Petersen on Utah: "I think Utah is a tough team. I know that program. Last year that was the toughest game we had outside of playing Alabama."

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Washington coach Chris Petersen on Monday reviewed Friday’s loss at Stanford and previewed Saturday’s game vs. Utah. Here’s everything he had to say:

(What stood out when you watched the Stanford tape?) “I think first and foremost, really proud of how our guys played. That just jumps out. I’m a bad loser. That’s a flaw that I have and even when we win can’t wait to put on the tape to figure out what went wrong. When you lose you always think we didn’t play hard enough, our energy wasn’t right, whatever. Those kids played hard and my hat’s off to ’em. I think both sides played really hard. Stanford played better than us. That’s the bottom line. I think you always know in the Pac-12 North a lot of things are going to roll through Stanford, you’ve got to be able to go down there and win. That’s a hard place to play and it’s a good team to beat. They played their game better than us. Third downs were obviously a big factor and they did pretty well. And we didn’t do well, so that really showed up. That was probably the biggest thing. They held the ball, converted third downs, ate up the clock, ran the ball well – that’s what they do. And they did it better than us. I tell our guys, if we’re playing with all we’ve got and our mind’s right, our energy is right and we’re physical and someone beats us, we don’t like it. It’s tough to stomach, but you tip your hat and move on. That night, those guys played better than us. That’s the way I see it. Stanford’s a good team. They lost two games early and lost a tough one over at Washington State, tough environment. Very close. It’s a good team. We tip our hat and get ready for the Utes.”

(Common denominator in the third down defense?) “Nope. I always wish there was in all our problems. You’d fix ’em in two seconds. Some of it was us executing, but a lot of it was them as well and on both sides. I just thought they executed better than we did overall. All this stuff comes down to details. That’s just a word, you throw it out – details. But we can go to each detail and how do you fix that. It’s flat-out through how you practice and how you study tape, to get more precise in your execution. Those are easy words for me to say and really hard for us anybody to go get done.”

(Was their success on the deep ball because of their size or breakdowns on your end?) “A little both. Coverage wasn’t exactly how you would want on occasion but a couple times the quarterback threw a really good ball and put it on those big receivers. Stanford’s a big, long team. That can show up at times and it did on some of those throws.”

(What happened early when you scored on your first drives that didn’t happen the rest of the way?) “Stanford, a little bit like our defense, does a pretty good job of limiting explosives. Neither side had a bunch of explosive plays. For you to drive the ball for 10, 11 plays and score is really hard to do. We did that twice, but you’re not going to consistently do that. That’s a little frustrating that you start fast and disappear at certain times during the game that you’d like to be a little bit more consistent. At the end of the day it’s about scoring points, so you’d like to score more points than 20 points.”

(On the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1) “That was easy. I’d do that a thousand times over. We just didn’t get it. Again, they played better than us on that play. That’s really what it was. You’d like to think you can get a yard on a bread-and-butter type play but we didn’t.”

(On Bryce Love and what he was able to do in the second half) “First of all I think you’re talking about an All-American, Heisman Trophy candidate. Everyone throws that stuff around lightly, but that dude is for real. Just like the guy they had last year that probably should have won the Heisman. That’s what you’re dealing with there. Off that there was a couple times we didn’t fit the run. They make you, with their big linemen, their style – everybody has to fit the gaps just right, and those gaps change. A really good running back is going to slide and find creases and then be strong and hit ’em. And so we got out of position a time or two, but that’s a tough running back now. I don’t even think he was full strength. You could tell his ankle was bothering him. But he just kept going and getting better as the game went on. We’re always looking at what we can fix and can, but there’s times where you have to give credit where credit is due and he played well.”

(Starting fast, kind of went away from it. Looking back, should you have stuck with it?) “Yeah, it’s always going to be coming and going. We’re never going to be doing that full-time. We’re never going to slow down full-time. We think one of things is to vary that stuff. It’s easy to look back and it’s real easy to to three-and-out very quickly and that’s a problem when they are going to hold the ball and they are converting third downs. So you’re playing a little bit of that game too. What gives us the best chance to get us in the best play? Maybe looking back to go a little more of that, but it’s not a big thing as far as it was a big problem and we should have done that. We had some good stuff we thought on the game plan that, certainly on third downs, we just didn’t get it done.”

(What did you think of the way Jake Browning played?) “He’s a pretty efficient thrower. I think we all know he can stay in the pocket maybe a little bit more. I’ve said this before: Scrambling quarterbacks can be tough to deal with because they can make so many things happen. So when do I stay in? When do I not? Jake’s been making a lot of plays outside the pocket, and he’s not necessarily this big — he’s obviously a better scrambler than everybody thinks he is, but it’s a fine line between do I need to hang in there and get to another read? Do I just need to stick my foot in the ground and get vertical rather than running east-west? It’s easy for all of us to sit here and second-guess and should have done this, should have done that. Certainly the big sack that we took, that was painful. But that comes with playing the game.”

(Does Jake Browning struggle with defenses that drop seven or eight into coverage?) “Nope. That’s always a problem. If you’re going to throw the ball short and they’re dropping eight guys into coverage, that’s an issue. You have to throw it downfield more. We dealt with that last year. Same stuff. This isn’t a new issue. It’s a little bit of a cat and mouse game. Are they going to drop everybody? Are they going to bring pressure? What’s the play to cal? You’re going back and forth on some of that, but when you have certain plays called and they’re dropping eight guys into coverage, I think you talk to anybody in the country, that can be tough to throw the ball in seams and underneath. You have to go deep outside and percentages there are going to be a little bit lower. So you’re calling sometimes some ball control throws, and that’s going to tough when they’re dropping that many guys.”

(Did John Ross’ speed make an average throw look good and does the absence of his speed make an average throw look not as good?) “Yeah, I mean I think John Ross, he’s a first round draft pick. I don’t care what position you go first round, that guy is a game changing player on that side of the ball. If you’re talking a lineman, a running back, whatever, that changes the game. If it’s a wide receiver than can change the game in the pass game for sure.”

(Were there things available downfield during the last couple plays of the game?) “Yeah, he probably got out of there a little too soon. Certainly when you get out of it you start to get — he’s gotten out of so many things. You start to get trapped and you’ve got to say ‘okay, I need to just throw this ball away.’ Sometimes you get trapped and your not in position to throw it away. That’s kind of what happened on that one. So yeah, that’s a play we’d like to have back for sure.”

(On the fourth-down play at the end of the game that Washington didn’t convert) “Yeah, (Browning) didn’t have much there. He’s trying to – those are the worst calls in the world. It’s fourth down and 14 or 18 to get a first down. It’s always like what happened earlier in the series, that’s the problem. Fourth and 18. If anybody’s got a fourth and 18 play that they really like, I’ll take it. I will. I promise you.”

(Is there a route concept that’s called on those plays or do you just tell receivers to improvise?) “They would only do that if he’s scrambling. We have scramble rules on top of that, but there is some leeway in terms of how to find space. We wouldn’t tell them just to do there own thing unless it breaks down and he gets out of the pocket.”

(On Aaron Fuller) “I think he’s making progress, like I said. I think he’s doing a good job. I think Andre Baccellia is doing a good job. Those guys are making progress. Ty Jones works his tail off in practice. You just love that. You know good days are ahead for him. I think we have fire power. I think on offense we would just like to be more consistent than we’ve been. At times we show really good offensive football. At time it’s like we can play better than this.”

(Have you noticed a new trend in Jake Browning’s scrambling tendencies compared to last year?) “I think if you put the tape on it looks really similar to last year, because I do that. I go back and look and it’s like ‘here it is again.’ That’s part of his game. You watch some of these really good players in the country at quarterback, there are very few that just sit in the pocket and one, two, three throw the ball. They’re buying time and creating things. We think that is a good thing. There is a fine line between ‘should I stay in there, should I not, should I throw it on time?’ He’s usually pretty good at that stuff. He did do that a lot last year. If you go back and look, maybe a little more this year, I don’t know, but it’s like I just was thumbing through some stuff going ‘that looks really familiar.”

(On Utah) “I think Utah is a tough team. I know that program. Last year that was the toughest game we had outside of playing Alabama. They play really good defense. They’re super stingy. They’re in like all of the top categories in our conference of everything on defense. They’re going to make it hard for us on offense for sure. We’re at game whatever this is, 11, and game after game they’ve kind of shown the same stuff. They’ve lost some close, hard fought games as well. You know what you’re going to get when these guys come over here. On offense I think the thing that’s probably unique and different is I don’t think we’ve seen a quarterback like this. You talk about creating plays, this guy can create plays. That’s a scary thing. You can cover good, you can do all this stuff, and he can still get some things done. Probably got if not the best, one of the best receivers in the conference over there. This is a dangerous team without question.”

