Husky head coach Chris Petersen, senior WR Jaydon Mickens and freshman RB Myles Gaskin talk about UW's 44-31 win over Southern Miss

Husky head coach Chris Petersen, senior WR Jaydon Mickens and freshman RB Myles Gaskin met with the press after Washington's 44-31 win over Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl...

COACH CHRIS PETERSEN: Thank you. I think, first and foremost, I'm just really glad that we got to play a good team in this bowl game. I think that was very apparent today, how those guys played. And our hats are off to them. We knew that going in. And they were as good as advertised, certainly offensively. And defensively, I think they're a physical crew as well. So it was a really good game, a hard-fought game. They're a second half team. We're proud of our guys for having ground it out in the second half and fourth quarter. 

JAYDON MICKENS: We persevered and understood that this was going to be a football team that will bring us their all, and they didn't care if it was coming from the Pac-12 or SEC. They came to play football. My respect to those guys. They played to the final kickoff at the end, and they didn't give up, they kept fighting. But we do what we have to do. And we made our plays when we needed to make them. And we ultimately came out with the win. 

MYLES GASKIN: It was a great team, very disciplined. Hats off to those guys. We just really came in this game, trying to get all the seniors on their way out and give them all the love and support we could through the game. 

 

Q. Coach, in your second year of the program, you finally got a bowl win. Is Washington taking the steps of progress that you wanted to see when you first took the job two years ago?  

COACH PETERSEN: Yeah. I think we're making progress. We've been proud of these guys all year long. I think we have really hard-fought wins, and we had some hard-fought losses. We've been in most every game, even the games we've lost. And it's been really frustrating to all of us coming in on Sunday and knowing we're that close on a lot of these games. But these guys never, never, ever backed down. They worked their tail off. Nobody ever pointed fingers on either side of the ball, anything like that. So, to me, that was a lot of progress being made just in terms of just feeling that they're doing the right things. And, if we can continue to keep fighting and do the right things, we will get better. And so I think that there's been a lot of progress made this year in terms of those types of things. 

 

Q. Coach, talk a little bit about the Xs and the Os, talk about the adjustments the Huskies made, and it looked like defensively you made some adjustments defensively to keep Southern Miss out of the end zone. What sort of adjustments did you make at the halftime?

COACH PETERSEN: Well, a little bit tighter, a little bit more man coverage -- a bit of tighter man coverage. I think we played a little bit tighter. I will tell you this: I think our defensive line started to settle in. And, when you can control the run game, things start to come under control a bit more. They're really explosive. I mean, Mullens is a heck of a quarterback. And Michael Thomas, he's -- you know, he'll be playing next year for sure. And he was -- he was better than I thought he was. And we thought he was really good going in. So they're going to make their plays. But I think, when you can slow the run game down, I believe that gives us a fighting chance to maybe slow some explosives down. 

 

Q. This is for all of you. Can you talk about the momentum swings from your perspective? Seemed like throughout the game, every time -- you guys maintained the lead, but it was just back and forth. And can you talk about the momentum swings? 

COACH PETERSEN: Anything to say? You changed the momentum one time or two or three. 

MYLES GASKIN: We got a response of we're here to play football. And momentum, I guess, is a big thing with the crowd and stuff. But I think every time you get on the field, we plan on scoring. So I don't play for the momentum swings. 

JAYDON MICKENS: Momentum swings, like Myles said, that's football. We came to play for a reason. We're just not out there playing for nothing; we're out there playing to win. And those guys weren't going to lay down. That's why they're here. And the reason why they won nine games this year. So from both sides, it's just who's going to play and who will make the mistakes and who is going to respond to those mistakes positively. 

 

Q. Chris, how much different does this all feel than your bowl game last year? Not just winning it, but kind of where the program is and where you feel like it's heading?

COACH PETERSEN: It's hard to lose your last one. There's no question about it. I think that's the thing that most of these guys that are back this year, they really felt it. It's a bad, bad feeling. And, you know, that's when you go into a playoff or a bowl game, I mean, that's -- you 

talk to the guys in FCS football, they're like don't let the bowl games go away. Because everybody's going to end up on one final bad note except for one team. So it's tremendous. It's awesome to send out the seniors with a win. And it helps, and you feel like you're going in the right direction. It does feel a heck of a lot different than it did last year. I will tell you, I looked at the stats sheet, and I couldn't be more pleased. Our three receivers go out as the top three receivers of this game. And it's awesome, and I think it's fitting.

