VIDEO: Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen Monday Briefing - Apple Cup

Chris Petersen addressed the media Monday for by far his longest press conference of the 2015 season - 33 minutes - and spoke on all manner of topics, from the Huskies' 52-7 win over Oregon State, to the 108th Apple Cup, to Mike Leach, to Luke Falk, to getting to bowl eligibility - and a lot more.

Opening “After looking at the tape, pleased with our kids’ mindset coming into that game. We talked about starting fast, we’ve talked about coming out with great energy and trying to set a tone and I think on all phases we did. Starting with our kickoff return, which was good energy, good mojo, little bit of fun. Then it was good to see the offense clicking on all cylinders. Red zone football is always an important thing; think we scored most of the times we got down there. Toward the end we didn’t - we ran the ball a little bit more than staying balanced, but that was okay. On defense the kids played really good. I thought there was maybe two tackles in there that we missed - one of them really hurt us, but other than that those guys were flying around, got a couple good turnovers. Awesome to see a freshman (Jordan Miller) get a turnover. Gave him a little confidence. So we’re pleased with it overall and excited for this week.”

About being a 2000-word underdog to Mike Leach “Could be. I enjoy hearing coach Leach talk. I really do. It’s always entertaining. But I will say this; he’s got those guys going. Those guys are playing really good football. Through the season we really haven’t had a chance to watch those guys too much. We certainly pay attention to what they’re doing. I’ve been impressed that they’ve won a lot of close games. Now putting the tape on and seeing what’s going on, they are playing as good a football as anybody out there, they really are. They play extremely hard. They execute well and they’ve got a lot of confidence and momentum.”

What’s your strategy for maintaining a civil relationship with him? “I like him. I’ve got to know him over the last two years. He has such a unique approach that I really enjoy talking to him and listening to him. It’s not about the coaches; it’s about the kids being ready to play, playing their best, representing their university. This is a big game and everybody gets it on both sides. It’s not about the coaches. It’s about us playing the best football we can and making the Huskies proud.”

On Travis Feeney tracking down OSU’s Paul Lucas “If you see the whole thing, if you go back and watch it - he is actually on that side where the ball hits, kind of gets out of his gap a little bit, comes from the other side, circles around…and (Lucas) can run. We saw that last week against Cal. The one thing we’ve been telling our team is this guy’s shifty, this guy’s got really good speed. When he took off I was like this guy’s gone. I saw Travis take off and thought if anybody can catch him maybe it’s Travis. But still thought he wasn’t going to get him. I mean it’s just one of those lessons; he catches him and then they do not score points. Those are the kinds of things that are as impressive as anything out there. He’s got some physical tools that, our defensive coaches would say it’s all coaching, but I’m here to be a little more honest. I don’t know if that one was coaching. That’s a little bit God-given. But it was impressive.”

Did you replay that one a few times for the team? “Yeah. In each position group, definitely did. Everybody knew how impressive that was. I think everyone got it that they didn’t score after what he did. We’ve had a couple of those come up throughout the season. We usually make a big deal of it, and those kids understand. That’s why he went after it. Anything can happen. Really good football.”

Did you think about trying to get Myles Gaskin to 1000 yards Saturday at OSU? “I didn’t even know that until you just said that. Honest to God, that’s how much we pay attention to stats. We pay attention to turnovers, some other things that maybe we’re off-track. Are we missing something here? But those individual stats? I had no idea that Myles was that close, and I don’t really know what it means, other than he’s played really well this year. We’re proud of him. He’s a slippery guy. He really is. He makes guys miss and he’s got deceptive speed. If you would have asked us a few months ago whether that guy was going to run for that many yards as a true freshman, we would have been looking at you like - we’re not even sure he’s going to play this year! So it’s impressive.”

Has Gaskin been more durable than you anticipated? “Any time with the running backs, you’re always concerned. You’ve seen it this year, you saw it last year. We had three guys at one time go down last year. We’re always concerned with that. And some guys have a little bit of an innate knack for…call it luck, call it instincts, call it whatever - it’s all those things. But Myles is also very put together. He doesn’t look like your normal freshman. He’s a little bit vertically challenged, but other than that he’s put together. And he holds up well.”

