It took 22 minutes — 36 questions and answers — for someone to mention Washington’s season-opening opponent during Chris Petersen’s weekly news conference Monday.

The local media, it appears, do not respect Eastern Washington.

And, if that’s true, the local media are in the minority nationwide.

“Wow! Twenty-five minutes (in),” the Huskies’ sixth-year coach responded, missing the mark by a few minutes. “Yeah, I think everybody in this country’s got a lot of respect for Eastern Washington. Just the program itself, when (former head coach) Beau (Baldwin) was there and now Aaron Best has taken over, and they haven’t missed a beat.

“I think you look at their track record playing Pac-12 schools — what they do, how they battle, how hard they play — and you look at them in the conference and all the conference championships they’ve won, playing for national championships, all those things. This is not an ideal opener coming in here.”

<strong>When:</strong> Saturday, 12 p.m.<br> <strong>Where:</strong> Husky Stadium.<br> <strong>Watch/listen:</strong> Pac-12 Network / 950 AM


The Eagles have not been an ideal UW opener for quite some time. That was certainly the case on Sept. 6, 2014 — Petersen’s first home game in Seattle — when Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams incinerated the Huskies secondary for 475 passing yards and seven touchdowns in a narrow 59-52 defeat. Current Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp also caught eight passes for 145 yards and three TDs.


“We barely escaped and got a win. I remember that,” said UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who was the defensive-backs coach on that team. “That was a talented team that came in here and they made a bunch of plays on us, and thankfully our offense made one more play than they did.

“I try to block that game out of my head as much as I can. That was a tough one, obviously, on defense.”

Now, consider the UW defense Adams and Kupp exposed for three-plus hours. The Huskies had Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton, Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones, Marcus Peters and Cory Littleton — all eventual NFL players. They were talented, but they were young.

As for the 2019 UW defense? It’s A.) talented, and B.) young.

“I think we all did (learn from that game),” Lake said. “We had a lot of players on that team. We had, I think, three first-round draft picks that were starting in that game, and we gave up 52 points. We had Danny Shelton. We had Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters. We had true freshmen in Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. The list goes on and on.

“But we were really young in our philosophy on defense, what we were doing on defense. That was only our second game of implementing what we were doing, and we had a lot of young players. We’ve definitely grown a lot since then.”


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The Huskies will have to prove that Saturday. They’ll have to prove, despite replacing nine starters, their depth and defensive system will allow Lake’s unit to reload. They’ll have to slow down dual-threat quarterback Eric Barriere (who, by the way, has drawn comparisons with  Adams).

The 6-foot, 200-pound Barriere completed 61% of his passes in 14 games last season, throwing for 2,450 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions — while also running for 613 yards and eight more scores.

“Yeah, I can see that,” Lake said of the Adams comparisons. “You’re seeing a very athletic guy that can extend plays, but also (gets) quarterback-designed runs where he’s going to get the ball and you better account for him.

“But he’s a guy that can also throw darts — that can sit in the pocket and is accurate and can throw the intermediate, short and long throws. He’s still a young quarterback for those guys, but I see all the similarities — a guy that’s slippery in the pocket. We’re going to have a tough battle on our hands.”

That, of course, seems like a staple with Eastern Washington. In 2016, the Eagles opened their season by upsetting the Washington State Cougars 45-42. In 2013, they downed another Pac-12 opponent in Oregon State.

On Sept. 3, 2011, the Eagles fell 30-27 at Husky Stadium. First-year UW wide-receivers coach Junior Adams was standing on the sideline.


Just not the same one he’ll occupy Saturday.

“I’m telling you, every time Eastern steps on the field they’re playing to win the ballgame,” said Adams, who served as wide-receivers coach of the Eagles from 2009 to 2013. “They don’t care who they’re playing. They don’t care where they’re going.

“They’ll play you in the backyard. They’ll play you in the park. Shoot, they’ll play you in any stadium. They don’t care. They’re coming to win the ballgame.”

Eastern Washington — which finished 12-3, averaged 43.1 points per game and fell to North Dakota State in the FCS national-championship game last season — will be coming to win on Saturday. Now, that’s unlikely to happen, considering the Eagles lost by a combined score of 115-34 against FBS opponents Washington State and Texas Tech in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

But the respect will be there — on the sideline, at least.

“We know we’re going to have a fierce opponent on our hands this Saturday that already plays big-time football,” Lake said. “Eastern Washington goes to the national-title game it seems like every other year, and they’re either taking first or taking second. They win the Big Sky, which I think is the best FCS conference in the country.

“This is also going to be an opponent that has beaten Pac-12 teams in the past, has beaten Oregon State, has beaten Wazzu, and obviously took us to the brink the last two times we played them — once while we were here and once while the last staff was here.

“So, the story is we have a big-time opponent coming in here, and they’re going to try to beat us just like we’re going to try to beat them.”