 

Q. Is it any more different, Chris, this being such a young team and so much of the frustrations this season going up and down and not only with this win but the way you finished the regular season?

COACH PETERSEN: I don't think we can keep saying we're just a young team anymore. We've played a lot of football. You get through game five, six, seven, that's a lot of reps. So I don't think we're a young team anymore. We got better through the latter part of the season, and we're really proud.

 

Q. Myles, if you could take us through your 86-yard touchdown.

MYLES GASKIN: I was running to the right and kind of walled off and, shoot, got turned around. And, when I saw some space, I took off. And I saw their two safeties kind of blocking me. So I put on the jets and tried to get away. Scored! It was good. 

COACH PETERSEN: I'll describe it. This is how Myles runs. When he gets the ball, everything goes in slow motion. He hops and hides, and you're going, "Oh, are you going to go somewhere?" And then you look up and you've got five or six yards. Those legs, they have more in them than you think. They can go. That's what happens.

 

Q. As you prepare to leave the program, can you talk about the foundation you leave behind or foresee for the future and, Myles, your freshman year.

JAYDON MICKENS: You know, the foundation is something that it has to drive through the team. You know, it starts with the team first. And we had to get that chemistry. And Coach Pete -- we had to get the chemistry within the team before we could do anything. And we have to love each other first. Because there were a lot of guys that's not in this program right now, you know just, thinking about, you know, I'm trying to get in mind to go to the next level. But that's not what it's about. It's the guy next to you. 

And, if I try to instill anything, I try to instill playing for one another. And, when he came in, we were out there running. And then I see him shoot out of nowhere. I don't know the freshman yet. So this is my first time seeing the guy, and he's up there with the seniors and really pushing us. So we're going to push him back. Every day in practice, he comes up and tells me, "I'm going to make a big play, so you make yours." And we push each other to the limit. And we ultimately see that on the field. It comes out on the field every day.

MYLES GASKIN: Just like Jaydon said, how we push each other, that's the foundation we laid. After the game, I'll go up to him -- I'm going to miss that, summer conditioning, all types of conditioning. And just like he said, we have a foundation to push each other to be great. And there's always another step we can take. Coach Pete always instills that in us in every meeting, and there's always another step. And I can't wait to see who we are next year. 

 

Q. For Jaydon and Myles, can you talk about now the improvement and the progress that offense has made?

JAYDON MICKENS: From the offense, we have a true freshman quarterback who had spring ball under his belt, so I wouldn't say just out of high school. And we've got a young O-line that's never been in a collegiate game before. And these guys they came and they worked. They exceeded expectations in my eyes for that game because that's a Boise State team that just got off a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl win against a great Pac-12 opponent in Arizona. 

So these guys are wide-eyed. They're eager to play. The game is faster. And now they just slow down and let the game come to them. Same with me when I was younger. Once it slowed down for them, you know, thousand-yard rusher, true freshman year. And Jake Browning is one of the most accurate and poised and competitive guys I know. And I've seen that build from game one all the way until this game in the Cotton Bowl tonight. 

 

Q. Guys, first of all, congratulations on a great football game. And my question to you, Coach, is what did you see when you were looking at game film and analyzing and breaking down the defense that would open up lanes in your offensive line and could find the creases to pop him free and give him the game he's had? And then my question to you, Myles, is what do you attribute -- I always say there's three elements: There's an offensive line. And, when I was in high school and college, I always thought my running back will be successful. What elements do you think helped you produce the way you did today? 

COACH PETERSEN: I will start by saying we have to start by we have to be able to run the ball. If we have to throw it every down or that situation where we're behind the chains, that's not our game. We're at our best when we're running the ball. So we will try to create formations that we think gives us best leverages and best matchups, those kinds of things. And. If our O-line will keep guys covered up, Myles will find things and make things happen. And it's just a matter of time for that to happen. So, you know, Myles will be the first to tell you, he's going to start up there. And they will -- they will get a stalemate at a minimum. He will find some positive yards. 

