BY RICK LUND / SEATTLE TIMES STAFF
While most of Husky Nation is piling on Chris Petersen for his management of the clock late in Saturday’s loss to Arizona, and his insistence Monday that he would “do the same thing again,” I think it’s time to give the coach a break.
Sure, in hindsight, he should have instructed Cyler Miles to take a knee instead of the ill-fated handoff to Deontae Cooper, who fumbled the ball to Arizona. But while I’ve read accounts of how much time would have elapsed had he ordered the “victory formation” I don’t think you can guarantee the Huskies wouldn’t have had to line up in punt formation with time left on the clock. Certainly, that wasn’t a guarantee in Petersen’s mind when he was given information from “the chart” (which is probably due for a revision).
Had he admitted he would have done something differently, wouldn’t he send a message to fifth-year senior Cooper: “I don’t trust you to secure the ball again”? And if you think he shouldn’t have put Cooper in that position, what about the three previous running plays by Miles and Dwayne Washington? They didn’t lose the ball.
Petersen has been described as stubborn, to a fault. Really? Aren’t a lot of great football coaches stubborn? Maybe it’s because they’re true to their convictions. Isn’t Nick Saban stubborn? Wasn’t Don James, the legendary former Husky coach, stubborn?
Stubborn might come in handy the next time Petersen game plans for an opponent with superior talent, as was the case Saturday in Tucson. Previous UW teams would have been blown out by that Wildcats team. Stubborn might come in handy the next time a Northwest recruit makes a verbal commitment to Oregon, and Petersen won’t take no for an answer. Which was what happened with Budda Baker.
Actually, Petersen isn’t beneath admitting he made a mistake. Earlier this season, when asked about the failed fake punt against Stanford, Petersen took the blame, saying “that one’s on me. “ And even after the Arizona loss and at Monday’s news conference, he answered every question. By contrast, WSU coach Mike Leach, after the New Mexico Bowl when he faced a similar controversy about clock management in a loss, refused to answer reporters’ questions.
I’ve never met Petersen, but I’ve watched enough interviews to conclude he’s a stand-up, transparent guy who cares about his players, knows what he’s doing and wants to build the program the right way. I also get the impression his players like to play for him.
Petersen doesn’t owe Husky Nation an apology for what happened Saturday. He doesn’t report to the fan base, although that seems to be the world we live in today with social media, reader comments on websites and online bulletin boards.
Get over it, Husky fans. Your self-esteem shouldn’t be tied to whether the Huskies have a seven- or eight-win season. The stakes will be much higher if something like this happens again in a Pac-12 Championship game a few years down the road – which is where I think this program is headed.
Rick Lund is a season-ticket holder and lifelong Husky fan. His fondest memory is a 1970 game at Husky Stadium, when a sophomore quarterback named Sonny Sixkiller passed the Huskies to an improbable 42-16 victory over Michigan State. He is a presentation editor and a former assistant sports editor at The Seattle Times.
Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.