Chris Petersen spoke often on Monday about penalties the Washington Huskies committed on Saturday. And also about those they didn’t.
The latter might be receiving more attention in Salt Lake City. That the No. 4 Huskies beat No. 17 Utah on Saturday was due in large part to junior receiver Dante Pettis and his 58-yard punt return for a touchdown that broke a 24-24 tie with 3:25 remaining … and to the, uh, borderline blocking he received on his way toward the end zone.
Many Utah fans – and some impartial observers, too – were certain at least one of the blocks that sprung Pettis should have been deemed illegal, because the UW blocker appeared to contact a Utes player in the back. There were two others that might not have qualified as egregious, but could still be deemed questionable.
But no flags were thrown. And Petersen won’t lose sleep wondering if they should have been.
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(For what it’s worth, FOX officiating analyst Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating, tweeted Saturday that “I thought all (the blocks) were with the force on the side and legal.)
“There were some close calls, but that’s the game,” Petersen said. “There’s a lot of close calls on about every play.”
Petersen is more concerned, then, about the penalties that were actually called. Three times after stopping Utah on third-down plays, the Huskies were called for personal-foul penalties that gave the Utes a fresh set of downs. Each of those three possessions yielded a Utah touchdown.
In other words: the Utes did not score a touchdown that wasn’t aided by a UW penalty committed during or after a third-down stop. The infraction that most aggravated Petersen was a taunting penalty committed by junior linebacker Azeem Victor, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after tackling Utah quarterback Troy Williams for a two-yard loss on a third-and-goal play from UW’s 1-yard line.
During a subsequent possession, Victor was called for grabbing the facemask of Utah running back Joe Williams on a third-down play near the goal line.
Petersen said the facemask didn’t bother him nearly as much as the taunting penalty, because only the latter indicates a lack of poise.
“It’s hard stuff, because we want those kids playing right there to the edge,” Petersen said. “They have to play this game emotional and it is emotional, but you can play too emotional, for sure. I think that was a little bit of the case with our defense for a lot of the game.”
Victor has earned a reputation as a player who tests that edge a little too often. He was penalized for targeting during UW’s 17-12 victory at USC last season. After a game against California, Bears coach Sonny Dykes asked the Pac-12 office to review a play in which Victor hit Cal receiver Kenny Lawler with an elbow to the back of the head after his helmet had come off.
Petersen thinks Victor is getting better at harnessing his aggression.
“I do think he pays much closer attention to it, and I think we’re making progress,” Petersen said. “But those are critical situations. We kept drives alive two different times on two penalties like that that really shouldn’t happen, really can be back-breaking type penalties.”
As for the roughing-the-passer penalty committed by senior linebacker Psalm Wooching on a third-down stop in the fourth quarter – the foul allowed Utah to drive for a game-tying touchdown – Petersen said the Huskies simply need to be smarter around the quarterback.
“They’re always sensitive around the quarterback,” Petersen said. “There’s just no need for that. That one, they’re probably not going to call half the time, and then the other half they do call. So let’s not put it in their hands.”
USC KICKOFF TIME
Washington’s Nov. 12 home game against the USC Trojans will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. and air on FOX. It was announced Sunday that UW’s Saturday (Nov. 5) game at California will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. and air on ESPN.
VICTOR, PETTIS HONORED
Both Victor and Pettis earned player of the week recognition from the Pac-12.
Victor was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after totaling a career-best 16 tackles against Utah, and Pettis’ punt-return touchdown earned him special-teams player of the week honors.
The two join Wooching and quarterback Jake Browning as UW players to receive such weekly recognition this season.
UW ON WATCH LISTS
Victor was also named one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker.
Browning was named one of 18 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the nation’s best player, and junior safety Budda Baker was named one of 18 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player.
And Petersen was named to the 18-person midseason watch list for the Bobby Dodd Trophy, awarded annually to the coach who best exemplifies scholarship, leadership and integrity. Petersen won the award in 2010.
HUSKIES OPPONENT THIS WEEK
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (4-4 overall, 2-3 in Pac-12)
7:30 P.M. PT SATURDAY, MEMORIAL STADIUM, ESPN, 1000-AM/97.7 FM
COACH: Sonny Dykes (40-42 in seventh year overall; 18-27 in fourth year at Cal)
AGAINST THE HUSKIES: Washington leads the series 53-39-4.
