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September 3, 2009Thursday marked the final practice before Friday's walk-through and Saturday's season opening showdown against the No. 11 ranked LSU Tigers. With the band playing in the background and Washington putting the final touches on their game plan, the Huskies appeared ready for game day.
"Well I hope so, we kinda don't have a lot of time now," head coach Steve Sarkisian said when asked if he was ready. "I feel good about what we've done, I feel good about our preparation. About the way our guys have prepared, physically on the field and mentally off the field. I think we've got a good grasp of the game in all three phases. Let's go see; we'll find out."
Two things really stood out at Thursday's practice. First, Jake Locker rebounded from a shaky day and looked calm and in control. He had a very nice 40-yard completion to Jordan Polk on a post route and was also threatening with his feet. Locker continues to improve while running the new offense and that didn't stop tonight despite the coaching staff adding in even more plays designed specifically for LSU.
"I think he's got a real good understanding [of the game-plan]," Sarkisian said of Locker. "Later in the week, especially on thursday, you start to hone in on things that you're doing well that really fit the game plan. I thought that's what we did today and he performed that way."
Second was the kicking game. Eric Folk has unquestioned ability, but he's struggled this fall. Not today, as he went 4-of-4 on field goals with a long from 40 yards.
"We've talked about this; it's the battle of consistency," Sark said of the kicking game. "There's no question he's one of the most talented kickers in our conference, it's the consistency factor and when he's on I don't think there's anyone better."
Folk wasn't alone as punter Will Mahan continues to impress, booting a 60-yard punt that perfectly landed inside the five-yard-line.
"He's keeping us excited about what he's been doing," Sarkisian said about Mahan. "We're a big directional punt team. When they're on point like that, it makes our coverage units better and it helps our field position that's for sure."
Friday will only be a light walk-through with an emphasis on special-teams, offensive and defensive substitutions and situational drills. Then it's off the motel where the Huskies will hold team meetings and prepare for Saturday. The work load will be light, but the waiting for kick off may prove to be difficult for a team and coaching staff eager to get back on the field.
"Yeah, it's hard to go to sleep the night before a ball game," explained Sark. "You finally fall asleep, then you wake up and that anxiousness and that anticipation about the ball game is obviously there. We're chomping at the bit, we want to go play. To wait that long is going to be difficult but we'll keep ourselves entertained."
-- There was some great news for a handful of former walk-ons. OG Gregory Christine (who will start on Saturday), OT Nick Scott, LB Brandon Huppert, LB T.J. Poe, and LB Josh Gage are now all scholarship players!
"It's exciting, it's great to be able to do that and to reward guys for their efforts and i'm proud of those guys," said Sark. "They put a lot of time and effort just like our scholarship guys have and that opportunity is great for them."
-- Sark likes them scripted. Like many coaches Sarkisian scripts the first 15 plays of the game and that will continue at Washington.
"Ever since i've been a player, all the coaches I was playing for, whether at junior college or at BYU, our coaches scripted." As a player it felt comfortable to me to know what plays were coming. Even if they didn't come right in that exact order I had a pretty good idea. Those first 15 plays were coming by that first quarter. You just felt good as a player. You felt you could really excecute them well. It's been that way as a coach I think the players appreciate knowing what we're going to call in different situations."
-- The Huskies are healthy and only LB Matt Houston, OL Skyler Fancher, and FS Jason Wells won't be able to play on Saturday.
"We're great, I feel really good about where we're at. This is something i've been talking about since the beginning of camp, getting to this game vs LSU healthy and fresh and for the most part we are."
-- Sark said he isn't worried about the fans coming back to Husky Stadium. He also noted that it's up to the team to play well and the rest will take care of its self.
-- Always optimistic, Sarkisian didn't even want to talk about what worried him.
"Oh there's a billion of them" Sark said when asked if anything worried him about Saturday. When asked if he wanted to share any of them he sternly replied "NO."