The word of the day for Chris Petersen was “toughness.”
At his Monday news conference, as he replayed Saturday night’s 21-7 victory at Utah, the Washington football coach in nearly every instance spoke about his players’ hard-nosed approach to the game.
“Our guys play pretty physical football,” Petersen pointed out. “That (season-opening) Auburn game, and it didn’t turn out like we wanted, but my hats off to everybody—that was physical football out there. I thought it was every bit as physical in Utah. It was just where everybody could see it.”
Utah was flagged for a pair of costly targeting calls against the Huskies, which led to two starters being ejected. Petersen scoffed when asked if college football has gone too far with its restrictive contact rules, amid the suggestion that some people think the game has become overly protective now.
“No,” Petersen said flatly. “We had no targeting calls. The rules have changed for the better of the game. Do I think football’s going soft? I’m not seeing it.”
In no fewer than three different ways, the Huskies coach was pressed about quarterback Jake Browning and his fourth-quarter gaffe—an interception he threw under pressure directly into the massive arms of Utah defensive tackle Pita Tonga. The 300-pounder lumbered 21 yards to the UW 11 where in all his excitement he let the ball slip out of his hands and out of bounds.
Petersen said his senior leader, in that situation, needs to take a sack or throw it away—or receive better blocking. Asked if Browning sometimes falls victim to his competitiveness and that giving in with an incompletion is not in his nature, the coach replied, “It needs to get in his makeup. We need to improve there. He knows it.”
Hearing subtle criticism of his quarterback with each follow-up question about the late blunder, Petersen turned the conversation around to Browning’s determination to stay on the field at all costs.
“Jake Browning is as tough as anybody in our locker room,” the coach said. “I think people don’t appreciate that. He’s missed one game and a handful of practices with a separated shoulder. He was out a week. Most guys would have been out a month.”
Tough team. Tough quarterback. Tough coach.
Petersen demonstrated his unyielding side once more when asked a final question, one seeking an update on offensive tackle Trey Adams, who hasn’t played at all and is presumed injured and out for the season. The coach stubbornly won’t address Adams’ status at all.
“He’s hanging in there,” Petersen said curtly.