As the fifth-ranked Huskies rise in the college football polls, so does the pucker factor for Chris Petersen. Never a comfortable public chatmaster, the Washington coach banned player interviews this week ahead of the game Saturday vs. Oregon in Eugene, where the Huskies are eight-point favorites over a team that has beaten them 12 times in a row.
Maybe Petersen figures the thin air near the mountaintop might induce in his players some dizziness and mouth diarrhea.
“Do I really need to talk about (the ban)?” he said Monday with a small smile. “You guys don’t have enough to talk about and write about? They’ve got a lot on their plate, we’ve got practice and school, and I figured you guys had enough to write about without having to talk to those guys.
“They’ve been talking about themselves for a long time now; I figured it’s probably (time to let them) not talk about themselves for a little bit — go a different direction.
“One thing they don’t need this week is you guys.”
Perhaps it’s true that with UW’s late start to fall quarter with nearly half the season over, some players might be shocked at having to attend class. But most of them have played football and gone to class once or twice before, so it can’t be a total surprise.
Nor is likely that Petersen wants to give breaks to the hard-working media who are stuck covering one of football’s glamor teams after the 44-6 beatdown Friday of Stanford on national TV.
No, it’s simply good old-fashioned coaching paranoia, wanting to avoid what Petersen probably called, in the old-fashioned days of his pre-social-media youth, bulletin-board material for the despised rival.
But Petersen promptly denied that the contemptible history with the Ducks had anything to do with his Soviet-style tactics.
“It has nothing to do with the opponent,” he said. “It has to do with us — it always has to do with us. It’s never about the opponent.”
What it has to with is the Seattle marketplace amped for this game perhaps as no other. Goading players into trash-talking the foe, whether fan or media, is part of the Northwest’s vital juices.
But Petersen has been here for only a couple of Oregon games, and has minimal tolerance for history driving game preparations.
“You hear that a lot, so we get it,” Petersen said. “We know it’s important. But all these games are important. I mean, I want our guys to just do what they’ve been doing — just preparing hard and staying focused on the right things and showing up on Saturday with great energy and playing as a team.
“You can’t tell them, ‘OK, now we’re going to prepare really hard.’ That’s ludicrous. That doesn’t make any sense. These guys have been giving everything they can possibly give, so we just need to stick to that and stay focused, and not pay attention to all the stuff that doesn’t really matter.”
The question is whether he thinks his players are mature enough to handle more responsibilities, such as conversation about the game. Now we have the answer.
At least there was someone willing to talk about one of the great wins in Huskies history — Pete Carroll. The Seahawks coach on his Monday morning radio show on ESPN volunteered his appreciation.
“How about coach Petersen?” Carroll said. “What a great job. It was a dominant game in all ways. Really an excellent football game. That was fantastic. You could see the ascent of the program so clearly right there.”
While UW’s offense got most of the attention, Carroll was most impressed with the wholesale throttling of an offense that had a Heisman Trophy candidate, RB Christian McCaffrey, in the backfield.
“Stanford plays from a number of different modes,” Carroll said. “They come at you from the big guys to the spread. Every mode, they were on it. No matter where Stanford went, they had good, sound answers. The running back was no factor. A fantastic illustration of how far the program has come. UW fans have to be jacked.”
Petersen said much of the success was about communication.
“I think it started with getting lined up correctly, as simple as that sounds,” he said. “When you have a multiple-formation team and unbalanced formations, there’s a lot of communication to get everybody lined up quickly.
“One of the things that’s hard about playing at home, is it’s usually so loud that it’s hard to communicate. I thought our guys did a really good job of bumping our front over when it was unbalanced, getting lined up correctly and being able to communicate the coverages with not being able to hear.”
Good to know that Petersen has already trained his players to work well in silence.