In his final interview before Saturday’s game against No. 12 Oregon, Washington coach Chris Petersen talked about the red-zone matchup between UW’s inconsistent offense and UO’s stingy defense, the challenges of stopping the Ducks’ run-first, pistol offense and his relationship with coach Mario Cristobal.
Petersen also provided an update — sorta — on center Nick Harris, who sat out last week.
Here’s the transcript of the interview.
(On being home after two road games) “Yeah, there’s no place like home. I think this is going to be one of those games that everyone will be excited about. I do think this is one of the games that can make this the greatest setting in college football. You get an afternoon, a really good opponent coming in here, I know our fans will be excited. I’m excited to see the environment as much as our team.”
(On Trey Adams, who said he’d like to hear noise even when you’re on offense) “We probably will, but we really need it when our defense is out there. Trey just needs to stay in his lane and make sure we’re good there (laughs).”
(On being in an environment where you can tell the crowd is getting to the offense) “We’ve already had it this year, without question. It’s interesting, we watch a lot of tape from different people around the country, and it’s always amazing when you’re watching a game and there’s three or five false starts. When that happens, you know that’s a huge problem. Not just on those plays, but in general having to battle that and guys can get off the count late, and we’ve had to do it when we go out on the road. It was quite an environment down there last year. Excited to see our fans.”
(On if weather will play a role Saturday) “I don’t really think so. I think both teams are used to being in this kind of weather. It hasn’t been bad, but it’s colder than it was last week for us. But this is more what we’re used to.”
(On Oregon’s tendency to go for it a lot on fourth down changing UW’s defensive tactics) “Doesn’t change it at all; just have to play good defense. They went for it a bunch last year and did a good job against us, so we’ve just got to play good defense.”
(On improvement in Oregon’s defense after the Auburn game) “I don’t even think after the Auburn game. I think they played an elite team in Auburn and battled really well. Auburn had to come back, but they had to earn everything that they got. Guys make plays, and that’s what you’ve got to do on a good defense. You’re not going to get them or trick them. Wideouts gotta go makes plays, running backs going to have to break tackles, going to have to have great ball security, O-line is going to have to do a great job. They just play well as a unit.”
(On relationship with Oregon DC Andy Avalos and if his defense has changed since their days at Boise State) “I think there’s always tweaks. Everybody is always evolving. In general, it’s the same. Same structure. There’s a handful of defenses out there that people kind of major in, so they’ve got their style and Andy’s had that style for a while. Just does a great job with the details.”
(On red-zone matchup between UW’s offense and UO’s defense, which has allowed just two red-zone TDs) “It always is. Hopefully we get in the red zone. We’ve been talking about that until we’re blue in the face. Not only in the red zone … you’re talking about after the Auburn game, they’ve given up one touchdown a game. It’s all critical. We’ve got to be able to stay in manageable situations and play our best ball.”
(On the red-zone problems early on last week) “I think it goes to rhythm and guys understanding in that red zone you’re going to have to one, play assignment-perfect football. That, to me, is not overly complicated to play assignment-perfect football. You’ve got to know your assignments. And if you don’t, we’re doing too much with them as coaches. And then we’ve got to play really fundamentally great football. Doesn’t have to be perfect, but we’ve got to have great fundamentals. There’s a couple times we weren’t perfect on our assignments. If you’re not perfect down there, good luck.”
(On Jack Westover becoming another red zone option) “I think we’re always into trying to find guys roles. And then you try and expand roles, whether it’s on special teams, whether it’s on a certain package on offense or defense. That was our way to get Jack involved. He’s a really good athlete that can do some nice things and hopefully we can keep developing him.”
(More on Westover) “The issue that we had with Jack was just him staying healthy. Even in high school there wasn’t a lot out there tape-wise. We knew what kind of athlete he was, he showed flashes. We just didn’t have a lot of tape on him. And then when he came here it was a little bit of the same thing. We just wanted to make sure he could stay healthy so he could develop. And that’s what he’s been doing.”
(On how UW is different in the red zone without Richard Newton) “You like to recruit to a style. A guy goes down and you don’t change your entire approach. You still got to do what you need to do to be successful and the things you think works for your team.”
(On the challenges of facing Oregon’s pistol offense) “Well, the main challenge is they got really good players. That’s always the main challenge from the start. Then their mindset is
they’re a physical team. They run the ball. It’s a run-first (offense). Pretty balanced. They have a big-league quarterback, but that’s a run-first team. They’re going to keep hammering it in there. And they got a really good and experienced offensive line to with it, so when you recruit really good players and you get them into they’re system, that’s what you see.”
(On if previous losses are motivating) “All the time, but it’s not probably what you’re thinking.
(On if he’s not sitting around thinking about what happened last year in a 30-27 OT loss) “Not last year, last week. That’s how you’re motivated. How do we fix ourselves from last week? That’s what it always is. That would be ridiculous stewing (from last year). That’s not how we operate. Maybe that’s how you operate. (smiling). But it’s like every week you’re motivated. Even when you win. There’s enough things in that other game to where you’re like, this is not right.”
(On what he focused on from last week) “The lack of execution early on. It’s like, OK what is going on here? How do we get in rhythm? So it’s those types of things that are extremely motivating.”
(On if there’s anything derived from last year’s loss to Oregon) “You take everything from every game. And that’s all we do is try to learn and improve. I don’t care if you win or lose. That was a heckuva game last year. Both sides left it all on the field. That’s what big-time college football should look like. Now is there nuances and all of those types of things. There’s some things that we did really well that we learned as well. So you’re always learning.”
(On how much missing a 37-yard on the final play in regulation may have turned things around for kicker Peyton Henry) “I think the same line of thought that we’re talking about. Whether you’re doing really well, you have to keep learning from why am I doing well. And when things don’t go right, it’s how do I fix this? And just keep that mindset of, I’m truly in the moment and I’m truly grinding. And that’s what he’s done. I worry about just as much as when a guy is not having success is when we’re having a bunch of success. That’s easy to really slide. I got this all figured out. The three worst words a coach can say here is ‘I got ya.’ It’s, ‘I got ya, coach.’ Yeah. No you don’t have it. (smiling) Don’t say that to us. It’s just that mindset of right back to square one.”
(On how often he hears “I got ya” from players) “Very, very little because when it does come out of their mouths, it’s then I’m sorry. It’s, OK, I’m on it. I’ll get it done.”
(On his relationship with Oregon coach Mario Cristobal) “Not much. Since last year, you don’t spent a lot of time around the other coaches. There’s a couple of meetings that we have. The meetings are short, there’s 11 other guys so there just hasn’t been that much time.”
(On Nick Harris status for Saturday) “Week to week.”