He tried to warn us.
Throughout his first offseason as the Huskies’ head coach, Chris Petersen told anyone who would listen that there was much work to be done in getting the program where he wants it. As the only coaching staff new to the Pac-12 Conference, Petersen acknowledged on multiple occasions that there was a lot of catching up to do.
“We’re truly behind the eight ball,” he said at Pac-12 media day in July.
In another candid moment, during an interview in his office before the start of fall camp, Petersen said he could sense the heightened outside expectations entering his first season at UW.
“Expectations get so out of whack,” he said, “and there’s no timeline for anything. The timeline is right now.
“I mean, I get it. I get it,” he added. “I think we can do some really good things here, but you know — I don’t know. I haven’t been with this team (very long); we haven’t played a game. The roster’s not exactly how we want it to look; I don’t know that any coach has that. But in this competitive league that we play, it can be scary at times.”
Petersen got a scare in his UW debut at Hawaii. He hoped it would be an eye-opener for his players. Judging from the responses in my inbox — “Pathetic. … They stunk!” one caller said, in the nicest voicemail I received this week — it certainly felt like an eye-opener for many of you.
Yes, this might take a little longer than many expected.
That the Huskies were coming off a nine-win season in 2013 mattered little to the new coaches, which tore down virtually ever aspect of the program, brick by brick, before starting to reassemble it their way, piece by piece.
From how they lift weights to how they tackle to how they take a knee at the end of practice, almost everything has been different for these players. As one player told me last month, they can’t say “hands up” for a particular technique; it’s “hands tight” now. That’s how particular and how demanding this staff is.
The Huskies looked rigid and flat too often against Hawaii, as if they were thinking more about what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to do it … rather than just doing it. The new style, the new demands, the new techniques — not to mention the new schemes — have been a significant adjustment for everyone. Maybe more significant than we realized. Eventually, it should look more natural, smoother. At least, they better hope so.
Maybe that happens in Saturday’s home opener against Eastern Washington (noon, Pac-12 Networks).
And maybe Cyler Miles is the answer at quarterback.
Now, though, playing catch-up relative to the rest of the Pac-12 is even more difficult in-season, as the Huskies — and the new quarterback — try to pick up the nuances of the new schemes and new demands while also trying to game-plan for an opponent.
“I feel (behind) more now than ever before,” Petersen said Thursday.
“I know I keep coming back to this and it sounds corny, it really is just a process,” he had said Monday. “I don’t know what the kids were expecting really from me coming into the meeting (that day), but its like it’s time to tell the truth. We tell the truth on Mondays. … It’s, ‘What did we learn and how do we get better from it?’ I think that might be a little bit different mindset than what some of these guys were thinking.”
On talent alone, the Huskies should beat Eastern Washington.
Yes, the Eagles are an FBS powerhouse, ranked No. 2 in the nation and just a few years removed from a national championship. Vernon Adams Jr. is going to throw it all over the field, and he’s going to have some success against UW’s young secondary.
“This is as good an offense as we’re going to face — including Oregon’s,” UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate said.
I’m not sure about that, but Kasen Williams insisted the Huskies aren’t taking EWU lightly this week, as he said they did in 2011 — when UW needed a late Desmond Trufant interception to beat the Eagles 30-27 at home. (EWU ran the ball just 17 times that day, by the way, the fewest ever by a UW opponent.)
“We can’t go about it the way we went about it against Hawaii,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of things we have to fix and we’ve got to get to it right now.”
The Huskies should be able to run the ball better than they did against Hawaii. They certainly should be able to throw the ball better. The UW defensive line should be even better this week. And UW’s special teams should play a major role.
Prediction: Washington 38, Eastern Washington 28
UW just released this: