UW coach Chris Petersen addressed the media for his seventh Monday press conference of the regular season as the team heads into its bye week:
“It didn’t get any better watching the tape. We’re all just really, really disappointed that we didn’t play to our capabilities. That’s what we’re all…that’s the only thing as coaches you’re trying to do, you’re trying to get the potential out of your team and always play and coach toward our potential, and for whatever reason that didn’t happen. Now I will say this: I think Arizona State did a great job. I knew going in that was a scary team. They have some really good players and are doing some good things and they had a bye in front of us and being able to really put their best foot forward playing us. And they did, so credit to those guys. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to move forward. It would be nice going into this bye week if you’re undefeated, but I think also trying to look at this in a positive light - you can miss some things and think you’ve got it all just where you need to be. Sometimes you get a wakeup game and our tendency would be to overanalyze everything. We don’t want to do that. We want to make sure we do what we know helps us and then figure out how to tweak a few things to get going back on offense like we think we’re capable of playing.”
After a game like that, is it a good time for a bye or would you rather get right back on the field?
“Both of that. For sure when you don’t play well you want to get right back out there. For sure. This is painful, painful two weeks. Everybody in the building would be like, can we please just go back out there and try and play better? Certainly on offense. But it’s also right in the middle of the season and a good time to really get a chance to look at ourselves and our tendencies and figure out what we need to change and tweak and clean up and what we like about what we’re doing and go from there. So it’s both.”
If left tackle Trey Adams misses a lot of time, did you like what you saw from Andrew Kirkland?
“Andrew, we’ve kind of called him ‘The Fireman’, even since last year. We haven’t played him at center, we’ve played him at all the positions. That’s what he’s been doing, even in practice. So he’s played a lot for us, and he’s going to play a lot more for us too, because Trey will be out. He hurt his knee, he’ll be done for the season. And obviously so will Jordan Miller. Sometimes these things run in spurts. It’s interesting because Jordan has the exact same injury, the exact same one, as David Ajamu and Chico McClatcher. It’s tough. You feel bad for those guys, and plus they are good players and feel bad for the team. But next man up. This is how it goes and our team knows that. We talk about it ad nauseam early in the season. You don’t know when it’s going to hit, but it is what it is.”
What did you learn about your team after the loss?
“No idea. We have to go play and see what we’ve learned. We’ve got good kids and all that stuff, but we’re analyzing what we can do as coaches to help certainly put them in better positions to make plays. What we learned we won’t know until we go play a game for sure.”
How much did you notice communication drop along the offensive line when Adams went out?
“I don’t necessarily think that as much as I think it had an effect for a minute on the offensive line and our guys looking around…where did (Adams) go? He’s been out there for a lot of snaps. There was not just that (Trey). For whatever reason, there was kind of a strange energy in my opinion, to start even the game, with our guys. It’s not from a lack of knowing what we were going into or anything like that. It’s that thing where these games are so emotional and every weekend is different. Some of the guys even felt that and then we get off to a really poor start offensively and don’t get anything going, and then Trey’s hurt…I don’t know. It was a little bit different.”
Did you tinker with the idea of going for it on fourth down before the second field-goal try?
“No. I really wanted to make a field goal. I really wanted to make a field goal. That whole thing is obviously really frustrating. First and foremost for our kickers, let alone for our team and everybody else. It’s frustrating because if you watch ‘em in practice they would never miss those. It’s not even kind of. It’s like clockwork, but for whatever reason when we get in a game it changes a little bit, so we’re back to work.”
How do you go about assessing this mess at placekicker with Tristan Vizcaino and Van Soderberg?
“Yeah, there’s no question we’ll take a closer look and see how to help them, and if it’s a technique thing, which I think it’s more the mental thing than a technique thing because if they trust their technique and focus on that they are going to be fine most of the time.”
What players have been involved in the kicking competition during practices?
“It’s really been Van (Soderberg) and Tristan (Vizcaino), for the most part. As we’ve moved forward here, it’s progressively obviously shown up as more of an issue as the games have gone on. But it wasn’t early on as best as we could just watching practice, it was pretty clear-cut that (Vizcaino) was ready to go. And so here we are.”
To be clear, do you see Andrew Kirkland as Trey Adams’ replacement at left tackle moving forward?
“We have a couple of different combinations but (Kirkland) is the guy that has taken a lot of reps on both sides of the line. And so we have to kind of hone him in a little bit more. He and probably Luke Wattenberg will take some reps there, and we will try and figure it out from there.”
