "Sure. Part of that had an effect on last week. Keith was a little banged up, and then Jermaine's out of the game - so I thought it had an effect on the ball game and on Keith and on me. And when you have 15 out there and Keith's a lot more healthy, the field felt bigger. It didn't feel nearly as small. It felt bigger, and we were able to make some plays to the wide side of the field with Devin to make his plays."

On when HI went for it on fourth down, and what you expected them to do - "I thought they were going for it the whole way, especially at that point in the game. We were rolling offensively, and that's been their mentality historically. When the other team is rolling offensively, you feel like you better go for it now because the game is stretching away from us. I wasn't surprised. I thought they would throw a pass. (laughs) They have so much variety to their offense, but something that they would always run. The thing about their system, their routes change based on the coverage they get. You can anticipate what they think they are going to call, but then it could look totally different because they are reading coverages the whole time."

On the OL - "I thought they played really well. One of the sacks they were credited with was when Keith ran and stepped out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage, so they got a sack for that. They responded. That's a physical front Hawaii's got. That front four is a physical group, and I thought our guys really responded."

On the fly motion - "The way they played their front, they were a very straightforward, aggressive-style front, and we needed to try and create a little hesitation. We needed to utilize more shifts, motions, fly motions - to slow down their aggressiveness. And I thought it was effective for us."

On the helmets - "The 9/11 thing is pretty personal to me. I lost my cousin…Danny Trant was in the World Trade Center. When the 10-year anniversary came up, I wanted to do something, and we tried to figure out what we could do that would be special for us, but also special for everybody, and honoring not only the victims of 9/11, but also showing support for our military, our law enforcement, our emergency systems people…it just felt like the right thing to do, and I thought it went great. I thought it looked classy, and I'm happy it turned out the way that it did."

On when he told the team - "I told the players on Wednesday that's what we were wearing."

On what they modeled it after - "We went from scratch. We did it."

On if it had an effect on the team - "I think it could have had some effect, when they get to wear something different. Kids are kids, you know…but I thought it was classy, I thought it looked great. It wasn't over the top. I thought it looked good."

On what they'll do with the helmets now or if they'll use them again - "I don't know. I'll worry about that later. I haven't even thought that far about it. I wanted to do it for this game, and worry about it later. We'll see.

On if players with military families were affected more - "I think so. Guys like Sione, Bishop Sankey - these guys…it means a lot. And it should mean a lot, it should mean a lot to all of us. That was a huge day, especially in the recent history of our country. We should all be grateful for the opportunities we have."

On if both the senior WR's playing strong - "I thought both of them played great. We missed Jermaine last week. Without a doubt, we missed him. Keith got a little banged up…we have all these young players and we're trying to get different guys the ball and get them moving, and there's some gymnastics involved. I don't mind it; I'm used to it from where I was before. But you do need consistency, you do need guys that you can rely on in the red zone, and on third down. Definitely we did that today with Devin and Jermaine. It showed up; Jermaine with two touchdown catches in the red zone, and Devin had a really big day - five catches for 100-some odd yards."

On Marvin Hall - "He was admitted as a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which means he cannot compete for a year and cannot practice for a year. So what I think is going to happen here is - he's going to stay home, take one class this fall, and enroll in January as a full qualifier. At this point now - we're two games in - for him to come in the fall (which he could do, come in the fall - and this is by the NCAA because he was already admitted by the school) - to be a partial qualifier and not even be able to practice, not even now, but not in the spring either - it's just not worth it. So we'll bring him in in January, and away we go."

On injuries - "Nate Fellner had a hamstring. Cort had a quad contusion, but he's OK - he came back in the game. Greg Walker had a concussion, but they think it was minor, so we'll see. Keith was fine, and Chris was fine."

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