Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for about 21 minutes earlier this afternoon. You can read below what he said about his decision to start Cyler Miles at quarterback, his thoughts on the Hawaii game and a few thoughts looking ahead to Saturday's game against Eastern Washington.
A couple quick notes: Petersen said Jaydon Mickens will still return punts, though freshman receiver Dante Pettis will be in the mix, too. And Coleman Shelton will start again at right tackle in place of Ben Riva, who Petersen said "was ready to go" against Hawaii but is still working through "an ailment."
Petersen also said he thought they came out of the Hawaii game OK from a health perspective, with some bumps and bruises but without any long-term injuries.
(Opening) “After looking at the tape, really pleased with how hard our guys played. We obviously didn’t execute in certain phases like we’d hoped to. My hat’s off to Hawaii. Those guys played hard, they played physical like I knew they would. I think one of the things I’m most pleased about with this team is the fact that I think we stayed together. I think it was frustrating for them and for all of us kind of how the game started. Until the final whistle went off, that game was in jeopardy and the kids really hung together. There was no complaining, there was no pointing fingers, and they really battled. That was pleasing to see.
“That’s how this season’s going to be. There will be a lot of hard-fought games. Our mission in life is to improve a little bit each week.”
(On Jeff Lindquist’s game after watching the film) “I thought he was really good in the first half and sporadic in the second half. I think he knows and wishes he had a few things back. It’s a little bit hard sometimes, they’re blitzing you - they do a good job with their blitz package. We were picking some things up, certain things get pushed into his face, harder to see. And then you start pressing a little bit. But I was pleased with him going out there, had no turnovers - threw a couple nice balls, threw a beautiful touchdown. Made a huge play hustling around like Jeff does recovering the fumble. That could have been the game right there. He’s a great kid. He’s all in, he’s all about the Huskies. He’s going to do whatever he can do to help us win.”
(Any decisions on a QB for Saturday?) “We’re going to give Cyler (Miles) a chance to start and get him back in the mix and see what he can do.”
(How much of that is based on Saturday’s game and how Jeff played and how much of that is based on what you’ve seen from Cyler so far?) “It’s a little bit of both. I told our guys, and I told ‘em again today; I hope our depth chart is shaken up a little bit each week. That’s my job as the head coach is to push our assistants to really keep their eyes wide open at practice and then certainly in the games. If guys are producing and playing well, they should play more. And if certain guys aren’t…whatever position - then other guys should maybe get an opportunity to go. Certain guys don’t like their roles and I can appreciate that, but if they want to change it they’ve got to change it in a certain way. Most guys end up pouting and going a different direction. We tell them, your role is definitely going to change if you do that.
“I’m not even kind of alluding to Jeff on that. He’s been awesome. He’s a great kid. I love being around him and he does everything he can do for this team.”
(What accounted for the improvement defensively in the second half?) “I think it was more of our guys just settled in. We have a great clip how we started the game…that first kickoff our guys were flying. It was a physical, physical play. But we kind of took ourselves out of some lanes being physical like that. The idea is not to be super-physical when that guy’s trying to block you, it’s to get off that block and be physical on the guy carrying the ball. So the next time we kick off there was a few little adjustments and the kids kind of settled in and the ball’s pinned in around the 15-yard line, physical play. I equate that even to defense. We were kind of on our heels, had to get into a rhythm a little bit. I thought they did a good job because Hawaii strength is, they’re physical up front. They’ve got the running back and he’s physical. He’s a hard guy to bring down. I think our guys on defense played well once we settled down, kind of a bend-but-don’t-break, played great in the red zone, made ‘em kick field goals. They missed one, which was the difference in the game. I think they got one touchdown when they were in the red zone, I think they were there five times and got one. They played good D when they needed to play it.”
(Did Hawaii do anything unexpected?) “Yes and no. We had no idea what they were going to do. They went completely spread, no huddle, which wasn’t what they had done in the past. Now we knew some of that was coming but we didn’t have anything on tape to say, this is what it is. That next game they’ll play, they’ll have some wrinkles but you see what they are. They had the same issue with us, so it’s not just one way.”
(What did you see in the running game and the OL and how they interacted?) “At times they were very good. The nature of the Hawaii defense, constant movement, constant pressure, blowing up gaps there’s going to be some plays that can be negative at times, those negative plays. So we had some of that. We just have to get more consistent. There was some really good football out there, it just wasn’t consistent enough. Whether it’s pass protection, throwing the ball. We had some guys open, we just weren’t consistent, consistent enough running the ball in there. I thought the o-line did a nice job of being physical and they were trying to blow up gaps but they picked it up. That’s our thing is we’ve got to be more consistent.”
(Other tight competition battles where we might see changes before Saturday) “I think it’s not necessarily changes but guys getting an opportunity to get a few more reps. I think about our linebackers right now, we’ve got some very good linebackers and there’s a guy or two that didn’t play, played on some special teams that should get some reps at linebacker. That’s a competitive situation and that’s a good problem for a coach to have. I really mean that; that’s a problem. You’re trying to get these guys in there and let ‘em see what they can do, see if they deserve and earn more reps.