Last season, you lost a game mid-year to USC and made the College Football Playoff. What is the talk now about the playoffs with a loss at ASU?
“We don’t talk about that during the season – at all. That has nothing to do with nothing, just like rankings don’t, and all of that. All we’re trying to do is get better and figure out a way to beat UCLA. There is no point in talking about that. Little kids at 6 years old get that you don’t even need to have a scoreboard, so they’re going to keep score in their heads. Our guys get what the goal is, but we don’t focus on it. That is the wrong thing to focus on. What to focus on is how to score touchdowns and make field goals. We talk about what a joke it is to talk about that right now. That are the conversations we have. There is no point in it.”
If that is what the focus is this week, do you anticipate your players wanting extra snaps in practice?
“I will say this, these kids practice their tails off. We don’t go out there and have a problem with practicing hard, or not being focused or not caring about what is going on. But, we need to get better. So yeah, that starts with us as coaches – ‘What do we emphasize here?’ This is a good thing about a bye right now, that is what our coaches are doing right now. They are combing the tapes of ourself and trying to figure out how we help our kids with tendencies and deficiencies that we might not have noticed being mired in the minutiae of everything, to try and step back and look at this and tweak a few things that can help us.”
Is there a way to better “practice” game-management situations?
“It’s really hard, but we watch other games. We talk about other games. We’ll put other games on where it might come up, ‘How would we handle this?’ You’ve got to stay focused on these other things that come up.
That was a little bit of a bummer: The first half, I wanted to go back and take a timeout early on going into halftime; you can’t carry them over. I probably should have done that. But then the other thing is, we hurt ourselves taking (a timeout) in the second half – taking a couple of timeouts. That is when you’d like to save them in that second half. You never know how the end of the game is going to be, and that catches up to you. Sometimes you’ve got to use them. You’re not ready, and the play clock in winding down and you have a wrong play – you try and eliminate those negatives as much as you can. But, it is hard – we go in the two-minute drill a lot, so we get that and pay attention to those things. But other things will come up in terms of game management. If somebody sees it, we try and talk about it.”
You are now down to starting cornerbacks (Jordan Miller, Byron Murphy). How do you go about replacing Miller?
“The good thing is, we’ve been playing all of those freshmen – those three freshmen (defensive backs). Jomon Dotson has been doing a nice job of working hard, and he really has gotten better. We’ve really noticed that doing a great job on special-teams type of things, and you can really see he’s really been focused. So we’ve got some guys out there. That is kind of how it goes; that is why we play them as freshmen because you kind of know how it goes in that secondary.”
How did Taylor Rapp handle being the one who slid into Miller on the play he suffered a season-ending injury?
“I didn’t really know; it didn’t come up at all. You know, it’s part of the game, and yeah, you’ve got to go fast to play hard. Those things happen. There is a proportion of injuries that occur probably in brim-and-fire(stone) type situations. You see that last night (in NFL games), an own guy hit him and took him out. Yu can’t second-guess that stuff, you’ve got to go fast and play hard.”
Is there anything in the ASU game you’ve second-guessed yourself on once you’ve had time to look at it?
“Going in, and as we go back, we would never put this all on our kids. It is never that. We beat ourselves up as coaches to try and figure out, ‘How do we get a better plan, or if a kid isn’t playing well, how do we help them?’ We’ve talked about this – we are all in this together. We sit there and when we pull out the film and say, ‘This isn’t good enough and we can do this.’ But it’s not in that way of, ‘It is you, you, you.’ It is ‘us’ that we’ve got to get cleaned up. So I think there are a lot of things we always go back to after every game. Sometimes we win, and win by a lot, and everybody glosses over (on mistakes), but we don’t. We’re like, ‘What and why did we do that?’ or ‘It would be nice to have this call back, and that call.’ So there are always those things. And sometimes it’s hard for me to sit here and talk about those things because a lot of it has to do with fixing things with strategy and things that are going on, and I’m like, “I don’t really want to put that out there.’ There are a lot of things that we are looking at right now that it’s hard to me to come in here and go, ‘OK, we’ve got this, this, and this that we really have got to pay attention to.’ But it’s not the best thing for me to sit here and broadcast it to the world.’
What if we promise not to broadcast your comments?
“Then your nose would be growing and hitting me where I am sitting.”
What have you seen from blocking on the UW kickoff team?