MYLES GASKIN: Just like Coach said, it starts with the O-line. And then the receivers don't get a lot of love on blocks. But I will tell you, they block them, too, out there. Yeah. They had good ones out there today. And Jay was making good decisions, knowing when to pull it, when to hand it off. So I mean, I'll say I do other sports. The offense, the rest of the guys it's a team effort. All 11 guys need to be all in. Like Coach says, everybody says, we're all in. So it starts with just everybody else. And we have got to keep on pushing, keep on pushing. And that's where it gets you. 

 

Q. Chris, what do you think of Jaydon's performance? He seemed really comfortable from the first game.

COACH PETERSEN: You know, he's getting to that point, again, where we expect just a lot. And in some ways, we expect every ball to be hit when we have a chance. So, when he misses things, I can get really frustrated I think it's because our expectations -- we know what he can do, like Jaydon was saying. And so you look at his stats and say he played an efficient game, and he did. He threw the ball where it needed to be thrown. Really proud of that guy. But I think it's also a good thing that you can get irritated and get frustrated when they're not all complete, and sometimes we'll try to make something -- and even his running game. He's not a huge runner, but he can run effectively. And there was one time when in the red zone, he stepped and tried to make something happen with a throw and probably could have run for the first down. Those type of things, the split-second decisions. It's the hardest position to play in all sports. He's done a great job all year, and we're proud of him. 

 

Q. Coach, at the start of the season, deciding whether Myles was even going to play or not, it's been nice to see his progress from that first game with Boise State.

COACH PETERSEN: Yeah. He's been amazing since we got him. As Jaydon's alluded to, we put it in in practice. And you get yards in practice with tackling, and then have a scrimmage and do the exact same thing, get yards with more tackling. We think, well, it's a scrimmage. And then we played our first game and didn't have our stuff together like we needed to, so we didn't get a chance to get much done. But then the second and third game, we gave them a few more carries. And we give him the ball enough to keep the O-line coming, and he will make things happen. 

 

Q. Jaydon, what does it mean to be in the Heart of Dallas Bowl game from the events to the game itself? And what does it mean to go out on a winning note?

JAYDON MICKENS: It means a lot. The Heart of Dallas Bowl, they showed us so much respect and class throughout the week, going to Top Golf and even competing a little bit against Southern Miss, trying to see how far we could hit it without really talking much. But -- to seeing "Star Wars" and doing a lot of team bonding. And playing in this stadium is amazing because I didn't hear about this stadium until about three months ago. And I was watching "The Express" with Ernie Davis. And I'm like, oh, the Cotton Bowl, that seems scary! They are really pounding and hitting and everything like that. 

And, when I found out it was in the Cotton Bowl, I took much more respect to the stadium and the history, looked it up on Google. And, you know, it was exciting playing. When we came here on a visit to visit the field, my juices were going. I could see Ernie Davis out there running and getting his hamstring hit and keep running, you know, and never stop and persevere. And I felt that this team, not just myself, needed to do that in this game and to go out and win. You know, man! Psshh! Man, I just can't explain it. When I lost last year, it felt terrible, seniors crying. Still talk about it this day. Man, we lost that game! Man, we lost that game!  But now we have something to talk about at a 20-year reunion. 

 

Q. Coach, talking about earlier in the week, you and I spoke about the history of this building and the history of this game and what it is to have your name now associated and the Huskies associated with this building and the type game you played today. Talk a little bit about when you walked off the field. What did it feel like to you?

COACH PETERSEN: It was special. It was awesome. You look at these pictures that are in this room alone and you go in the concourse level and see all the players, I think when we came in here the other day, yesterday, the players got to see some of those guys. And it really kind of cemented how special this place is. 

I think anytime you get a chance to come to Texas in general, like I've been saying, it's such a football place. As a coach, as a player, you love places that love football. And they're passionate about it here. So to come here and play well and the hospitality that was extended to us, you know, we couldn't be more pleased and thank everybody for an awesome week.


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