Opening “Well, how about that hoop team? Pretty awesome. After reviewing the game, looking back, pleased for the most part with our defense, how hard they played. At times, really really well. I thought there were a couple plays we’d love to have back - the hitch that they took and long run. Those things will happen when you don’t see a lot of snaps, and I think they are playing at a pretty good level. On special teams we thought we had a chance on one of the punt returns and a couple little details slipped. That’s the thing that was so interesting; you only get so many pitches to hit on special teams and that kicking game - all their kickoffs went out of the end zone, no chances there. Punt return, our defense made ‘em punt a bunch of times. We had one for sure that would have been an opportunity to get something done and we got a few yards but not what we should have got.
“On offense, that’s where a lot of the frustration is because you see the flashes. Flashes - another word for that is inconsistency. At times it’s impressive and other times it’s really frustrating to everybody involved. We’re really proud of the kids, how hard they’re really playing, how they are staying together. I know there’s a lot of frustration. We talk about it. We’re all frustrated. Not a lot of finger-pointing going on and those type of things. So I’m really proud of them for that.
“We’re down to two big weeks and really not even talking about it in terms of two big weeks. It’s really one big week for us to continue to play at a high level on defense and take the next step on offense. That’s really what we’re talking about.”
Early on at ASU you had a chance to step on their throats. What did you see? “There’s no question we certainly left points on the field there. Without question, and that’s really frustrating because I think when you’re playing good teams and evenly-matched teams you’ve got to have some playmakers that make some plays for you. And some of that was not even spectacular-type stuff; we just need to make plays. With that being said, some of that’s going to happen - you’re going to have some drops, you’re going to have some plays that you don’t make. I just think it’s frustrating to come out in the second half…and we still did some things up and down the field; we just didn’t get any points. You’ve got to score points in this conference. You have to score points in this conference to win. You can look at the first half - and our coaches really are - on offense, and they know that that stung and that hurt. But I go back to the second half and really did nothing in the third quarter and had four turnovers in the fourth quarter. That’s what really kind of gets you.”
Outside of a couple big runs, couldn’t sustain the run game “I’ll say this; certainly in the first quarter/first half I thought we ran the ball pretty effectively, couple big runs. Arizona State is very good against the run. They are 25 in the country for a reason. You play 10 games and you see those stats - stats probably matter in terms of that type of stuff. So we got a couple big hit runs and that’s the style of defense where you get a big 35-yard run or pass, and then zero, zero, negative one - it’s just a little bit of that style. So the first half, even though we left points on the board I really think the game went as well as we could have hoped in terms of getting 17 points and our defense played really, really good - really stymied them, lot of punts. And then to come out the second half and not generate points, then your defense kind of get on their heels a little bit, especially when they start to get some momentum going and you don’t answer - which we didn’t. We started to, we moved the ball down the field, and then we’d have a turnover.”
When the momentum shifted, what could you have done or should have done differently? “I think in the fourth quarter it came down to those turnovers. We moved the ball down the field and then we had a turnover. And then we got the ball back and moved the ball down the field and then we had a turnover. And then we got the ball back and we moved the ball down the field, we fumbled. To simplify it, you can’t turn the ball over. We keep saying this; we’ve had five turnovers a couple times, we had four in the fourth quarter…so the question is, how do you tighten that up? How do you get better at that? I think it comes back to practicing at a higher, even more efficient level. It’s just so hard to simulate. Later in the year it gets harder to simulate the game in practice, but we have to do a better job with that.”
How often does the team practice clutch situations “Twice a week.”
Does he plan to alter that at all “No. We feel like we get pretty good work. We still get team periods. We’re trying to get as much in as we can every week. We still do scout periods but we still do good-on-good where we’re just playing the game a little bit, whether it’s in the red zone, whether it’s whatever. Those are some of our best periods because there’s a little more speed on the field and those type of thing and you’re not kind of staging it like you do a little bit for scout teams. Yeah, just getting to your points, how do you become more consistent? How do you do that?”
Does finishing come with experience or can they be taught? “I think all of that. I don’t think there’s one answer to that. We always say that. If there’s one answer you can usually get that fixed. But I think it’s a combination of those things. And we’re, in a maddening way, trying to figure out every little thing to do that. Nobody is more frustrated at this situation than the people in this building. We can be frustrated all we want; we can’t let that stymie progress. So how do we do that? And it comes back to our attention to detail in the meetings and then really our focus in practice and the speed that we practice with so you can kind of simulate the game situation the best you can.”
On the confidence of Jake Browning and the rest of the offense “I think Jake (Browning)’s doing fine. I think he made a couple throws that he’ll learn from. He hasn’t really had a lot of those. I think one was a miscommunication between he and the receiver. The other one was a throw he just kind of scrambled out of there and didn’t really need to do that. He’s had very few just throws like ‘oh, that’s freshman-type throws.’ He hasn’t had a lot of those, but he had one of those and he’ll learn from those. I think the confidence in the offense is an interesting question because in some ways you can see some progress coming; we’re up and down the field. But at the end of the day it’s all about points. We’re still not scoring the points that we need to score. That’s the frustrating part to everybody involved. I do think that there is some confidence. I mean I think there’s hope is what everybody feels. You see this and it’s like ‘okay, the kid threw for 400 yards and at times we’re explosive in the run game.’ We just have to be more consistent.”
On if he’s seen a slide in the sense of urgency “No. I’m proud of these guys. I don’t really think people understand how hard that is on these guys. You just don’t unless you’ve been in it; unless you’ve played this game and been in this situation. And a lot of these guys have not been in a situation like this. People just don’t understand how frustrating and how hard it is to stay together and keep working hard when you’re working fro months and months and not getting the results. And they have been. I thought last week was pretty good; practice was pretty good. It kind of showed up the first half. For whatever reason we didn’t finish consistency in that second half. I expect nothing different this week. I really don’t. In fact, I expect a heightened sense of urgency. That’s what I really think we’ll get from these guys.”
Is there a trend he’s noticed regarding not scoring many touchdowns while still getting quite a few yards “I kind of think we’re all over the board there. You’d like to look at some of the red zone stuff and we haven’t been horrendous in the red zone. We’ve scored some points, we got some field goals, even our red zone touchdowns is in the ball park. It’s not just there, although we’ve been in the red zone a couple of times and gotten knocked out. We’ve scored some touchdowns, got some penalties, and had to settle for field goals in games. There are some issues there. The turnover thing I think is humongous. I really do. We could probably just stop right there. If we could just not do that we would probably be different in terms of those things.
You’ve talked about not being able to make plays unless everything is lined up perfectly – has that been an issue in practice, too? “I kind of see a little bit of that in practice, and I think some of that carries over into the game. Again, I don’t think it’s because the guys aren’t into it and (have) energy and trying to it, but I do think there’s some inconsistency there a little bit in practice that kind of carries over into the game. Again, that kind of goes back to practice. I’m just a firm believer, like, you practice at a really high level over time and consistently, you’re going to play pretty good. I think that part of things can be better.”
Have you had a team in the past that has struggled this much in that regard? “No, not really. I haven’t had a – because again, I thought the second half … at times our pass protection is not what it needs to be, and so you can go there, Jake can’t set his feet and he’s got to get out of there all those times. At times the ball’s right on the money and we get some drops. At times, they’re kind of 50-50 balls – OK, let’s go make a play. So it’s kind of a little bit of all those type of things in our pass game. And I think at times, it looks pretty good, and at times it’s like, what are we doing here?"
How important would bowl practices be for a young team? “I think those can be really important. I think for the bigger thing, just if that happens, it means we’re trending upward, we’re playing better football, we’re winning. I think that’s probably the most important thing when I think about a bowl situation. That’s the critical part there.”
Do you know Gary Andersen pretty well? “Well, I know him, and I’ve known him for a while, and I’ve always really respected him. I’ve competed against him for a number of years. And the one thing I know is, his teams play hard. You just put the tape on and watch, and you’ll see that. They’ve had some injuries, and the injury thing, no one’s going to sit there and make excuses. You’ve got what you’ve got. They’ve had some injuries. But you watch those kids play, and those kids compete, and they play hard. And I think that’s a reflection of Gary and his staff. I think those are good guys that know ball and they’re tough guys, and I think that’s how those guys play.”
On 6-foot-5, 230-pound OSU receiver Jordan Villamin “Another explosive receiver. We played against those guys last year and they did some things against us as well. Everybody in this conference has talent, and I think everybody plays hard, and there’s different circumstances that come at teams that you’ve got to be able to deal with and go, but you put the tape on and you’re thinking, OK, here we go,’ and there’s a new set of problems and there’s some good players there. And they’ve had some injuries and they’re going to get some guys back and those type of things which will change their team. I think about that as the season goes on for different teams. Some teams are very good and their depth is better and they can handle some guys going out because guys are going to go out, and other teams really get bit by the bug, maybe at a certain position, and it can change your fortune quickly.”