“I think the running back position is continually fluid, seeing who can earn and deserve more reps there. The secondary, we’ve still got some young guys we want to get in there. We wanted to play more guys there, we just didn’t get ‘em in, kind of the way the game went. I think you can go across the board.”
(On rotating a lot of defensive linemen) "That's our style. We got to play guys on defense. I think you expend and burn a lot more energy on defense than I think you do on offense - and in the lines especially. Coming off the ball and chasing the ball sideline to sideline. That's very hard to do. You get some of those kids playing in the high 70s to 80s snaps which I think happened. I think Hau'oli (Kikaha) played quite a few snaps. Danny Shelton played quite a few snaps. Probably more than he ever played and he did a heckuva job. He was really good. He had a couple of other guys, a couple of those backers were in the high 80s. Shaq played a lot. And I'm not even talking about special team reps where a lot of those linebackers play and some of those defensive linemen play on those things as well."
(On Miles and what he gives them that’s different from other two) "We'll find out. That's why we got to put him in there. I don't really know. I think he commands the field pretty well. I think he has a really good feel for what's going on. It always comes down - to me - to decision-making and accuracy. I hope that he takes a good step forward in that department for us."
(On possibly approaching game plan different with Miles) "I think those guys are all pretty similar. I think they can all run the ball themselves. Throwing-wise I think they're all in the same ballpark. Again, I just think we need to hopefully be more efficient there."
(On if Miles was the No. 1 QB out of fall camp) "I never even really looked at it liked that and I don't know if Jonathan Smith did either because we just knew he wasn't going to play. We tried to get everybody as many equal reps to see how it shook down. And then we really said we'd take one game at a time. We just kind of see how it went from there. And I think at this point we just want to see what he can do and go from there.
(On No. 2 QB) "I think at this point still Jeff is right there. Troy (Williams) is going to keep battling and that's kind of what I was eluding to. He practices well. It just doesn't happen in one day or one week. But if he practices at a high level and he's the next guy in, we'll see how the quarterback situation goes. He may get his opportunity sooner than later. We'll just have to see."
(On where Miles is at in terms of understanding the playbook) "I think he's close. We were out there today practicing. We were doing something and we gave him a signal. The whole offense knew it. We were going fast. The whole offense knew it and he was like, what is that? You know and everybody is like what is that? There are certain things that we're still getting him up to speed with."
(On how Hawaii game might pay dividends later) "I hope it does. Like I said when I opened up my comments, I was pleased with how those guys hung together. I really was. And I know how our schedule goes. I just know there's going to be a lot of tight games and they're going to come down the wire. And we just got to keep fighting and staying together. I think that's a huge part of what a successful team does. I think there was a lot - on the road, it's all for real, long trip (and) the weather was a little bit different than what we've been through. I thought all of those things they handled well. Then the game didn't go exactly like we had hoped. There wasn't any breathing room whatsoever and they hung in there and kept swinging."
(On game affecting staff decisions) "I think we're still learning. I think our staff did a good job. I think so often the kids feed off of our coaches. And our coaches were very calm. I don't think you could really tell if we were down or if we were up by a lot or by a little. I think the kids fed off of them. But really, I know I keep coming back to this and it sounds corny, it really is just a process. I don't know what the kids were expecting really from me coming into the meeting, but its like it's time to tell the truth. We tell the truth on Mondays. This is how we saw it. Here's some good things we did. Here's some things that we got some holes and we got to improve upon. It's just a process. It's not, ok that one. It's what did we learn and how do we get better from it. I think that might be a little bit different mindset than what some of these guys were thinking. It's not necessarily a negative thing. Sometimes it can kind of come of across like well hey I was awesome. The name of the game is to win the game. And we did that. That's the only stat that really matters. We throw up some other stats, but 1 or 30 it doesn't matter. And everybody is like, well you didn't win by enough. No. The game, the objective is just to win. Win by a point. And if you're playing close to your potential awesome. If you're not playing at your best and close to your potential, ok this is what we got to fix. So to play your best and to your potential is always very hard to do, but that's where our mind is."
(Is Ben Riva back on Saturday?) “So Ben was ready to go for the most part. He practiced some. He’s kind of working through a little ailment. He could have played. Coleman (Shelton) played well. He’ll start again and we’ll just go from there.”
(Problems at punt returner? Jaydon Mickens still back there?) “So Jaydon will be back there. We’re going to get Dante Pettis in the mix as well. He’s done a nice job. It’s tough to have a brand new punt returner when you probably have the most difficult punter in the country. He’s tough. He can roll to his left, you saw it, he rolls to his right. I think last year he rolled the majority to his right. In the game he rolled to his left the majority of the time but maybe twice. And then he kicks a knuckler to go with it, and that’s hard. So you don’t know if he’s going to kick it at you, across the field, roll with it. And so they had a lot on their plate. Do we need to do a better job of fielding the ball when we have an opportunity? Absolutely. And that’s on me to get those guys more comfortable back there, without a doubt. I think he’s probably the toughest guy to go against that I’ve seen, that I can remember.”
