UW coach Chris Petersen addressed the media for his second Monday press conference of the regular season as the team prepares to play Montana in its home opener Saturday:
“It was really good tape to watch. I think we all had it out on the plane before we even took off (Friday night). It was good to see some young guys play; it was good to see some old guys play. Some guys played really well. On defense, I thought Ben Burr-Kirven played really well. Myles Bryant played really well. Greg Gaines played really well. And obviously Byron Murphy did a nice job. And on offense, I thought Jake Browning, he did a nice job standing in there, throwing some really accurate passes. Myles Gaskin was up to his old tricks, and we've got to get him the ball as much as we can. Drew Sample had a nice game not only catching the ball but run-blocking as well. Coleman Shelton was pretty good inside.
“So it was really good to watch those guys go. I think the big thing was we got off to a slow start on offense, those first two drives. And then when they're plan's going to be to just milk the clock and hold the ball — it's a decent strategy when you're starting slow. We had the ball I think 23 plays in the first half. And we had the ball most of the fourth quarter and still lost the time of possession game something like 21 (minutes) to 38. That's fine. We'll win close, low-scoring games, but from our side of it we've got to be more efficient on offense — start faster.
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“But it was good. Our special teams did a great job. I thought Tristan (Vizcaino) was (good). A.J. Carty, our snapper, he's a — people underestimate that — he's a really accurate, good snapper on field goals and punts. And Tristan did a nice job making three field goals, and I thought Joel (Whitford) did a nice job for his first time out. And our coverage units were pretty solid. So there was some good football there. We've still got a ton to clean up. We've got to start faster, we've got to tackle better, but I think it was a good start out of the gate.”
How did Browning make it out of the game health-wise after that big first-half sack?
“That was a tough hit. Those are like the worst kind. You don't want to see those — he did not see that one coming. He's fine, though. First thing he said to me (was): 'I was up in two seconds.' So he's a tough guy. You're trying to minimize any hits on him, but certainly those.”
Was that about as big of a hit as you've seen him take?
“You know, sometimes you take some subtle hits that hurt even worse than that. He's been hit in three years. He's done a pretty good job. We haven't had too many blindside hits like that, but he's had a couple. That's going to happen at that position.”
On early struggles for the run game:
“It's a good question. I think everybody's always trying to figure those things out. And it's probably playing 'live' for the first time. You get a little bit different line games than you (expected). We knew there would be some adjustments, and we made some adjustments at halftime, strategy-wise as well. But that first game you know they're going to come out (differently). But the problem was us not doing anything those first two series. Then you get the ball for 23 snaps (in the first half), it's hard to adjust and settled in when you have it that little. So hopefully we can get things going faster this week.”
Tempo helped in second half — do more of that?
“I always say, we're going to do whatever we need to move the ball — if that means throw it more, run it more, slow it down. We just do what we feel like we need to do.”
Have you won before with that kind of discrepancy in time of possession?
“I can't remember. We don't get hung up on the time of possession very much. I don't think that's a real big indicator of winning and losing. But when it is that much, it can be frustrating. Portland State did that to us last year to us a little bit. They tried to slow it way down and milk the clock down, make the game quicker, shorter, closer and then who knows what happens. When that happens, you've just got to be efficient on offense. You've got to make your drives count. And getting off to a slow start never helps things.”
On the defensive line rotation — had Shane Bowman and Jared Pulu in together during one goal-line play:
“We probably weren't in goal-line defense (for that play), but those guys just rotate guys and feel like they've got do to what they've got to do. Our defense played well except for the first drive. That was kind of a slow start on us too, just kind of getting used to the speed of the game. And those guys (from Rutgers) came out (fast) and these are real, live reps now. But other than that, I thought they did a pretty good job.”
Hoped for more plays for Salvon Ahmed?
“Salvon was probably the one guy that jumps out to me that we probably had more plans (for) than two or three plays, whatever it was. It was just unfortunate. He gets the ball (once) and it was no fault of his own. They just weren't blocked right. But other than that, I think a lot of guys (55) got in, and we want to play as many guys as we can, for sure.”
On the pass protection from the offensive line:
“He got hit a couple times. The one time was more of a protection thing on us as coaches and getting Jake dialed into that. It wasn’t an assignment bust or anything like that. On that nice throw to Myles Gaskin for the touchdown, he got hit on that one as well. A guy just kind of came off late. Those are the throws that are really, really impressive to me. You’re going to take some of those. You’re going to get hit and you’ve got to stand in there. That ball was about as accurate as you can possibly throw a ball, and Myles made a great catch. The coverage was really pretty good. And for a running back to make a catch over his outside shoulder on that side of the end zone and for Jake to put it there getting hit - that was as impressive a play as I’ve seen in a while. That’s real football. That’s how it’s going to go sometimes. I think the pass protection was, again seeing that for the first time and seeing a different style of rushers - that 58 was a good pass rusher. He was long and quick. That was a good guy to go against and got to wake up a little bit.”
I know you don’t like to see quarterbacks get hit like that… :
“I do. Just not ours.”
