Huskies Insider Blog

Quoting Chris Petersen on Dante Pettis’ punt return, Azeem Victor’s penalties and winning on the road

Huskies coach Chris Petersen talks Utah, penalties, playcalling and more

Washington football coach Chris Petersen talks with the media Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in Seattle.
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Washington football coach Chris Petersen talks with the media Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in Seattle.

As he always does on Monday afternoons during the season, Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for about 22 minutes to look back at UW’s victory at Utah, and ahead to next weekend’s game at California. He also talked about a bunch of other things. Here is everything he said:

(On dealing with the Utah environment) “The atmosphere was great. There was noise at times, I thought our guys handled it really well. I think slowly but surely on offense we’re handling that better. We check a lot of plays which makes it more difficult than just running what we see. And I thought they did a good job handling the noise but it’s always when those momentum swings come you feel it. It makes a difference but I thought our guys for the most part did a good job of handling it and like I told you before they’d much rather play in that than the other type of environment where there’s not a lot going on.”

(On Jake Browning’s interception) “He was all over it. He knew exactly what happened. Utah did a nice job of dropping guys into coverage and he was trying to fit the ball right into the seam and he came right off and said ‘I should have looked the safety harder off to fit it in there’. It came out of his hand really quick and he thought he was going to get it in there but he needed to move the safety. They got him.”

(How do you think he did with his decision-making overall?) “I thought he was good. When you talk about just decision-making with him, we’re talking about a lot of stuff. We’re talking about changing plays, then where he’s going with the ball and when to scramble and all those things. So I thought he was pretty good. Utah did a good job, a nice job of mixing coverages. You knew they would. UCLA threw for some yards and they weren’t going to come back and allow that to happen. Between us running the ball, which we did and tried to stay semi-balanced, it was OK.”

(Did their disguises throw him off at all?) “No. He knew exactly what was going on. They held their disguises, which they did before we played them - they would hold them until the ball was snapped and they’d get to where they need to be. I don’t think he was confused one time.”

(Care to comment on how well Nick Harris played?) “Nick battled. He did a good job. He’s still learning, he’s still learning our system. He’s still learning the game. He’ll get bigger and stronger as we go through the years. But he’s athletic and he competes hard. I think he’s also a smart guy that will learn the nuances. He’s still learning some of the basics of what we do. When he learns, when it’s in his blood more and he can not think so much and just react it’s going to be really, really good. Each week is better for him and to get all those significant reps is going to really help him and us down the road for sure.”

(Can you talk about the stresses it puts on the offensive line when you have to start rotating guys in like Nick Harris and Jesse Sosebee in that type of an environment?) “It’s something we deal with every year, moving guys around. I think coach Strausser always does a great job with cross-training guys. It’s one thing to play…we’ve had guys play guard and tackle, left and right side, which that feels different. So I think he does a good job preparing for that. I think you look back, way back when early in the season when we decided to play Nick (Harris), kind of preparing for a situation like this that hopefully you could get him reps as he goes and he builds his repertoire of how to play and then he gets in the game eight and he’s really ready to go in and compete and do a good job. That’s what every coach needs to do at every position. You just don’t have your starters. If you do, you’re just flat-out lucky. So that two-deep, and whatever your best two-deep is, whether it’s in the secondary because you’re cross-training corners and safeties and nickels and all those things…a lot of work going on behind the scenes that you don’t really see and might not even see on game day until you need it and away you go.”

(On Dante Pettis’ punt return) “Yeah. I thought he just made a heck of an individual effort. It was just interesting because their punter is really good and such a powerful leg. Not only does he kick it far; he gets that hang time that gives his guys a chance to cover, and that’s just such a unique combination. Just a powerful leg. We were getting nothing. I think Dante (Pettis) stepped out of three potential tackles, kind of ran through three different things. We talk about that a lot in the return game. Every now and again they;ll kick something that’s kind of a miss-hit and you catch it and there’s not a lot. You’re just kind of lucky. They have a wall set up or guys are kind of misplaced because the kick’s not good. But this kick was pretty good and I think there different tackles he stepped through and what a great time for that to happen.”

