News flash: Coach Steve Sarkisian lied to Congress.
OK, that is a bit of a stretch. But to get through to his nine blockers, holder Cody Bruns and placekicker Erik Folk to get them to relax and go on and do their job – which they did with a last-second 32-yard field goal in the Huskies' 32-31 victory over Southern California – he told them they would be the lead story on ESPN's 'Sportscenter' later that night if they pulled it off.
Well, they weren't (but later got a nice chunk of coverage … which was expected considering it was live on ESPN2).
"A little bit (disappointed)," Sarkisian quipped during his weekly press conference Monday at the Founders Club. "I just think it was the timing of the game."
Timing. The UW couldn't have picked a better time for find its own timing, particularly on offense.
Sarkisian chalked his team's sharp outing and loose demeanor to three words: "Absence of fear."
"We weren’t worried about losing, we weren’t worried about making a mistake. I just thought we played football," Sarkisian said. "You could see it in Jake’s game, but I thought we also saw it in our team’s demeanor. On the sidelines, even when things went bad, even after the fumble by Jake (Locker after the 50-yard scamper in the second quarter), our kids were loose. We weren’t concerned; we just played. That’s the best mentality for us to be in right now."
Led by Locker, of course – embroiled in 14 days of heavy criticism after his stinker game against Nebraska on Sept. 18.
"He wasn't concerned about the outcome. I thought he wasn't concerned about what might or what could happen – he played each snap for that snap, and I thought you saw that in not only in his physical performance but his mental make-up leading to the ballgame," Sarkisian said.
"Really, really impressed with him, and it couldn't happen to better human being. What he had to endure from that Saturday of Nebraska, and two weeks following would be tough on anybody from a psyche standpoint. I thought he responded in beautiful fashion, and played a ballgame that was, in my opinion, a legendary one, at least in these parts."
Locker said the team used the final two games of 2009 – home wins over Washington State and California – as a case study during the bye week.
"I believe those were two of the best games that I'd been a part of. From a team perspective since I've been here, I thought that our football team for those two games against Cal and WSU played without fear. We didn't care if they made a mistake, went out and played fast and played hard and had fun and enjoyed playing the game. The results took care of themselves," Locker said.
"It's something I thought about the two weeks leading up to this game and it was something I challenged the guys with. I said, 'Hey man … let's go out and play without fear today. Let's go out and have fun and enjoy the game and don't worry about making mistakes. We're going to make mistakes, don't dwell on them – move on and keep playing.'"
More stuff from USC game:
• The no-call on the horse-collar play has been a popular topic, since there seems to be some gray ares in the spirit of the rule.
To recap: Locker broke free down the left sideline in the second quarter on a 50-yard run. A few yards from the end zone, USC cornerback Shareece Wright came up from behind, got his right hand on Locker's shoulder pad, which he appeared to use for leverage – and poked the ball out of Locker's grasp.
The ball was ruled to have traveled inside the pylon and through the end zone in-line for a touchback.
"It’s not a penalty by rule. I don’t know if that’s the spirit of the rule, but by definition of the rule, it’s not a penalty," Sarkisian said. "I still think the ball went out of bounds before it went out of the end zone, though. That’s why I challenged it. And I still think it today after I saw the coaches’ film."
• Ongoing are the tackling issues that crop up for the UW defense, especially against good running backs.
And on the specific occasion of Quinton Richardson's whiff on a cornerback blitz of USC quarterback Matt Barkley, he led with his head and did not even attempt to wrap up.
"It's definitely a pet peeve for the coaches. They teach us, bring your feet, don't just dive," Huskies safety Nate Fellner said. "There are times when you can take shots like that, and times you can't. You've got to be smart about it."
• Expect the "fly" sweep to stay in the playbook. That was something utilized a lot with running back Jesse Callier, who continues to impress with his burst, which might be the best on the offense.
Callier had four carries for 26 yards out of it.
"We’ve had sprinkles of it," Sarkisian said. "We did a little bit of that last year. But we felt like it could help us in our style of play, and we’ve kind of done it a little bit more."
• Sarkisian surprised many, including those on his offensive staff, by not only putting backup quarterback Keith Price in shotgun after Locker's fourth-quarter injury on third-and-goal from the USC 1, he called a pass play on the redshirt freshman's first significant play.
And Price completed a 1-yard TD throw to tight end Chris Izbicki to give the Huskies a 29-28 lead.
"It was a play we wanted down there," Sarkisian said. "And I just didn’t want to put him under center. He hadn’t gotten a real snap yet, I wanted to put him in the gun, and felt like it was a good call for him. He made a good play; it was a nice throw.
• Quick hit notes: Seahawks coachPete Carroll
did phone Sarkisian after the game to offer his congratulations. … Sarkisian said he and USC coachLane Kiffin
talked for an hour or so Sunday about the game, and compared notes. "We're still good friends," Sarkisian said. … ReceiverKevin Smith
(fractured thumb) will miss at least two weeks.Jesse Callier
will return kicks. … Defensive endCameron Elisara
(shoulder stinger) was removed after the first series for precautionary reasons against USC. He should be OK, Sarkisian said. …
The highlight of the press conference was when Sarkisian was asked if he had jokes lined up for pressure-filled situations such as the last-second field goal Saturday. "I don't think it's orchestrated. It's whatever comes to you, whatever you feel like talking about at that time," Sarkisian said. "I don't Google a good joke to have ready for my kicker for when he's about to kick, you know? I just have whatever comes off the top of my head."
** MONDAY PRACTICE NOTES: A new walkon punter was on site Monday – Evan Steinruck, of Lake Stevens. And he was thrown right into the fire when the team practiced punt-rushing drills – he had five of them blocked. … Running back Johri Fogerson (upper leg) did not practice, and is status is still unknown for Saturday. … Defensive end Cameron Elisara (shoulder) also did not practice.