Chris Petersen’s evaluation of Washington’s redshirt freshman quarterback began with a caveat.
The weather conditions during the Huskies’ 24-10 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night — wind, rain and more wind — were so poor that it’s difficult to judge first-time starter Troy Williams and his abilities as a passer based solely upon that game.
“You can’t see him with that wind,” he said. “That really handcuffed us hard. Like I said when we started this, playing against a good defense, first start, then you throw the wind in there. That’s tough on anybody.”
Regardless, it might have been Williams’ last chance to play an entire game this season. Petersen said he expects third-year sophomore Cyler Miles to return as Washington’s starting quarterback on Saturday at Colorado (10 a.m., Pac-12 Network).
Miles had started UW’s last six games before Saturday, but was limited in practice throughout the week after suffering from concussion-like symptoms during UW’s 45-20 loss at Oregon on Oct. 18.
Petersen said Miles was available to play, but that he didn’t think it would be fair to start him over Williams after Williams impressed during practice all week.
The game didn’t go quite as well. But despite Williams and the Huskies’ inability to consistently move the ball — he was 18 for 26 passing for 139 yards with two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and was sacked five times — Petersen said he thinks the freshman will be better for the experience.
“This game tape’s a little bit tough to analyze, these conditions,” Petersen said. “But I do think the experience he got out there, just being out there, I do think that helps him and helps us down the road, as well.”
But Miles is still the guy.
“Cyler should be back. We don’t want a guy to have to lose his position to an injury. That’s not the right thing,” Petersen said. “But I think it’s good to get Troy the reps he got (Saturday) in really tough conditions. I think he’ll feel better about himself and learn a lot as we move forward with that whole thing.”
Williams didn’t want to blame the weather for his inefficient numbers Saturday, saying that “you’re going to have to perform no matter what the circumstances are.”
“It was tough, but I think I could have done better,” Williams said. “I’ve got to take accountability of the offense. I’m the leader. So I’ve just got to go out there and play hard, but obviously it wasn’t good enough. So, just keep my head up and keep grinding.”
Miles might also have the benefit of more options beside him at running back. Each of UW’s top two backs, Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington, suited up for Saturday’s game but didn’t play because of injury.
Instead, junior linebacker Shaq Thompson took the bulk of the carries — 21 of them for 98 yards — playing exclusively running back for the first time in his career. And fifth-year senior Deontae Cooper drew praise from Petersen after he rushed 11 times for 70 yards.
“I’m proud of Shaq helping us out there,” Petersen said. “He’s a football player, as we know. He can play whatever you need him to play. Deontae Cooper ran hard and did a nice job. Proud of how he stepped up, as well.”
No matter who is the quarterback, Petersen said the Huskies have to focus on their top priority.
“We’ve just got to get better and more efficient on offense,” Petersen said. “That’s going to be the tremendous urgency around here. We’ve got to be able to take a step and play better offense.”