What would have done differently on that play to prevent that sack of Browning?
“We were in a certain type of protection and the back’s not in protection depending on the looks, so you have to slide the protection one way or you’re going to have to throw hot off a guy. And so we missed that one.”
Drew Sample had a play where he looked to elude a guy instead of trying to go at him. Would you rather see him go right at him and try and run him over?
“He kind of got caught in-between trying to cut back or put your pads down. I’d like to try and see all our guys make guys miss. The thing is, you get space - make guys miss. Certain guys are better than that, and I do think when you’ve got a lot of space you can stick your foot in the ground and cut back and try and make them make that hard open-field tackle. But you know - Drew hadn’t had the ball a whole bunch in his hands in space like that. Jake and he operated that scramble drill when Jake got out of the pocket, awesome. And he kind of cut back there. It was good to see Drew get the ball. I think he can be a weapon.”
What did you think of the team’s overall physicality?
“Our guys play hard. There were some physical plays out there for sure. I don’t want to minimize that. I thought their backs were big and physical. They fell forward more than you’d like them to see. You’d like to see the piles going the other way. And I think that’ll come with more ball.”
What was the strategy for the kickoffs keeping it away from Janarion Grant, of Rutgers?
“If we kick if out of the end zone, we’d love to do that every time. That would save us a lot of practice time not having to work on kickoff. But that’s easier said than done. When you have an elite returner back there, we’re going to mix things up. It’s just a matter of time before that guy is going to do something. You can tell, that guy has - in my opinion - a great knack for, whether it’s punt returning or kickoff returning - he’s very patient. When he sees a crease he’s got that knack to find the crease. And then he’s a strong runner. We’re going to play good enough defense, we didn’t want him to pop something and get back in the game. It’s kind of what we were thinking.”
If a kicker can guarantee you touchbacks 75-80 percent of the time, is that worth a scholarship by itself?
“Yeah. I think so. There’s not many guys that can do it that are out there. Sometimes the guys at altitude get a little bit of an advantage there but you play here and everywhere else in the country it’s hard to get a guy that can consistently do that. But that’s a nice weapon, you don’t have to worry about that.”
Did you notice late that they moved (Janarion) Grant up?
“The last time they switched sides and moved him up.”
Is that something you can realistically notice?
“We can see that. And we kicked it to him and he kind of slithered and did his thing. We got him down but probably too much yards than we’d like.”
What did you see on Rutgers’ fourth-down (and final) touchdown over Keith Taylor?
“He was running in perfect position. It was one of those things like, you’re a new guy out there for the first time and maybe trying too hard. He was in perfect position. He just kind of stumbled. That was that.”
You’ve used Myles Gaskin in the pass game before, but haven’t seen him run downfield routes like that. Is that something he’s naturally developed?
“I think he’s got good hands. I think Myles is just a playmaker. You can ask him to do a lot of things and he can get it done, whether it’s pass blocking…he’s not the biggest back we have but he can pass block pretty darn well. He can catch and he’s just a good football player.”
How well did Myles Bryant play?
“Well I think how we played overall on defense was good. They kind of went down there on that first drive and Myles Bryant is this close to going 100 yards the other way and you’re hoping ok maybe the next getting settled in, that’s really his first time being a starter and all those types of things. I mean, he was right there and really good execution by them. That’s how it goes sometimes. He’s going to make that play. He’s shown it in practice. You take that away and I think overall they played really good team defense. Talked about the tackling a little bit that we would like to sure that up but we did a pretty good job.”
You mention Burr-Kirven as one of the defensive standouts. What did you see on tape?
“He runs to the ball now. He’s an athletic linebacker that has a great motor. He’s got instincts. He can run under blocks, over blocks, he’ll take them on if he has to. Just like how hard he plays. He’s done a really good job running sideline to sideline.”
Did Myles Bryant have a near pick on Rutgers’ first drive?
“It’s a little bit of a different angle. I think there was another receiver there, he had to run over a bubble just a little bit. He was just off his angle just a fraction. That’s red-zone football. That’s good execution by Rutgers.”
What about Dante Pettis’ catch in the end zone that was ruled incomplete?
“You’re going to have that. I don’t think anybody wants on either side of the ball for ticky-tack penalties down there. They’ve got to be able to battle a little bit. We can throw the ball a little bit earlier to give him a chance. It came out a little late and then we don’t have to worry about that.”
What happened on Rutgers’ touchdown pass against Keith Taylor?
"He was right there. If he doesn’t fall down he’s probably going ot pick that off. I mean he’s a big tall kid that was almost waiting on it. Got his feet tangled up."
Did Browning need to flatten throw more to Andre Baccellia in end zone?
“Again you watch the tape that was a tough angle and I saw it on the field too and I was like the guy is wide open. He’s not wide open. The guy is trailing him and he could easily undercut that so Jake was trying to put a little bit of air. It was a tougher throw than it first appeared.”
Are you happy with the overall mechanics of the game?
