“I see what you’re doing.”
That was Chris Petersen’s response to a media member’s end-around question regarding running back Myles Gaskin and his availability for this weekend’s Oregon game.
By now, everyone knows that the Washington football coach considers it a personal affront whenever he’s asked about a player’s health and game-day status. He feels no obligation whatsoever to address an injury question. To the point it gets silly.
Petersen still has never explained offensive tackle Trey Adams’ season-long absence, presumably to an injury that required surgery. Nor have the Huskies removed linebacker D.J. Beavers from his starting spot in the two-deep lineups handed out each week—and Beavers hasn’t played since the opener at Auburn. It’s all so clandestine.
Don James used to acknowledge injuries, with the exception of a severe thumb sprain suffered by quarterback Cary Conklin in practice and witnessed by reporters. He asked them hold off reporting the injury until closer to the game, which didn't happen and angered him so much he closed practices. Rick Neuheisel asked reporters to wait until the end of the week when he would address injuries all at once. Petersen prefers a total media blackout on this subject.
In this case, Monday’s line of questioning began with redshirt freshman Sean McGrew and his unexpected backfield insertion at the end of the Huskies’ 24-17 victory at UCLA with the game still on the line.
Gaskin was seen wincing and grabbing at his shoulder, as well as carrying the football in his off hand when he didn’t have to late in the game against the Bruins, all duly noted by the FOX Sports guys in the booth doing the TV broadcast.
Petersen pled ignorance to the unusual substitution with the game on the line—of replacing his four-year starting back with a reserve player appearing in his sixth game. Of subbing out a guy now with a school-record 4,609 i career yards rushing for one playing his sixth game. Petersen said talk to his running backs coach about it.
Will Gaskin get on the field in Eugene this weekend?
“He’s fine,” Petersen said. “He’s going to play. We’re good to go. Move on. Next question. I mean, really?”
Following is Petersen’s Monday presser Q&A compiled by Adam Jude of the Seattle Times.
(Opening) “Looking back to last week’s game, tale of two halves obviously. We kind of executed our plan first half and held the ball for a lot and defense got off the field quickly. Then they flipped the script on us the second half and kind of did the same thing to us. And then it can be a tight ballgame real quickly. But I thought our guys played hard. A lot of guys very tired after that game when you get a lot of reps. It’s interesting because we had a lot of reps the first half on offense and I think some guys are tired and the second half it was the other side of the ball. They competed hard, played hard. We’re always learning things from these guys and it’s kind of how it goes through the season. On to the next.”
(Did UCLA do anything different in the second half?) “Not really. They didn’t. They just kind of executed and the quarterback did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands. They just kind of kept chipping away and keeping them in manageable situations. Threw a couple downfield but just kind of chipping away.”
(What stands out to you about Oregon with a new staff and systems?) “The defense is the same, structure and scheme. Coach Leavitt does a great job there, so we’ve seen him for a while. And their offense is significantly different. A lot of the Pistol influence from coach Jim Mastro, who we’ve known him for a long time, was at Nevada with coach (Chris) Ault. So that’s much different. And they do a nice job and those guys are all playing hard. It’s an excellent team.”
(When you put the tape on of the second half against UCLA, what is the biggest takeaway?) “Details. It’s always the details. It’s not any one thing, it’s all details. It’s not kids not playing hard, it’s not kids completely out of position, it’s just a little bit here a little bit there. You get tired a little bit. It’s like clockwork, it always is this time of the season – you’ve seen a lot of things and kids kind of know how it goes. But can you execute your technique and your assignment a little bit better than they can? And that’s really what it was. We didn’t have any blown coverages or guys that were massively out of gaps. It was like, they executed just a little bit better than we did at times.”
(With back-to-back road games, is it harder to get them physically prepared, mentally prepared or emotionally prepared?) “It’s all that. I don’t think they are worn out or anything like that. We were on the field for a long time the second half on defense. On defense, you expend a tremendous amount of energy running sideline to sideline. If you’re going to see 12 and 15-play drives, that gets guys tired. It’s more that.”