(What were the qualities you identified as a returner?) “I think one thing is - he surprised me as a returner because what I really look for is a guy that’s just really sure handed and a really good decision maker that we and I really trust. I think there’s just a lot more to it back there. I think it’s different than a kick returner. We have our own little special group back there as punt returners that it’s like only certain guys. There’s a lot going on, especially when you factor wind in. There was some wind on that field. It was a swirling wind. And the way he kicked the ball, it was a tough day in terms of that. So for him to come through like he did was really kind of cool.”

(How long have you been involved with coaching up punt returners?) “Yeah, since I’ve been a head coach. I needed to do one thing and nobody really knew much or paid much attention to like ‘just put the best athlete back there and hopefully he catches it.’ With time on my hands we’ve studied a little bit more and really it’s so much God given skill and natural ability, but with punt returner really the first thing is how natural they are at catching the ball. Like is there a naturalness to them? And he has that. And then just those smart, crafty type players that can make good decisions. And there’s a few technique things we work on every single day and then we let those guys go.”

(Did Azeem Victor get out of doing pushups for his personal foul penalty because of his player of the week recognition (laughs)?) “It’s already done. Already over and done.”

(On potential penalties on Dante Pettis’ punt return for a touchdown) “There were some close calls, but that’s the game. There’s a lot of close calls on about every play. To answer your question, no.”

(Is there anything a player can say to you to excuse a personal foul?) “Well, there are some personal fouls were it’s not always just black and white. We always pay attention to that. Usually it’s like ‘really? Did that need to happen?’ Usually, but not always. We pay attention. We’re never going to be just back and white. Sometimes there’s playing hard penalties. A guy gets a face mask, those things happen. Guys playing hard and you get your hand (on a face mask) is completely different than kind of losing our poise and crossing the line and those type of things. It’s hard stuff because we want those kids playing right there to the edge. They have to play this game emotional and it is emotional, but you can play too emotional for sure. I think that was a little bit of the case with our defense for a lot of the game. That wasn’t one of our better defense games. I think it was a big game, an important game to those guys and sometimes the energy level can be too high and trying too hard. We’ve talked about that before.”

(On Washington's defensive performance at Utah) “First of all, we need to give credit where credit is due. It’s not just out of the blue. That’s a good offensive line and that’s a very good running back. And so that combination is always going to get their yards. But again, I think we didn’t play as well as we could and have played. I thought we were out of our gaps sometimes. We missed some tackles we probably should make. A combination of those type of things.”

(Is Azeem getting better at playing right on the edge, but not being out of control?) “Yeah, I do think that, and that’s what I was going to say. It’s not something you can just talk about and they get. It’s like everything. You work through it and you’re trying to improve on that. Some guys, just how they’re wired, it’s going to be more challenging than others. So I do think he pays much closer attention to it, and I think we’re making progress, but those are critical situations. We kept drives alive two different times on two penalties like that that really shouldn’t happen, really can be back-breaking type penalties.”

(What's the coaching point on the roughing-the-passer penalty against Psalm Wooching?) “They’re always sensitive around the quarterback. There’s just no need for that. That one, they’re probably not going to call half the time, and then the other half they do call. So let’s not put it in their hands.”

(What do you look for in a kick returner?) “John Ross.”

(OK, so what do you like about John Ross?) “He’s got pretty good vision, and he’s got good courage and he’s fast. So those are always good combinations. The hard thing with that is, we just don’t get many chances. We just don’t. And when we do, you hope the guys up front give him a little space, and if they do that, he’s going to get something done. We just have not had many chances.”

(There has been talk about eliminating kickoffs ...) “I think that’s something that needs to continue to be looked at and studied. I’m curious after this year to see how many injuries showed up on that, and if the data is skewed that this really is a dangerous play, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to make this game safer. I’m always one of those guys to continually evolve and tweak and make things better.”

(Good to have just played on the road with another road game coming up? Or does that make it harder?) “I think it’s good we just went on the road in a tough environment, so it just feels a lot different playing at home than on the road. So to go right back into another (road) environment, I think that can be a positive. Cal is good at home, like most are. If we’ve got to go on the road, to go back to back I think is OK.”

(On what has clicked in recent weeks for Myles Gaskin) “I think opportunities and touches and a combination of the o-line doing a little better. Getting into a rhythm, so when the o-line is covering guys up, he’s going to find creases, and then when they don’t – that happened a couple times -- he’s getting positive things, and he can make a guy miss and run through a tackle. I think it always comes back to kind of that rhythm and that flow of being able to stay on the field and keep giving him the ball.

