Petersen pleased with first half but wary

Even though Washington has a bye week, Huskies Head Coach Chris Petersen talked with the press Monday for over a half-hour. He talked about the win over Oregon, cleaning up mistakes, pushing on through the second half of the season and the bullseye focused squarely on the team's back.

Opening - “Pleased with how these guys have been playing. After six weeks they’ve done a great job of everything we’ve asked them to do, studying, getting better, practicing hard. We’re anxious for the second part of the season and I think that’s the big key. This is just one half of the season. Got a really good start, and now there’s no hiding from anybody. We’ll see if we can continue to play good football.”

Sad you don’t have to answer questions about the Oregon streak anymore? - “Yeah I really don’t feel all that sad. That’s a good thing to not have to talk about, certainly around here for sure.”

How much changes for you knowing you have a target on your back now? - “I don’t think it changes all that much. I don’t think our message changes. It really doesn’t matter what we’re doing. That’s really the truth of it. If we were doing really bad and everybody was saying a whole bunch about us as well as if we’re doing really well…I had a news guy tell me a long time ago when I first started being a head coach…’Listen. We really don’t care how you do. We just want it to be really good or really bad. Just don’t be in the middle.’ And I’m like what? He was so right. The message doesn’t change. We don’t worry about that. That really doesn’t have any affect on us. We just need to keep paying attention to what we’re doing right, what we’re not doing right. The places we go when we’re on the road might be a little more energized, a few more people might show up and that part of things. Playing away from home could be a little more difficult with noise and those things. And I hope likewise, when we’re at home it’s a little more difficult than it’s been, or it’s close to the Stanford energy.”

Why is it better to be really bad? - “So you guys have more to write about! I mean, are you kidding me? (laughter) Are you setting me up with that question? I didn’t get it either until I was like, no…we either need to jump on, jump off…have a lot to write about.”

On addressing penalties - “Penalties are hard. In some ways it’s a little like turnovers. Something you’re talking about all the time, trying to work on. You show it to the kids, no kidding. They know. They get it. Sometimes they are really hard to figure out. You get a facemask…guy is playing hard and grabs a guy’s facemask. Guys are coming back, trying to get to the quarterback and have no sideline awareness. Those things are really frustrating. We’ll set up some drills to go through that. And then you’ve got a block in the back on a punt return for a touchdown. So it’s never any one thing. It’s always a couple different things. Everybody gets it, but they don’t get it because you did it, and we have been so clean with penalties. We spend time and some things we’ll create drills for and hopefully guys will learn from and keep going.”

So drills to keep guys from going out of bounds? - “Yeah. That’s really a good question. We’ve already been talking about it, and we’re going to do some drills. We’re spending time on this and we’re going to set them near the sideline and we’re going to set them going into the end zone and set them at these places and start scrambling. We’re not sure what else to do. It comes up a couple times it seems like every year for us, and it’s really frustrating - especially when you’ve got a big play out of it. So we’ll keep paying attention to that.”

In regard to penalties, how did you think the offense dealt with the noise? - “I thought it was a lot better than it was the last time we were on the road for sure. Not that we didn’t spend as much time on it when we went to Arizona, we spent just as much time on it. But I think actually those guys making some errors the first time and really knowing what we’re talking about helped us a little bit. But I thought they handled it better. It is hard. I think even the first long pass that Jake threw we substituted a guy and there was just a little bit of confusion. To even get the other receiver to the other side was hard to do because they couldn’t hear a thing.”

Do you believe in the thought that running up the score exists in college football? - “I think when you see the score you might think that if you didn’t watch the game. All I can say is that I’m very aware of that. I was very aware of that late in the game. I don’t think most coaches are into that at all. We’ve all been on the other side and that’s not a fun position to be in. So you’re going hard, you’re going hard and there comes a point where we’re going to win the game. Whether it’s by one point or a bunch of points when you feel like, we’re going to win this game, that’s just what you’re trying to do. That’s how I think all the time. It’s not about…scoring as many points as you can, that’s never our thing.”

On outscoring teams 79-7 in the first quarter of games and if they emphasize hot starts - “I’m into that. No. Some of these things are just strange, whether it’s turnovers, whether it’s penalties, whether it’s starting fast. Those are all thins coaches are completely into and I think I told you the other day, we’ve actually spoken in a reverse fashion about starting fast. We’ve told them ‘hey, if we don’t start fast don’t worry about it; we’ll get into a rhythm,’ because they have started so fast every game that it’s like if it doesn’t ‘what’s going on?’ That’s the big thing for our guys. We have to plan on it not going on like this. It’s going to be down like it was in Arizona, that we might have to win another overtime game, that we might have to play four quarters where and catch up and all those things. That’s what we have to be ready to and expect that and not be panicked. I think if we’re not then I think that there’s, and I know it’s a fine line, but I think that there’s some entitlement there that it’s like ‘huh? Why is this happening to us?’ Why is this happening to us? Because everybody that we play has got good players and that type of mindset. And our guys have been really good about that and we talk to them about that and we’re prepared for as much as we can prepare them for in terms of the different things that can happen. But that’s what you worry about when you play a couple good games and for whatever reason they’re not close and then everybody tells you how great you are. Those games happen now na again and we’ve had two of them that have happened maybe different than everybody thought they would. But we have six games left and I think you just look at who’s beaten who. That’s what we’ve been talking about. We can kind of see what’s coming.”

How do you feel about developing depth? - “Well, I think it’s always interesting. I think every year when you put in the guys that are backups, you always get very frustrated right away. It’s just what it is. That’s why they’re not starters right now. They haven’t had the reps, they haven’t had the experience, all those type of things. We had some other guys in - not everybody - we had some other guys in in that game as well. I think it even our first defense that they were going right down the field and then we put some other guys in there and they’re going right down the field again and you’re kind of going ‘what’s going on here?’ You have to do it. It’s important to those guys. It’s important to your program, because eventually they’re going to be in there. Maybe not all together; I think when they all go in together that’s when it kind of gets frustrating at times for everybody; even them seeing the ball being moved down the field or you think you have a play on offense and you jump offsides or you get hit in the backfield. All those things are really, really frustrating. It seems like that’s par to the course of growing.”

On the conversation with Jake Browning about the taunting penalty - “There wasn’t really a lot of conversation.”

Did that surprise you? - “Yeah. I think it surprised him. Emotions go up, decision making goes down. I say that all the time. And it’s an emotional game and all those things. There’s not really a whole lot to talk about about that. Things happen on the field. He’s a great kid and all those type of things.”

Is it easy to believe when a kid like that says that sort of thing will never happen again? - “Yeah. Yeah, that’s what you think.”

On the defensive tackles - “Our d-tackles, our inside guys, yeah. Those are pretty stout guys, that when they play at a consistent level - we have such high expectations for those guys, sometimes when they’re getting double teamed, they’re getting blocked, we’re saying ‘what is going on?’ It’s two big guys on one guy. I think our defense starts with that d-line and we have some really good tacklers at linebacker and in the secondary. But those guys have to first and foremost do their job and cause some havoc up front. When they do it makes those other guys really able to play fast. For the most part they play really consistent up there. That’s a good place to start.”

How do you feel about Jake Browning getting Heisman talk? - “Well what I think about that is I think that thing always goes to, whatever that award is, I always think it goes to one of the best teams in the country to the guy that’s the marquee guy that’s playing the best. Our team is playing good and (Jake Browning) is playing at a high level. But do I think it’s… What was your question?”

Do you think the Heisman talk about Jake Browning is warranted? - “No, I think it’s so early. I think tis’ so early for all this stuff. You guys already know I’m going to say that. I just think that. I think there’s so much football left to be played for all this different stuff. I think the good thing is our team is playing well and he’s playing well without question. So those are good problems to have.”

How do you feel about the hype halfway through the season? - “I have no idea what that means. What I know is, and that’s legit, before that season we hadn’t done anything. We hadn’t played anybody for this year or anything. So that’s the stuff that’s like, I didn’t get that at all. But since then in these six games, our guys have played well. And they play hard and they execute at a good level. For people to say this is a good team, that’s completely legit up to this point for sure. Now rankings and all that, you know how much those are going to change from right now to six weeks from now. We kind of all know that. That’s why it’s like, just stay the course, one game at a time, and see what happens.”

What’s allowed you to have two games in a row where the momentum has essentially been on Washington’s side the whole time? - “I think the one thing is we’ve started fast and gotten a lead. So there has been a little bit of momentum coming back the other way. Before things have happened, to really change the momentum, for the most part we’ve had decent leads. You could feel the momentum back and forth at Arizona. There wasn’t a big lead there and we were behind; we were right from the start I think. When the games stays tight any big play is a momentum swing. When the game is not so tight, big plays are not necessarily that momentum swing. You have to score some points and so I think that’s probably the one reason that maybe we haven’t felt it quite as much. There’s always going to be those momentum swings and certainly in close games.”

On not giving up big plays - “That always helps. That always gives - you always feel a lot better about things when you feel like our defense can really, if you can get a lead, and your defense can continue play at a good level. I think we’re completely prepared, we will be prepared that we’re going to play in close, hard-fought games. That’s what we want to do and that’s what we want to pride ourselves on, that we can play in those games and grind it out when we have to. Because that’s coming.”

On Chico McClatcher’s injury status - “It’s no different than after the game. We think he’s going play. We’ll just see how it goes the next two weeks.”

Bye week coming at a good time or bad time? - “It’s both. We have a good rhythm right now, and those kids have got to have a really good rhythm of how it’s gone, so now we’re going to break all that. But I do think it’s also not bad after six games to be able to give them some time off and not have to think about football 24/7. And that’s probably as much as anything – I hope to not see some of these guys around here.”

What’s the plan for the bye week? - “We’re going to practice Wednesday and Sunday, and in between they’ll lift and do some running. Tons of time to watch tape and all those type of things, but hopefully they’re not around as much, and that’s kind of the purpose of that, to try to kind of free their mind a little bit, and hopefully really get going with school.”

Have you changed the way you approach bye weeks since your career started? - “I think this might be a little bit different, just in terms of … you’re always trying to favor the recruiting thing in and how does that work, first and foremost you’re thinking about your guys and what’s best for them, and then how do you maximize your recruiting time out away. I think it changes every year – when the bye falls, where you are, for sure. I think you’ve got to look at, where are we and what’s going to be best for these guys?”

Does Jake Browning remind you of anyone? - “Well, they’re all so unique. I don’t like to, I really don’t, because they are so unique. He’s a pocket passer, is what he is, and that’s primarily guys that we’ve had in the past. We really like a guy that can run. I think the bonus with Jake is, you don’t think of him as a runner, but he is really effective. He got hit one time on the blind side – I think he must have seen him or felt him for some reason, because the guy came from the blind side – didn’t sack him, he got out of there. I can’t remember if he threw it away or scrambled or whatever. He does a lot of that. He’s a sneaky, effective runner. He’s much more mobile and effective than I probably thought he was going to be, because you didn’t see a bunch of that on tape in high school. He didn’t need to. I think when you look at college football, all these quarterbacks that are really effective are guys that do run. And really, most of these guys are dual-threat guys, which he’s not, but he kind of is, because of what we ask him to do, and when we need him to get yards. So he’s kind of unique in his own way there. (But) we need a passer. We need a guy who … as much as we’d like to say, OK, he can run, he can do all these different runs and all that stuff – at the end of the day, we’re going to come back, we want to complete passes. And if the guy can’t run, that’s going to hurt us a little bit, but we need a guy that can complete passes.”

Surprised at all by what Jake Browning has done? - “I don’t know. I think our expectations for our guys, whether it’s the quarterback or whatever, we just feel like we know what it should look like, and that’s just, like, what we expect. And when it’s not right, we’re all like, what? Even he’ll look back, and I’ve just got to turn away sometimes, because I think when he doesn’t make a play … and it can be even our secondary, when they miss a tackle, or somebody pops free that’s got a lot of speed. It’s like, how does that happen?”

On UW’s secondary giving up a touchdown to an open receiver - “What happens is, when a quarterback extends the play, bad things happen for a defense, for sure. Bad things happen when Jake hangs on to the ball and creates a little time, and bad things happen to our guys. You lose them, because you’re not sure – the guy’s looking around, is he going to run, is he not, and then all of a sudden the guy slides over and then there he is standing five yards away. So we practice scrambling and throwing, we practice scrambling and trying to cover, and we need to do more of it.”

Pete Carroll has said nice things about your team. Do you talk to him during the season? - “No. I don’t think many coaches talk during the season. But those guys have been awesome to us. For us to go over there when they’re in their spring ball, when ours is over, they start a little bit usually earlier than us, and they’ve been tremendous. They’re great guys, and obviously the best in the business, and so our guys really like to go over there.”

Is there anything about Carroll and his staff that you try to implement? - “I think you just break it down. What they do on defense is unique and I think what we do on defense is unique, and I think what we do on defense is unique. In a lot of ways they keep it very simple and just play good and their guys play fast and know what they’re doing. I think they’ve been creative with Russell Wilson. Different than a lot of the pro teams do. I think they’re unique there. And certainly Pete Carroll, just his philosophy on what their culture is all about and how he thinks is different than most. So I’ve really enjoyed hearing those messages and try to incorporate certain things that you think fits the things you do.”

On the reason for UW’s drought without an all-league offensive lineman - “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that in the past. I really don’t. I’ve heard that before and I’m like, what? I don’t get that. I just don’t know what the reasons are. I know this: we have a really good offensive line coach that develops guys as good as anyone I’ve been around. And when we were over at Boise and so many of these guys were recruited by nobody, and a lot of these guys have played in the NFL. So I know this: we’re going to have all-league linemen, and we’re going to have guys playing in the NFL, for sure.”

