Dawgman.com spoke with Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen Thursday during his last press availability of the week before the Huskies head to the desert to face the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday at noon. Both teams have the same record (4-5) and are scratching and clawing their way toward bowl eligibility.
Let’s switch it up – have anything you want to tell us? “We were in the indoor for the first time all year (this week).”
Crank up the heat in there? “I think it’s going to be good weather down there. We’re not really worried about 100-degree weather and all that. I think it’s going to be a nice day for football. So we were inside for a nice day for football.”
Does hydration become more important going down to ASU? “We try to treat each week the same. I can’t tell you how much we talk about that around here. So it’s not like something new at all. But on your point, yes. I think any time you get on a plane, you’re going to lose water, even though we don’t know it. And then just playing in the desert for sure, it probably is more important."
Anything else about this trip that’s different? “Well, the only other thing that I would say is the early game. But we practice early. We played one early game this year, and so it’s a little different, but that’s how we practice, too. We need to go play. It’s different than practice."
On player weight loss throughout the season “So another thing that we are on from day one is that. It’s monitored every week – really every day – and I can’t tell you how really fanatical we are about these things we’re talking about right now. Our guys do a pretty good job, to tell you the truth, on weight maintain, because we’re on it from day one and pay close attention to it. The way we’re able to feed these guys now, and whether they come walking out of a workout and the smoothies are set, the fruit – they really eat well, and they’re prepared well. So we don’t have a bunch of guys that have lost a lot of weight.”
On Tim Socha’s strength and conditioning program and Kaleb McGary having abs “I think he’s very good – and his staff – at what they do. It’s not just lifting weights. I’ve always said this. I don’t think he just – it’s not into just being a power lifter or a body builder, getting Kaleb McGary-abs (laughs). It’s not about just being more flexible and being great at yoga. It’s not just about speed and agility and conditioning. It’s all of those things. It’s a really comprehensive program, and so it takes a while to get this and to really be into all these details, because every little detail, if you’re into all of them, eventually is going to change you. So I think it takes a while for that to all sink in. I think Kaleb’s one of those rare linemen that he doesn’t have a lot of body fat and he’s still a 300-pounder. Trey (Adams) is similar to that as well. So those guys are lucky that’s kind of a natural frame for those guys, and then the guys in the weight room are able to put some legitimate good weight on them.”
What do you do to take care of the frosh and redshirt frosh that are getting a lot of playing time? “We pay really close attention to the reps they take - in practice, in the game. But not only that, we have some devices that measure the distance covered in practice. It measures their workload, their explosive movements. We’re doing everything we can to pay close attention to that. Sometimes more is not better; sometimes less is more and that’s better for us. We pay attention to that. We’ve still gotta get our reps, we still have to build skill. But certainly for those guys straight out of high school. it’s probably the equivalent to college guys going to the NFL - not so much the season being longer, but I think the intensity of practices, how hard we go - I think there’s a lot of similarities. It’s a lot different than they imagined.”
ASU has some big running backs. What challenges do they pose? - “They are very good backs. I think this is the Year of the Running Back in this conference. Their 1-2 punch is really, really good. There are certain backs that have really big numbers like McCaffrey, Booker, all those guys. They are kind of the show at their school. They get the majority of carries. There’s other schools that split the carries up a little bit, and Arizona State is one of those schools that does that. The effectiveness of their run game is very similar to those schools we talked about - they just share the carries. Ballage is 6-3 and 2-whatever, very fast - so that’s different. And the other guy, he is short, compact and elusive - but both very hard to tackle. Lot of respect for both those guys - Richard and Ballage.”
Two schools in a similar position - what kind of dog fight do you expect? - “Every one of these games is so important. I think they have a lot of similar feelings to what we have. We’ve been in some games where we’ve had a chance to win and we just haven’t been able to get over the hump. We know the type of talent those guys have. But we also know how hard this league is, and anything can happen. Some of that has happened to them like it’s happened to us. But this is a good football team. If we’re paying attention to their record then we’re paying attention to completely the wrong thing.”
Couple weeks ago you said you were pleased with the sense of urgency from the team. Still sensing that now? - “I think the game will tell. That’s what I really think. They’ve done a good job practicing. But there’s certain guys that are really good practice players and there’s certain guys that practice like they’re supposed to and then take it another notch when it’s Saturday. We’ll see. It is a different intensity, it’s a different mentality on game day than it is in practice. I think, for the most part, this team has done a good job on Saturdays of showing up and playing very hard. We’ve been through a lot of hard things. It’s been a long season. We’ll see what we do this Saturday.”
The rain played a part in the fumbles vs. Utah, but did you address them this week? “I don’t think the rain played a big part; I really don’t. I don’t think it had much to do with it at all. To me it was maybe a little bit mentally with a guy drops a ball, but the ball’s stay dry out there. There was a little bit of rain, but … all these guys have gloves; it wasn’t rain that was coming sideways. It wasn’t that type of game, so I don’t think the rain had much to do with it. I think lack of concentration, lack of attention to detail — that had a lot to do with it. So that goes back to practice and tightening things up.”
So you feel you have addressed it? “We certainly have. Any time you have those situations. And those are some of the things that can slide late in the year. It’s not like we don’t talk about it every day, but sometimes it’s a wake up call. But I know this: If we have five turnovers again, we’re not winning.”
Do you go back to Korey Durkee at punter? “Both those guys (Durkee and Tristan Vizcaino) should get work. But Korey’s very much back in the mix. He’s a good punter. Like everybody, it’s the consistency thing. Guys make mistakes; it’s nothing other than a lack of concentration.”
How did he handle that — coming out Saturday and responding this week? “I thought he was pretty good this week. I do. I think he was pretty solid, and we paid closer attention to he and Tristan, charting some things and (getting) some more eyes on (them) and trying to challenge them a little bit.”
Will Budda Baker and Elijah Qualls be making the trip? “Possibly. We go up to and have our last meeting today at 4 with our trainers and we’ll go from there.”
ASU has 22 fumbles this year, 9 lost — does your defensive staff notice that on a week like this? “I think that it’s really game by game. We’ve been out and turned the ball over five (times) twice and we’ve got other games where we haven’t turned the ball over at all. So it really always comes back to us; like on defense, it’s about trying to create turnovers. You don’t assume they’re going to give you the ball. They don’t most of the time. It’s about playing hard and creating them. So we don’t get so hung up on the other side, worrying about what they’ve done. Because it’s a new week. Heck, when somebody turns the ball over a bunch you know that’s the new emphasis. So it really doesn’t have to do about what another team’s doing; it about us trying to create them and hang onto them ourselves.”
Is there just some luck involved in turnovers? “Yeah, I think so. It’s one of the most perplexing questions that all coaches (have). The year before you’re plus-whatever; the next year you’re minus (but) we’re doing the exact same stuff. It does come down to emphasis and attention to detail on those things.”