Chris Petersen hoping No. 7 UW gains an edge following first loss
In the Washington Huskies’ 10th game of the season, they finally suffered their first loss. But while last Saturday’s defeat to USC delivered a significant hit to UW’s national title hopes, it is still well in reach of its first conference championship in 16 years.
That’s why the Huskies’ final two regular-season games – this Saturday against Arizona State and the Apple Cup in Pullman the following week – still have plenty riding on them.
“We need to learn from it and we need to respond,” coach Chris Petersen said Monday in regards to the USC loss. “Sometimes everything goes really well for you in the season and it’s like, it doesn’t always go like that. I’ve been saying it all along. I just really believe on any given night in this league, who we play, who we are, we could get knocked off.”
Not only does Petersen want his team to learn from the loss, he hopes it gives them a little extra drive.
“I hope our guys have a new edge to them a little bit,” he said. “If you’re so disappointed because of this loss with all this football left to be played, then you’re in the wrong locker room and you haven’t been hearing a word that we’ve been talking about. There’s a lot of football left and awesome things to play for.”
The Huskies just may need that edge considering they are heading into the end of the Pac-12 schedule and the postseason without two of their most important defensive players. Linebacker Azeem Victor, UW’s leading tackler, is almost assuredly done for the year after undergoing surgery for a fracture in his right leg on Sunday, joining leading pass-rusher Joe Mathis (foot surgery) on the sideline.
The impact of those two absences was already felt against USC. Without Mathis, the Huskies struggled to get a grip on elusive Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold from the outset. And after Victor was carted off in the first half, the middle of the field opened up for USC and Darnold, who took advantage on the way to a 26-13 win.
Asked about the depth behind his two star linebackers and if it was possible the Huskies could ever get to the point that they wouldn’t see a drop off in production when key players go down, Petersen was realistic in his answer.
“I don’t know if anyone does that. Maybe Alabama,” he said. “I think every coach in America, for the most part, you get a really good player and you lose him – you might have a good young player, but they’re just not there. I don’t know if you ever get there.”