As is customary, Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for a few minutes on Thursday morning, his final media availability of the week before the team departs tomorrow for Eugene. Washington plays at Oregon at 5 p.m. Saturday (FOX Sports 1).
One injury note: Petersen said it is unlikely that fifth-year senior right tackle Ben Riva will play this week. He has battled a knee injury all season, returned to start against California last week, then hurt his ankle on the third play of the game.
(On this week being about them) “There’s not a whole lot to bring up about Oregon. I don’t need to say anything. They know. There really hasn’t been a ton of talk about that. It always comes back to us.”
(Even with the local guys, guys that have experienced it from a young age?) “I think every game means everything to all of us. We put our heart and soul in every week. It’s not like we’re going to prepare harder or less on any given week. And sometimes you can get your anxiety level all out of whack. It’s always about having the right mindset, the right energy level. It’ll be a great environment down there, what college football’s supposed to be all about. And I think it all focuses back to us executing."
(On having to rein them back in because they’ll be too emotional about it) “I don’t think. I think the coaches have done a good job. We’ve just been trying to get our stuff right.”
(On implementing your plan and the team approaching every week the same) “I just think everything is work in progress. Each week does it look a little bit more like we want it to? I think that’s a really hard thing to do. This is a long, grinding, grueling season. We’ve been at this for quite a while. We’re only halfway there. That’s why it keeps coming back to us, how we prepare. I know on Saturday night we’re going to have a good energy level; do we have it on Monday? Do we have it on Tuesday when all the really hard work’s done? So it feels the same from the practice to the games.”
(On defense improving over last month) “I just think that they maybe understand a little bit more. We’ve got a lot of banked reps in the vault, and they kind of understand a little bit more. I think each week I’m always curious to see ‘well, we’ll see how we hold up this week.’ This week is no different. With this offense, we’ll be challenged like we haven’t been challenged yet, so we’ll see.”
(On making defensive tweaks after Eastern Washington, and whether those apply to Oregon) “Well, I think it’s a different style. I mean, they’ve got a running quarterback and these guys run the ball. But they can throw it. Eastern just threw it and threw it and threw it. So I think it’s much different, which I think is much more challenging, actually, when you can have that balanced attack, and that’s the thing they’ve done so well, is if you’re able to take something away, they can go to some other stuff in a hurry. They just do a good job of sticking to their plan, and eventually they get things going, so we’ve just got to hang in there.”
(On practicing against up-tempo offense) “I think we see it every single day, since the start of spring ball. What we don’t see is the team that huddles up and takes their time. Again, that’s not going to be the factor. It’s, ‘can we defend them? Can we tackle their fast guys? Can we get pressure and actually tackle the quarterback?’ Those will be the questions that will be answered."
(Do you go 1s-on-1s at all in practice?) “Yeah, we do. And the more that our styles are similar, the better that is. So that helps us.”
(Any more or less of that this week?) “It’s been pretty standard. It’s kind of been the same each week. I think our scout teams do a good job, but we get enough 1s-on-1s. What’s nice is if you go 1s-on-1s or try to get some more experienced guys in there, you don’t have to hold up cards if we have similar type stuff. But everybody’s going to have wrinkles. It’s never ‘hey, this is really – we’re the same.’ Everybody’s got their different styles.”
(On Josh Perkins and what he was told about the ruling) “Second half we’ll get him. It’s an NCAA rule. If they review it and they say it’s targeting, then you can’t go back and overturn it later.”
(How hard is that for Perkins?) “We just count on him not being there the first half, then we get him in the second half and go from there. You feel bad for anybody who has to sit out. You work all year long and you only get so many opportunities, and to miss a half is hard.”
(Have you noticed defenses trying new things to defend Mariota. What’s been effective against him?) “There hasn’t been a lot that’s been effective. That’s the one thing that jumps out. When you’re going against really good players, great players, they’re going to make plays, even when you have things covered or defended. Good players make plays. I can’t tell you how many times you’ll have a defender there and a back makes you miss or pulls through and it’s a big play. That’s what happens a lot. He’s an accurate thrower, he’s elusive, he knows what they’re doing. That’s why a guy like that’s going to make plays. You’ve just got to line up and hopefully create something down the road.”
(On Oregon getting left tackle Jake Fisher back vs. UCLA) “I think when your lines play well, it’s always about making that quarterback successful. So it starts with those guys (up front).”
(On feeling like you had to play catch-up all offseason. Do you feel like you’re still in catch-up mode?) “I don’t look too far ahead, but if you’re going to talk about those things I think about next year in terms of all the stuff that we’ve talked (about), the guys we have back will have heard this a lot of times. Even just how we do the basic things. So we can go a lot faster. That’s the beauty of coaching, it really is. You’re just teaching and it’s a struggle in a lot of ways, but that’s what we like to do. It’s satisfying when the kids get it and make progress. There’s just no substitute for experience, and experience within what we’re doing, and that just comes with time and reps.”(You described the run game as “adequate” earlier this week. What do you need to see better there?) “I would like our O-line to keep guys covered up a little bit more and give our backs a chance to maybe break some arm tackles. Just take the next step there. Now, that’s going to be really hard — this is a very good defensive line. So all these things we’d like to see, the opponent changes and the strengths and weaknesses changes; it’s going to be much more of a challenge this week that it even was last week.”
(You handled the road test well last week, but this is a different environment) “Everything’s different about this week. That’s why we’ll just see. That’s why it’s just about us. We know we’ve got a big challenge, from the stadium, the crowd to everything. So we just got to handle our business.”
(Any better luck for Ben Riva this week?) “No. No better luck for Ben. Same ol’ luck he’s been having.”
(So he won’t play this weekend?) “I don’t think so.”
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple