Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen and Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham were on opposite sides of the emotional spectrum after the Huskies outlasted the Utes 10-3 in the first-ever meeting of top-2 defenses in a Pac-12 Championship game.
But both of them spoke with the media after the game, and here’s what each had to say.
CHRIS PETERSEN: That’s what the defense is doing. So he took it in his own hands tonight. I’m proud of Jake. Those guys were good the first time we played them, and they were better the second time. And we kind of knew that going in.
I think we controlled. We did some good things. We just couldn’t get things done in the red zone. We converted some third downs. We had some long drives. But, again, it’s a good red zone defense, and hat’s off to those guys. But I’m happy for our fans. I’m happy for these guys, and I’m happy for everybody in Seattle.
Q. You went for it on fourth down a couple times, and sometimes in not so great field position. Will you just talk us through. Was that confidence in your offense or defense or?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Well, it’s a little bit of everything. I do think, first and foremost, that Peyton’s got a good leg. He can make field goals. He’s proved it all season long. We also want to put him in a position where he can succeed. And we have confidence in our offensive line, whether we need to run it or not.
And I think you’re just trying to play, get a feel for the game and what is best. It was probably going to go for it on that last fourth down, and then you look at the score and you’re thinking, okay, one more field goal. That really separates us. It’s certainly in Peyton’s wheelhouse to hit that. Just kind of mis-hit it a little bit.
Q. Chris, how have you seen the pass rush these past couple weeks?
CHRIS PETERSEN: You know, I think we have taken a step forward. I think Coach Lake, Coach Kwiatkowski, those guys do a great job of mixing blitzes and sending different guys to the quarterback, and we’re getting there. Even if we don’t get them on the ground, we’re getting them off the spot and on the pocket, and it’s been pretty effective.
Q. Coach, you certainly won your fair share of conference championships here in the Mountain West. But I feel like every season has had its own tone. Mentioned earlier, nothing’s been easy to get that title. How would you compare this to other years?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, they are all different. I think they’re always really hard. That’s the one thing that I think people just take certain things for granted sometimes because we have players coming back, and we have experience. You know, it’s just a hard process when you get anointed before you earn anything.
I think it can be really hard on the guys, and because we play really good teams. Not only in our conference, but outside of it. And there is a lot of parity and everybody knows everybody really well, and we see it every year. Like how does that team beat that team? How do you go down there? That’s just college football.
So for these guys to keep reloading and keep fighting you know is really, really impressive. I mean, it might be more impressive than a lot of the other ones certainly in my career because it has not been easy. But that’s what we talk about from day one when we get these kids in our program.
You know, life isn’t easy. A Pac-12 championship, is not going to be easy. It’s not reality. If it happens, go buy lottery tickets because it’s not going to be like that. That’s just luck. It is a grind, it’s hard. It’s year-round. All those things. You know, figure out a way to get it done.
Q. How instrumental has this class been, this group of seniors, in terms of establishing the standard of the program?
CHRIS PETERSEN: Yeah, it seems like it was yesterday when they came in in some ways, but they’ve been here a long time. And we thought we had some really good players when we got them. We really did. You don’t know until you put them through the grind. But we knew they were good players and we felt the type of people they were, but you don’t know until they go through all these hard things.
So you start with that, and couple them with these other guys that are difference makers, and we’ve just been able to do that. But I think a lot of it goes back to those guys that came back way back when.
Q. Chris, it seems like low-scoring games, these low-scoring games are increasingly rare in college football. Can you describe what it’s like to get into a game like this, how it may differ?
CHRIS PETERSEN: It’s really hard to describe, because we’re so excited about our defense out there, and in some ways to frustrated on the other side. Now, we will some nice long drives against a really, really good defense. We held the ball, we ran the ball, we made some plays. We just couldn’t get things done like we needed to. One or two more plays in the red zone, had we been able to get another field goal or another touchdown, we kind of feared it would be that type of game.
So I think you’re really proud of them for moving the ball. At times it looked really good. We ate up a lot of clock, and kept our defense off the field. So that was really positive. But for us to score three points on offense, we’re kind of going, ha? But I’ve said this before. We won a game back in the day. It was the highest scoring game in college football at the time. It was 69-67, and I think that year or a year later, we won a game 7-6, and our defense scored a touchdown. So that’s the beauty of college football. And that’s the beauty of a team fighting together.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Hopefully finished the season off on a positive, but, again, regardless, they were tough to this point. They accomplished a lot of things this year, and very proud of them.
Q. You’re pretty fired up about the (last) call (of the game).
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Wouldn’t you be? Did you see the same thing I saw? I don’t know how I can say anything without getting fined, but I’m used to it.
Q. I’m just wondering, you lost your starting quarterback and your starting running back, that has to be a factor.
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: You can handle adversity and just keep fighting. These guys have the same toughness, and attitude and mindset to be successful.
Q. Do you think the offense do enough to be able to win the game?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Sure we did. Yeah, we did. It was a game, it was 3-0. We had the ball come out at halftime. We got a feel for it early in the second half. Washington’s defense scored a touchdown, only touchdown of the night, and that was unfortunate. But it’s a good offense, and Washington’s one of the best in the country, and they showed that tonight.
Q. Did you get an explanation?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: No, no explanation. Zero explanation.
Q. I know it’s still fresh, but you’ve coached a lot of big games. Do you feel this one’s as big or big as anything you’ve coached?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: We’ve had some big games here. And this was certainly good territory. Something we’ve never done before, and in this particular game, so that was a big game in that regard, what was at stake. But it’s probably up there in the top five.
Q. What are your thoughts on your defensive effort, especially the fact that they were on the field for so much?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Outstanding. Like I said, it’s hard when you lose a game and you don’t give up a defensive touchdown. It doesn’t happen very often. But give the Huskies credit, because there’s a reason we didn’t do much on offense. We played great defense all year long, and they certainly played well tonight. They did exactly their MO they did the entire season. They saw things in front of them. They just played sound.
Q. With the offense at the end of the half?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we got sacked. Got knocked back at the 45-yard line, the wind was in our face. And I wasn’t sure if we could get the ball out for a Hail Mary. We certainly don’t want to go for it. Take a timeout with 40 seconds and miss a penalty with 20, 30 yards out of field goal position. So we decided we were going to get the ball coming out of the second half. Just chuck it up there on a Hail Mary, and if you’re not sure, you can reach the end zone.
Q. So you used the hashtag “just a regular team” a lot. Is that okay with you guys?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, I don’t personally use it.
Q. The defense, what did you think of it tonight?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Struggled. It was tough. It was tough going. Tough to get it through. Didn’t get much going. They feed off each other. But to do what he did as a redshirt freshman, then to rip off three here in this situation, very proud of him. He’s a red shirt freshman, and the experience caught up to him tonight.
Q. Before the pick six on that drive, do you feel like the offense had some momentum?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, we had some momentum. Got it going. Got the first down, and moved the chains and got in good field position.
Q. How do you move on from this point?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Oh, okay. This is a tough group. We’ve had to move on from a lot of stuff this season, and we’ll continue to come back. We’ve had Bowl games where guys take it seriously. They do a great job in preparation, and I don’t expect this year to be any different.