Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters this afternoon for the final time before Washington’s 12:30 p.m. Saturday game at Utah. Here is what he said.
(Anything you need to be mindful of with the elevation change?) “My past experience is that it’s not even kind of bothered our team. Played in Wyoming I don’t know how many times and that didn’t bother us. The ball might sail more in the kicking game, I don’t know. But it was no factor. I’ve been to Utah a couple times and we’ve been to Wyoming a bunch and don’t think so.”
(What does Utah do so well in the kicking game and special teams?) “I think it’s important to ‘em. Everybody says it’s important to ‘em but I know it’s important to those guys. I always think those really good teams play really good defense and really good special teams and Coach Whittingham’s background and they’ve always done that.”
(Something you have to pay more attention to as you coach the returners?) “(Mitch Wishnowsky)’s special. Big-time leg and he really drives the ball. But punter, a little like the quarterback, you have to have everybody else doing their job. He puts it out there but they have really good coverage units and they cover well. They are physical guys and they cover. I always kind of think the special teams thing is an extension of defense and it looks good.”
(On playing in Rice-Eccles Stadium) “I think it’s a great college venue. They’re real excited about their football. I think one of the things that’s kind of unique about it is, it’s a pretty big city there with no pro football. And so that’s the team. And they’re all there, and they like their football there, and it’s a good environment to play college ball in.”
(On looking forward to playing in that kind of atmosphere) “Well, we know it’s going to be an energized atmosphere, for sure. And I think that’s awesome for our guys. I think all the kids, on both sides, they want to play in those type of situations. And so we look at it as a positive. You’ve got to be on your game to deal with that environment, but they like it, and they would choose that 100 times over than playing in a half-full stadium, for sure.”
(Are the guys who know Troy Williams well amped up to play against him?) “I think that this is a big game between two good football teams, and I really think that that’s what this is all about. I think our guys kind of understand that and have been preparing hard and ready to go.”
(On Dennis Erickson) “I just think he’s just a heck of a coach and he’s a football coach. He’s just done so many different things from being a head coach and winning national championships and turning programs around. Now he’s an assistant coach. I don’t think you see that a while bunch and that’s just a football guy. He just likes the game; he just likes to coach it. I have a lot of respect for - we all do - for him. He does it for the love of the game.”
(Jonathan Smith was with Erickson for a long time at Oregon State — did he borrow anything he brought here?) "I think everybody borrows things from guys that they were with. And, certainly, Dennis Erickson was an innovator way back when. I think he was the one-back guy when it all started way back when. Really unique. One of the pillars of college football in terms of changing the game."
(What makes Utah's pass defense so good?) "They're very athletic in the secondary, so those guys get all the credit, which is usually what happens. But I promise you — you don't have a big-time secondary without some guys putting heat on the passer. He can't hold it long. And they've always been physical up front; they're always going to rush the passer good. And when you can't do it and you've got to throw the ball a little bit early, they've got some guys back there that can make plays."
(Is this your biggest challenge, then, in terms of protecting the passer?) "Yeah. I think so. I think across the board, in all three phases, these guys have put it on tape that they're good. And it's not, 'They're kind of weak in this area, they're kind of strong in this area' — they're a good football team and their record proves it out."