“I think that will be one thing we’re looking at that I’d say. And that’s all I’m going to say”
How would you characterize Jake Browning’s performance?
“I would say Jake (Browning) played very solid, which I think is interesting because again we don’t score a bunch of points, it’s all driven through the quarterback. I think Arizona State did a great job. They took away a lot of his answers when he’s back there. I think Jake played his tail off and he was making things happen. I felt bad for him on occasion running around trying to create things, and I think that’s one of the things that we’re really trying to do, always make him successful. There were certain times where we didn’t help him out. There wasn’t one spectacular catch in the game where somebody came up like ‘wow.’ That’s part of their game. I can run out there and catch a five yard hitch route and fall down. Someone’s got to do something to make something happen. Our protection has to be better. All those type of things. They did a nice job covering us on some things. That’s when he’s got to kind of create some things. The combination of that, he threw some nice balls in there that we didn’t make plays on. Somebody’s got to make a play. It might have been a little bit of a tough catch, but still we have to make the play.”
Does that mean a second receiver needs to step up?
“It’s all of the receivers. Maybe we have to give these other guys more chances than we’ve given them. Those are all things we’re paying attention to. It’s not just like ‘hey, receivers, you have to -’ it’s like maybe we have to put them in a position - we’re not going to Dante (Pettis) as much and he’s still going to get his balls and all those type of things.”
Was Jake Browning angry in the locker room after the game?
“Jake (Browning) is as competitive as they come. What you see is what you get. He’s not going to stomp around there and go get in a bunch of guys’ face, but people know how it is. He’s just honest and a realist. We were all about as mad as we could possibly. I mean, are you kidding me? We go out there and score seven points, there’s not a person on offense that has anything to do with it that’s even kind of happy with that. He’s just speaking his mind and being honest.”
On bye week, do you focus more on yourselves or focus on preparing for UCLA?
“It’s always a combination of those two things. You always have to start with yourself for sure. If you can’t take care of yourself, it doesn’t matter what you’re putting in the game plan. It’s definitely a combination and you get a little bit of a head start of looking at some of the things that they do. For us, it just always has to be about us. They’re going to come out with a different game plan half of the time anyways. We just have to know what we’re doing when they come out with something different or do what they’ve been doing. We’re just always trying to be ready to adapt and adjust and some weekends we’re better than others at that.”
What was your reaction to the 12:30 p.m. start time for UCLA?
“I was really kind of happy for our fans.”
Did the pushback against late kickoffs have anything to do with the early start?
“I don’t think it’s that. I know they’re scheduling and doing matchups how they like them and all that kind of stuff. It’s great we’re playing in the day.”
What will it take for Salvon Ahmed to get on the field more?
“That’s a really good question. We just need to really look at the game plan and pay attention to that, where we can get him in. Games like we just played are tough when they’re so tight and you have your guys and you have Myles (Gaskin), Lavon (Coleman). Lavon hits the best run of the game, so he’s not on the field and you know Myles is going to get things going if you just give him the ball enough. We have to continue to look at ways to get him the ball and get him on the field. You can see when he does it he can be different.”
Was the holding on Salvon Ahmed’s reverse called on Jesse Sosebee?
“No, it was out wide. It was on a wide receiver.”
Why didn’t you use more trickery or misdirection plays at ASU?
“We had another one. The one that Hunter Bryant, we tried to get him, that was an extremely unique formation. We lined him up at tackle. It’s that thing, why do you always run the ball up the middle? Why don’t you do more trick plays? Why don’t you run the option? Sometimes you don’t have good answers for that, but you can’t do that all. It looks great when that stuff works, but there’s some strategy to it setting things up and getting the opportunity in this down and distance and field position to do it. We always have things that are ready to roll, it’s just whether it’s like - we don’t want to make a bunch of decisions in the heat of the moment in terms of game plan. We sit here and study tape for hours and hours and hours and figure out where we think it fits best. That gives a structure to get going and there is a feel to the game for sure. We might pull a play out of one situation and put it in another. For the most part it’s pretty calculated when you want to do it.”
The defense played so well, but there are those who nitpick over the defense not getting a turnover. Is that fair?
“I’m that nitpicker for sure. Without question. Our defense is playing at a good level, there’s no question about it. Those guys have been doing a great job. You think when you hold a team to 13 points, you should win. With that being said, we did not get a turnover which is part of who we are on defense. If we don’t it’s like that’s a game changing play that could be the difference in the game. We score with five minutes and 45 seconds and don’t see the ball again.”
