FROM PULLMAN — To preview Friday's Apple Cup game, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times was kind enough to answer five questions for us. You can find Bob's blog here (as if there's anyone reading this who wouldn't already know), and follow him on Twitter: @bcondotta. Read on.
1. Bishop Sankey has kind of surprised a lot of people with his production this season, and a pretty big chunk of that has come in UW's last three games. Has there just been a concerted effort to get him the ball more, or has it been an opponent-specific kind of thing?
“Probably some of both – how's that for clarity! Sankey's surge really began after UW threw 52 passes in a loss at Arizona, the most the Huskies had thrown since 2002, and which Husky coach Steve Sarkisian later admitted was too many. It made a little bit of sense, though, going against an Arizona defense that is terrible against the pass (Marqise Lee had his record-setting day against the Wildcats the very next week). UW came home the following week to play Oregon State, which has one of the better secondaries around, so I think the gameplan would have been different, anyway. But the Disaster in the Desert I think also convinced Sarkisian to re-tool the gameplan around a running attack and being a little more conserevative, which also plays to the team's defensive strengths. Sankey had a solid day against OSU and the Huskies beat the Beavers and the template for the rest of the season was set. He's had 86 carries for 486 yards the last three games, which I determined this week to be the most carries over a three-game span for a Husky player since Corey Dillon in 1996. No question that no one knew for sure if Sankey could handle that sort of workloard when the season began. But he's a hard worker who keeps himself in great shape, and he's proven up to the task in every way.”
“You have to begin with Justin Wilcox and all the new coaches on that side of the ball – Tosh Lupoi on the line, Peter Sirmon at linebackers and Keith Heyward in the secondary. They fired Nick Holt and hired all those guys (at pretty big salaries) for a reason, and so far those guys are proving to be the best signings by a Seattle-area team in decades (no Chone Figgins in that group). Wilcox has been a master at putting guys in the right spots, and doing so each week – linemen play primarily tackle one” week, end the next, for instance. And he moved Travis Feeney and Shaq Thompson from safety to linebacker and those two have completely transformed a linebacking unit that figured to be the weakness of the team. UW also is a lot more experienced overall on defense this year than it was last season. Almost all of the linemen saw significant time last year; MLB John Timu has improved greatly in his second year; and three of the four starters in the secondary are juniors or seniors who have significant starting experienced, led by senior Desmond Trufant. I think just based on experience alone that the defense would have been better this year no matter who was in charge. But Wilcox has been the catalyst. He seems to have a knack for putting together gameplans that make opponents do what they are not good at — somehow, UW coerced Stanford into making Josh Nunes throw it 37 times while running it just 28 times in a game in which Stanford had the lead for all but the final few minutes.”
“I'm not sure it can be anymore. And you are right that maybe it never really has been all that much. I think there's always been a notion in the public that the game means more to WSU than it does UW. But I've never really felt that from the UW players or coaches in the years I've covered the team. There were a few instances through nthe years of WSU pulling big upsets that seemed to create that perception, such as 1982, when a 2-7-1 WSU team beat a 9-1 UW team that needed the win to go to the Rose Bowl. But I think if you really break the games down objectiely, that may be the only time UW has ever appeared to really look past WSU. Certainly, Rick Neuheisel made it a huge priority to beat WSU. And Steve Sarkisian has, as well. So I don't expect that to be an issue for the Huskies.”