Huskies Insider Blog

Chris Petersen on Monday after Rutgers: ‘Good to get the first one under our belt’

By Christian Caple

Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters for about 27 minutes this afternoon to reflect on UW’s 48-13 win over Rutgers and look ahead to Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against Idaho at Husky Stadium. He also discussed other things. You can read everything he said below.

(Opening) “Good to get the first one under our belt. I think we talked last time about so many unknowns, from ourselves to the opponent…guys came out and played hard, played fast. I thought our defense played at a really high level, got really good field position - certainly in that first half. That can change everything.

“First quarter I thought the offense was doing a nice job in sync, which is awesome. All the lack of live reps that we probably did during fall camp changes the game. So it was good to see Jake strike early.

“But we’ve got enough things on tape that we’ve got to clean up. I think the guys are anxious to do that.”

(What kind of a leap did you see Jake Browning take, especially with the deep ball?) “There was improvement for sure. Not only to John Ross, but a couple of other guys. Even one he under threw, which is something we’re kind of working on in terms of giving guys a chance to make plays on the ball. It certainly didn’t come off his hand like he wanted it to, but Dante was able to come back and, at a minimum, get a pass interference. It’s hard to cover those guys one-on-one out there, whether it’s in stride or a little bit short. If you time it and get it up appropriately, a lot of times the receivers can make plays on that. So there was progress there for sure.”

(Expect anyone to kick it to John Ross again?) “Yeah, I do. I for sure do. I think they will.”

(Tristan Vizcaino and touchbacks) “Especially if you’re kicking off a lot, to have a big leg on the kickoff, boy that can really, really help you. Because if you give them enough chances to bring that thing out full speed, everybody’s got a pretty good returner, and they’re going to find a crease sooner or later. For Tristan to negate their opportunities to return on us is really underestimated in football. We certainly appreciate it when we see that on the sidelines as coaches. If he can keep that up…and he’s got the type of leg where he can do that. Sometimes he gets a little greedy and tries to over kick it and that’s when it usually doesn’t come off quite as good. But I thought he did a really good job out of the gate.”

(Your take on the run game overall?) “We’ve got some work to do there. That’s the style of our offense. If people are going to load up and bring those safeties downhill and try and stop the run, then hopefully we can throw the ball a little bit over their heads. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. But I think we can run the ball better. I would hope so.”

(In the second half, how meaningful are those reps considering the game is already out of reach?) “I think tremendous meaningful. And I don’t look at it at all as meaningless time for sure. These are guys that haven’t played a lot of snaps that eventually will play a lot of snaps, so it’s good to get their feet wet for some of these guys the first time. Those are really critical reps to us as much as it is the starters in terms of our whole program development. I was thrilled to get those guys in there, but it’s not like it’s okay if it doesn’t go just right. We’re going to need those guys sooner rather than later. Those are really awesome to get on tape and we’re excited for those guys to play. So it’s a really good time but we’ve obviously got some work to do there as well.”

(On the offensive line’s game) “I thought they pass protected really well. I thought that pocket was extremely clean most of the time. There was a little bit of pressure but you’re going to get that. I thought it was as good as it looked overall since I’ve seen it. I think Coach Strausser’s tweaked some things in terms of technique and philosophy on the pocket itself. There was a couple times where there no people really close to Jake. So I think the line did a good job in terms of some pass protection things. We spoke about the run game a little bit. We’ve got to do some things there for us to do what we want to do. I think overall the pass protection looked pretty good.”

(On the fast start, was it adjusting on the fly, or was a lot of that already baked into the opening script and the plays that you wanted to run based on your plan?) “I think there’s some plays that we practiced quite a bit that just didn’t handcuff us… we need this certain look in order for us to have success. We have a couple answers here and like the long one (Browning) threw to Chico, if we got a matchup we’re going there. If not he’s got a nice progression in the play itself. It was those type of plays. What I think was nice is, the execution was really good, the pass protection was good, Jake throws a really accurate, good deep ball. So I think there was a lot of that going on. It was planned well by those offensive coaches, coach Smith and company, and then it always goes back to, credit to the players for executing because there’s a lot of good stuff drawn up that doesn’t get executed. Both sides did a great job with it.”

