UW coach Chris Petersen addressed the media for his eighth Monday press conference of the regular season as the team prepares to play against UCLA on Saturday:
Did you watch the UCLA-Oregon game last Saturday?
“No. But I have watched it. I think…there’s so much parity in this conference and you never know what’s going to happen from week-to-week. If you don’t show up playing your best, it’s not going to turn out good for whoever doesn’t play their best. I think UCLA has a lot of weapons, they always have. They have a lot of speed, probably the top guy in college football throwing the ball, he’s tremendous for sure. So this is going to be a really big test. We certainly haven’t seen anybody that can throw the ball like he throws it and how they throw it.”
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“I didn’t see the game, just saw the score. Nothing surprises me in this. It’s hard to win in this league. There’s a lot of parity and a lot of good players. I know Arizona State, they’ve got good players. Everybody wants to latch on to numbers and latch on to records. I think if anybody does that…we’re not going to do that because there’s really deceiving information in records and numbers. Sometimes there is some legitimacy to them, but a lot of times you start looking at that stuff you’re looking at the wrong stuff. What’s the tape look like?”
Do you agree the Pac-12 is sort of a cannibal conference?
“I tell our guys all the time, it’s hard to win in this conference. Sometimes you’re clicking and it all winds up right. That can be deceiving as well. How did this happen? How did that team…? From week-to-week and what you see roster-to-roster, I think there’s a lot of parity.”
Are the young defensive backs ready to face start UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen?
“Yeah. That’s why we played ‘em. Everybody asks, why are you playing those guys? You always need those guys back there and we play a lot of DBs. So it’s been good. You’re always preparing and you really hope, obviously certain guys you don’t want to lose for the year, whatever the position is. You look at the numbers over the course of time and you’re going to lose 5-7 guys. That seems to be one of those positions. It’s great that every week they prepare to play and get great, meaningful reps and here we go.”
What makes the UCLA pass game so dangerous, and specifically Josh Rosen?
“Is that a trick question? Have you watched the tape (laughs)? He’s an elite thrower. He is accurate, he throws with anticipation, he’s excellent in the pocket. He’s all the things…you guys always ask me what are the things - he’s got ‘em. He’s accurate, he throws with anticipation, he’s great in the pocket.”
What about the guys catching the passes?
“Yeah. UCLA always has…we didn’t play those guys the last couple years but all my experience of playing UCLA over the years from way back, they always have tremendous speed, really good talent. Those schools down there with all those players are always going to have good players. And they do. It’s kind of amazing, I think it speaks to how good (Rosen) is, because they are much more of a balanced attack running the ball. He’s leading the conference throwing the ball, and that says a lot with how Washington State throws it. That’s what they do and they do it great. But somebody else is actually leading the conference in passing and efficiency. It’s pretty impressive.”
What were the points of emphasis with the Huskies during the bye week?
“It just goes right back to us, that is the point of emphasis, for sure. You can sit there and nitpick a game to death. It really goes back to us being more detailed. That is what it is. It sounds so ridiculously obvious. Everybody is doing the big things. The team you really see executing well, it comes down to details, whether you have too many negative plays, it is a detail that really looks ugly. When you don’t hit on a bunch of explosive plays, there really isn’t a detail to that. There are going to be very few times now moving forward where guys are running open in huge creases. That goes against the parity (of the Pac-12) that we’re talking about. You’ve got to earn things. And it is a detailed game. That is what we looked a lot at — how do we help our guys be more detailed? It always starts with us as coaches. This is never on the players. Sometimes it can feel like that, and we tell them that, like, “You have to do that!’ Well, ‘We have to coach them better, or we have to put them in better situation to have more success!’ They’ve got to get it done, but I think that is the main think that jumped out in terms of our focus, it is a detailed game.”
Any more update on who your starting kicker will be?
“I will just say we practiced last night, and Tristan (Vizcaino) has probably never kicked better. I mean, it was impressive. And he knew it. Van (Soderberg) has kicked well, as well. But we’ve got to translate that into the game.”
So, is Vizcaino going to start against UCLA?
“I mean, we’ve said all along that he’s got, in terms of leg talent and the ball coming off, it is as good as anybody I’ve seen for a while. It’s just being consistent, that is what it is, and getting back into a better rhythm.”
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said a couple weeks ago he was mildly surprised teams were not taking deeper shots in the passing game. Does that surprise you as well, and do you anticipate Rosen will take shots downfield?
“I definitely expect that to change. That is what he does. He does it really well. He gets the ball out fast. He throws it short. He throws it intermediate. He throws it deep. They do it all. They do a great job of scheme-wise, and they have a guy who can make all the throws. He can just sit there on his back leg and throw a comeback to the wide side of the field. So he can make all the throws. We will see it all.”
Linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett have given the defense great production this season. What is behind that?
“Ben is not surprising. What is really great is that he’s gotten better. He plays with really good quickness, and he’s got instincts – and he has since he’s gotten here, and since he’s been here for a couple of years. And he’s gotten more reps because he’s earned them from practice. You watch him practice, and he really practices well. It has been translating into the game. You just love to see that, when a guy is like has been pretty good, but he is getting better, and he’s earning it and he is sneaking on the field more. He’s done a great job. And I think our (linebacker) group has been really good. Paying attention to some of the tacklers in the lead (of the Pac 12), you don’t really see a bunch of our guys up there. That is because we play a handful of guys, and they’re all pretty productive. We’ve got a good one coming back sooner than later in DJ Beavers, and we are excite to get him into the mix. Here we go.
"And Tevis — same thing:: He’s just that tough grinder, that is what he is. That is the way to describe him, that wrestler. He is smart. He figures out a way to get in there.”
What are the second-half goals for your quarterback — Jake Browning?
“When I look at a little bit of our struggles on offense, I don’t really go — (he) is not the first, second or third guy that pops into my head. I think he can always have a ball here or a there, a decision here or there, a little more accurate — there’s always a couple of those over the course of some games. But I think (if) we protect the guy and our receivers go make plays for him, when you talk about the detailed stuff — I’m liking the plays when Quinten Pounds goes up between two (defenders) and makes a play. That’s what real receivers do — they make plays. That was double-coverage. Even in one-on-one battles, can we see a guy go up and make a play and say, ‘Oh, OK, that’s impressive.’ So those two things is what I’d like to see. … I think Jake has a tremendous command of what we’re doing and I think he’s competing as hard as anyone we have on the team. I think there’s other areas we’ve got to step up and his game will look any better.”
Did Browning have any particular trouble when Arizona State was dropping eight into coverage?
“That’s always an issue. You drop a bunch of guys … and the tradeoff is, well, can you get pressure (with three). We do that same thing. It’s a catch-and-mouse game back and forth. In general, you’d like to see a lot of holes in that defense when they bring pressure and you get (the throw) off and they flood those zones and all that. So it’s always a cat-and-mouse game. I think we can help Jake (with) what we can and scheme and then protect him and then the receivers — all that stuff. It goes back to making Jake successful. It’s all these other people show up to make him look really good. And he will if everybody else does what they’re supposed to do.”
What will it take to get Salvon Ahmed more involved in the offense?
“I think he’s a guy that, obviously, we’d like to get him the ball however way and see what he can do. He’s been doing a really nice job of just working hard. He’s a young guy, and he comes to practice on a mission. Really focused. Been proud of him in terms of just — watching him last night every time he does something I’m like, ‘I really like this guy.’ So, yeah, I think we’ve got to figure out ways to use him a little bit. What we really need to do is stay on the field and run more plays and those types of things. It’s just tough when you’re three-and-outs and five-and-outs and punting the ball. If we can stay on there and get in a little rhythm, it’ll help us.”
Have you figured out even more ways to use Myles Gaskin during the bye week?
“I think the same thing of what I just said (about Ahmed). I think we’ve just got to stay on the field a little bit longer and then you get into a rhythm and then we can get into our run-pass balance going that we like. We all know with Myles the more opportunities he gets, the better chances for the Dawgs for sure. I think that’s the main thing, just not creating these negative plays where we’re in the hole on third down. We actually haven’t been too bad, percentage-wise, on third-and-extra-long. Because the percentage you’re going to complete is really small. But the number that we use is, like, yeah, we’re kind of hitting what we’d like to hit; we just don’t want to be there because that number is not (going to be) a high conversion rate. So if we can stay away from some of those negative plays and say in more manageable downs and get first downs and get Myles the ball more.”
What is the overall mood of the team a week after the ASU loss?
“I think it was good. We haven’t just let this thing go like ‘oh well those games happen.’ That will never happen around here. So we’ve had some really heart felt talks. Not in a way again like pointing fingers at all. It’s just like, our defense has played at a high level but we didn’t’ get any turnovers last game. They held the ball. We’re just all in this together. If we have to win a game 7-6 , it doesn’t matter that’s what we have to do. It’s how do we move forward and not just be in this routine that we’re in and so to me it’s kind of a reset time and those guys understand that. They did a nice job yesterday where you could feel like we were out there trying to get something done.”
Do you prefer the players to carry that memory with them for a while as motivation?
“I would just say whatever helps us like just not go through these. People can just work hard and not get better at all. I think you probably do that every day Softy. (hilarity ensues). But that’s sometimes what I feel around here. Guys lift weights and we practice and guys are sweaty and if you don’t have that edge to you like you’re talking about I think it’s really easy to just; there’s a difference between routine and commitment in our mind. You can go through this hard routine and it’s same-old, same-old, been doing this for like six games, seven games, but then you tack on fall camp, it’s a long time. It’s very easy to fall into that trap and so that’s what we’re trying to do is shake ourselves out of that. If we need to cut down practice; the instinct of a coach is to practice more, tackle more and get tougher and really sometimes you have to fight against that and say sometimes less is more with better quality.”
What do you expect from the two backup cornerbacks facing Rosen this week?
“It doesn’t’ matter who is in there. He’s going to complete his passes. He’s going to complete passes. That’s what they do and they are really good at it. That’s OK. We have to reload and make a play after they make a play. That’s part of this game, what it’s going to be. We’re going to be challenge, but whoever is in there _ backup, non-backup _ it doesn’t matter. He’s leading the conference, one of the top guys, I don’t’ even know where he ranks in the country, but that doesn’t just happen by accident. He’s good and it will be a great challenge for our guys in a way we really haven’t seen yet.”
Did Dante Pettis send a note along with the Houston Astros dugout during the bye?
“He did not. We talked before and after and he was sporting that Astros shirt loud and proud yesterday around the office. It’s a good time for the Pettis family.”
Do you feel the team has recharged its battery during the bye week?
“Yeah I think so. This bye is at a good time where guys as much as you want to go back out and practice more and all those things we just spoke about, it’s also important to have balance and recharge your mind as much as anything and take a couple of days to not be in this office. So I think all of that was good and as we go forward this last month or so it’s important for us as coaches to be really mindful of the balance of getting better but keeping those practices lively and we’re getting something done and not just going through the motions.”