LAS VEGAS Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian took over a winless team after the 2008 season. He has the Huskies in their third bowl in four years and chasing an eighth win Saturday, which would be the most during his tenure. Heres what Sarkisian had to say about his programs rebuilding effort and Boise State during Fridays MAACO Bowl Las Vegas press conference.
Q: Boise State gives up about two touchdowns per game. What do you see as the biggest challenge?
A: The discipline with which they play the game. Theyre very well-coached. Their kids play extremely hard, which is a great trait to have to be a good defensive football team. And they dont give up cheap ones.
Q: How would you assess the rebuilding effort at Washington?
A: Its been gratifying for guys like (cornerback Desmond Trufant and quarterback Keith Price, who were at the podium), who were in our first recruiting class. I still think we have plenty of work to do. But Ive been proud of what weve been able to accomplish up to this point. Weve had some really good highs and some tremendous wins and some tough lows and tough losses. But thats part of the process of growing as a program. I couldnt be more proud of this football team and the adversity weve faced from day one of training camp up until the last snap of the Apple Cup and everything in between.
Q: How would you summarize this season with wins against Stanford and Oregon State but also five losses?
A: I would summarize it as gratifying. Sometimes your record isnt indicative of how you feel about your team and the work they put in and their resilience to overcome some adversity. This has been a gratifying season for me personally as the head football coach because I know what these guys went through from the beginning and the changes that had to be made and the leadership that they exuded. Im proud of the way our guys came to work every single day through some of the most difficult times and also the good times. I feel like weve matured throughout this season, how weve handled some of the successes but also some of the failures. Theres a lot of stuff from the season were going to continue to take from and build upon in 2013.
Q: What difficult times stand out?
A: Id go back to training camp. It was literally an injury a day that was season-ending. We went for a week and a half straight of one guy after another that was a significant contributor to our ballclub. We were just waiting for it to stop and then the season began and we lost two more in the first quarter of the first game. Some of those (replacements) should have been redshirting but they had to play earlier than we would have liked and they would have liked but we did what we needed to do to try to be successful.
Q: You have 16 freshmen and sophomores in the lineup. What have you seen from them this year?
A: A lot of our guys when they first started playing we jokingly say were puppies. And I think theyve grown up to be dogs. Its taken a little time for some of them and weve had our moments, collectively, of sometimes maybe trying a little too hard to make it all work right. But in the end I think weve found a little bit of a groove and allowed those younger guys to get better. Were a bit young younger than probably wed like to be at this stage, four years in, but you deal with the adversity. Hopefully you have a roster in place that can withstand the injuries when they do occur, and I think we were able to do that.
Q: Is there any challenge to playing Boise State twice in a row, with the 2013 season opener in Seattle?
A: Were just playing this game. Well worry about that one nine months from now. Were just trying to play really good football against them (Saturday) and thats what were going to need to do if we want to have a chance to win.