(On whether his vision and patience can be coached or if it's innate) “We’d love to say we do, but I think it’s very innate. I think that comes with vision. I think every back is a little bit different in their vision. Some, you can see their patience. Some other guys hit the hole quicker and that’s just their style. But I think one of the common themes on these really good backs is they all have really good vision. That hole changes very fast, and where it’s designed to hit half the time it’s not exactly there.”

(What's your evaluation of the offensive playcalling this year, and how has it improved/evolved since the first two years?) “I think Jonathan’s been excellent. Like I said last year, there’s always some guys who are going to take arrows, maybe undeservedly so. And I thought that last year, because we had so many young guys at so many critical positions, that at times we were explosive, and at times we were inconsistent. And so whether you’re pointing at the quarterback, or you’re pointing at the head coach – which that’s usually probably deserved – the coordinator … he’s a good coach. He’s a good playcaller. I think everybody’s seeing that now. But one guy can’t do it himself. It always comes back to the players, and our credit is to the players. I think he’d be the first to tell you that; those kids are executing at a high level. But he didn’t all of a sudden become a good playcaller.”

(How much does Browning’s evolution help the playcalling?) “I think it does. But, again, that goes back to that Jake can handle all those things. But credit to Jonathan to be able to teach him that and be bale to get all those things done. And if he couldn’t handle that (run-pass option check), we wouldn’t do all that stuff I still think we’d be successful in a different way, if our quarterbacks not able to get in and out of that stuff. Because I will tell you, it’s a lot. There’s certain things where it’s like, we push it right to the edge of how much we can do with these guys without slowing then down. And I think he’s got a good balance there of how much he gives him.”

(You mentioned last week that you expect Joe Mathis back at some point. Same deal with Jake Eldrenkamp?) “Yeah. Again, I think all the guys are week to week. And I mean that sincerely. Sometimes it’s three weeks, but it really is week to week. Sometimes it just depends — we’ve had guys who are practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday and it’s looking pretty good, and on Thursday it’s not looking quite as good. So it’s like, ‘Let’s sit him back.’ But that’s the nature of their deal right now.”

(Cal’s Sonny Dykes was upset at the scheduling vs. USC, which was coming off a bye on a short week for Cal. Does that seem like it was going too far?) “I think scheduling is really, really hard. But I also do think in general playing on a short week is hard, too. It’s a tough situation. I get it on both ends. It’s that Rubik’s cube trying to solve who gets a bye when and who doesn’t, who’s off. TV dictates so much — I mean, (the process) is crazy. But I think it’s really hard playing on a short week when both teams have it. You hate to do that to the kids. We had the Friday game (vs. Stanford) and you could feel that, and we have another one coming up down the road. You certainly feel that.”

(That’s brought up talk again of the nine-game conference schedule — do you think all conferences need uniformity with that?) “I think so. And I know everyone’s conference is different, but I think you just look at the NFL and it’s pretty cut and dry. There’s only 32 teams, but everybody’s doing the same thing. And so how can you make it as much the same thing? Well, let’s play the same amount of conference games, at least, so we’re on the same page there.”

(Is there any talk about stopping the short-week games?) “I haven’t even heard one peep out of that. TV drives so many things around here. I haven’t heard it.”

(Would you like to see schools and conferences be able to dictate game times more?) “We get how important TV is this day and age, but I think if you ask every coach, every player, every fan that really is going to games — we all prefer Saturday at 1 o’clock. I don’t think there’s much variation there. But that’s just not the world we live in. So it is what it is.”

(Have you seen the video of Marshawn Lynch riding around on the golf cart vs. UW? Note: Cal’s giving way a bobblehead of that this weekend) “I remember it way back when. I sure do. I think we got the guy hanging out with us (Jeff Tedford) that coached him up on how to drive a golf cart. So talk to him.”

(Has anyone approached you about Tedford and his future?) “This guy’s a big-time coach. He’s going to coach somewhere. There’s no question. We’re lucky to have him with us right now (as a consultant). I think it’s awesome. I think he’s enjoying his time here with us and, likewise, we all enjoy him. I really appreciate him. But he’s going to coach somewhere, for sure.”

(Any reason to think he won’t be with you through the season?) “Who knows? You never know how these things go. In everything we do, we just live week to week.”

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