On preparing for running quarterbacks “Yeah, both those guys, they’ll run both of ‘em. (Seth) Collins is an exceptional runner. He’s extremely athletic. And (Nick) Mitchell can run, too. He’s fast. We’ve seen him a couple times pull the ball and it’s like, OK, he’s got a little bit of speed, too. And so it’s a different style than Arizona, but those quarterbacks are runners, they’ll keep you honest. Again, different style, but they run their quarterbacks.”
Did you go away from the running game too early in the second half? “I think maybe analyzing it again, that fourth quarter – I’d say maybe not so much the second half, but maybe a little too much in the fourth quarter. Now I will say this again -- we were going down the field throwing the ball (and) we had the turnovers, which gets you. And then you kind of feel a little more urgency to get the ball back down there, so sometimes it’s hard to stay with it. And I think also going into the game, knowing that hey, what this defense does really well is stop the run. So I think the combination of those things in the fourth quarter – and (when) I say maybe run it a little bit more, I’m talking a handful of times that maybe could have popped something to help the pass game stay on track a little bit."
Any benefit to going right back on the road? “I think it’s going to be a much different environment, just weather-wise. That was a different environment (in Tempe) for the guys going down there to that whatever the temperature was (75 degrees at kickoff). It wasn’t overly hot — a great day to watch football — to play it, it certainly felt different. So we’ll be back into different elements on the road, so I think it’ll be different. But I don’t know — I really don’t think that’s the issue, going back onto the road or anything like that. Whether we’re at home or on the road — it’s always nice to be at home — but I think our issues don’t really have to do with being at home or on the road. It’s just consistency of our play.”
Do you find the team comes together a little bit more on the road? “There’s some of that. You know, you’re together. But the process is pretty similar at home — we still take them to a hotel (during home games). … I’d rather be at home than on the road, but it’s kind of that us-against-everybody-else mentality, which I think these kids have been OK with.”
Was Dwayne Washington hurt in practice? “No. And it wasn’t any one play. It’s just been a little bit of a chronic leg issue that he’s had, and sometimes it flares up on him and sometimes he can play through it and all those types of things. So it’s not like it was one thing — he got a shot to his knee or his thigh or anything like that. It’s just something he’s kind of had to deal with that sometimes flares up.”
Does Elijah Qualls have a chance to come back from his ankle injury? “He’s a little bit slower than we thought he was going to be. Again, we’ll see where he is this week. But like I say, we’re still hoping for his return before we’re done playing, for sure.”
Without Dwayne, did that alter your run-pass balance vs. ASU? “Not really. No. I think we’ve got guys. Myles has obviously been doing a good job, and there’s some other guys there we have some confidence in. Dwayne’s an explosive playmaker and those types of things, but it didn’t really change our plans.”
When you throw the ball that much, does that put a little more pressure on the linemen or receivers? “I will tell you this: If you ask the quarterbacks and receivers, that’s what they want to do. Now we know as coaches, to help take pressure of them, you’ve got to be able to run the ball and that can really help them. And certainly the O-line too, if (the defense) is just teeing off (on pass rush) every time. But two of three of those groups, that’s what they want to do. That’s what they came here to do. So I don’t see that being a problem. The other thing is, some of those throws are called runs — they’re run/pass options that (Browning) can give the ball. So there’s a handful of times he’s pulling the ball out of (the running back’s belly) because he sees a better look. So it’s not like this many passes were called; it was like, hey, the run is called and he has an option, if he has more space, to pull that ball out of there.”
And in general that part of the decision-making has been pretty good for Browning? “He’s pretty good at it. Yeah, he’s pretty good at it. Like everything, there’s always a play or two — whether it’s dropback or some of those things — you’re saying, ‘Maybe not.’ But for the most part, I think he’s got a pretty good feel for it."
On UW’s concussion protocol during the game “There’s a (Pac-12) spotter upstairs this year … so anytime anybody gets hit a weird way and our trainers didn’t see it, they (spotters) send a messages all the time — check this guy, check this guy. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, our trainers and team doctors are right there. They’re all over this, and if there’s any question guys are going back in — they’re sitting them right there.”
Do you know specifically on your sideline who makes that call? “Rob Scheidegger is our head trainer and Kim Harmon’s our chief team doctor. I think the one thing we feel very good about is that situation, that there’s not going to be guys sliding back into the game that shouldn’t be back into the game. They’re going to err on the side of safety, and once the game is over the next day there’s a really strong protocol for at least three days in a row, and that’s if the guy’s symptom-free right away, it’s three days. If not, then they don’t even start the next two days of protocol until a guy has no symptoms whatsoever.”