Huskies Insider Blog

Quoting Chris Petersen on Hau'oli Kikaha's health, getting more out of the passing game and Arizona

Chris Petersen met with reporters for his weekly Monday press conference earlier this afternoon, and said that senior outside linebacker and national sacks leader Hau'oli Kikaha "should" be able to play this week against Arizona.

Petersen said Kikaha practiced at least some this morning. Here's the rest of what he said.

(Injuries? Health?) “This time of year you just get those…a lot of football’s been played, a lot of wear and tear. But I think we’re going to be okay. Hauoli was running around there today. As long as he can keep progressing I think we’ll be okay.”

(Is he getting treatment?) “Our whole team gets ongoing treatment; that’s kind of how it goes this point of the year.”

(So Kikaha should be good for Saturday?) “He should be, we’ll see. I’ve thought a lot of guys should be good for Saturday the last couple weeks and we’re still waiting on some guys. He was out there today running around with us.”

(Did the injury happen on his sack early in the game?) “I don’t think so. I don’t know exactly when it was; I don’t think that’s when he got it thought. Saw him a couple plays, might have even been the next series, I’m not sure…kind of a little lame.”

(How does losing a player that significant change things?) “It was challenging. We had Cory Littleton down there a little bit to give us some work there. I thought Cory did a heck of a job battling at that position. He’s played down there in certain packages but not that extensive. And he plays so much on special teams as well, I thought he really did a nice job of going in there and battling hard.”

(What did you think of Cyler’s performance?) “Again, I thought he did some good things. There’s a couple things if we could have got done…I thought overall we kicked three field goals, and if we could have scored a touchdown or two that would have dramatically changed things. That red zone offense is critical to us. Cameron Van Winkle and that field goal team are doing a nice job of getting us points, but we need to get touchdowns. That kind of changes the mojo of a lot of things.”

(You said the passing game was ‘painful’ post-game. What needs to happen?) “We just need to be able to throw the ball downfield a little bit more and make some plays. It was nice, we got one to Brayden (Lenius), a big chunk play. We had two other chances to Dante (Pettis) we couldn’t quite get done. We need to hit a few of those. We just need to be more efficient in there. Our run game is solid, but our run game could get better if we could pass the ball better."

(On what’s going wrong with the intermediate pass game? Not anticipating? Not trusting the throws? Not being called?) “A little bit of a combination of some protection things and he wants to get out there and run. But that’s definitely an area we’ve got to get better at.”

(On the zone-reads, does Cyler usually have the option to keep? Would you like to see him keep it more?) “Not necessarily. There are a lot of reads on those, not always, but a lot of times. There may be one or two a game where you say, ‘Hey, this would have been probably a good one to keep’. But he carries the ball decent amount when you go back and look how much he’s carrying it. I don’t think that’s a big concern of he needs to pull it and carry it more.”

(How did Shaq handle the O/D balance Saturday? And will it change at all this Saturday?) “We’ll go as we go here. Hau’oli not on that side and him not on that side, things change a little bit. We’ll get our running backs going a little bit, so we may be able to balance him over there a little bit more.”

(John Ross in the same boat now? Would you like to see him on offense a little bit more?) “I think we’d like to see what he can do over there at that corner position. Again, it’s hard to split reps, especially when a guy is new and young to a position.”

(Hard to take a guy like him off offense because he’s so explosive?) “It’s hard…yeah, whether it’s guys like Shaq or John Ross or whatever. But we’ve got to balance that and see where we need the most help and are the most thin and those type of things.”

(On guys playing where they aren’t currently listed on the depth, like Shaq listed at LB) “We’ll kind of keep…he’s always on that depth chart at running back. We may get him a little bit more involved on the defensive side of things.”

(Will he be a defensive starter?) “Yeah, he’ll start on the defensive side and go from there.”

(With three games left in the regular season, is this an opportunity to give those guys even more total reps?) “It’s still…when you’re playing, certainly Shaq on that offensive side of the ball, I think we were playing him as much as we can. That running back position is a tough, hard position. There’s just a lot of pounding. It’s hard to play him any more. We got him in on defense a little bit. We wanted to play him more. It’s as much as he can handle. It’s a different physical game out there.”

