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Originally published September 5, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Page modified September 5, 2011 at 8:52 PM

Steve Sarkisian says Huskies played 'much too cautious' against Eastern Washington

Coach vows Huskies will get better in time for Saturday's home game against Hawaii.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Initially, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian seemed content that his team escaped with a victory.

Two days later, his tone was notably different.

Sarkisian said that the Huskies lacked energy and enthusiasm during their 30-27 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday and promised that things would change in time for Saturday's home game against Hawaii.

"I really feel like we played not to lose," he said. "And that's disappointing to me. We played much too cautious ... I didn't think we were physical at all, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So ultimately that stuff has to start with me. I need to coach better. I need to motivate better."

Sarkisian compared it to the Huskies playing 75 mph opposed to the 100 that is needed.

"We should be aggressive. We should be relentless. We should be going for it," Sarkisian said. "For a team that I'm coaching to play that way is one of the most disappointing things that I've seen around here. And so we'll address it and we'll get right."

Sarkisian did that addressing during a team meeting before practice Monday.

"The coaches, they know that we can easily play better," UW cornerback Desmond Trufant said. "We didn't play our best game. ... They are going to be hard on us, but it's all for the good. It's going to help us become a great team hopefully."

Sarkisian made similar remarks a year ago after Washington opened with a 23-17 loss at Brigham Young, after which the Huskies rebounded to beat Syracuse and go on to a 7-6 season that included a win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

"This is two years in a row where I've been disappointed after Week 1," he said. "We'll have to look at training camp and what we're doing and maybe get ourselves more prepared mentally, and emotionally, for the ballgame."

Eastern is from the lower-division Football Championship Subdivision and the Huskies were predicted to win the game with ease. Sarkisian acknowledged all of that might have seeped into the minds of some players, saying, "Maybe they thought that this game was supposed to be easier than it was."

Players who attended Monday's luncheon said they didn't think that was the case, but agreed with Sarkisian that the emotional edge seemed a little more dull than usual.

"I've definitely seen us be more enthusiastic as a group," said linebacker Cort Dennison, one of four team captains. "We pride ourselves on being a high-tempo team with a lot of enthusiasm, so I think this week at practice we will do a lot better job of keeping things more high-paced and our spirits up."

Youth might have been a factor — 16 players saw their first college action in the game, including six true freshmen.

"I think some people, it was just nerves and not wanting to mess up," Dennison said. "And I think the coaches are just going to tell us that we are here for a reason — we are all good football players. We just need to go out and play, and when you do your job and play free and not worry about things, we are all together as a group a better football team."

Sarkisian said senior cornerback Quinton Richardson, who sat out with a high ankle sprain, will return Saturday, as will receiver Jermaine Kearse, who suffered an ankle sprain on the first series and sat out the rest of the way.

Richardson's return is particularly vital for a secondary that allowed 473 yards to Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. The Huskies will be facing Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz, who threw for 5,040 yards last season, the most in the nation.

Kearse's return, meanwhile, could help revive an offense that gained just 250 yards, as could the return to health of quarterback Keith Price, who suffered a sprained knee early in the game but continued to play. Price said he will be fitted with a better brace and should be more mobile.

"I really feel like I potentially was a little bit cautious especially after Keith had the knee injury," he said. "If we put him back on the field to play that means he's good enough to compete and play and we should have stayed more aggressive than we were. With that coupled with Jermaine being out it didn't taste right. It didn't feel great watching the film, the rhythm of what we were doing offensively didn't feel right to me."

Notes

• Dennison is nursing a thigh bruise but said he'll be fine.

• Sarkisian said linebacker Garret Gilliland, who suffered a concussion, has been cleared to play.

• Trufant was named the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Week for his game-saving interception, as well as 11 tackles and forcing a fumble on a punt. Kicker Erik Folk was named the conference's Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking three field goals in three attempts.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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