(What’s unique about Tyler Huntley?) “It’s all of those things. I think what makes him different is his athleticism, that he can get out. He’s very fast and can get outside the pocket and buy time and find guys. Those are always scary things. Every defense in the country cannot stand that, when the quarterback gets out of the pocket and then starts making plays. If you did the first part right, we have a good call and we have a good coverage going and then you make plays. That’s part of the game. That’s what the good quarterbacks do. That’s what we were just talking about with Jake.”

(on Huntley playing in high school with Utah RB Zack Moss and WR Demari Simpkins) “The longer you’re with your guys, I think all that help. It might even be more than just playing — it has to do with chemistry and those types of things.”

(Softy question: Cal-Stanford starts a couple hours before your game Saturday. Do you even want to know the result of that game during your game?) “Cal-Stanford? …

(Because you need Cal to win to keep your North hopes alive …) “I didn’t even know that. … So does that mean we’re not going to play as hard (if Stanford wins)? Here’s my thing: I know this is never going to make sense to you guys, but I’ll say it again. If we had won that game (Friday night), everybody’s got us outside, not even in the talk of any sort of big-time postseason tournament. But if we win that game, we’re back in that talk. I know that. And we win the next game and we’re really back. So there’s still so much football to be played in these two games — so much crazy stuff happens. And it doesn’t matter what happens (elsewhere). We have no say over that. All we can control is playing as hard as we can, let’s play this week, let’s get to the following week. These will be two really tough games and I know this: We’ll feel really good about ourselves if we can get that done. Because these are going to be tough challenges. Then we look up and say, ‘OK, now what?’ But for us to sit here and worry — that has nothing to do with the mindset we have around here. Yeah, that’s great if that happens (in Cal-Stanford), but if it doesn’t oh well. We’re not playing that game and that’s really how we look at things.”

(on using Stanford loss as motivation … ) “I think our kids played as hard as they can absolutely play. I get what you’re getting at, but that doesn’t make sense to me either. That was a painful loss to these kids and our program, and they’ll regroup. They’re resilient. And we’ll come out and we’ll reload and have a chip on our shoulder and play hard. But to motivate them because (they lost)? I mean, they played as hard as they could play and as good as they could play on that night, and we’ve just got to try and get better during the week and reload and go again. I don’t really look at it like, ‘We’re going to use this as motivation …’ It’s like, we’ve got to keep grinding and keeping grinding and keep trying to improve. That’s what we have to do. There’s not much I can say to go in there and motivate them. These kids get it and they care tremendously about playing well and winning and all those things. It’s not for lack of focus or effort or energy. Just didn’t win that game. The question more is, are we gritty enough to really go to work this week to get better, to play a new challenge on Saturday?”

(on Azeem …) There’s progress there. You can see that. He got a nice sack and it was good. Figuring it out.”

(Was there a change in game plan or script with using Salvon Ahmed …) “Yeah, a little bit. Little bit. Salvon, we’ve got a couple good backs (in front of him) and we’ve got to find creative ways to still get him involved. He’s done a nice job each week, and we would like to try to figure out somehow how to get him more involved.”

(on getting the running backs enough touches …) “We’d always like more plays and another series or two. I think we had 10 series (vs. Stanford), which is as low as we’ve had all year. But we knew that going in. When Stanford’s playing their game, they’re going to hold it from you. Utah’s been like that too in the past. I think we had maybe nine (possessions) against Utah last year, which just means you’d better be as efficient as heck. And it can be a frustrating feeling, because if you’re not just right on offense … You need more touches. The longer you stay on the field, better things are going to happen. So when you’re not efficient and you’re off the field, it’s like, ‘We need the ball more.’ And so the defense, if they can stop ‘em on third down and get us the ball more … One of the things that jumped out to me was we had two punt return opportunities. Huh? I’m looking at the tape going, ‘What? This never happens. Dante’s (usually) getting a bunch of chances.’ Well they held the ball, converted third downs and didn’t punt much. That can be a problem for the offense as well.”

(on not getting overwhelmed/frustrated by lack of possession) “You address the strategy early in the week knowing what you think they’re going to be all about and what we’re going to do, and then you just have to go play. A lot of times it’s not going to turn out exactly like you want strategy-wise on either side, but you know kind of going in. And whoever operates their strategy better usually wins. And Stanford did a good job.”