For UW’s Tuiasosopo, the Fight Hunger Bowl is the singular challenge


By Morris Phillips

Washington’s plenty talented enough to hang with the BYU Cougars in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on tap at AT&T Park.  But with Head Coach Steve Sarkisian saying yes to USC and leaving Seattle after five seasons to coach the Trojans, one has to wonder what will be the collective mindset of the Huskies’ student-athletes when they hit the field on Friday night.

Could the Huskies feel spurned by Sarkisian, or be distracted by all the upheaval?  Or will a talented UW team leap to the challenge of attempting to win a ninth game in a season for the first time since 2000 when interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo led the Huskies to a 34-24 win over Purdue and Drew Brees in the Rose Bowl?

“You’d like to think every close team… would handle it the same way, but you just never know until you go through it,” Tuiasosopo said.  “I think our seniors have done a nice job, and I think our underclassmen have done a nice job of buying into what the seniors are talking about and staying focused on the task at hand.”

One thing’s for certain: the 34-year old Tuiasosopo is the point man for the Huskies’ mindset approaching kickoff on Friday night.  The UW legend, former Raider and son of Manu, the starting nose tackle for the 49ers in their second Super Bowl victory over Miami in 1985, is a rising star in the coaching profession.  In just five short years after retiring from the NFL in 2008, Tuiasosopo has gone from assistant strength coach at UW, to position coach at UCLA under Jim Mora, to quarterback coach and now interim head coach back at Washington with Sarkisian leaving and Boise State’s Chris Peterson set to take control of the Huskies following the bowl game.

And if Tuiasosopo can exude calm, excitement and anticipation for the meeting with BYU, why wouldn’t the players?  The interim coach’s situation couldn’t be any less unsettled than his team’s with a gaggle of UW assistants already gone to join Sarkisian in Los Angeles, and Peterson reportedly set to hire Jonathan Smith, his quarterbacks coach at Boise State, for the same position in Seattle.   Tuisasosopo might be a natural fit on Peterson’s staff in any capacity, or he could take his three week stint as head man and run with it… possibly to a head job at a non-BCS school looking to corral the unbridled energy of a promising, youthful coach.

Undoubtedly, Tuisasosopo and the Huskies will get just one shot together.  In BYU, the Huskies will face a staunch defensive team led by senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy that also features a power running attack led by dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill.  The Huskies will counter with oft-injured but supremely talented quarterback Keith Price and power back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for over 1,700 yards in the regular season.

The game figures to be high scoring and close; one requiring quick-twitch decisions and gutsy play calls, rigorous work for even the most seasoned of coaches. Not only will Tuisasosopo face all those challenges, he’ll do it with an unfamiliar staff.  Meanwhile BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has held the position for nine seasons and has made bowl appearances all nine times.  The contrast in experience couldn’t be more striking.

Still Tuisasosopo faces his challenge with enthusiasm and a keen eye on his alma mater’s history.  Price and safety Will Shamburger are the only remaining players from the 2009 recruiting the class that committed on the heels of the 0-12 season in 2008, the last under Coach Tyrone Willingham.  Tuisasopo referred to the 2008 season as the lowest point in the history of the school earlier this week.  Given that, Tuiasosopo frames the challenge of chasing a watershed ninth win on Friday as an historic quest.  And that’s what experienced coaches do: set goals and demand myopic focus on them.

“Now we’re at 8-4 and my hope… is that the young guys really focus on that, not everything else,” Tuiasosopo said.

And behind those goals are the players, committed to one coach who left and being asked to devote themselves to another… almost overnight.  Needless to say, according to Tuisasosopo, it can be confusing.

“They’re growing to become men, and sometimes they need to know ‘Hey, I totally understand what you’re going through.  They need someone there to help them through and manage and navigate their emotions through this process,” Tuiasosopo said.

