Sports

Sarkisian talks Oregon as USC looms

If you’re around the University of Washington football program enough, you’ll hear the 24-hour rule being mentioned at least 10 times a week.

It’s a rule that coach Steve Sarkisian implemented when he took over. Win or lose, you have 24 hours to celebrate or lament, to gloat or pout, to pat yourself on the back or sit and seethe. Once the time period is up, the game is supposed to be wiped from the memory, and the week’s new opponent moves to the forefront.

But some 36 hours after Saturday night’s disappointing 34-17 loss to rival Oregon in the final game before the Husky Stadium renovation, Sarkisian clearly hadn’t put completely put away the loss.

There was irritation in his voice, particularly when he talked about the ineffectiveness of his offense and the inability to right itself in the game. As the coach who devises the scheme and calls the plays, he takes poor performances personally.

“After you really get a chance to look at the film and analyze your team, we were awful offensively,” he said. “We didn’t perform, for a variety of reasons. And that falls on me as head coach, game-planner, playcaller – we’ve got to be better.

“We’ve got to perform better up front, we’ve got to make better decisions at the quarterback position, we’ve got to catch the ball, we’ve got to call better plays. And that falls on me, and that’ll get fixed, and that’ll get fixed quickly.”

For much of the season, particularly in the first two losses to Nebraska and Stanford, the Huskies defense shouldered much of the criticism and displeasure from fans. But against Oregon, the defense gave an effort good enough to win. Washington held the Ducks to 100 yards under its season rushing average and held Darron Thomas to 169 yards passing with a fumble.

Sarkisian pinned this loss on the offense, which totaled 278 yards – the lowest since the season opener. He called the offense line play “poor,” and left no player, not even quarterback Keith Price, free of criticism. Price tossed two interceptions and threw for 143 yards. He looked nothing like the quarterback that dominated opposing defenses a few weeks ago.

“He might’ve pressed a little bit,” Sarkisian said. “You get into this moment, and the excitement of the stadium, and the game, and it’s Oregon, and all the stuff that went into it. I think he tried a little too hard. I think he wanted to go out and play great. Well, that’s fine, but you end up playing great by playing within the system and relaxing and not feeling the pressure of having to play great in order for us to play great as a football team.”

Price admitted he was guilty of doing that.

“I just had too much emotion,” he said. “I got to get back to having fun and stop worrying about everything that’s happening around me and just focus on what I need to do each and every snap. I can’t control what everybody else is doing so I just need to settle down so the offense can settle down.”

With Washington facing another potent, but different, offensive attack in USC, the Huskies will need to have a better showing offensively to try to pull off a third consecutive win over the Trojans.

“We just didn’t execute offensively,” Sarkisian said. “And that’s not a characteristic of ours that has been who we are throughout the season; we’ve performed well and executed well. And we didn’t Saturday night, so we’ll get that fixed.

“Fortunately for us when we’ve come out of ballgames where we didn’t perform real well in what were supposed to be big ballgames, we’ve typically responded really well,” he added. “And we’ve done that again this year. After Nebraska, we played Cal and we played pretty well. After Stanford, we come back to play Arizona and we play pretty well and we get the win.”

SUCK FOR BARKLEY?

After Saturday’s loss, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said, “I would rather play USC than Oregon, quite honestly.” Of course, that quote ended up being posted on various signs around Heritage Hall on the USC campus for all the football players to see. Sarkisian seemed ready to be asked about it.

“I think you could ask every defensive coordinator in our conference the same question and they’d tell you the same thing – Oregon is hard to prepare for because of how unique they are,” Sarkisian said. “That doesn’t mean that SC is not really good – I think they are a tremendous football team, and I think Nick would agree with that.”

As for the bulletin board material providing some added incentive, Sarkisian shrugged it off.

“If that quote makes SC play better, than it makes them play better,” he said. “I don’t know. We don’t motivate that way here.”

Sarkisian later said something when asked about USC quarterback Matt Barkley that some might call football sacrilege when it comes to the praise of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

“I said this earlier to the staff and I’ll say it to you guys, if I’m an NFL head coach, I’d pick Matt Barkley over Andrew Luck,” he said.

When someone asked about the comment, Sarkisian said flatly, “I didn’t stutter.”

AFTERNOON APPLE CUP

The Pac-12 figured out its television lineup for the final two weeks of the regular season. The Apple Cup will kick off at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 26 and will be televised on Versus. It’s the first time the game will be played at CenturyLink Field.

Washington’s game on Nov. 19 against Oregon State in Corvallis was not picked up by any major television network. That means a local network would have to produce the broadcast to have it televised. OSU now can determine what time it wants to have kickoff for the game. Those two pieces of information should be announced in the coming days.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports

HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK

NO. 18 USC (7-2 OVERALL, 4-2 PACIFIC-12)

12:45 p.m. SATURDAY, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

TV: FX Radio: 950-AM/102.9 FM

Coach: Lane Kiffin (14-7, second season)

Last week: Won at Colorado, 42-17

Against the Huskies: The Trojans lead the all-time series 49-28-4, but the Huskies have won the past two meetings under coach Steve Sarkisian, including last year’s 32-31 decision on Erik Folk’s last-second field goal. Two years ago, Folk booted a late field goal as the Huskies stunned the then-No. 3 Trojans, 16-13.

Washington connections: The biggest connection between the two teams comes from the coaching staff. Sarkisian was an offensive coordinator at USC, and coached there seven of the eight seasons before he was hired by Washington before the 2009 season. Sarkisian brought defensive coordinator Nick Holt, cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin and strength coach Ivan Lewis with him to Montlake. Trojans coach Lane Kiffin and Sarkisian were both on the coaching staff for USC and for one year with the Oakland Raiders. While at USC, Sarkisian and Kiffin shared an office. USC has one player from the state of Washington – redshirt freshman tight end Michael Cox out of Bainbridge. The Huskies have 34 players from the Los Angeles area.

Scouting report: The Trojans are the best team in the Pac-12 South, unfortunately they won’t be playing the winner of the Stanford-Oregon game in the first Pac-12 championship game because of NCAA sanctions. USC looked sloppy early, nearly losing to Minnesota in the season opener, but Kiffin’s team has found its rhythm. The Trojans have a potent offense led by quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods. Barkley ranks second in the Pac-12 at 289.8 yards passing per game, and his 28 touchdown passes lead the conference. Woods might be the second best receiver in the country behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon. A sophomore, Woods leads the conference in receptions (90), receiving yards (1,121) and touchdown catches (11). Defensively, the Trojans are as talented as they have ever been. Defensive end Nick Perry has five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, while freshman safety Dion Bailey is a budding star with 67 tackles – third most in the conference.

Did you know? Huskies running back Chris Polk committed to USC coming out of Redlands East High School, but opted for Washington on the advice of his mother.

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