Steve Sarkisian wasn’t really answering the question. But after talking about Saturday’s 41-3 loss to LSU, and the fallout, for the better part of his Monday press conference, he finally let some raw emotion loose.
Asked about his future scheduling philosophy, and if he may want to change it after what transpired in Baton Rouge, La., his answer was more blunt than on point.
“It makes me want to puke, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said. “You know, that’s just how I’ve felt for 48 hours because we are better than that. And that’s the part that is so frustrating because we are a good football team and I know we probably haven’t played to our capabilities here the first two weeks of the season.”
Washington went from a lackluster first-week win over San Diego State to being dominated by the No. 3-ranked Tigers. The Huskies have a supposed tuneup this week with Portland State, followed by a bye week to prepare for the conference opener against Stanford.
“The goal for Saturday night is to walk out of CenturyLink Field feeling good about ourselves as the (non-conference season) comes to an end as we get ready to go into the regular season of Pac-12 play,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t like the feeling I’ve had here for the last couple of weeks and I won’t like it this entire week until we go out and put a product on the field that we all can be proud of. We haven’t been able to do that for two weeks.’’
One major reason is that the Huskies’ offense – led by Sarkisian’s play calling – has been ineffective. Washington’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in seven straight quarters. The run game is absent, the passing game isn’t clicking and quarterback Keith Price appears frustrated and gun-shy.
Sarkisian lamented the offense’s lack of identity, but expressed confidence it would be found, though he didn’t set a timetable.
“Well, hopefully about six days,” he said. “We’ll find it. I’ve been doing this too long and believe in our system too much for us not to find it. We’ll find it. It’s a great challenge for us. We’ll get it done.”
Near-weekly injuries on the offensive line have complicated matters with inexperience leading to inconsistency.
Junior right tackle Erik Kohler was the latest casualty. He will be out a few weeks after suffering a dislocated kneecap for the second time this season. Sarkisian hopes he’ll be back for the Stanford game, Sept. 27, but needs the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test results to know for certain.
Sarkisian has decided to give redshirt freshman Dexter Charles, a backup left guard and left tackle, and sophomore backup right tackle Mike Criste a chance to win that open spot until Ben Riva (broken forearm) or Kohler is healthy enough to return.
Criste has taken some game snaps at right tackle this season after Riva was hurt in the season opener. But a specific division of snaps is undetermined.
“It’s a bit too soon to tell,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got to still sort it out, it’s still very early in the week. They’ll get a pretty even amount of (repetitions). We’ve got a couple of different scenarios that we can work with – actually a few – so part of that is going to tell of how Dexter looks and feels at right tackle. He’s been playing a lot on the left. Part of that is going to be the development of Mike at that spot and if he can take the next step from a physicality standpoint, because he’s talented enough to do it but he really needs to let himself go to play a physical brand of football.”
Starting right guard James Atoe could also slide out and play right tackle if needed, Sarkisian said.
But the Huskies’ woes involve more than just injuries. There have been too many penalties, too many missed assignments leading to poor execution on both sides of the ball. If the trend continues, Washington might be good enough to beat Portland State – a lower division opponent – but the Huskies won’t fare well in the Pacific-12 Conference.
“We’ve got to get those things fixed this week,” he said. “That’s why this week is totally about us, and our ability to play the best brand of football that we can. Regardless of who our opponent is, whether it’s this week or probably for the next few weeks to come, it’s about getting ourselves right and getting to where we do the things that we do best and see if that’s good enough to win. For our program to get back on track, we have to focus on ourselves right now.”
Though the team’s unsteady play makes him queasy, Sarkisian remains optimistic.
“I was kind of talking to some of our training staff and saying, ‘Something good is coming around the corner. Some of these guys are going to be coming back,’” he said. “And that’s how I always see things. This is the hand we’ve been dealt. Sooner or later we are going to get a good hand; we’ve just got to play it well. … In the meantime, we’ve just got to keep scratching and pushing and clawing and doing things right.”
Linebacker Travis Feeney suffered a sprained left shoulder and had an MRI. Feeney missed all of spring football after having surgery on his right shoulder. … Safety Will Shamburger suffered a nasty cut above his eye during the game that required 14 stitches. The eye is still swollen shut. Shamburger won’t be cleared to practice until the swelling goes down and he’s able to see clearly. … Sarkisian said that linebackers Nate Fellner (foot) and Jamaal Kearse (leg) are starting to run on treadmills, a sign their recoveries are on track. … Over 50,000 tickets have been distributed for the Portland State game. UW is offering a Groupon deal for the game.
Huskies’ opponent this week
PORTLAND STATE (1-1)
1 p.m. Saturday, CenturyLink Field, FX, 950-AM, 850-AM, 102.9-FM
Coach: Nigel Burton (10-14, 3rd season)
Against the Huskies: This is the first meeting.
Washington connections: Burton is a UW grad and former UW football player. He began his playing career at Pacific in 1995, but after the Tigers dropped football, he transferred to Washington. He was a three-year starter (1996-98) and three-time academic all-Pac-10 first-team selection. Two of his UW teammates are on staff: special teams coordinator Ikaika Malloe and linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Lester Towns. Huskies offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was the Vikings’ starting QB in 1996. The Vikings’ roster is littered with players from the state: True freshman starting quarterback Kieran McDonagh graduated from Skyview; Cornelius Edison, a sophomore from Curtis, is starting at left guard; his backup is sophomore James Seuma’ala of Federal Way; senior Greylin Games, also from Federal Way, is third-team tight end; Foss grad Julian Cruell is a redshirt freshman running back; redshirt freshman David Jones of Kent-Meridian is a wide receiver; Sadat Sulley out of Spanaway Lake is a true freshman defensive end; junior defensive tackle Julious Moore is from Bellevue; Lakes’ Tyler Rogers is a freshman corner; Tumwater’s Josh Hanson is a freshman offensive lineman; and sophomore linebacker Louis Davis played at Wilson.
Scouting report: The Vikings are coming off a 7-4 season. They were picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference. After defeating NAIA powerhouse Carroll College in its opener, PSU lost a shootout to the University of North Dakota on the road.
Did you know: Portland State was second in the nation last year with nine blocked kicks (7 punts, 2 field goals).
Sept. 1defeated Carroll, 38-20Sept. 8lost at N. Dakota, 37-45
Saturdayat WashingtonSept. 22Southern Utah
Sept. 29at No. ArizonaOct. 6Idaho State
Oct. 20at Cal PolyOct. 27at UC Davis
Nov. 3Northern ColoradoNov. 10at Montana State
Nov. 17Eastern Washingtonryan.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish Ryan Divish, staff writer