(With the deep ball, it sounds based on the post-game explanations that it was as simple as just putting more air under the ball. Is that fair to say?) “I think that’s one of the elements to it. You still have to be accurate. You can’t just throw it up a balloon ball. There’s still…is it two safeties or one safety, depending on what you can do with air on the ball. Is it going down the seam? Is it going outside? Those type of things. And it’s hard. You’re still trying to throw an accurate ball that turns over. One of the things we kind of think is that a little more air in general allows us to have a little more the other kind of air on the throw where the receiver can adjust to it. That’s just a personal philosophy. To me it’s just really frustrating when we run a guy downfield and the ball gets thrown out of bounds, or we overthrow ‘em by a step. They are low percentage throws anyways, but I think if we can work on getting those guys a better chance to fight for the ball, that’s all the quarterback can do is give ‘em a chance. If it’s on stride and beautiful, that’s awesome. But I think we want to give our guys a chance to battle for balls.”

(Has there been a change or evolution on scripting at the beginning of games?) “I don’t know what other guys are doing, to tell you the truth. I think that everybody has their openers. Whether they want to set up other plays or want to test a defense to see what they actually are giving us…with a combination of, we feel good about us being to execute these things. This is our stuff…I can only speak for ourselves on that, but I think every offensive coordinator has certainly a plan, some sort of script on. They may be, this is what we’re going to run as long as we stay in a normal down situation and we get second and real long or third down we’re off that script and we get back to it…I know depending on how deep you go or how many plays you script it might take you a whole quarter to get through that script. And it might only be 15 plays. And it can tweak a little bit from game to game. It’s like, I want to set these plays up. We’ve seen enough tape on these guys that we feel like - not that we necessarily have tendencies but we kind of feel like we know how they line up. Certainly these first games. Even with the second game coming up we have one game, and it looks a little different than it did last year. So there’s still a lot of unknowns so we have to do what we think we do well in terms of opening plays.”

(What does Nick Harris have that other freshmen linemen don’t?) “I would say this not only about a freshman offensive lineman, but a freshman in general: He does not care. He just goes hard. And if he’s going to make a mistake, he’s going to make it 1,000 percent. We tell our guys that all the time, but there’s a lot of scheme and different technique these guys are getting, so it’s easy to preach that from a coaching standpoint. It’s rare when a guy’s like, ‘OK.’ And I think again, I think he was well-coached in high school and so he’s got some pretty good fundamentals, and he understands football pretty good. He doesn’t understand all of our schemes just yet, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s going to block somebody, even if it’s the wrong guy, and we can live with that. We’ll clean that up.”

(When did you realize he was going to play this season?) “I think it was probably the second time – maybe our first big scrimmage, or second time we had some real kind of live reps and we put him in there. I hadn’t even talked to Coach Strausser. I didn’t even really have a conversation. I was watching the tape, and I saw him in there with the twos, and I was almost going to put the clicker down and go, ‘what’s he doing with the twos?’ And then I watched 10 plays and I went, ‘oh, I get why he’s with the twos.’ I mean, it was really apparent, just how he plays.”

(Thoughts on the wildcat formation and the screen game?) “I think we had some things in the wildcat formation that we just kind of misread. That’s my first thing. And those screens are always going to be hit and miss. That’s how it is. You’ve got to spread the defense out, and you’ve got to get them running and chasing. It’s a lot like – similar philosophy to some of the sweep-type stuff. There’s usually a complement that comes with it, but it’s about trying to create space and have defensive linemen running, and they’re going to be a little bit like a deep ball. They’re going to be hit and miss. That’s how screens are. And they defended it pretty good. They had some safeties come down a little bit low, and one of the defensive linemen reacted well. So they played it better than we were able to execute it.”

(On playing a lot of zone coverage) “We play a lot of man. We play a lot of man coverage, probably more than most. So we’ll mix it up, but we think of ourselves as a big man team. So like everything, we’ll try to counter and not make ourselves so predictable. But we want to make sure that we can let our guys play fast and not have them overthink things. I think that’s one of the things those guys have done so well, those defensive coaches, is they really understand what we’re trying to do, and just let them compete. But there’s enough there that it’s – hopefully they can’t dial us up all the time.”

(On balance of wanting to work on plays, but not being able to call all of them in a blowout) “Sometimes we’ll hold some things back if we think it’s not appropriate to call those type of plays, which there’s certainly some of that. We have plenty to work on in terms of, like, getting good at some of our base stuff. So it’s not like a hard dilemma. We might just say, hey, let’s stay away from that and get back to our base football that we’ve got a lot of work to do on, anyway.”