What’s the protocol for not running up a score in a game? “One thing is, it’s good to get other guys in. That doesn’t happen that much in the schedule we play. Those kids that got in the game - I’m telling you, they work just as hard as those starters do. To be able to get them some work is good, because there’s nothing like game reps. So that’s really good. You work on your base-type packages. I know they are a lot happier practicing today than they were last week, so that’s all good.”

Any thought of giving Carta-Samuels some throws when he came in? “Yeah. Sometimes you like to do that but we seem to be given decent field position. There’s still other things to work on and pay attention to. We’ve got a long way to go and you know how we feel about the run game and staying balanced and all those things. I know the quarterbacks want to get out there and wing it, but there’s a time and a place for all that.”

How excited was the team to know they were going to run that trick return to start the game? “They really didn’t make a big deal out of it. Coach Choate had said the other day in the meeting, hey we’re going to open up with this and I didn’t hear any rumblings or anything like that. We always have a bunch of things in our back pocket and we’ve held on to a lot of things. Sometimes maybe they think, here goes another one we’re not going to get to. But I think he and I felt really comfortable with it. We had done that before. It looks like trickery and all those things, but it’s really a pretty good way to make sure the field stays balanced. The two guys that were operating it (Hall and McClatcher), you put something like that in they spend extra time in practice. You don’t have to talk to them; they’re out there on their own. It’s like, turn the lights off when you get this thing right. And that’s what’s always fun about those type of plays.”

And having Chico lay down is something you’ve done? “Yeah. I don’t want to give away too many details, but let the ball get kicked and then go get small and maybe not let ‘em see you. Sometimes the ball hangs up. Depending on the coverage you can carry the ball a little bit longer so they collapse on the ball carrier. And then the thrower’s got to have a good sense of, got to get this thing out, and it’s got to be backwards…they did a good job with it. You work on the timing and all those things. You want the ball to get up in the air and they are all converging on where the ball’s going and so hopefully they take their eyes off the other returner. Just in case somebody sees something from the side we have him lay down and sneak out when you can. Doesn’t hurt when you’re in white uniforms and the numbers are white.”

Would you have done it wearing purple? “It just helps.”

How do you balance the rivalry game and everything going on with them having focus on the game? “There’s a lot of distractions going on this week. I really do. We’ve got Thanksgiving and we’re playing on a short week, lot of parents coming in. We’ve got Senior Night. We have a banquet shortly. So there’s a lot of different things going on, so we’ve kind of addressed it. But I think we also have to use it as a positive. There’s a lot of excitement going on. All these games at the end of the year, to play your rival - that’s all good. That’s all fun. I hope they feel that there’s a different energy and all those type of things."

Luke Falk’s injury has sparked more debate about concussions in football. Do you see this as an important issue? “Well, I’ll tell you what – I think any time that there’s really good discussion about it, I think that’s a good thing. I really do. Because it’s obviously an issue that this sport has to deal with and pay close attention to. And so I don’t see that as necessarily a negative. I can speak for ourselves – we have the finest team doctors and trainers that are on the cutting edge of what’s going on concussion-wise, and we’re all about protecting these kids, and if there’s any inkling of making something worse in terms of those things, we know exactly what we’re doing. And so I think we’ve got to look at that as a positive, because it is part of the game. It’s scary when those things happen. So we’ve got to take the right protocol afterward.”

How has the concussion issue changed the way you coach? “It’s changed it a lot, in terms of how we teach tackling. I mean, tremendous amount of difference. I know even a handful of years, you’d see some d-linemen come off the ball … I remember a few years ago, one of our offensive tackles was pass setting and the d-end comes off and kind of slams his helmet into the offensive tackle’s helmet, which is what they do, and I remember right then and there, I’m like, hold on here. No, no, no, we’re not doing that. There’s no need for that, other than to give somebody a concussion. So I just think there’s so much more awareness. There’s a lot of little subtleties that can change the game to make it safer in the long run. It’s something we’ve all got to continue to pay attention to and work with, from tackling to the protocol with the doctors. We’ve got a chance to talk to the doctors around here, and how they’re looking at things, and researching it, and getting as much information as they can. It’s still an unbelievable game, and we’re going to change it for the better as we move forward.”