(But in regard to the back-to-back weeks and playing that second game on the road …) “In some ways it’s kind of business as usual. We’re on the road and it’s kind of the same thing. It’s not a huge deal in terms of during the week. During the week the same and then on Friday they’ll miss a little bit of class, that’s probably the biggest deal. And then we get down there and get ready to play and get right back — it’s a short plane flight this week and an early game. So that should be helpful.”
(Being tired the second half on defense, how much of that had to do with missed tackles? Did the footing have anything to do with that?) “I think the missed tackles can keep you on the field longer. If you don’t want to be on the field longer, tackle better. You make some of those tackles, they don’t move the sticks. It all kind of goes hand-in-hand though. A guy is a little bit tired and doesn’t execute his technique just right and there they go.
(On the wildcat package with Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Kamari Pleasant on the field together) “That’s usually been some productive stuff for us over the years, just depending on the situation we get in, the game-plan and all that. But those are all good players and we like to get good players on the field together.”
(On limiting player interviews to avoid bulletin-board material) “I think it’s different these days. It feels so much different these days than it does way back when. In the good old days all coaches clamor for, before social media and a thousand reporters in our kids’ ears all the time. … You get something, that’s really the only form, somebody would say something. It seems like times have changed and the world they live in is the media era anyway, so it doesn’t seem as big. I think the big thing with the media that I worry about with our guys is class. We get done at 10:45-ish and half our team has class at 11:30 and they’re trying to get something to eat and all of those type of things, and it’s just very, very tight. That’s really kind of the big thing for us. Then certain guys just getting worn out on the media. The quarterbacks, the guys that carry the ball. I just think to give those guys a break can kind of help their mindset.”
(Ever seen bulletin-board material rile a team up?) “You’ll see that now and again. In the old days, because you didn’t have to deal with the media and social media … nowadays, I think every team pays closer attention to that, not just in terms of like, playing another team, but just your life in general, of just like, really? You want to put that out there? You want to say that about yourself? And all those type of things.”
(What effect can it actually have?) “A lot of times that’s like a great speech pregame. I think that wears off very, very fast. You’ve got to go play. Are guys going to be more motivated and play harder? That’s what I always say to you guys. These kids play hard, they care tremendously. They’re locked in. They’re always going as hard as they can. I don’t know if it’s much of a difference.”
(On the history of the UW-Oregon rivalry) “I get the history. I get it as well as anybody, from my background. But I also think it seems like every week is just a huge game to us, like everyone’s got us circled and all those type of things. So that’s why we just concentrate on ourselves. That’s just our M.O., it’s like, OK, what’s this offense, what’s this defense, what’s this special-teams look like? How do we solve this? And it’s just about us bringing the right energy and preparing correctly.”
(On the decision to go with Sean McGrew on the final possession instead of Myles Gaskin) “You’re talking to the wrong guy. I don’t ever — Keith Bhonapha puts guys in. Myles had carried a lot. Myles is a warrior. Myles was our player of the game again, and he could probably be it every week, what that guy does. People just don’t realize until you put the tape on. Like we say, the pounding that those guys take, and all those type of things. You think Salvon (Ahmed)’s the next guy in. It’s not. We’ve got confidence in all those guys. I thought it was kind of cool to see it.”
(On going to Gaskin a bunch on the final touchdown drive) “I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious effort, which maybe it was, by Bush (Hamdan). You game-plan during the week and you get in these situations and these spots on the field, and that’s what you’re going to go with. It’s probably also pretty good coaching to get the ball to him as much as you can, when it matters most.”
(On Gaskin’s shoulder) “I see what you’re doing. He’s fine. He’s going to play. We’re good to go. Move on. Next question. I mean, really?”
(What makes UW-Oregon unique?) I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s been back-and-forth and I don’t know. Like I said, we got a lot of rivals. Playing Stanford’s been a heck of a battle and Wazzu for sure. Every week is a big week.”
(On playing at Oregon) “It’s an awesome college football venue, for sure. Like I said, I think the kids, they like playing in environments like that. Whether it’s going back to Atlanta in a packed place like that or going into Autzen, I think it’s a lot better than a half full stadium. You can hear better and all those things in those stadiums, but I think if you had your druthers you’d rather go into where it’s all about.”
(Fast start more important in environment like that?) “I think a fast start is always important. I just stopped talking about it because every time I talk about it, it doesn’t happen. I think the guys know that. We try to come out with our best foot forward. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”
(On recruiting Justin Herbert) “He was up here and we talked to him. He was hurt. Very tricky. When we aw him up here, he was still recovering. He’s a heck of a player. There’s no doubt about that.”
(On taking team’s best shot) “I think it comes down to that competitive spirit and what kind of guys you have to compete. All you can do is the set the table for them and how it’s going to be. I think they know. The better anybody does, the more people are going to pay attention to you. And so it is what it is.”
(On Herbert in Oregon’s new offense) “They run the heck out of the ball. They do a great job of running the ball. Anytime you can do that, you’re now a two-headed monster. You can’t just pay attention to a throwing team and that’s not just what they are. They’re a running team, first and foremost, with a guy that’s a great thrower.”
(on UW fan’ rallying behind The Point) “I don’t know anything about that. I have no idea what you’re talking about that our fans rallied around that. I didn’t like him pointing. We haven’t talked about it since two years ago.”
(Deciding when injured players need to come out) “You talk to them. It’s that simple. These are tough kids and they talk to us and they want to be in there. But they also get it, maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m whatever. Could we put Myles in there? Sure. I didn’t even know Sean was in there. I didn’t bat an eye until he slithered in for a first down and that’s how it was.”
(On push from O-line on QB sneaks) “I think when you get that much yardage sometimes it’s surprising. You’re not really counting on getting that many yards but they did a good job of it.”
(On opponents giving looks that haven’t been on film) “I think that that’s football. I think that’s college football. Back in the good old days, the offensive teams really game planned and came out with new wrinkles every week. That thing switched eight years ago, 10 years ago where the defensive guys were like enough of that, we got answers, too. And so you live in the bully syndrome, if you got a problem they’re going to keep picking on it until you stand up and fix it. That’s how it is in all phases. They study tape. We got more tape than we know what to do with in terms of studying. They figure out what they think your weakness is and if you haven’t done something well, they’re going to come back to it. That’s very week. That’s just football to me. That’s just game planning. Coaches just aren’t going to do exactly what they do. They keep the core the same and then they always have wrinkles off of it and that’s every week.”
(Nick Harris said after the game every defense so far was giving you unusual looks. Have you noticed that?) “Well, I think that that’s football. I think that’s college football. Back in the good ol’ days, offensive teams game-planned and came out with new wrinkles eveyr week. That thing switched eight years ago, 10 years ago, where the defensive guys were like, ‘Enough of that. We’ve got answers too.’ … If you’ve got a problem, they’re going to keep picking on it until you stand up and fix it. That’s how it is in all phases. They study tape. We’ve got more tape than we know what to do with. They figure out what they think your weakness is and if you haven’t done something well, they’re going to come back to it. That’s every week. That’s just football to me. That’s just game-planning. Coaches are just going to do exactly what they do. It’s a balance of, they keep their core the same and then they always have wrinkles off it. That’s every week.”
(on Oregon’s running back situation) “I think it’s good. Verdell runs hard. I mean, that guy puts his pads down. That’s a little bit of the Pistol offense. It’s a downhill, hard-nosed run game, and he fits it to a T. We saw those guys in Nevada, they always had 1,000-plus hard rushers, and it’s because of that style. They find creases and it is a hard-nosed type run game. He’s really good in it. They’ve played some other guys as well who are good in it too, but he’s the guy who’s really done a great job with it so far.”
(At point in season where give some true freshmen another look at playing time?) “… Yeah, you’re getting deeper into the season where you’ve got this new rule — is this guy ready to go? Can he help us out somehow, some way? So we are looking at some of that. We were last week as well; the situation (vs. UCLA) just didn’t present itself.”