(So 15, 16 carries is about what you’d expect from him at most?) “Yeah. We never go in there with…hey, we want to get him this many carries. It’s more like, ‘Hey, he’s going on offense - how’s he feeling? Can we keep giving him the ball? Is he going on defense? Okay, he didn’t get a whole lot that last…’ It’s kind of back and forth.”

(On Arizona QB Anu Solomon) “We’re watching (film of) him as we speak. They do a heck of a job. This is a really good team, there’s no question about it. You check their scores and beating Oregon and right down to the wire with UCLA. It’s another one of these really, really good teams. I keep saying it every single week — ‘What’s going on here in this league?’ But we kind of knew that going in.”

(On Arizona’s schemes) “They run that 3-3 stack defense and it is different than what we’ve seen. No one else really runs that. People will dabble in some things and nickel defense, but that’s what they do and it is different.”

(What does that change for your offense up front?) “It changes rules. It really does. It’s something we haven’t seen a whole lot of, so short time to get ready for, ‘How are we going to block this play, that play and protect it? They do a great job with it.”

(You felt compelled to apologize to fans after the loss to UCLA. Why?) “I know how passionate they are and I know how much they care about this program, and we all do. We’re trying to do our best and trying to win games and playing a lot of good football teams and we’ve got to continue to make progress. I know how fans are. I know how much they care about it, and I just want them to know we care about them. We’re trying to do the best we can.”

(Are you still having to tinker with your system and adjust to personnel) “I think we’re always adjusting, You just can’t say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing.’ You’ve got to figure out what’s here and how to best use the talent and (do) things the kids can handle and those types of things.”

(What types of things are ongoing with those adjustments?) “A lot of it is just kind of banked reps — what are we spending time on where we can get these guys in a groove a little bit. Do they have any history, if we’re going to add something new? To add new things is a slower process than if you’re at place for a long while.”

(On Lavon Coleman) “Yeah, I think Lavon’s ready to go. Anxious to get those guys going.”

(Has this first year been tougher than you thought it would be?) “It’s been hard. It’s been hard. I think anytime you go somewhere new and you’re figuring everything out as you go, I think that’s always challenging. But I didn’t come in here thinking, ‘How hard is this going to be?’ I just kind take it one day and one week at a time and keep grinding.”

(Anything unexpected about playing in the Pac-12 every week?) “I think it’s pretty much what I thought. The parity is legitimately as good — or the really good teams are as legit as I thought they were going to be. It’s good football every week. There’s no breaks.”(On how Arizona’s offense compares to Oregon’s) “It might be the fastest team. They run a lot plays. They go, they go, they go. They do a great job with it. So it’s similar to (Oregon), but everybody’s got a unique spin on the offense. No one’s going, ‘Oh, this is just like them.’ Everybody’s unique enough to make it their own. And it’s not like we’re going to play these guys exactly like we played these (other) guys. So that’s what’s unique about this conference as well.”

(On slow starts vs. Colorado and UCLA) “I don’t know. I thought they were ready to go and it seemed like there was good energy in the locker room, but we didn’t play up to how we wanted to play. Certainly, the second half we were pleased with that effort and focus, but we need to come out with that kind of mentality, that urgency from the start. That’s going to help us tremendously.”

(What stands out most about this Arizona offense?) “Just that they’re really good at what they do. They don’t get into a whole bunch of different formation, but they have little complements off it and they just execute really well. I think this whole team plays really, really hard in all three phases and those are the things that really jump out at me in the early studying of this opponent.”