Cal just playing out the schedule to see if they can pick up a win

by Michael Duca
BERKELEY–The only way you can win a football game is you keep the other teams from scoring more than you do and while it may seem to some have already suffered through watching the defense is only a concept. Defense is only something that requires high quality players who are able to compete with each other and it seems each week. Cal has not had that luxury.
They’ve had so many injuries, they’ve lost seven of their original starters, 11 projected players on defense, yeah it’s just going to be like this for the rest of the year. I would be surprised if they’re able to actually put another game in the victory column before this year ends which would mean that one could take the position that this might be the worst Cal football  season in memory. There only win would have come not against a BCS team.
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes knew that he was going to run the spread and he knew it was going to take certain kinds of players to run the spread it’s not that easy to convert a fairly standard pro set team to a spread offense because a spread is all about gaps, control much more than straight ahead blocking to open wide for a running game. While Cal has finished with a lot of pro quarterbacks if you take a look at the years you have former Cal coach Jeff Tedford whose well known to be a quarterback developer.
He had 1000 yard rushers every year Cal was a run oriented offense but passed off the run and with the spread to run off the pass and establish the pass the first thing you have to do it with is that line literally spreads that’s why it’s called that. It takes a different kind of player and a different skill set and you inherit players who are recruited for one system there’s likely not the best suited players for the other kind of system.Their not smart football players but it doesn’t mean their not good athletes which there are different skill sets involved.
Dykes knew in last Saturday’s game versus Washington that Cal quarterback Jared Goff is the future quarterback and he wants to make sure that he doesn’t get injured either physically which is not that big a risk in a blow out game because as the game goes on you want to finish healthy. Physiologically more important you want to maintain a quarterbacking concept which is being in an attack mode and Goff is a true freshman.
You have to be a little bit more careful, Dykes knows what he’s doing at quarterback.
Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

Lots of jobs open at Raiders camp

By David Zizmor

August 3, 2013


NAPA–With the players trying out at the Raiders camp in Napa it is a full on 100 percent competition for pretty much every single position on the field and that’s including quarterback. Matt Flynn is the Raiders presumptive choice at QB unless Terrelle Pryor beats him out. Comparing them to the 49ers your going to see the starters from one to 82 series. With the Raiders your going to see the presumptive starters or at least a quarter maybe two because the Raiders really don’t know who is who it could be anybody.

So what you have to do is watch every single player on the field they’re all potential starters maybe you can say Darren McFadden is a sure thing but your not going to see a lot of him because they don’t want him getting hurt in the early pre season with that injury history. All across the field just look at every single position look at how well they perform and how much passion they play with. That’s probably the big part of the Raiders philosophy this year.

For the Raiders they just don’t want good players they want players who play hard that’s something they struggled with at times last year. So whether it’s the offense or the defense your just looking for guys to stand out. It’s not the same as the 49ers the 49ers have guys on their team who you know who are going to be the starters. Justin Smith is not all of a sudden going to be benched neither is Colon Kaepernick, or Frank Gore.

With the Raiders there is no such thing as a sure thing on this team anybody can get a starting position and anyone could lose a starting position which means pre season might be a little exciting because you don’t know whose going to emerge. So your going to have to watch at least the first half of these Raiders games to see how well they do. If someone starts to perform well in game one against the Cowboys in pre season and continues that into game two they could become your next starter.

At this stage it’s anybody’s guess as to who those players will be but for right now the Raiders are going to give everyone on that squad a chance to emerge as a contributor potentially a star and certainly as a starter and we’ll have to wait to see with the Raiders it’s going to go game to game as they approach it but it will be fun to watch.

On the quarterback front it’s the assumption that Matt Flynn will be Oakland’s starting quarterback I don’t think the Raiders went out to get him with the intent of benching him. He’s not a cheap player and he’s not super expensive either but he’s not cheap by Raiders standards anyways. So you have to assume that the Raiders wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t want to start him but remember the Seattle Seahawks traded for Lynn last year and he ended up getting benched as Russell Wilson started the season for the Seahawks and Flynn never saw very much time on the field.

The same thing could happen to him here we don’t know and that all depends on the quality of the backup and depends on how Terrelle Pryor plays and if Pryor comes in and starts lighting things up he could do the same thing. The difference is we’ve seen Pryor a little bit and it doesn’t seem like he has Wilson’s ability to command an offense it’s a huge difference. It’s not something they take lightly.

That’s why Pryor will not be the starter this season in Oakland but with Flynn we don’t know what his ability is over the course of a season if this is a guy whose only started a couple of games in injury situations and while he does well in those we haven’t seen him in the course of eight, or nine, ten games to really judge what he can really do over the course of time. So if he plays a couple of games and starts to falter and continues to falter then you might see Pryor get a chance at some point during the season.

Getting named the starter for game one this Friday against the Broncos is not going to insure that the Raiders starter will be the starter in game ten of the NFL season. It’s going to be a week to week proposition as it will be with most players on the Raiders, it’s going to be a performance issue. You have to keep performing to prove yourself from week to week in order to maintain your starting job. So that applies to the quarterback position, you don’t like that to be the case because you want your quarterback to be as rock solid as possible but that’s not the position the Raiders are in.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio