A third of the way through the regular season, Chris Petersen, always a perfectionist, has no outward complaints. He seems content with how things have gone. Only little things need tweaking.
For a second consecutive week, his Washington football team played well, emerging with a hard-nosed victory over a worthy Pac-12 opponent, this time beating Arizona State 27-20.
On Monday at his press briefing, Petersen praised his offensive line for enabling quarterback Jake Browning and the running backs to generate significant yards, and he credited his defense for keeping the Sun Devils in check, particularly senior inside linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven and his secondary.
“It was really a good performance,” Petersen said. “The kids played hard.”
He’s won three of four games, capturing two of three tightly contested matchups. His team, down two starters after a month of games—offensive tackle Trey Adams and inside linebacker D.J. Beavers—largely has been able to play and bond together and improve each week.
Petersen fields a veteran crew but he’s found ways to insert younger players into the lineup at his discretion rather than forced to rush them onto the field. Tight end Cade Otton and offensive guard Jaxson Kirkland, both redshirt freshmen, have become starters, while outside linebacker Ariel Ngata, another redshirt freshman, is playing increasingly more and later into the game each week as a reserve. Otton, already with a pair of touchdown catches and the grandson of Sid Otton, the winningest Washington state high school coach, has been especially impressive as the second tight end opposite senior Drew Sample.
“You guys are mentioning his name because he’s catching a few passes; that’s fine, whatever,” Petersen said of Otton. “That’s not why I’m excited about him. That’s icing on the cake. I’m excited about him because of all the dirty work he does as a tight end at the line of scrimmage.”
Against ASU, the Huskies played junior offensive tackle Henry Roberts on the left side for long stretches in the fourth quarter, rewarding his steady improvement and program time served, subbing him for junior starter Jared Hilbers. The Huskies also used four running backs in a close game, leaning on them for situational needs.
“There are certain runs where we want certain guys to have them,” Petersen said of the group that consists of, in this order, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew.
Emerging from the ASU game, the Huskies appeared to have just one costly injury—junior special-teamer Austin Joyner had to be helped from the field by trainers after going helmet-to-helmet on a kickoff with one of the Sun Devils. Petersen confirmed that Joyner was in concussion-protocol.
Next up is 20th-ranked BYU, earlier an upset winner at Wisconsin, which makes the Cougars capable of coming in and doing the same this Saturday at Husky Stadium. Petersen noted his opponent’s unique, customized offensive style. Rather than be the passing-mad team of the past, BYU relies on a fly-sweep approach much of the time, resembling more of an option-type attack.
Either way, Petersen went out of his way to say how much he was looking forward to this matchup and the college football spectacle it will bring.
“I really appreciate our awesome crowd; that was fun to be in on Saturday and I anticipate another one,” the coach said. “This will be an exciting football game. We’ve got a lot of respect for this team. They go into Wisconsin and knock those guys off, and we can see why. They play good football, they really do.”