Petersen on Azeem Victor: "For whatever reason, he just maybe hasn’t had those opportunities to make those type of plays. But he’s working hard."

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Washington coach Chris Petersen met with the local media after practice Thursday. Here’s what he had to say about Arizona State, Azeem Victor, UW’s kicking competition and more.

(On not being able to practice on grass) “I don’t think it has a big factor in the game. I know the turf down in Arizona is really tight, and it’s all the same. We do wish we had some grass. I do think in the long run it’s easier on the guys’ bodies. But it is what it is. I think last year we were the only team in the country that did not play any game on grass, and we get a couple this year. So it’s good, a good change.”

(How good a look does Daniel Bridge-Gadd give you in scouting ASU?) “He does a nice job, but Jake Haener does as much as well. Both those guys kind of rotate and they’ve done a good job. Jake’s been our quarterback most of the time on our scout team and he’s done a really nice job all year long.”

(There used to be a grass field here, but it was covered in goose poop 10 months out of the year. Would you lobby to have one?) “We’ve had discussions about it. I think that is the issue (goose poop). I think there’s a little bit of an issue with that over at the track. This is a great place for not only people to want to live by the water, the birds like it as well. So it’s a problem.”

(Does your game plan change at all from turf to grass?) “No. The thing that can change a game plan a little bit is when you get into maybe some strong wind. It makes it tougher to throw. But the rain, for the most part, doesn’t really affect us too much because the balls are kept relatively dry. You don’t see those muddy, sloppy games. The wind — which we played in against Arizona State a couple years ago at our place – that did kind of change things. When we got to the game it was very hard to throw a 10-yard pass.

(Is putting Joel Whitford at holder now a factor because of how many you can travel on the road?) “For sure. Race Porter was the holder, and he was doing a great job. He’s a really good holder. There’s more of an art to it than people might think. It wasn’t the fact that he wasn’t doing a great job. It had to do with the fact that we can only take so many guys when we travel in the Pac-12. We have discussions every week, who is going and who is not.”

(Assuming Byron Murphy isn’t going down for the game — how disappointing is that considering he’s an Arizona guy? And how much do you sell ‘going home’ in recruiting?) “It’s a bummer when guys get injured for sure but don’t be so sure he’s not there.”

(So if I asked if he’s playing Saturday, you’d say what?) “He’s week-to-week.”

(Where are you at with the kicking decision? You said you might make it by today?) “Today’s not over. Those kids work hard. I want anybody that’s doing well, they just go back to work. There’s nobody that cares more about our kicking game than our kickers in this entire process. Those kids are very diligent in trying to improve their craft. They’ve worked hard this week and we’ll sit down later today and figure out what we’re doing.”

(on ASU running back duo) “That is one of the things Arizona State has going for them. That is just a few of the guys, and they are good – that is a great 1-2 punch, just like the 1-2 punch we have here. But what is different about Arizona State, each team usually has a couple of guys you talk about, but there are multiple guys we can talk about on both sides of the ball, and we haven’t seen that this year.”

(Who has been the scout-team version of N’Keal Harry this week:?) “That is hard. That is a hard one to do. He is a unique guy that can run, and he is big and physical. So we’ve had multiple guys out there, some tight-end looking guys for us, and wide receivers. He is a unique player as well.”

(How well do you know Todd Graham?) “I know him through being in this league, and actually when we were at Boise, he was at Tulsa, so we go way back. Those guys play hard. He is a good football coach. He is passionate, and he gets guys. He is in a great spot at Arizona State, just like we are in a great spot here at Washington. I’ve always had tremendous respect for what he does.”

(ASU likes to bring pressure, what are some of the keys for Browning and the O-line?) “Everybody has their unique plan. And certainly Arizona State’s is different than we’ve seen. But our process isn’t necessarily any different. Hopefully we are in the right play. And sometimes what they do is bring more blitzers than you can block, so you have to get rid of the ball quickly and make something happen. They’ve been very, very good at that. So that is a little bit of their uniqueness – they do like pressure. Coach Graham has always liked pressure. That is part of who he is.”

(What do you remember about the ASU game two years ago?) “I don’t remember – yeah I do. What I remember is that being part of our growing process of that whole year. You can talk about Arizona State. You can talk about Utah. You can talk about a bunch of them. It is like, these kids worked hard. These kids fought hard. We weren’t good enough to get it done. So lessons learned, and to their credit, they have really stuck to working hard and getting better. We know this, and we know this is going to be a hard-fought game … and this will be the toughest game we’ve had this year. Talk about a tough place to play, whatever – they’ve got really good coaches and got really good players. That is what makes it a tough place to play.

(What ASU did well in its win over Oregon at home a few weeks ago) “Well, they brought a lot of pressure. ASU was really good on third downs on defense (with) a lot of that pressure we’re talking about. Our style is different than Oregon’s, so sometimes those are hard games to compare. But they played good and they made it hard on the quarterback and that’s always the name of the game.”

(You’ve been asked before about your conversation with Jake Browning walking off the field at ASU two years ago — was that game a turning point for this program? UW is 21-2 since then) “I really don’t. I just think about that season of, those guys really working hard. A lot of growth, a lot of hard lessons. I don’t think people realize on either side when a team loses how hard that is on everybody in the organization. You just don’t. This is what we do 24/7 and it’s usually year-around. We just compete at this time and put in all that hard work. So when you’re losing, it is so hard. And when you’re losing multiple times, close games, and you think you’re doing everything right — it’s hard to explain, ‘Why are we not winning?’ So that’s what I say about that year — sometimes you’re just not good enough. You don’t have enough skill; the process isn’t right; we’re not getting better. But you’ve got to stick to it. And that’s what I think about.”

(If it wasn’t the ASU game, was there a moment where you remember feeling that, hey, these kids are now starting to get what we’re doing here?) “Yeah, after that season was over and we won our last three games. It was like, yeah, this is what we’re talking about. It was really the body of work put together. You could feel the vibe. There was tension in a good way. They were not going to back off, they were not going to stop. Most people can’t do that — when you care about something so much and you’re working so hard (but the results aren’t there), it’s like, ‘Forget it.’ It’s an ego-protection mechanism. You’re not going to invest anymore because it hurts. It hurts too much. But those guys just kept going and kept going. So people likes to say, oh, this one play, this one game, whatever — it’s never that simple.”

(Fans wondering about Azeem Victor’s status … ) “I will say this: We’ve got some good players there. Azeem’s a good player. But if you look at our breakdowns of the reps that those ‘backers are playing, they’re not that much different than Keishawn Bierria. Ben Burr-Kirven has been playing at a high level. Their reps are really similar, and so we’re trying to move guys around to get our best guys on the field. We’ve got a lot of football left to play, and I think you’ll see Azeem show up here like everybody (saw) last year before he got hurt. For whatever reason, he just maybe hasn’t had those opportunities to make those type of plays. But he’s working hard. And we’ve moved him around a little bit. We know he can play inside ‘backer, and we’re trying to build some skillset at different positions as well.”