“That was good, just the organization of getting guys on and off the field and having 11 guys out there, as ridiculous as that sounds. We didn’t have a bunch of penalties for the first game. You watch these first games and some of these are like holy smokes there is flags every play and illegal alignments and first game stuff that really happens. We didn’t have a bunch of that. If we can keep building on that I think we’re in good shape there.”
Some early impressions about Montana:
“Seen just a little bit. I think they’re a really well coached team. They’ve got their style. Who knows how they will play against us. They’re more of an up-tempo trying to run a lot of plays. I think the basis is; their coach is a legendary coach for a long time coaching small-college football and a lot of guys have been through his shop to pick his brain and see how he does things. So he’s a really good coach. I think he maybe has some basis in the Air Raid, you know Coach Leach seems to show up every other week with his influence on people. You can kind of see some of the things their doing. I think they know what they’re doing and they do it pretty well.”
How much better was Rutgers on Friday than the Rutgers of last year?
“It’s hard to know. It really is. Because like you say, you change all the time. I think the first games are hard to tell. There is so much emotion. Their strategy was completely different than the year before. They were coming out trying to run as many plays and our defense played at a really high level last year that first game so we got more possessions and more chances to do things. We scored twice on special teams the year before. It kind of just changed the nature. So it’s really hard for me to honestly answer. They were physical running the ball and all those types of things.”
Did long travel to the East Coast screw anything up?
“I don’t really think so. It’s hard to really tell. It was about as smooth a trip as it could be. We didn’t have any issues with being late, or not having hotel rooms, or the weather or anything like that. We just need to wake up a little earlier, I guess.”
Common thread in slow start in all road openers in three of past four years?
“I don’t know if there is a common thread. You are away from home, for one. Hawaii is always an awkward place. And then you couple that with it being our first year, that was it as much as anything. And then the next year at Boise, we had a lot of young guys playing in that game against a good team. And then go back to Rutgers, like you said, there was a lot of good football played. There really was. I think the strategy, they did a good job of keeping it close.”
Byron Murphy’s great game, including two downed kicks deep in Rutgers end:
“It was really good. I mean, those are huge plays obviously, too. The starting credit goes to Joel (Whitford) place the ball and it kind of checking up. And they Byron doing what he was supposed to do, which is run down there and go protect the goal-line. And so, those are huge plays – really, really big plays. We were this close to getting a safety on one of them. But just that field-position game – I talked about that in the Alabama game and how they kept pinning us back – we were kind of doing that (to Rutgers) and making it tough. If I am not mistaken, that might be one that Dante (Pettis) got his hands on and took back (for the TD). Their guys kicks is really good out of the end zone, but he kind of outkicks his coverage – those are problems.”
What options do Whitford have moving in rugby-style punting?
“He has some flexibility there. He definitely does. And he’ll be better at how soon he needs to kick it. He can hang onto it longer. So he’ll get better at that.”
What were your impressions of Hunter Bryant’s debut?
“I think Hunter did a good job for his first time out, he really did. I think we threw him one ball. But just getting his feet wet and getting out there in his first college game, he’s going to do some good things here.”
Impressions of Brayden Lenius’ re-emergence in offense?
“Yeah, he got his feet wet again after a lot of time off’. He is a big target over the middle. We threw him one right there, and it just looked relatively simple, but it really wasn’t. Jake has to throw the ball over a (linebacker). Because he is so big, it was like, ‘OK, that was easy.’ He made it easy when you are throwing to big targets over the middle.”
Have you guys as a coaching staff ever met with Montana coach Bob Stitt?
“We have not, and I was actually thinking about that that is one guy I did not get the opportunity to do that. Watching their tape, you can tell, he is good. He is an offensive guy. And so their styles are uniquely different from offense to defense. On defense, they blitz a lot with a lot of different stuff. And on offense, they are good at what they do – and just do it over with some pace.”
Do you remember the hardest hit you took playing quarterback?
“I actually do. One of the kids I played high school with went to a different small college. And he blasted me. Right now, that (hit) would have him thrown out of the game for targeting and going to the head and all of that stuff. You always remember the hardest ones.”
Did that happen in junior college?
“It was when I was at (UC) Davis, and he was at Chico State, I believe.”
Do you remember the ex-teammate’s name?
“I do, but I am not going to say it, because I don’t want him to get him in trouble, because everybody is thinking that right now.”
What was the effect of the hit, did you see stars?
“I don’t remember that, I just remember it was a pretty good one.”
Did you watch the crazy ending of the UCLA-Texas A&M game?
“I saw the very start of it, and I saw the end. So I didn’t really see enough. I saw they turned the ball over and get behind. And then I saw them late in the fourth quarter when they were coming back.”
What does a win like that do to enhance Pac-12 reputation?
“You know that UCLA is going to be a good football team. They have talent down there. They have good coaches. It is just weird how these games can go certainly early in the season. You can turn it over. It is such a momentum game, you’ve just got to keep battling. Like even if that game, for whatever reason, didn’t finish like it did, and it was by a wide margin, you know UCLA is going to be a really good team.”
Is suspended Azemm Victor back this week?