(On not getting much push on first down) “I think Hawaii did a better job on first down and probably second down than we did. Their offense, our offense. They kept themselves in those third-and-manageables. I just thought Hawaii did a better job on third down, in general, than us. Even when they got themselves in longer yard situations, they made a couple nice plays. Right out of the gate, they threw a little spread out-route, Budda (Baker) was right there. That’s good football by them. It was a good throw and catch. They got another one that was on our sideline late in the game on Marcus Peters, and again, a really good route and a really good throw. You kind of tip your hat to those guys on that. I didn’t see us make enough plays like that where we were really executing, but I do think it comes back to that first and second down, where we keep ourselves out of those longer situations. Those guys were always, it seemed like to me, third and short, and got that big back to get that first down for you.”
(Thoughts on secondary giving cushion?) “I think there was some of that. I think our guys settled down. I think the good thing about our secondary was we didn’t give any big plays up. No one got behind us. Now, could we play a little tighter so we’re not giving up some of the easy (passes)? Yeah, there’s a fine balance there. Completely different challenge this week. These guys are very, very good, I think, Eastern Washington. They can throw it. They can throw it really, really well. They’ve got receivers that are confident. The quarterback is as good and as confident as anybody that’s out there right now. He’s a really, really good player. I think he was 28-for-31 in his last game. We couldn’t get that done on air. That’s impressive. Totally, totally different type challenge.”
(On special teams penalties and that being first-time confusion) “A little bit. We had two penalties on special teams, one we knew we were going to take. We got out there a little bit late. What happened was we got a guy hurt, didn’t get reported to us. So usually when that happens it shows up on special teams. We know on offense, we did get it reported. Then we didn’t alert the guy that was supposed to go out there. We got it late. When we were on the field, (we weren’t going to) use a timeout then and there, so we took the penalty there. So, a little bit. I actually thought for the first game it was fairly clean. No turnovers, very few penalties, both sides. I thought that was one of the cleaner first games you’ll see in those type of things.”
(More on Cyler Miles) “I think he’s got a pretty good football IQ. We’ll see how this thing goes, but him not being here in the spring and so many things that we’ve changed, he can recall it real rapidly and say ‘oh yeah, we ran that against whoever, Oregon State. This was a third-down route for us.’ So he can put things together pretty quickly, football-wise. There’s a lot of that going on. So for him to get no reps in spring and just get fall with us, he’s very much in tune, as much as other quarterbacks are, and now we get him more reps and see what can happen.”
(Health-wise?) “I think we came out pretty good. You’re always going to have bumps and bruises. But at this point, we don’t have anybody long term or anything like that. I think that’s one thing we’ve been fairly lucky about in fall camp. We’ve had a few things, but nothing … knock on wood. Long season. But right now, we’re OK.”
(On young guys like Budda Baker, Jermaine Kelly, Keishawn Bierria, Elijah Qualls) “I think all those guys you mentioned did a nice job. Start with Budda, I thought Budda did a nice job. Budda plays fast. I could see him kind of picking up confidence as the game went on. He’s had our stuff for a month, as well. Really, really pleased with him. I thought Jermaine Kelly did well. He redshirted last year. Redshirt and playing are completely different. He and Budda are a lot alike in terms of that, first-time action. Keishawn Bierria, he’s been really good since we’ve been here. We’ve known he’s going to be a good player and he’s played well. I thought Elijah Qualls the last couple weeks has really stepped up his game, penetrating on a few plays. And we’ve got a couple other true freshmen we are going to get in there. You’re going to start seeing and hearing more about those guys.”
(And Lavon Coleman?) “I thought Lavon ran hard. I thought he gained some good, valuable experience. The whole thing from here on out is just going to be can we get a little bit better and become more consistent.”
(On last drive) “We were trying to milk clock, really down to the very end, run as much clock as we could. Then I felt like the guys were kind of coming after them pretty good, a little bit more urgency, a little bit more attention to detail, those type of things. I think that last drive, between Lavon running hard and the o-line covering guys up, I think if we can do that and not get hit in the backfield like you were alluding to, I think we can do some things running the ball.”
(More on Budda Baker and how he subbed him) “It was all part of the plan. We didn’t take him out because … like I said, that first one, he was right there. He was there. He’s going to be just fine. He’s going to be more than just fine. I was pleased with him, first time on that type of stage and he played fast and he’s got good technique. Get more familiar with all his calls and what these routes look like and the speed of the game.”
(Opinion change after watching film?) “I thought the game was maybe a little more physical. I thought our guys maybe played a little bit harder than I thought they did. I think it comes down the execution. We need to be cleaner on our execution. It wasn’t a lack of not playing hard. Our defense took a lot of snaps. And how we want them to play hard – we can talk about it all we want. Everybody thinks they play hard and I think there’s a fine line between playing at that next level in terms of effort … We didn’t always do that but for the most part we did, and I think if we get more consistent there, it’ll help us.