(And not wanting to show future opponents everything, like with Budda Baker on offense…) “Absolutely. And not only just like people. Everybody has your film. Since we’ve been here, everybody’s got every play we’ve run. And so part of it, one of the philosophies is, like, you do enough different things (that it’s) like, ‘Good, have it all.’ You can’t prepare for all this stuff. Sometimes, that’s what makes it a little bit easier. On one hand, you don’t know what teams are going to do early on. But in some ways it can even help you because you’re not chasing ghosts. It’s like, ‘this is what we see, this is what we need to prepare for.’ And so that can help you as well.”

(On the plan for Budda Baker on offense) “We do. We have a plan, but it’s certainly not set in stone. It’s going to evolve. I think each week we come back and address it. It’s just – it is really hard to get a guy in the mix, truly in the mix, on two sides of the ball, with just all of the things that need to be worked on, on one side of the ball each week. so to throw a guy in there and just expect him to get all these little nuances is really hard to do. But I will tell you this – he is a smart football player and as reliable as anybody we have, so if there’s somebody we can continue to build a package for … some of that depends on our younger and newer guys continuing to develop, and injuries.”

(On using two-way players in the past and how it should be handled) “I think it’s packages. You give him a few plays. It might be completely different than it was the week before. But you’d like to get a guy be able to get in some rhythm as well. And so how many plays is that, and how many plays can he handle mentally, and how much can we use him and not wear him out. All those different things. So it’s a little bit more – it’s great to do when you can get it done, but it’s a little bit more complicated than just ‘hey, let’s put him over there and get him the ball as much as we can.’”

(Is John Ross behind in his development as a receiver because it had been so long since he played?) “We talked about that before, in terms of – I don’t want to say behind, but I still think he has a lot more to him. I mean, just in terms of practice reps. He hasn’t had a ton of practice reps. I maybe even think about that more than the game reps. Some of these guys have had a lot. As we all know, to build true skill takes hours and years of these reps over and over. He hasn’t really had that, with us, at least. So it’s been nice to watch him this fall progress with some detailed, route-running stuff. I like some of the detailed, route-running stuff rather than what everybody else likes, to see him run past guys. I mean, I like that, too, but I appreciate some of these, in and out of his breaks and some certain type of catches you see him progressing on.”

(On Ross getting better at understanding details and nuance as a receiver) “Yeah, and just even scheme. There’s a couple things out there, scheme-wise, that we’ve got to adjust depending on the coverage and look, and he’s still working through some of those things.”

(On having zero offensive penalties) “We didn’t have one flag on offense or special teams, so we were really pleased with that. I don’t know of I’ve ever had that in a first game, to not have somebody jump offside – because we changed our snap-count a lot. You don’t know that from the stands, but we changed it a lot. And so to not have somebody jump offside, to not have a receiver misaligned on or off the ball – it sounds simple but as we all know … no holding calls. So it was awesome. That was one fo the things we did talk about, and it’s really always one of our goals on special teams to try to be penalty free, which is hard because those blocks-in-the-back and all those type of things come out of nowhere, so we’re pleased with that.”

(On DJ Beavers’ personal foul penalty) “That strikezone on that quarterback is very, very narrow. You can’t go anywhere near his head, obviously, and you can’t go anywhere near his knees when he’s a pocket passer. And so he kind of got pushed and went too low and that’s what the message is. It’s a great clip for all of our guys, and something we’ve talked about, but now we have it on tape and to show them again.”

(On the defensive holding call) “One of our DBs grabbed on to one of the receivers.”

(Fair call?) “Yeah, I think so.”

(First impressions of Idaho?) “Still figuring them out. They look a little bit – like everybody does – a little bit different than they did last year. They’re still doing certainly similar stuff, but on defense, we’re still kind of putting that together, and it can be hard after one game. Do they look a little bit different because of who’ve they’ve played? Because they truly have changed? And so we kind of go back to ourselves, a little bit of a rules game, and we’ve got to know our stuff, because they’re going to break out – we still don’t really have strong tendencies on anybody right now. But I think Coach Petrino’s doing a good job building that program, and one thing you can see on that first game is they all played really, really hard, and you always respect that as a coach. So that’s where we are with those guys on Monday.”

(Did you reach out to Coach Choate, now at Montana State, about Idaho?) “Certainly we’ve talked to him. But we have that tape and sometimes we might talk to him about what they were trying to do, more so than maybe Idaho was trying to do — just because sometimes you don’t know what they’re thinking. So you get a little bit of help, but you’ve just got to put the tape on and make your own decisions.”

