Marcus Peters stood on the Washington Huskies’ sideline and fumed, still incredulous after being pulled from Saturday’s 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that prolonged an EWU drive.
He tossed his helmet to the ground. He removed his gloves and threw those, too.
It appears now as if the star cornerback won’t need those implements this week against Illinois, as The Seattle Times cited sources saying Monday that coach Chris Petersen has suspended Peters for Saturday’s game.
Asked during his Monday press conference about such discipline, Petersen briefly alluded to Saturday’s incident but declined to address Peters’ playing status.
“I told you after the game we’ve got to conduct ourselves the right way,” Petersen said. “We have discipline things, we keep those in-house and go from there.”
He was even more critical during his postgame interview.
Here’s Petersen on Saturday afternoon: “I’m not into stupid penalties. And it’s really easy for me; it’s not even an issue whether a guy is going to play or not. You don’t play how we want you to play? You’re not playing. It’s not even a decision for me. It’s easy.”
Peters, a fourth-year junior, is Washington’s best defensive back and a potential early pick in the 2015 NFL draft. If he doesn’t play against Illinois, the Huskies would be left with a defensive backfield void of players who started more than one game last season, which is a difficult situation to navigate for a unit that allowed EWU quarterback Vernon Adams to throw for 476 yards and seven touchdowns last week. Fifth-year senior Travell Dixon replaced Peters at cornerback, and freshmen Sidney Jones, Darren Gardenhire and Jermaine Kelly, a redshirt, all saw time at corner, too.
Peters spent Saturday afternoon jawing with EWU’s receivers, and after the Huskies secured a sack on a third-down play with a little more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter, forcing a fourth-and-long, Peters was penalized for getting in the face of an Eastern receiver.
Instead of punting, the Eagles were given a first down, and they scored a touchdown eight plays later. Peters did not return to the game, and he appeared animated on the sideline after being pulled.
Asked if any discipline stemming from the incident would be a result of the penalty or the tantrum afterward, Petersen replied: “I’m not addressing any of that right now. We’ll talk about that down the road.”
In broader terms, Petersen discussed the impact of benching a star player in an effort to teach a larger lesson, saying, “I think it helps the team. You might take a step back and think it really helps to do things the right way.”
In general, Petersen said, implementing his own process at a new program has provided unfamiliar frustration.
“It couldn’t be more different. It couldn’t be more night and day,” Petersen said. “I just shake my head at certain things, going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But that’s why I came here, for a new challenge, a new opportunity. It’s amazing how much you do take for granted ... just the things we’ve talked about: how we travel, even our protocol in the locker is confused a little bit. It’s just like, ‘How do we not get this?’ And all those little things add up in getting these guys in a groove — let alone playing football.”
Junior receiver Jaydon Mickens, one of four Huskies players made available to the media during Monday’s press luncheon, said there’s only one way to interpret the message sent by Petersen’s benching of Peters: There’s nobody bigger than the team.
“Leave all egos at the door when you come in here,” he said. “There’s no star players here. It doesn’t matter. Me, John Ross, and then those guys on defense, Brandon Beaver, we all understand that and come to practice with that same mentality.
“Like today, Monday, we had some guys that played a lot of plays, but they still wanted to get in there and get some reps, even though this is the get-your-body-back type of day. And that’s what we need on this team. Marcus will be right. He’ll get back right. It was just the competitive nature in him at the time. He’ll be fine.”
Peters also served a one-quarter suspension during last season’s Fight Hunger Bowl because of an academic issue.
Washington’s Sept. 20 game against Georgia State at Husky Stadium will kick off at 3 p.m. and air on the Pac-12 Network. … Petersen said he isn’t sure how often linebacker Shaq Thompson will be used at running back after his three-carry, 65-yard performance Saturday that featured a 57-yard touchdown run. “We need him to play really good on defense first and foremost, and we’ve got him on some special-teams things,” Petersen said. “We’re going to keep monitoring that as the season goes on. He’s productive as all get-out, for sure.” … Fourth-year junior tight end Joshua Perkins is “week to week” with an undisclosed injury, Petersen said, adding that he might be able to play against Illinois. Darrell Daniels and Michael Hartvigson are listed atop the depth chart at that position. … Freshman receiver Dante Pettis is now listed atop the depth chart at punt returner, ahead of Mickens. “I think Dante is going to be good back there, and I want to keep developing him there and make sure he’s doing something important,” Petersen said. “I think he can be a really good receiver, and we have to get him some more reps at that position, too, during the game.”