On WSU’s receivers “Well, you don’t lead the nation in passing with just a great quarterback and no weapons to throw to. They’ve very precise. It’s a system that I haven’t known a whole lot about, but I’ve looked at it a little bit more over the years, and it’s awesome. The job that he does putting together – a lot of similar concepts over and over, but these concepts all complement each other. They’re very much into taking space on the field. They’re into creating space with their splits. They’re creating space with their wide receiver splits. I think he runs the ball more than he has. In our opinion, we always think running the ball is good, so he does that more. And so all those things make it tough to defend those receivers. Then they have some guys that have played for them for a while that are as good as anybody in this conference, for sure.”

On Luke Falk’s injury status and how that affects UW “I’ll tell you this – the backup that came in, (Peyton) Bender I believe, we’ve watched him a little bit. I mean, he doesn’t really look like a backup. And I know when Falk kind of came in last year, he didn’t really look like a backup. So I think again, they do an unbelievable job of coaching in that system, and coaching those kids up, when to get the ball out. I think they do a good job of hanging in the pocket when they’re not supposed to get it out right away. So they’re going to run that system. So that’s what we’re trying to defend, is those routes and the run game they have, and those type of things.”

Do they look like they’ll be harder to pressure this year than they were last year, when you guys got after the QB so well? “Well, they are hard to get after, because when they feel that you’re bringing pressure, that ball’s coming out. They don’t hold it. That’s a little bit what I was alluding to. I think the quarterbacks are really trained well on hey, you need sit in the pocket and have some presence here, or you need to get this ball out. And so you start blitzing them and doing all those type of things, ball comes out fast. You don’t blitz them, he’ll stand in there and hold it. There’s a reason they’re the best in the country at throwing the ball. So they know what they’re doing and they do it really well. With that being said, you’ve got to be able to try to get some pressure on the quarterback, and change things up a little bit. But I think our secondary’s got a tremendously hard job to cover all that space, to cover those really good receivers. And the guys up front have got to help them out. They can’t stand back there and hold it all day.”

On the defense in last year’s Apple Cup “It was a heck of a performance for sure. Guys probably played the best that they’ve played, for sure, all year long. I think it was surprising to all of us. They competed well. It helps when you’ve got a couple guys up front that can get to the passer and not let him hold it. It all has to fit together. If it turns into 7-on-7 where he’s back there all day long, that’s going to be problems. The other thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to be able to tackle. They spread you out so much that if a guy misses a tackle, those are big, chunk plays after that.”

On using potential bowl eligibility as motivation “I think if that … we’re always looking like, ‘what will help us the most? How do we motivate these guys?’ And our guys know the reality of the situation. We haven’t talked about it as coaches. It’s all about playing, this team, playing our best football. That’s really been our approach all season long, about like, OK, so we felt like we’re making strides, up and down all season long, but we’re making strides. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, two steps backwards, so I think our mission is, can we take two steps forward and not go backwards? Now, that’s a little bit speaking on offense, and on defense, this is a completely different animal. That’s what’s unique – everybody talks about Stanford, like they have a unique system because nobody does what they do anymore. Well all along, this one is very unique, as well. Nobody does, certainly in our conference, with all the spreads and all those things, spreading guys out and throwing it, this is still very, very different. So our defense has a challenge in front of them that they haven’t seen yet this season.”

So there’s no Pac-12 comparison? “There’s not. If they run 80 plays a game, I mean, they’re going to throw it probably 60 times a game. And so that’s different in itself. They’re going to complete balls. They just keep coming at you. A lot of times their first down plays are the same as a third down play, or you see the same thing in the red zone, but they’re precise and they know how to adjust for space. It’s just very different and very unique.”

On the reason for not letting players talk to media this week “With guys like you that have been around a long time, you just keep throwing out those cookies, that all of a sudden … that’s not the reason we’re not letting them talk. Again, we’ve got a lot of things going on here, with all the distractions we spoke about. So we just thought, listen, the last thing they need to do is talk about – they’re thinking about it enough, and it’s time for us to just kind of pay attention to what we need to pay attention to.”

On 5-7 teams potentially playing in bowl games this season “Ugh. … I think there’s too many bowls. I’ll say that, if we’re talking about that.”

Why do you feel that way? “It just is what it is. I will say this – everybody likes to play football. So to get a chance to play another game and all those things, that’s one issue. But again, a long time ago, when Washington was playing in Rose Bowls, it was like the Rose Bowl or nothing, I think, way back when. So that’s kind of how I grew up, as well. So the bowls keep coming, the bowls keep coming, and now in some ways records aren’t really as important as they used to be with that type of stuff. They still are, because there’s pecking orders and stuff, but it is what it is."

Would you be in favor of all teams getting some extra practices in the winter? “That’s a good question. I really haven’t gone that far. Somebody asked me that a while ago. I think it might have even been my dad, like, ‘shouldn’t everyone be on the same playing field in this thing?’ Of course, no one listens to their dad, so I didn’t really pay attention to it. I think this – I think the game and our seasons have changed. This is a year-round sport. We give them time off, but it’s year-round. Even with spring football and the kids are here in the summer time, and so I think the practices are important, but these seasons are long, as well. What I think is more important is the chance to play another game, because that’s what’s different, and that’s what the kids want to do, and that’s what we all like to do, and that’s what the fans like to see – let us play. And so I know I didn’t really answer your question about more practice time and all those type of things, but kind of getting back to the bowl situation, I don’t think as much about the practice time as I do about, you play another game. That’s what’s hard to come by.”

With all that said, though, if you do finish 5-7 …? “I’m not even – don’t ask me the question, because I don’t even know. We’re just playing this game, and let us play this game (laughs).”

UW has historically had the edge in recruiting over WSU. How does that change with WSU’s success this season? “Recruiting is so tough anyways and I think the kids in the state — these schools are much different: the geography and where they’re located and all those types of things. So I think there’s a lot of, to each his own. Some kids don’t want to live in the city; some kids don’t want to live in a smaller town. So you have that going on already. But at the end of the day, as coaches no matter where you are, people get excite about guys winning games. That’s what we think about in recruiting: We’ve got to win more. Sometimes you can have the beautiful (facilities), ‘most’ everything, but if you don’t win enough it doesn’t matter. So I think that’s how every coach thinks. The recruiting thing is every bit as competitive as the games you guys are seeing on Saturdays. So everything matters, and certainly winner.”

On UW receivers’ progress vs. OSU after tough game vs. ASU “We’ve kind of been on it all year. I don’t think there’s anything we did differently. I think those kids take a lot of pride in their craft and they know a play here or a play there can certainly change the outcome of the game. As much time as we spend on the details, they know that. So it wasn’t something that anybody had to go up to them and say, ‘Hey, listen: You need to catch the ball better.’ They get that. But their focus, their intensity may have been a little bit different in that group and we’re going to have to carry over it into this week, for sure. You only get so many opportunities as a wideout to make the big one.”

On WSU’s defense “It’s interesting because I’ve talked to a few coaches and even talking to (Oregon State’s Gary Andersen) last week, one of the first things he said was that (WSU) defense is (as) physical as anybody they’ve played. Those guys run to the ball; they’ve got a physical, physical crew. And we’re going to have to score some points on offense. You can talk about our defense vs. their offense all you want, but you’re going to have to score points against these guys. That’s what they do. So it’s going to have to be a team victory if we can do that. We’re not going to be able to win it on one side of the game; these guys are too good. When you put the tape on — lot of respect. Those guys are clicking, they’re humming, they’re as good as anybody in our conference. They’re doing a great job.”

On Jake Browning being efficient with shorter throws “I thought he was really on. We had a wide variety of different reads. There we some things down the field that he didn’t throw to (and) that was the right decision. But I thought his decisions were on-point. A lot of it comes down to, we talk about having those banked reps. … For him, he’s seeing things over and over and hopefully that’s starting to add up.”

Do you feel a little more connected to this senior class now that you’ve been around them a couple years? “The longer you’re around the kids, without question. I always have so much respect for the seniors in general. Because I don’t think people know what these kids really go through. The kids don’t know what they’re going to go through. It is always so different. Sometimes at the end of the process, what they were hoping for may be sometimes a little bit better and a lot of times not exactly (what they hoped), certainly football-wise. And there are so many ups and downs. And that class that’s here now? It didn’t look like that four and five years ago. Tremendously different. So for those guys to weather all the storms and go through all the ups and downs and get their degrees, which is what they’re here for, I always have a lot of respect. Even the kids last year, we didn’t have them for a long time, I felt connected to go those guys in the short time because I know what they go through and I know how passionate they are about this place and playing this game and the education piece that really comes with it as well. We do feel connected to them, but I always feel connected to those darn seniors for all the things they go through.”

On senior Jarett Finau — hasn’t played much but recognized as a leader off the field) “Jaret Finau has done a great job this season. Here’s a senior that’s been in the mix the last couple years, played some here and there, and then this year really hasn’t played a whole lot, but I can’t tell you how hard that kid has worked on that practice field for us. He does a lot of scout-team work. You’re a senior and you do scout team — most guys who go over there begrudgingly and just go through the motions. He gets those guys fired up and going. There’s always a (senior) or two every year where I shake my head and say, ‘That’s impressive.’ What you just did the last few months in terms of changing our program and changing our culture, whatever your role is — and he’s one of those guys. My hat’s off to him for what he’s done this fall, and I say that sincerely.”

Similarly, Tani Tupou has been through a lot, nearly transferring, and now he’s a leader on and off the field “I think it’s going to be special for him. It’s kind of interesting because since I got here I’ve always thought of Tani as a (key) guy, as a mainstay — a guy we have to have or we’re not going do nearly as well (because of) his effort on the field but also in the locker room. That guy is one of the heart and souls of the locker room, without question. When something different needs to happen around here, that’s who we go to — Tani. Extremely impressive.”

This senior class has about 10 guys who are in the rotation. How much has attrition changed over the years for a typical 25-man class? “That’s a good question, because I don’t know if it’s changed over the years or not. In my recollection, I think it always looks different (from signing day). Just paying (particular) attention the last 10 years, from all those kids that come in … it’s going be dramatically different. You’re going to get a few transfers in; you’re going to lose a lot of guys; guys medical-out, they can’t finish their careers. So it’s always looked a lot different to me (by the end).”

Any injury updates? “We’re week to week; we’re very hopeful. I think we’re hopeful, I do. I think you’re going to see something … guys are practicing. That’s all I’ll say.”

Elijah Qualls? “Elijah practiced today.”

At this point, are there any juniors who will be walking with the seniors/their final game at Husky Stadium? “Cory Fuavai I believe is going to go through (senior ceremonies) and Neel Salukhe is going to go through. Those two guys.”

More on Jake Browning’s overall growth “I think he’s growing. I think this: For us to play a freshman, you gotta have started at a pretty high level. So it wasn’t like, when we started our first game … he was pretty dialed in. But I also think about that first game he did play on that blue turf, of being able to process things really fast and make some plays and checkdowns and those things. It hasn’t been like, ‘Oh my stars, look at him from Game 1 to now!’ But I think he is significantly better; it’s just those subtle things, and I think he’ll keep doing that as we go along. All our quarterbacks in there — K.J. (Carta-Samuels) and company — you hope they’re not so far away that each game is looking dramatically different. But I will say this: It’s such a hard position with the different things those people throw at them; I’ve been impressed with how he’s handled so many things and I do think he’s grown and gotten better just in terms of things that are hard to sit here and describe all the time but just the — snaps fingers — processing of where to go with the ball; accuracy of things; when to not throw it; we can always get better at making decisions, but I think he’s doing a good job.”


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