Huskies Insider Blog

Chris Petersen on UW’s playoff bid: ‘We’re just really thankful and grateful for this opportunity’

Huskies coach Chris Petersen met with reporters in Seattle a few minutes ago to react to Washington’s No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff, and its Dec. 31 national semifinal matchup against No. 1 Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Here is all of what he said.

(Did you have any concern that you weren’t going to make it?) “I felt good all along until probably the last five minutes. I just turned the TV on and had to hear that go on for the last five minutes and I started getting really nervous. We couldn’t be more pleased. And I mean that. That’s an obvious statement but I know how hard it is to get where we are in terms of how well you’ve got to play, and our kids have played really, really well. You’ve got to have luck along the way and have a lot of things, the ball bounce your way. So we’re just really thankful and grateful for this opportunity.”

(Was there a hope you might move up to number three?) “I think there’s so many things that are out of our control. You just hope to get in and have a chance to play. I know we really didn’t get that far in terms of designing the ideal situation or matchups or travel and all that stuff. You hope you’re included and be grateful and thankful for it.”

(When you saw Clemson move up to 2, was there a part of you that thought you might get to 3?) “I just didn’t think about it that much in detail. I know there’s a lot of different things that go into it and I just hope you feel like you just make the cut and be proud and glad about it.”

(Would you have thought back in July that this was possible?) “We always set our goals and the goal-setting thing is so powerful. You set your goals and then you move on to your intermediate goals of working your tail off. That’s what’s going to propel you to those goals. That’s hard to make guys understand that, but our guys really got that. We kind of set ‘em and left them alone. The work ethic and the focus has been spectacular. That’s what I think is so awesome, because sometimes you can do that and still not achieve everything you really want to achieve, because you need a lot of other things to go with it - especially when you’re setting stretch goals. So for it to work out like it has has been awesome. Because it’s not just about this year, to me it’s even about last year for these kids. There were a lot of hardships we went through last year to get to this point. It’s awesome for those guys to be able to realize that.”

(Was making the playoffs a stretch goal?) “I don’t know if the playoff even came up. It was kind of about winning the conference championship and winning a Rose Bowl. Because there’s so many other factors that go into this thing, if they’re going to take you into the playoff system. So we really wanted to focus on the things we would truly control. And then if we had a little luck along the way, that would be great as well. That was kind of our focus, but once we talked about that and set that, we kind of left those alone and went to work.”

(How should strength of schedule be handled, since made so long ago?) “That’s the whole point. That’s what’s so hard about it. Everyone wants to criticize on strength of schedule, but that schedule was made long before I ever got here, for sure. I think everyone is trying to schedule well, and then programs and teams changed, some good, some not so good, so it’s very hard to get the proper balance. It’s hard enough just to get a good matchup down the road, and then things really change. It’s a lot easier said than done. I think everyone realizes that. We’ve been saying that a lot. We understand how important that is. But I think at the end of the day, we play in such a good, competitive conference, that we play a really good strength of schedule, when you play in this league. I think that’s what everybody felt.”

(All year long it’s been Alabama, could this provide extra motivation?) “It’s always about us. It’s about us preparing and getting ourselves to play the best football that we can. I think everybody knows about Alabama and it’s not just one year, it’s every year, how dominant they are. We’ll prepare hard and fortunately the Seahawks are here in town, maybe they’ll scrimmage us to get us ready for those guys. I don’t know.”

(Any reaction from players and coaches?) “Not really. We have our banquet tonight so that’ll be a good way to kind of cap off the banquet and then it will be time to go back to work and finish school, our finals and get rested and get healthy before we really start to train hard again. You know I think the big thing is, we still got time to build skill. We still have time to get better as a team. Now that’s a very delicate process when you don’t play for a long time and you’re just practicing. Certainly if we can do that it will help our cause.”

(Next 4 weeks?) “We’ll give them most of this week off and practice probably one time this weekend. Next week they’ll have off to take care of their finals, they’ll do a little bit of lifting in between. After that we’ll go to work.”

(Any chance Azeem Victor or Joe Mathis make it back?) “I think they’re both long shots. I don’t think Joe Mathis at all. I think Azeem is very long shot as well.”

(What can this mean for the program) “I think it’s awesome. I think it’s awesome for the school. I think it’s awesome for Seattle and I think it’s awesome for our guys. There are a lot of guys in there that have been here for a while _ not a lot of them _ but there are some and their commitment and persistence and focus I think it’s spectacular.”

(On envisioning this when he took the job) “I envisioned being good, for sure. And I think everybody in our locker room and everybody in our building, they wouldn’t have come here if they didn’t think we could be one of the better programs around. In terms of what exactly that means and where you go, so much of that’s out of your control. But from the second that we came here, I think everybody really envisioned being good. And it took us a minute to get there and that was about as frustrating as anything a lot of us had been through, but that was part of the process.”

(Do you know Nick Saban?) “Not real well. I feel like I know him, I see him on TV so much. I’ve talked to him once or twice. But yeah, I don’t really know him.”

(On his potential 10-year extension with UW) “Well, completely false in terms of how long the extension is. We’ve never uttered one word about how long anything would be. And it won’t be 10 years. So that’s just a little bit frustrating about stuff like that when stuff comes out, then it’s not going to be that (long) and everybody says, ‘What happened?’ So I don’t know how that would get out there like that. It’s completely false. I want to be here a long time, and Jen (Cohen) and I have had a couple brief conversations that we’ll figure something out. But it can be frustrating when there’s concrete information that’s completely false out there because then I think it sets expectations, and I think we know what happens when expectations are wrong and then not met.”

(Can you picture something getting done before the bowl game?) “That’s not even a priority right now, in terms of that. But it’ll all get worked out how it’s supposed to.”

(On scheduling issue, does this change your thinking on Big Sky or regional FCS teams?) “I mean, it’s a hard — like I said, it’s who’s available? We want to play a competitive, challenging schedule that our fans are excited about, that helps us in our cause and those types of things. We all get that. I think we’re all on the same page. And then what you’re talking about, in the region — because that makes sense for a lot of reasons. But I know this: It’s something that Jen will spend a lot of time on and we’ll talk about it. It’s not only a hot topic now, it’s been a hot topic. And I think we’re always trying to find out what the right balance is and get it right for everybody.”

(Was the 2018 game vs. Auburn in Atlanta a reaction to all this talk …) “You’ve got to get invited. They’ve got to call you to ask if you’re interested in it. It’s not like you pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, does anyone want to play us in the Kickoff Classic?’ So that was awesome to have that opportunity and just figure out the blance of the whole schedule.”