On wide receivers’ improvement - “Couple things. It’s nice having John Ross back. Let’s not underestimate that. And I think Dante Pettis has done a really nice job of taking the next step with his game. I think some of those other guys — Andre Baccellia, Quinten Pounds — who didn’t play last year are getting it figured out. Aaron Fuller is a true freshman and doing a good job. And I do think Bush Hamdan coaches those guys in an awesome way. I really do. They know what they’re doing, for the most part, and I think it’s just a combination of a lot of things. And then Jake knows — he’s doing a better job with where to go with the ball and he’s throwing the ball a little more accurate. And I think all those just kind of add up that they’re working well together.”

On UW defense not blitzing much — have you been able to use that as an advantage? - “I think the whole thing is to have some unpredictability on both sides. I think we’re going to always need to blitz, and I think that helps us. Now, it’s that cat-and-mouse game of how much do we blitz? Do we need to blitz? It’s always nice to have more guys covering when you can get to the quarterback with less guys. … When those linemen are pushing it, we don’t need to bring extra guys. (But) even if we don’t need to, we may still do that just to give different looks and different pressures and have (the opposing offense) trying to figure different things out so they can’t completely dial us up. I think we’re always doing that on all sides of the ball.”

With your base four pass-rushers, has that shown up to be the great equalizer? - “I think at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter — if you don’t have players, it doesn’t matter, you know. You could be the greatest coach ever and if you don’t have good players to go with that, you’re going to get exposed. It’s like, what are these guys doing? Well, they’re getting beat pretty bad — or this guy’s dominating this guy. So when you have good players and couple them with good coaches, pretty good things can happen. And we have good players and I think we have good coaches, too. I think those guys have done a great job, and in such a unique way. I think they’ve simplified things on all three phases for our guys so they can play fast and so they understand, but yet there’s enough there that we’re not completely predictable. Our coaches would be the first to tell you — our hats’ off to the players. Those guys are good players and they play hard.”

On Browning and the Heisman — is there a point in the season when you think it would be appropriate to promote one of your guys for that? - “I think this: I don’t think there’s any promoting that even kind of needs to go on anywhere. I think if you’re doing that, we’re living in 20 years ago. You guys come to us with stats and go, ‘Did you know that on third down and between 12 and 13 (yards) he’s completely 68 percent of his passes against the blitz?’ That’s really how it is. The old days, when you had to send stuff out (to the media) and you’d go, ‘Oh, did you know this guy’s stats were so good?’ That’s so long and over. There’s no promoting that at all. You guys promote it. The second thing I think about that is, I think it’s weird when all these things — awards, medals, trophies — are awarded before the season’s done. Let everybody play. Let ‘em play the bowl games. Let’s just get through that. And why we don’t do that for everything, I don’t know. I guess it’s time for basketball (by then), I guess. I mean, when it’s done early and talking about it Game 6 or even Game 11 — and then you see a guy go to a bowl game and, ‘Oh they really shut him down’ or … That’s my two cents.”

You think we shouldn’t vote for Heisman until the bowls are over? - “Let everybody play.”

The last time UW beat Oregon in Autzen the players celebrated on the “O” and some thought it was excessive. By contrast, your team went over and did the fight song with the band and then walked to the locker room. Was that by design? Do you talk a lot to your players about how you’re going to conduct yourselves? - “We talk about how to conduct ourselves a lot. The specifics, you know, it just depends on the situation. I was proud of our guys. I didn’t say anything — and I purposely didn’t say anything because I wanted to see if they would just do this thing (the right way). And I knew they would — I would’ve been really surprised had they just not walked across the field, shook their hands and just act like they know how to win and move on.”

From Bob Rondeau (joking): “Chris, I talked to the Heart of Dallas Bowl this morning and they said they would love to have you back if you wanted to accept right away. How reflective is it that the notion of bowl eligibility (now) isn’t even on anybody’s radar screen this year? - “I really hadn’t even thought of that, to tell you the truth, until you brought that up. It was appropriate last year because we were in such a situation where first and foremost everybody was trying to get to a bowl, keep playing and all those things. And we got ourselves in a situation where we had to win our last three to get that done — that was a real important thing to us last year at that time. So each year’s a little bit different. I go back to that time, I think it was such an important time — I told our team the other day one of my favorite times with these guys was that period, the urgency that they had for everything that they did to practice and play the games when it was up and down. We played some really good teams that were good teams and we were right there; we just couldn’t execute well enough. And for those guys to not ever point fingers, to keep fighting and then to finish like we did — that was a good situation. That was fun to be part of coaching those guys. And the nice thing is they’ve picked up where they left off and just kept progressing. But I think that was an important time for us. And I think those kids feel that and know that. I brought that up yesterday and I bring that up all the time — that’s what it needs to be like all the time, no matter what our record is. It needs to feel like that.”


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