The time doesn’t matter. The temperature doesn’t matter.
Or maybe it does, but the Washington Huskies won’t admit it.
Regardless, Chris Petersen’s team will kick off against Arizona (4-1) at 8 p.m. Saturday. It will be the first time the Huskies started that late since 2015, when they dropped Arizona in Seattle, 49-3. UW is just 6-4 in games that kicked off at 7 p.m. or later since 2017, however, and 0-2 this season.
But if the late kickoffs are a cause for concern, don’t expect UW’s coaches to confirm it.
“We’ve got to play whenever they tell us to play, and that is not an excuse,” said UW’s second-year defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. “We can play at 10 o’clock at night, or we can play at 1 o’clock in the morning like we did against Cal (in a 20-19 defeat following a lightning delay). Whenever they tell us to play, let’s go and play. That’s no excuse whatsoever.”
Added wide receivers coach Junior Adams: “It’s just playing a football game. We’ll go play ’em in a park, right? It doesn’t matter. I think when we all started playing football we probably played it at like 10 o’clock in the morning. We’re just excited to play some football. It doesn’t matter, the time.”
Or maybe it does … and the late kickoff could actually help the Huskies. There’s a high of 89 degrees in Tucson on Saturday, but the temperature is expected to dip to a more comfortable 75 degrees by 8 p.m., according to Weather.com.
“It depends what time of year,” Petersen said Thursday, when asked if he’d prefer to play a night game in Tucson. “Probably this time of year, later is better for us.”
It’d be easy to look at Petersen’s lack of success at UW inside the state of Arizona — he’s just 1-3 on the road at UA and ASU, with the only win being a narrow 35-28 overtime victory over Arizona in 2016 — and assume the desert heat hindered the Huskies. But in reality, the temperature topped 80 degrees in only one of those four games.
So, if UW (4-2) loses its second consecutive game Saturday night, it’ll be because the Huskies struggled to stop Arizona dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate; or because the Wildcats’ tempo offense ran roughshod over Washington; or because UW’s passing game continued its disappointing decline; or because the Huskies committed too many turnovers, or too many penalties, or both.
It won’t be because of the weather.
“We were inside (the Dempsey Indoor to practice in a hotter environment) a couple of days,” Petersen said. “It was a lot different right there. But it’s going to be a nice night of football.
“All of our recovery methods, hydrating, it’s all built into doing this. It’s not like we’re going down there and playing at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and those types of things, so I think we’ll be all right.”
Missed tackles and dropped passes
Washington missed too many tackles in the 23-13 defeat last weekend against Stanford.
But it’s possible those mistakes might actually help the Huskies against Arizona.
“Sometimes that’s like the smelling salts, like waking you up,” Petersen said. “(Senior safety) Myles Bryant comes up and he hits a (Stanford tight end) really well and the guy drops his pad level, and it’s hard to wrap up sometimes. We go back to it and now he can visualize that type of tackle when he’s wrapping up.
“Those are some of the things that kind of wake you up a little bit. But we’re always spending time on the fundamentals for sure.”
That applies, of course, to both sides of the football. Besides the tackling issues, another common thread in UW’s two defeats this season has been a series of damaging drops by Jacob Eason’s intended receivers.
So cue those smelling salts.
“(Let’s say) the guy is pretty sure-handed or whatever it is and if the guy doesn’t perform, I think if you’re a competitor, it kind of wakes you up and snaps you back to, ‘OK, I’ve got to get a little more focused and finish the play,’” Petersen said. “You know what happens sometimes is guys are pressing. They’re trying to make a play. It’s not like they’re casual. It’s not like they haven’t been trying to make a play. That’s what dropped balls are. Guys are trying to run before they catch it.
“And so, that’s when you’ve got to take a step back and all of our little coaching terms of ‘eyes on the cross-hairs’ and all of those types of things, you’ve just got to get programmed into them.”