I'm still disappointed that the Huskies lost their last, best chance to beat a ranked team last Saturday afternoon. The Dawgs outplayed the Wildcats on both sides of the ball, even while playing an entirely imperfect game. The team played as hard as it possibly could. The coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, put together a great game plan (of note was ditching the bubble screens that Cyler Miles had shown difficulty in completing accurately and on time, and largely replacing them with delays to receivers coming in motion across the formation - a much easier throw that serves the same purpose). Miles was decisive with the ball, and a tough runner. He gave his receivers chances to make plays down the field, and far more often than not, they did. Kudos to the coaching staff for taking a chance on a mid-year transfer (I didn't even know that was allowed in college football) - that new guy Kasen Williams could do big things here. Sidney Jones recovered from an early mistake to record his first two (of what will likely be many) interceptions. Budda Baker looked like a veteran. Danny Shelton looked like a nation-state. Hao'uli Kikaha looked like there was two of him out there.
But the ending.....That just sucked. This team deserved better. For a lot of fans, the reason the team didn't get it is due to the decisions made by Chris Petersen and his staff in the final two minutes of the game. Although I didn't have any issue with the play calls while watching the game live, with the benefit of hindsight I think Petersen probably should've taken a knee three times and let the chips fall where they might on fourth down. If there was one. But I'm not nearly as adamant about it as some.
the thing is, with everything else going on during the game at that time, the coaching staff had somewhere in the neighborhood of five seconds to make the decision to either run another play or take some knees after the Dawgs picked up that last first down. They consulted a chart they'd made prior to the first game of the season, and made the choice to run another play.
I was able to listen to sports radio a fair amount yesterday, and during the Jerry Brewer shower, Brewer and his co-host Spike mostly worked the listeners into a rage, demanding that Petersen take the podium at his scheduled 1:00 pm press conference and immediately apologize to the fans for costing his team its best chance for a "good" win this regular season, largely based on Brewer's column that there was no need to ever run a play in that situation. And Spike and the listeners were right with him. Right at 1:00 pm, Petersen came on the air and not only didn't apologize, but defended what he did, even saying he'd do the same thing again.
And now, UW grad and Seattle Times desk editor (and sometimes contributor) Scott Hanson is mad. Or at least, pretty worked up. To the point that he no longer has any respect for Chris Petersen, he writes in a Times editorial today.
Like Jerry Brewer, like many of the posters here, Hanson creates a timeline for each knee-taking that ends up with the Huskies not needing a fourth down or taking that snap with only a second or so on the clock. He then accepts his own arbitrary clock as The Gospel Of Taking Three or Four Knees in Order to Win a Game in what was about as gray an area of The Chart as could possibly exist. Just like Jerry Brewer, and just like a lot of the posters here. (And as an aside, Hanson makes the same erroneous assumption that several others have as well in order to magically make those last three or four seconds disappear - that the referee starts the 40 second play clock. It actually starts when the referee blows the prior play dead.) And that subjective, arbitrary gospel is then used to call what Petersen did on Saturday indefensible, and his failing to meet those arbitrary, subjective expectations of how Petersen should've publicly flagellated himself on Monday, an act worthy of destroying respect.
On Monday, Petersen said, "Looking back on it, it could've been anywhere from 4, 5, 8 seconds depending on when we got it, how much time was run off there. That's when we thought, we're not sure we can run it out. What we didn't want to do was take a knee, take a knee, then have to punt. That I didn't want to do."
Whether you agree with him or not, that's a defensible position to take. If he felt the most risk-averse about punting the ball, then doing what it takes - in this case, attempting to pick up a first down, or at least allowing another play to run to refine the calculus of "run plays" versus "take knees" as he also said yesterday - to avoid that situation is the right call.
I allowed myself to get a bit caught up in the vitriol from the sports radio callers and hosts, and I was really interested to hear how Petersen handled what was going to be a pretty pointed press conference. And I was a little bit disappointed that he didn't come out and accept responsibility for the loss. All he ended up doing was defending a decision I disagreed with with absolute sincerity. He didn't duck any questions, he didn't blame any of the players or his assistant coaches. Instead, he just disagreed with me. With what is becoming trademark honesty in dealing with the media, even when means being brow beaten by sports desk editors like Scott Hanson or bloggers like me. Hopefully, the sarcasm comes through there.
I think that the Huskies would've won the game by taking three knees and punting (or not), but I also think that if Cooper doesn't fumble, the Huskies, ultimately win the game by punting without it getting blocked and tackling the return man short of the end zone, or take enough time off the clock that they can take a couple of knees to win. That's the most likely outcome given Petersen's decision, by far. And the "take three knees while running around to run extra time off the clock" scenario isn't without risk, no matter what people say. The football gods were unkind to the Huskies on Saturday.
To me, "respect" is a pretty big word. I'm not a fan of the almost pop cultural-ish way it gets thrown around, particularly in sports. If Scott Hanson doesn't respect Chris Petersen any longer based on what he said at his press conference yesterday, then what he felt for Petersen probably wasn't actually respect in the first place. Puppy love? Idolization? I don't know. But if it's gone now, it wasn't actually respect at the start.
I blame Petersen for the loss, and I disagree with his assessment, but I can't definitively say he was wrong, based on what he thinks was the weakest link for the Huskies in that end-of-game situation. I'll continue to second guess him, because it's what I do. But the outcome Saturday really doesn't change anything with regards to his viability for the Huskies moving forward, nor should Monday's press conference change anything in terms of respect for Chris Petersen.