SCOUTING REPORT: California has one of the most potent offenses in the country. The Golden Bears rank 14th nationally with an average of 41.3 points per game. Cal also has one of the worst defenses in the country. The Golden Bears allow an average of 41.8 points per game, more than all but four other teams in the country. As a result, Cal has played several high-scoring games this season, including five in which both the Golden Bears and their opponent scored 40 or more points each. Cal is 2-3 in those games. … The Bears’ best win of the season came at home against Utah, a 28-23 victory sealed by a goal-line stand in the final seconds. It was the Utes’ only loss prior to their defeat last weekend against the Huskies. … Cal quarterback Davis Webb, a transfer from Texas Tech, has thrown for 2,914 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. He also leads the country in pass attempts (414) and ranks third nationally in completions (259). But he ranks only 48th nationally in passing efficiency. … Webb has been without his top receiving target, senior Chad Hansen, for the past two games due to an ankle injury. Hansen caught 59 passes for 770 yards and eight touchdowns in his first six games, and still leads the Pac-12 in receptions and receiving yards despite sitting out the past two weeks. It’s not yet known whether Hansen will play against UW. Demetris Robertson (469 yards, six touchdowns) and Melquise Stovall (396 yards, 3 TDs) are tough covers, too. … Cal’s leading rusher is Khalfani Muhammad, who averages 6.6 yards per carry and has 614 yards rushing in seven games. Junior tailback Vic Enwere played in Cal’s first six games before suffering a season-ending foot injury in the Bears’ ugly loss to Oregon State. … Cal ranks 36th nationally in offensive yards per play with 6.18, but ranks eighth in total offense at 536.5 yards per game because it has run 695 plays this season, third-most in the country. … The Bears are worse against the run than nearly every team in the country. They allow 5.99 yards per carry, which is better than only Arkansas (6.38) at the FBS level. They’re tied for dead last nationally in rushing touchdowns allowed with 24. … Cal is a little better against the pass, ranking 57th nationally in passing efficiency defense and 46th in yards per attempt allowed.
DID YOU KNOW: The first 10,000 fans to arrive at Saturday’s game will receive a bobblehead figure of former Cal and Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch riding a golf cart – an homage to Lynch’s postgame celebration after California’s overtime victory over the Huskies in 2006.
COUGARS OPPONENT THIS WEEK
ARIZONA WILDCATS (2-6 overall, 0-5 in Pac-12)
1 P.M. SATURDAY, MARTIN STADIUM, PAC-12 NETWORKS, 710 AM
COACH: Rich Rodriguez (110-74 in 15th year overall, 35-26 in fifth year at Arizona)
AGAINST THE COUGARS: Arizona leads the series 26-15.
SCOUTING REPORT: It has been another trying season for the Wildcats, who have once again been ravaged by injuries and must win each of their final four games to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time in Rodriguez’s tenure. They are also still searching for their first Pac-12 victory. … The good news (maybe) is that Arizona’s top two quarterbacks finally appear to be healthy enough to play. They did last week, anyway, as Brandon Dawkins started Arizona’s 34-10 loss to Stanford, and former starter Anu Solomon returned from injury to play a couple series, too, though Rodriguez said afterward that he still isn’t fully healthy. Neither did much: Dawkins completed only 5-of-15 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed for 65 yards on 17 attempts, and Solomon did not complete any of his three pass attempts. Third-stringer Khalil Tate remains an option, too. … Arizona is a statistical mess. Once a feared, up-tempo offensive team, the Wildcats rank just 95th nationally in scoring offense at 24.1 points per game, better than only Stanford in the Pac-12. … The Wildcats’ defense isn’t any better, ranking 105th nationally with an average of 33.1 points allowed per game. Arizona allows 6.07 yards per play, which ranks 97th nationally. … Dawkins leads the team with 549 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, and had his best game in Arizona’s near-upset of the Huskies on Sept. 24, rushing for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 13 attempts. But he has completed only 55.6 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and four interceptions. … Arizona lost freshman running back J.J. Taylor for the season due to a broken ankle suffered against UW. Nick Wilson, a productive back in 2014 and 2015, has battled injuries and has only had more than six carries in a game twice this season, and not since Sept. 10. … The Wildcats’ top receiver is Shun Brown, who has 374 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. Trey Griffey, the son of Mariners Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., is second on the team with 360 yards on 19 receptions.
DID YOU KNOW: The Wildcats are the only Pac-12 team without a victory in conference play.