Feel like your offense would have gotten a game-winning score if the defense held one final time against ASU?
“You got a chance. You got a chance. It’s like, one play’s not going to lose the game, but one play can win the game. That’s the philosophy and mentality we have around here. So as good as they have been playing (on defense) and played, there’s still always more. The job of the defense is to score or get the ball back — score being the first thing. ‘Huh? Score on defense?’ Well, Alabama did it every single game last year. We’ve done it a few times ourselves, but we’re trying to do that. We’ve told our guys, ‘At the end of the day, you’re a team.’ I’ve won a game 7-6 and the defense scored the touchdown. We’ve also at one time played in the highest scoring game in NCAA history and we won 69-67. OK. We got it done. We’re happy. Let’s go out and figure out how to fix everything either way. First and foremost, you’re trying to figure out how to get it done, and then you go fix things after that. We’re all in this together.”
You saw Clemson, WSU, Auburn all lose before you. Was that motivation at all?
“You would think that would be a good thing (for his team), like ‘Pay attention to this.’ And we do talk about that stuff. You can talk ad nauseum about this stuff. There’s not much we don’t talk about or miss. We’re paranoid about everything. Sometimes you don’t have your fastball, and it’s painful when you don’t.”
You mentioned you sensed a weird energy from the beginning of the game. Is that something over your career you can feel periodically?
“I think it’s really, really hard to play every game at the peak, motivation, energy, mental state. From the outside, it’s like, ‘Huh? You only get 13 games’ or whatever it is. ... It’s just really hard to do. So that’s why you can almost try to take some of the emotion out of it. It’s just like, you don’t have to rely on that all the time. But it’s such an emotional game that that’s a big part of it. And when you don’t have exactly what you need to have — that’s just one small little thing. It’s always a bunch of little thing that add up when you don’t get it done.”
In your experience, have you had a game like this where you’re just looking at each other going, ‘Did that just happen?’ And it kept happening all night long?
“I’ve been in a lot of games where weird stuff would happen. But it was more so just not being able to get anything going. Maybe that’s what you’re talking about, that feeling. I thought when Salvon hit the reverse — we just needed something to happen good. And that creates that momentum and those types of things we’re talking about. That’s such a big part of the game. So it comes back and we drive down again and we miss a short field goal that would have been something. It wasn’t like scoring that touchdown, but it would have been something. Field goals are something — you’re just chipping away and it gives you something. No one feels great about running off the field unless it’s the game-winning field goal. … It was definitely one of those games you’re not going to forget. I think you know as a coach, you feel like that stuff can happen — that you can come out and not score. It’s like, ‘How does that happen.’ Well, you just saw how it happened. A lot of the little things don’t go your way and you don’t play like you’re capable of playing, it’s just really frustrating.”
How is Adams handling a season-ending injury?
“Both those guys — it’s hard. But I will say we’ve got some tough, resilient kids. I mean, I think I was in the very shower at the very end — Jordan Miller and I were the last two. And I’m just looking at him shaking my head. He’s got a cast on his leg and he said, ‘I’m going to get up to 200 pounds! I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. Now I’m just going to put a bunch of weight on and I’ll be ready.’ Man, that’s what he’s saying and it’s just awesome. But it stings those guys and it’s hard and it’ll probably be harder in a few weeks when it all settles in and they’re not out there anymore. But they’ll be back down the road and they will both be better players and they’ll probably appreciate this game a little more just from having to sit out.”
Byron Murphy was in street clothes at the game. Did he just go down (back to his home) on his own?
How important was it for him just to be there?
“I think it was painful for him not playing there. That would have been a big stage for him to go back, and all these crazy things happen out of anybody’s control. You just deal with it the best you can and when you get your opportunity to play you cherish it.”
Is Murphy still week to week?
When you have two kickers who perform well in practice, how do you make decision on who to go with in a game?
“I think you’ve got to give kids opportunities. It is hard to know when they perform similar (in practice). Some of it is, one guy might look better in practice but hasn’t been getting it done in the games, so you’ve got to get somebody else the opportunity and let them see what they can do. A lot of times you’re just scratching your head trying to figure out how do we help these guys. And your brainstorming with the coaches to figure it out. The No. 1 way we know to do is to keep working and take quality reps and producing in practice, and eventually they’re going to focus on just those things they need to focus on and not the extracurricular that goes with it. And if they’ll just do that they’ll make the field goals we’re asking them to make. And they will.”