(Does it matter if it’s a road game for a true frosh?) “No. Not to us. It doesn’t matter road game, home game. It’s probably the position and then maybe depth into the season, in terms of where you want to use the games if you want to do it that way. That type of thing.”
(Playing on grass at the Rose Bowl …) “I don’t know if that helped us or hurt us. It’s the second time all year we’ve been on grass, but it didn’t feel like there was a bunch of slipping or those types of things.”
(Does having a bye week the week before help a team?) “Yes. Tremendously. I mean, when you’re in the season and guys get rested up and coaches have all that time to watch stuff, it’s a help.
(on O-line depth) “I don’t think it’s different than it was a couple weeks ago. Guys are practicing hard and the two guys we’ve been rotating are Hilbers and Henry Roberts and Boomer gets in there at center now and again. Those are the guys who have seen significant time. But the other guys, we still have some others who are getting significant reps in practice; we just haven’t used them (in games). I think those three guys are the three I keep thinking about.”
(on redshirt freshman Jaxson Kirkland at right guard) I think like anybody, he’s making good progress. I think there’s a lot of learning still going on, in a good way. With those freshmen and redshirt freshmen, there’s always a big learning curve. And he’s done remarkably well at a really mental position, as well as physical. Some people might know now mental it is.”
(What do you need to do to get a better pass rush or was UCLA circumstance such it wasn’t a big deal) “That doesn’t mean you’re rushing three when you have three guys. I think they did a nice job getting the ball out of his hands. A lot of short pass game and underneath stuff. They did a nice job getting the ball out of his hands when he needed to but it’s something we’re always paying attention to.”
(Evaluation of pass rush after six games) “I think we always want more. We always want more pressure but it is a cat and mouse game because if you bring a bunch of pressure they’re going to get it out quickly and then you stop doing that they’re going to hold it and throw it downfield. So we’re always analyzing and trying to figure that one out.”
(on UW fans traveling to Eugene) “Yeah, it’s hard to go on the road for sure and like last week at UCLA there was a really big Washington contingent. It was awesome. There was one time, I think a call was being reviewed and everyone cheered and I thought it went for UCLA and then I’m like ‘oh, that’s our fans. That’s awesome.’ Anytime you’re on the road and can get people there it truly helps.”
(Do you have to talk to guys that things get chippy?) “No. I mean I think the environment is something. We’ve been working on that every single week. Just on offense with the noise and those type of things. But I think it’s _ I keep saying it, I mean it sincerely _ that’s the beauty of college football to go into those energized stadiums. I think it’s fun for the guys.
(Fire you up?) “I would like it to be a scrimmage and no fans and no media. That would fire me up.”
(There were seven or eight teams in the top 25 that lost. Is it almost survive and advance mentality?) “Yeah, I don’t really know. It is just one week at a time but this is when I go back to all these rankings, all these polls. I think back to day one and it’s ridiculous. This is what happens. You get into the season and ‘how did that happen?’ That’s football. That’s certainly college football and you’ve got to let this thing play out. You guys know that but that’s kind of the beauty of football too is all the hype and speculation and all those things and it never turns out like you think it’s going to, especially in college football. But that’s why as coaches we sit there and go ‘really, really you’re going to make a big deal that we’re ranked this when we haven’t played a game’ and you know how it’s going to go and how much you’re team changes, some for the good, some for the not so good. And you see all these different and everyone is like ‘how did that?’ and we’re just shrugging our shoulders, ‘yeah makes sense for us.’ That’s how it happens.
(Are you voting for the coaches top 25?) “Yeah. … It’s complete speculation and away you go. So now you get into the meat of the schedule and things have shaken out a little bit. I think even the next couple of weeks now you start to get a pulse on who is doing what and who is healthy and who has got momentum and who doesn’t.
(How much time spend on your poll) “Very little, very little.”
(How long take to fill it out?) “Five minutes. I mean you see what it is, who lost, move them.”