VIDEO: Washington Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski - Oregon Ducks

Washington Huskies Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski spoke to the media Tuesday about the defense's effort in defeating USC 17-12 last Thursday, as well as what it's going to take to stop Royce Feeman and Taj Griffin Saturday when Oregon comes to Seattle to face UW.

Anything surprising you about this defense right now? - “No. They have a great attitude and they practice really hard and they are carrying it over to game days. We don’t expect anything less. They’ve gone out and they’ve lived up to our expectations.”

What are the things they’ve improved on the last few weeks. Tackling seemed to be an emphasis during the bye week - “That was the main…the tackling the week before wasn’t as good as we like it, so we spent a lot of time on that. It’s back to fundamentals - eyes, knee bend, reading our keys, block protection - all the techniques and the little things that football players have to do at their position.”

On the personal fouls, what kinds of things can you coach to eliminate those penalties, but still play fast? - “The first and only thing is the strike zone. The strike zone’s got to be lower. If Azeem (Victor) goes lower, I don’t think that’s a penalty. But because he goes up a little bit high and they are going to be sensitive around quarterbacks…but if he goes down and is hitting him in the numbers, bottom of the numbers, I don’t think that’s a penalty. We continually work on strike zone and where we are tackling them at.”

Do you see that rule evolving? Some people think it could be too punitive - “I don’t know. I coach football players and get them ready to play. I stay out of that stuff.”

Would you like to see it changed? - “No. I think we need to make the game safer and I think targeting is a good rule. We don’t want to be leading with our head or hitting guys in the head. I think it just comes back to us as coaches and the players lowering their strike zone. And if we do that, it’s going to be a safer game.”

What do you want to see out of the guys filling in for Azeem first half Saturday? - “I want to see them flying around and I want to see them tackling and doing their job. If we do that we’ll be fine. It doesn’t matter; whoever goes down next guy has to step up. Everybody else does their job and we keep rolling. It is what it is and we move on.”

How much better can this defense get? - “We are playing at a high level in terms of our energy output and running to the ball and being physical. That’s awesome. But there’s never been a perfect football game as far as executing and there’s a lot of room to get better for these guys. We haven’t arrived. It’s been five games or whatever it is. We’ve put some good stuff on, but that’s all behind us and now it’s on to the next one. You’re always as good as your next performance, so we just keep preaching that. Every game is week to week.”

It looks like Oregon’s offense isn’t as dangerous as maybe they’ve been in the past? - “Who have you been watching? (laughs) They average over 300 yards rushing, have over 200 yards passing, they’re averaging over 40-something points a game…(laughs)"

Is the quarterback situation there tricky for you as a coordinator - “He’s only one piece to the puzzle. There’s a bunch of other guys that…we’ve got to get off blocks, we’ve got to tackle those backs, we’ve got to tackle those receivers…they are still a really good offense and we’ve got our hands full.”

Is it as easy as saying stop their run game and make their quarterbacks beat you? - “I don’t know if it’s that simple, but everything starts with trying to control their run game. Not necessarily smother it. It starts with controlling the run game and we’ve got to do our job of playing the ball in the air and covering guys if and when they do throw it.”

Coach Pete said he feels Freeman and Griffin are the best 1-2 punch in the league running the ball. What kind of specific problems does that combo create for a DC? - “If you go and you’re always tackling the same way, which is low and through the thigh-boards, it doesn’t change. It might change a little bit as far as one guy might be able to get the edge a lot quicker than the other guy but they both can do that equally as well. It doesn’t change for the players. They’ve got to tackle how they tackle. I don’t think during the course of a play it’s that guy’s in versus the other guy. You’re going on instincts and reaction and it comes back to good tackling technique, knee bend and strike zone.”

Anything you can take from last year’s game? - “Just build off how stuck together and kept grinding it out. This is going to be another hard game. I fully anticipate it. There’s going to be highs and lows, ups and downs. It’s how you weather those and stick together and keep battling, keep competing.”

Do you use the history of this rivalry as motivation? - “Everybody in the state knows about it. We talk about it but we shouldn’t need extra motivation - whether it’s Oregon or anybody in the conference. Every week should be the same type of preparation, so that way you don’t have those highs and lows. We play at this level all the time. Hopefully that level is always high, and then you have those big dips and ups. That’s how we practice and that’s how we play; have fun, great energy, feed off each other.”

Are some opponents just different by human nature? - “Yeah. It’s easier to get up for some guys more than others. But you don’t want it so you’re totally geeked up and you’re messing stuff up because you’re too juiced. And the same thing, you don’t want to be overlooking anybody - there’s lulls. So you’re always striving to play every week, every game should be the same. It’s the next game, you’ve got to play your best.”

Are you a believer that the first series always sets the tone? - “You want to go out fast and set the tone, but it’s such a long game. We set the tone and then all of a sudden they’ve got the momentum and we’ve got to respond to that. You always want to start fast, you always want to set that tone, but at the same time if you don’t it’s not the end of the world. We’ve got to keep grinding away.”

When you watched Thursday’s film, how you would describe the response of the defense after Azeem’s ejection and USC’s score? - “I thought it was pretty good. If we don’t have that penalty, that drive is over. They ended up going down and scoring, but after that it was great. We kept competing and we pulled it out.”


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