SEATTLE — It’s big-picture time for the Washington Huskies.
Or, rather, it was. Now it’s time to prepare for Colorado. But during UW’s bye week, coach Steve Sarkisian and his assistants had an opportunity to evaluate the Huskies’ progress – and ways they can enhance it – on a scale larger than usual.
“We definitely do a big kind of self-scout or self-analysis of ourselves in all three phases,” Sarkisian said Monday. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to look at what we do well and look at some of the things that we’re not doing so hot that we thought we were doing well.”
What they need to do hotter: get the ball more often to freshman receiver John Ross and junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins; tackle better; stop calling running plays that don’t work; and work younger pass-rushers such as Marcus Farria and Joe Mathis into the lineup, among other things.
Sarkisian praised UW’s red-zone efficiency, noting the Huskies’ 74 percent touchdown rate – they’re at 88.2 percent in total red-zone scoring – is right where they want it to be. And he wants to continue taking advantage of the fact that Bishop Sankey is UW’s running back.
As Sarkisian has said repeatedly during the past couple weeks, he views UW’s final four regular-season games as “the fourth quarter” of the season.
While mathematicians might take exception to that label – four of 12 amounts to one-third – it’s an attitude Sarkisian wants the Huskies to embrace.
It begins with a home game Saturday against Colorado, which hasn’t defeated a conference opponent since Sept. 22, 2012, when it won at Washington State, 35-34.
Then it gets harder, with road games at UCLA (where the Huskies haven’t won since 1995) and Oregon State (where the Huskies haven’t won since 2003) before WSU visits Seattle for the Apple Cup.
“I’ve been talking about the maturity of this team all year long,” Sarkisian said. “They understand what’s in front of them. They understand there’s some unique challenges here; each one of these games will be different, but that we’re capable of doing it. I see no reason why we won’t. I think we’re going to play great football. They’re all going to be hard. None of them are going to be easy. They’re all hard.”
CHARLES BACK TO WORK
Dexter Charles, a Stanwood High School alum who started the first six games of the season at left guard before missing the past two with a shoulder injury, returned to practice Monday, Sarkisian said.
“Having Dexter back is big for us,” said Sarkisian, who noted backups Erik Kohler and James Atoe “got some good experience” in Charles’ absence.
Sarkisian also said the bye week was good for those with “bumps and bruises,” though he said later during his radio show on KJR 950-AM that junior defensive end Josh Shirley is still dealing with a calf strain.
Defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina missed the California game with a concussion, Sarkisian said.
SARKISIAN LIKES SEFO
Colorado’s quarterback is a true freshman, but he’s a familiar face to Sarkisian. And to those who follow prep football in the Pacific Northwest.
Sefo Liufau graduated last spring from Bellarmine Prep after a stellar high school career, and has made three starts after spending the first six weeks as CU’s backup.
Sarkisian recruited him, and said he thinks Liufau has “really good command for a freshman kid out there. It’s not easy, especially when you’re playing from behind in some of the games that they’ve been behind in since he’s been in. But he doesn’t panic. He competes. He plays hard. I’ve been very impressed.”
huskies opponent this week
Colorado buffaloes (3-5 overall, 0-5 pac-12)
5 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium, Pac-12 Network, 950-AM
Coach: Mike MacIntyre (3-5 in first year at Colorado; 19-26 in fourth year overall)
Against the Huskies: Washington leads the series, 7-5-1.
Scouting report: It’s been a trying first season for MacIntyre, though Colorado’s 1-11 record in 2012 makes this year’s performance look encouraging by comparison. The Buffaloes have yet to defeat a team from a BCS conference, with wins over Colorado State, Central Arkansas and Charleston Southern. They’ve lost each of their Pac-12 games by at least 22 points, and rank among the nation’s worst in a handful of defensive statistical categories (CU ranks 108th in total defense, for example). But the Buffaloes have at least shown life, and have one of the country’s best receivers in Paul Richardson (fifth nationally with 123 receiving yards per game). True freshman QB Sefo Liufau, a Bellarmine Prep graduate, will make his fourth career start Saturday. Liufau has completed 64.9 percent of his passes with four TDs and three interceptions. Colorado defensive coordinator Kent Baer held the same post under former UW coach Tyrone Willingham from 2005-07.
Did you know? Colorado hasn’t defeated UW since the 1996 Holiday Bowl when the Buffaloes were led by QB Koy Detmer.
Sept. 1 W, 41-27, vs. Colorado State
Sept. 7 W, 38-24, vs. Central Arkansas
Sept. 28 L, 44-17, at Oregon State
Oct. 5 L, 57-16, vs. No. 2 Oregon
Oct. 12 L, 54-13, at Arizona State
Oct. 19 W, 43-10, vs. Charleston Southern
Oct. 26 L, 44-20, vs. Arizona
Nov. 2 L, 45-23, at No. 20 UCLA
Saturday at Washington
Nov. 16 vs. California
Nov. 23 vs. USC
Nov. 30 at Utah