Monday Press Conference Notes

Steve Sarkisian admitted Monday that if he had a choice, he'd rather be playing football this weekend, especially in light of Washington's 48-21 loss to OSU this past weekend. But they have a bye week, and his coaches will do what they can to get their team prepared to play an Apple Cup with nothing on the line but pride. According to Sarkisian, that should provide more than enough motivation.

He talked about how the 48-21 loss at Oregon State was probably the most disappointing game of the year because they didn't execute in any of the three phases of the game. They came out hesitant, and Oregon State did not. They hit them right in the mouth, and UW never responded. "I think it created more hesitation on our end, where we started to take penalties that we hadn't been taking all year," he said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole."

Sark said the defense started out well enough, but with short drives and turnovers offensively, the Beavers just wore them out physically and mentally. The Huskies had chances to turn the momentum early with four OSU fumbles, but couldn't get to any of them. "We missed some tackles there that could've negated the big plays, most notably the big run by (Jacquizz) Rodgers, the 42-yarder there," he said. "We had him dead in his tracks in the backfield for about a 5-yard loss. In turn, he gets a big gain."

In trying to find the answers for why things happened the way they did, Sark couldn't point to their week of preparation. "I thought we practiced really well," he said. "I thought we were really locked in to the game plan and what we wanted to do. If you were in our locker room before the game, you wouldn't have thought they would have come out and played that way. I thought they were into it, they were excited. But it goes to show you that it's not always what's on the exterior of what your team looks like. You've got to find a way to get inside of them to see what they're really feeling."

He knew there was going to be a problem as soon as Chris Polk got stuffed twice at the line of scrimmage to start the game off. "No doubt, I thought it was an issue," he said. "We tried to kind of slow that issue down by working some draw stuff and different things out of the shotgun. And we just weren't able to function. We couldn't get out of our own way. When it was second-and-15s and third-and-15s and third-and-longs, it's hard. It's hard for everybody involved in it: it's hard on the quarterback, it's hard on the offensive line, when it gets to that point. There's nothing fun about it."

Sark admitted that he'd love to get right back to practicing like there was another game coming up this weekend, but the schedule has different plans. "Any time you get your butt kicked the way we did last week, you wish you could jump right back on the horse and play, to be honest with you," he said. "I wish we were playing on Saturday. But we've got a bye and will take advantage of it and use it to our advantage the best we can."

This is their fourth-straight loss, and Sarkisian has only been through one similar streak - when he was at USC in 1999. They killed that streak by blowing out Arizona State 48-17, and have a chance to blow out a hapless Washington State team in two weeks. Sark pointed to teams like Arizona, Stanford and Oregon State - thick in the middle of the Pac-10 championship race - as programs that have grown and evolved into winning programs. "Now is not the time panic, now is not the time to dump what we've been doing and we gotta put the spread in, or become a power-I team," he said. "We have to do what we believe in, because they are proven systems and withstood the test of time. Yeah we have some growing pains, but we'll fight through it. We'll battle through it, there's good times ahead of us."

Even thought it has taken those programs some time to turn around their fortunes, Sarkisian doesn't feel bound by a timeline. "There is not magic formula that says that is what the timetable is supposed to be," he said. "If you go back eight years, it just took USC one year to do it. After starting out 1-2 that year, they finished the year 10-2 and Orange Bowl champs and the things they were able to accomplish. Dennis Erickson in his first year had a great run his first year at Arizona State. There is no scientific formula that says this is how long it takes. You just battle and you keep fighting and when all the stars align, good things happen."

As we get closer and closer to the end of the season, more questions pop up about Jake Locker and whether or not he'll stay at Washington for his final year. "I think the guy has battled, competed, done some things really, really well, and there are some things we're finding out that if we don't rep the way we want to rep and we get a different look in the game he's not quite as comfortable as he could have been. and that's not because the guy can't handle the system or isn't comfortable in the system, it's just from lack of repetition of running plays and understanding a system or a scheme," Sark said of Locker. "And that's the difference between a Mark Sanchez in his fourth year in a system making his first year of starting compared to a guy who is in his 10th month in a system, second year of starting really, in a new system. So the nuisances of it, the 'Ok, this isn't the exact coverage we wanted, where do I go?' That decision making process and being able to do it quickly is really difficult."

Sark said that he'll go through the pro process with Jake the same way he did it with Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Sanchez and others. "I don't know what Mel Kiper says, I don't have time to read those guys," he said. "I don't know what they are saying. At the end of the year, like I said, we will gather the best information we can we will get to the right executives in the NFL and trust their evaluation and go with the right information, and it's no knock on the Mel Kipers, the Todd McShays or anybody else who makes those predictions. But those guys haven't drafted a lot of players. That's the reality of it. They haven't developed quarterbacks. They don't have the specific needs. So I don't know what those guys are looking for or not. We'll just go with the information we think is pertinent to each situation, and when that times comes we will evaluate it and give it all to Jake so he can make a really clear decision."

Does he think Jake is ready? "Yeah, sure, he's ready," he added. "Everybody is ready to some degree.''

So will this bye week differ a lot from the last one they had a few weeks ago? Not really, said Sark. "We will emphasize the young guys again for three days, really try to continue to get them better, get them the work that they deserve and need," he said. "We'll have an emphasis on a few special situations within the game for us, most notably the red zone on offense. We will spend some more time there, but then Thursday and Friday and into the weekend will be huge recruiting days for us again."

Sark added that they are going to take time with Cameron Elisara (Stinger), E.J. Savannah (Hand) and Jason Wells (Foot), but they should be ready for WSU. Nate Fellner tore a bicep against Oregon State, and he's getting an MRI on his arm Monday. Sark added that the bye week is also allowing players like Ryan Tolar and Chris Polk time to rest and recover from a grueling season.

Regardless of what's happening on the scoreboard, UW has done very well this year in recruiting. They just picked up a verbal commit from Victor Burnett, a linebacker from Los Angeles that could very well be the next Donald Butler. Clearly a lot of the top recruits from the Northwest and West Coast are buying what the UW coaches are selling.

"We're in the business of building," Sarkisian said. "We're trying to build something very special here. As you look around our conference and you think about the fact that there are six teams that are still vying for a Pac-10 championship now, and you look at where some of those teams were as early a year ago, two years ago, three years ago - Stanford was a one-win team three years ago, a four-win team two years ago, a five-win team last year and now they're right there in the thick of it for a pac-1- championship. You look where Arizona has come from to get to this point and Oregon State and how we've played against the majority of those football teams. There's four or five plays here and there in each of those football games where we could be one of those teams.

"I think the point is to recognize that, but also recognize the fact that were trying to build something special for the future for the longevity of this program and not just a quick fix. I think our team recognizes that and some of the kids that are potentially coming to play here recognize that."

After the bye week it's on to the Apple Cup, and Sark admitted he's not fully prepared as to the history, but knows it's going to be a very emotional time simply because it's a big rivalry game. "I haven't quite done all my homework, but I know it's a very big game," he said. "I know that there's a lot of emotion involved. I know there's a lot of history involved in this game. I'm somewhat thankful that the first one I'm involved in is in Husky Stadium. I'm excited about that."

During rivalry week, the natural tendency is to throw the records out of the window, because those games can be so unpredictable. In this case, both UW and WSU might want to literally throw their records out. "I think that's the natural thing to do. It's not about Rose Bowls or Pac-10 championships. It's about pride. It's about being prideful of the purple and gold and being able to put that sweatshirt on Sunday morning after the game and bragging rights and all the things that go into it, not just from the players' standpoint, but from the fans' and university's standpoint."

"The natural thing is, guys wanted to play in a bowl game. That's human nature of what goals are out there and aspiring for. We've got to get these guys refocused and playing prideful and playing for something that's greater than just the reward at the end of possibly a bowl game or a conference championship. It's about the pride you put into something and the personal reward you get out of it, for our seniors to finish out their careers the way they want it finished out and to play a great rivalry game in the Apple Cup against Washington State…to play at home in front of our fans the final two weeks.

"There's a lot of things to play for but we just need to be able to recognize what those things are and put our best foot forward."

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