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September 5, 2011Following the Washington Huskies' close win against Eastern Washington on Saturday, UW coach Steve Sarkisian seemed to portray a sense of happiness that his team had won its opener. Even though it was an ugly win, he didn't seem too upset about the way his team played.
His clearly didn't feel the same way during Monday's press conference when he spoke about his team's performance in the season opener.
"I really feel like we played not to lose and that's disappointing to me," Sarkisian said. "We played a much too cautious brand of football.
"I didn't think we were physical at all," added Sarkisian.
He did give credit to Eastern Washington for the brand of football the Eagles played, but he placed quite a bit of the blame on himself for Washington's struggles.
"Ultimately that stuff starts with me, I need to coach better, I need to motivate better," Sarkisian said. "We need to be better prepared from an emotional standpoint for sure."
It was pretty much a total letdown in the mind of Sarkisian, who coming out of fall camp had been excited about how physical his team was playing. Saturday, the Huskies didn't play physical at all and let a much smaller team push them around.
The Huskies were too busy thinking and not playing football, Sarkisian said. They were playing "textbook football."
The defense was more worried about staying in their zone than covering players who ran into their zone and that cost them dearly, Sarkisian said. The Eagle receivers were able to sit in holes in the zones. Sarkisian plans to use the next week to coach the young linebackers how to combine playing smart and playing free.
It's going to be an important week for Sarkisian and his staff. They have another stiff test Saturday as Hawaii will bring in Bryant Moniz, who threw for over 5,000 yards last season.
"He's a very good football player and we're going to have our hands full with him," Sarkisian said.
The defense needs to get after the quarterback in week two, Sarkisian said, something the unit had no success with in its first game.
On the other side of the ball, Keith Price will need help from his offensive line. Sarkisian expects Hawaii to bring pressure and try to get after Price.
"These guys get after the quarterback, so the game's going to start there and it's going to be a real challenge for our offensive line," Sarkisian said. "They need to respond. We didn't play real well last week, not up to the standards of the University of Washington that's for sure."
The Huskies do have second-year players who are starting on the offensive line, so Sarkisian didn't know what to expect going into the first game. But after what he saw and didn't like to open the season, expect them to be more motivated against Hawaii or there may end up being changes along the line.
It wasn't a completely negative press conference Monday afternoon. Sarkisian did say he was very excited with two aspects of the game.
Nick Folk drilled field goals of 53, 47 and 40 yards in the contest, earning himself Pacific-12 Conference player of the week honors for special teams. Kiel Rasp also boosted the special teams with his strong punting day with his 46.8 yard average, including his final punt that pinned the Eagles inside their own 10-yard line with under 2 minutes to play.
The other aspect Sarkisian was happy about: The Huskies forced four turnovers and committed none.
"There is no more telling stat in the sport of football than the turnover margin," Sarkisian said. "When you win that battle the percentages tell you you're going to win the game and that obviously played a huge impact."
There is no question the Huskies have work to do, but don't expect Sarkisian to dwell on the Huskies' sluggish start.
"This one game is not going to define the 2011 Washington Huskies," he said. "I know we're better than the way we played."
Quarterback Keith Price's sprained knee looks better, according to Sarkisian, who expects him to be limited early in practice, but to play against Hawaii.
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse will play against Hawaii. Sarkisian said his sprained ankle looks a lot better.
Cornerback Quinton Richardson will return this week and Sarkisian said he is 100 percent and eady to go.
Linebacker Garret Gilliland, who suffered a concussion, has been cleared to play.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant won the Pac-12 defensive player of the week award. He entered the press conference with a small brace on his wrist and said it was just a small sprain. Sarkisian didn't mention it so chances are it is very minor.
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals