BROCK AND SALK

Chris Petersen’s keys to a UW Huskies win over Texas in CFP

Dec 21, 2023, 9:30 AM | Updated: 11:59 am

UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr....

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. looks to throw against USC on Nov. 4, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies are back in the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2016. Washington is 13-0 and the No. 2 seed in the four-team playoff and will take on former UW head coach Steve Sarkisian’s Texas Longhorns on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl.

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The last time the Huskies were in the CFP, Chris Petersen was the team’s head coach.

Petersen has since retired, but he’s still heavily involved at Washington as an advisor in the school’s athletic department, and he’s also an analyst for FOX Sports’ college football coverage.

Petersen joined the Huard Brothers Brock and Damon during Thursday’s Brock and Salk and he shared his insight into how the UW Huskies can walk away with a Sugar Bowl win on Jan. 1 and advance to play for the national championship.

The first key focuses on Washington’s offense against Texas’ defense, which is led by co-defensive coordinators Pete Kwiatkowski and Jeff Choate, both of whom were assistants under Petersen at UW.

“The first one is it’s all about UW’s offensive line versus Texas defensive line, and really in the pass game,” Petersen said. “UW has one of the best – if not the best – pass-blocking offensive line in the country.”

Indeed, pass blocking has been a major strength of Washington’s offense these past two seasons under head coach Kalen DeBoer. No stat further shows that than the fact that star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has only been sacked 18 times in 26 games for Washington despite recording 1,020 passing attempts.

Petersen said Penix is a big part of why the Huskies’ pass protection is as good as it is.

“And when I say that, throw Penix in there because he’s so good at not holding on to the ball,” he said. “I think so many sacks are on the quarterback just looking at things too long. He will get that ball out, so he helps that. But if we’re just talking about pass blocking in general, that line is so good.”

That’s a clear strength for Washington, but Texas’ defensive line, Petersen said, is the strength of the Longhorns.

“And in particular, stopping the run,” he said. “Well, Washington, that’s not really what they want to do anyways. They do want to run it. You’ve got to have some sort of balance. But Texas is unbelievable. They’re fourth in the country in stopping the run.”

Texas has been especially good at run defense of late, holding two run-heavy offenses – Kansas State and Oklahoma State – to just 61 combined rushing yards.

“We’ve got to keep them honest with that run game, but it’s going to come down to protecting Penix to throw the ball down the field with those receivers, the three receivers, the tight ends,” Petersen said. “That’s going to be fascinating. Can they give Penix enough time to throw the ball down the field? I’m just so fascinated to watch that.”

Close games have been the norm for Washington this year, with each of the Huskies’ last nine wins coming by 10 points or fewer. Petersen expects another close one against Texas, and he thinks that puts the focus on UW’s defense.

“I think it’s going to be (decided) inside of five minutes and four minutes and three minutes. And then who can make the play?” he said. ” … I think our defense is so interesting, and in a lot of ways maligned, because I don’t know if I’ve seen a defense that makes more plays when a play is truly needed than this defense. You can go ahead and compare the stats and all that … and if something ever epitomized ‘stats are for losers,’ it’s this defense. Because if they need to get a turnover, if they need to get a fourth-down stop, if they need to get a three-and-out and the game is on the line, they seem to come through almost every time. And it’s the most interesting defense because they just come through … Somebody is going to have to come up with the the play of the game and it’s going to come up probably inside those three minutes or something.”

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