(One 100-yard kickoff return for a TD vs. UCLA but you were pinned deep on a lot of others, too) “Yeah, guys just weren’t making their blocks. That was one of the better kick coverage teams that we’ve seen. We kind of knew that going in. And I think sometimes when you’re playing good teams, it’s a little bit like that. You get hit in the mouth, you get hit in the mouth and then all of a sudden you hit something. We got one almost to the 50 and then he took one 100. We’d probably like not as many opportunities to get as we got, but I’m proud of those guys and John Ross for keep hammering it in there, because that’s hard. It’s like, man, is anyone going to hold up? A lot of times that can be one of the harder things to do, is hold up against fast guys in space. Especially when the kick — we always say this, ‘A good kick equals good coverage.’ So you get that thing down near the goal line with some hang time — three to five yards makes a tremendous difference in terms of a ball hanging up (for) as fast as a team can get down there. So sometimes you’ll see the ball go to the goal line, but it’s not great hang time. We love those. But UCLA has a guy who can hang it up there and they’ve got fast guys who can cover well. They take a lot of pride in that. So I thought we did a solid job against a really good kick team. To take one back and to get one to the 50. … Speaking of those things, going back to the slow start, that first quarter, we don’t do much on offense and we’re playing on that short field, we kind of get backed up and we punt it out there and it’s barely over mid field so we couldn’t flip the field. And I think those things really catch you eventually. … We’re always trying to get those (short fields) on offense. We feel differently running out onto the field, and most offenses do. So that hurt us in the first half, those shorter fields. The second half was a little bit better.”

(Long touchdown pass? Coverage issue?) “Freshman mistakes. You’ve just got to cover, just go play fast.”

(Was Budda Baker supposed to take over there?) “No, no. Naijiel needs to stay with him, and for whatever reason he was a little bit confused.”

(Pac-12 explain penalty on fake punt they blew dead?) “We haven’t talked to those guys. It’s hard to even explain. We had one of our guys come off, and that gave us 10 guys – because we use different personnel on our punt teams – but we had one of our guys come off and that gave us 10 guys. So I think they thought it was 11 guys, and they threw the flag. Then they realized it was 10 and they didn’t reset the clock and gave us delay of game on that instead of redoing that. And so all this was going on and we had a hard time figuring out what the heck was going on. That’s the best I can do for you right there.”

(Who has been most consistent offensive player?) “That’s a good question. I think Colin Tanigawa’s done a nice job inside. James Atoe’s done a nice job, moving him around. Those guys have played pretty well. The rest of the guys – had some guys banged up a little. Those running backs … Shaq over there. Probably a couple of those linemen. I think Josh Perkins has done a good job. He’d been out for a few games.”

(More on offense and making plays) “We just need to figure out how to get better. That’s how I think more so than that signature win. I think we’ve just got to keep getting better. I feel like we’re progressing and we’re right there. We’ve just got to keep going to work in practice, and those banked reps I talk about and really feel like we’re in a groove, and we can execute when things aren’t wide open. Throw balls under pressure, put them in there when guys are tightly covered and make more plays. It was good to see Brayden Lenius kind of make a play. That was really good execution. Just more of those things. Cyler threw it on time, threw it to his outside shoulder, Brayden kind of holds the line, fades, catch it outside. When a ball is thrown perfectly and caught perfectly, to me, there’s no defense for it. You can play as good of defense as you want. There’s no defense to that. So we’ve just got to get a little bit more of those, of guys making plays and doing it exactly how we need it to be done. You’re seeing a lot of good players on the other side.”

(Confidence of team?) “Back to work. That’s what it is. We’ve got to stay strong, keep battling. Got three regular season games left. We’ve got to go. We’ve got a lot of football to play.”

(How important is it to make bowl game?) “I think that all of it’s important. There’s no question. Every week is important – are we making progress or not?”

(One thing about passing game that needs most help?) “Everybody’s got their things. The receiver has their things, the o-line has their things, Cyler has his things. Maybe the whole pocket presence thing, to be able to hang in there, let some things develop. But I don’t think really just is one thing. I think Coach (Jonathan) Smith has been working on Cyler with some things, Coach (Chris) Strausser, no question. Our pass protection wasn’t as good as it needed to be against a pretty good pass rush this last week. Arizona’s going to do the same thing. They’ve got this different scheme and they put good pressure on the passer.”