(Was the Idaho rivalry one you enjoyed over the years when you were at Boise?) “Yeah. I think you always enjoy your rivalry games. And certainly when it was at Boise, that was a big one. When we first got there way back when, when I came there in 2001, that was like — same old thing (he heard from Boise fans): ‘If you only win one game, it needs to be that game.’ So you’re good if we only win one game? ‘Well, not really. But if you’re going to win just one it needs to be that one.’ That things flip-flopped back and forth at Boise, where Idaho had Boise’s number for awhile and then we had theirs. And the last couple years we didn’t play them. When you’re in state there, it’s always a big thing.”

(On running backs’ decision-making, pass pro) “I thought they were pretty good. I thought our pass protection out of the running backs was real good. I’m always, for the most part, always impressed with how they pass protect. I think Coach Bhonapha spends a lot of time on that and those guys take it very, very serious. And I think they do a good job. Some guys — Lavon (Coleman’s) more stout and he can go attack guys more. Some of these other guys gotta mix it up in terms of cutting guys (or) taking them up top. But I think they were assignment. I talked about the line in pass pro, but the backs are usually involved in that somehow, some way and I thought they did a good run. Running the ball, finding creases — I thought it was good for Game 1. I think that’s the whole game at the running back position — what kind of vision a guy has. And when the bullets are flying for real the first time there’s always going to be a couple runs where you’re like, he needs to bounce that or keep that thing inside. So there was a little bit of that, but I thought they were pretty solid for the first time.

(There were two incidents in other games over the weekend where players lost there cool — USC player kicked an Alabama player, and an LSU player knocked a Wisconsin player down late. How much are you referencing plays like that with your team?) “All the time. Our guys practice hard, so it comes up in practice. That’s why I make such a huge deal of it in practice. We just don’t believe (when a player says) ‘Oh, I’m not going to do that in the game.’ No, I think you have more of a tendency to do it in a game than you would in practice, so if you’re doing it in practice you’re certainly telling me you’re going to do it in a game. So we do make a big deal about it, all the time. It’s a game and it’s so emotional and you’re playing right to the edge. But it is a game and the game is don’t cross the line. Advantage them. So really easy to talk about as a coach. But there’s teachable moments all the time in practice, and it comes up all the time. And then when it’s in the game and it’s not us, we’re still going to try learn from others and figure that part of the game out as well.”

(Did you actually show those plays to the team?) “We show a lot of clips. During the week, we show a lot of clips of other people. Really, it has to do with football intelligence in general — different situations that come up that we have spoken about that maybe didn’t come up in our game but we can show. We’re continually bringing other tape in.”

(Does that also involve targeting? How has that evolved in terms of the officiating?) “It’s a huge part of the game in terms of emphasis. The days are long over from complaining about it and not liking it. We just need to figure it out, we need to teach it different, we need to emphasize it more. And with all that being said, there’s still going to be some of it because guys just — especially those passes over the middle. All of a sudden (a receiver) went down or he went up and the DB’s just trying to gauge, even if he is on the ‘strike zone’ where it should be — those last fractions of a second adjustments. And it is what it is. Because if we’re going to try to make this game better and safer, it’s part of the game now. So we will bring in clips. We’ve already done that. We did it before we played on a couple games that were played and we’ll continue to bring them in.”

(On UW’s culture … and not expecting a lull vs. lower-tier teams coming up) “I mean, we’re pleased with the development … but it’s always hard work in progress. It doesn’t matter who we play, it doesn’t matter what the score is, for us or against us — it is always about us and how we’re going to practice, how we’re going to conduct ourselves, how we’re going to execute. That’s irrelevant (the opponent). And that’s really the message these guys are getting. We don’t even think (about a lull). That has nothing to do with anything. It’s like, are we at the standard we think we should be at in terms of our preparation and how hard we play … that’s what this thing’s all about. And to never lose focus of that.”

(And you feel good that they’ve gotten that message?) “No. We’re getting there. I don’t you’re ever there. I think that has to be coached and emphasized and talked about every single day that we’re together.”

(Is Jaylen Johnson a long-term injury?) “He is not.”

(On Andre Baccellia) “I like his game. We thought he was doing a good job in the springtime and he’s had a pretty good fall camp of getting better. And it’s nice to see him Game 1 make some plays. But it’s not surprising because, again, usually when those guys practice at a high level it shows up in a game, and it did for him.”