BY Art Thiel 04:48PM 10/03/2016

Thiel: Huskies assume bunker mode for Oregon

The fifth-ranked Huskies will be working in media silence ahead of the clash with Oregon Saturday because coach Chris Petersen thinks his players have too much on their plates. Like, you know, school.

Stanford QB Ryan Burns did not have a good time Friday against the Huskies defense. / Drew Selllers, Sportspress Northwest

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.


  • Jamo57

    I just read this column and your column about yesterday’s Hawks win back to back. The contrast between the city’s head football coaches couldn’t be more dramatic in terms of how they interact with the media and what they have to say about their players.

    I get where Petersen is coming from re: talking about the Oregon game though. I’m avoiding it completely on social media to avoid damaging some friendships I have with UO fans. I’m sticking with safer subjects like Trump v. Clinton. LOL.

    • art thiel

      I get that Petersen is old-school, but he is younger than Carroll, and the sooner he gets engaged with social media to work with it instead of against it, he’ll be much better off. Carroll has learned not to sweat the small things.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Considering that there are a lot of NFL players who have no filters or mute buttons, seems reasonable for a coach of younger, “less polished” athletes to be a bit paranoid about this sort of thing. I’d also guess that coach Petersen wants to minimize excessive puffing of already inflated egos after Friday’s game. It was only a week earlier that they needed OT to dispatch the cats in the desert. Keeping this team focused on just the upcoming foe for the next 5 days seems worthy.

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    • art thiel

      Yeah, sure. You don’t have to write about it.

      Somebody has to keep Petersen honest.

      • JayLO

        I’m pretty sure Coach Pete is about as honest as they come, when we are discussing the NCAA (any facet). I’ve had the pleasure of watching him up close for years in Boise. The man does an amazing job of keeping it cool win or lose (mostly win). Art, all due respect, he doesn’t need your help.

        • art thiel

          Wasn’t offering. I’d prefer his cooperation. But it’s his call.

  • Paul Harmening

    Didn’t even get to pan the river for some nuggets…Wow, that must be tough. So, you then proceed to tell us the nuggets are still wearing dippers, more or less, and can’t handle adult questions as they usually don’t attend potty training classes at the Dub.

    I am snickering myself silly with this blog Art. Good entertainment.

    • art thiel

      If they’re wearing dippers, whatever those might be, I’m sure the NCAA will investigate.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    This one this week is the ducks bowl game.

    • art thiel

      And that is Washington’s problem how?

      • MrPrimeMinister

        You are familiar with UW-UO rivalry are you not? I shouldn’t have to explain.

  • Will

    My take on this column… the touchy topic of the media not getting to do what they want. Subtle Art, subtle.

    • art thiel

      Some might see it as not trusting his players. But that’s a function of teaching, is it not?

      • Clem Ency

        No, distrust isn’t a function of teaching, Art. Keeping one’s charges focused on the task at hand is very much a function of teaching, however. While you suggest that Petersen isn’t being honest about his motives, I will point out that he’s very honest and correct in stating that the team does not need reporters this week.

  • LTrain

    Let me see, why do you go into a bunker? To protect yourself from sniper fire and unseen attacks from the enemy. Very apropos for the sniping seattle media especially when it comes to your distaste for Petersen.

    • art thiel

      Distaste for Petersen? I have written he’s the best at UW since James. The fact that he’s over-wrought about control doesn’t change my view that he’s a good recruiter and coach.

      • PeteTheChop


        Can you link that P-I column where you insisted Tyrone Willingham deserved a 4th year on Montlake?

        It seems to have been scrubbed from the Internet, but I’d like to revisit your thinking.

        • art thiel

          Best I can recall, I said every college coach deserves four years. But Ty was the least deserving.

          • PeteTheChop


            I know a lot of U-Dub Football fans wanted Willingham gone by the end of the 2007 season, but some in the media disagreed with that line in thinking.

          • art thiel

            Ty took a dead man’s job. Unfortunately for him, he coached like a dead man.

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  • Tonic99

    Coach Pete has earned my trust on this one. Whatever he thinks maximizes our chances to win, I’m all for it. This is must-win, whether Coach Pete says it in public or not. It is not really my call or a sports reporter’s call (even Art, whose articles I love to read) label this as not trusting the players. I personally think this is more of Peterson’s way of not allowing the players to get caught up in hype, rather than fear of bulletin board material. After all, they’re still kids. Go Dawgs!

    • art thiel

      I understand why he’s doing it. But it contradict his principle about treating every game the same.