Penn State – 35, Washington – 28
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Washington head coach Chris Petersen and student-athletes Myles Gaskin, Keishawn Bierria and Jake Browning.
COACH PETERSEN: Well, I’d like to start this press conference right here, flat out miserable. But it’s it is what it is. It’s a good football team we played out there. It is, it really is. They had us on our heels most of the night.
They got that lead, and it’s hard to catch a good team when they have a big lead. They’ve got too many good players. I think the quarterback and the running back are really, really good. And they did a great job.
I’m proud of our guys for how hard they keep playing. We never questioned their heart. Got a lot of guys that play very, very hard and we’re very proud of them.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Chris, when you look at a game like that where your defense is kind of struggling to stop third down, and then late in the situation you find yourself having an opening, kind of what’s that plan of attack and what’s the process of making sure you maximizing the most out of that window?
COACH PETERSEN: Yeah, I mean, you’re never out of it. I mean, that’s what these guys know for sure: You’re never out of it. We have too many playmakers. We have good players on both sides of the ball. So you just keep playing and we have a chance at the end.
They just did a great job. I think McSorley is a heck of a player. He’s a great competitor and he makes that whole thing go. As good as Barkley is, I think it’s that quarterback that makes the whole offense go. And he did a terrific job tonight.
Q. 13 out of 17 on third downs for them. What was the issue on third down?
COACH PETERSEN: We’ll look at the tape, but I think a lot of it was McSorley. He’s buying time, getting out of there. And when we did get a little pressure on him he stepped up nicely and took off and ran or bought time.
I mean, that’s what I saw from the sideline. We’ll have to analyze it. But it’s nothing that we didn’t know going in. He’s a hard guy to handle. He’s a heck of a player.
Q. Chris, given what happened in the first half, what was the talk at halftime?
COACH PETERSEN: Well, the talk was if we start playing better, because we really hadn’t been playing very well, we’re going to have a really good chance to win the game. And that was kind of it. And what do we wanted to do? What kind of plays did we want to run on offense? And I think third down still got us. We just couldn’t make the adjustment there.
But halftime was a lot of belief. I mean, we figured it would come down to the wire. We would close it if we would just make a couple more plays.
But credit to Penn State. That’s a good team. They’re good. I mean, they are a top 10 team. And I think we’re right there as well. They just, they got that lead on us and got us on our heels. And it’s hard to catch a really good team when you get that big of a lead.
Q. You just talked about Barkley, what were your thoughts on him coming in, and how do you assess how you faired against him?
COACH PETERSEN: I think he’s probably as good as advertised. He’s a big, strong, athletic guy. I mean, he must have jumped us four times and outrun us, what did we say, we knew if he got a step he’s really, really fast. I think he’s an excellent player, yep.
Q. Keishawn, when you think about the way things were going on defense, how did you guys, I guess, try to keep a composed attitude knowing that third down was a struggle and you tried to do what you could to try to keep this team in it?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: So I would say like our attitude is definitely just try to stick together as much as possible, focus on the game plan, and just stay in it. We understand it’s going to be momentum swings, guys are going to make plays.
McSorley did a good job of stretching it out on third downs, like Coach Pete said. As far as that, just sticking together. It was never a moment where we kind of looked at each and started to criticize each other, started to argue. We stuck together, because that’s who we are.
But as far as that, you know, it’s football. And as far as that, our relationships are stronger than that.
COACH PETERSEN: I think the one thing that our defense did do well that really kept us in it was get the turnovers. We were struggling on third down, and that’s one of the key factors for sure, but the turnovers were what was keeping us in it. I thought they did a good job of creating those.
Q. Myles, I know you guys have been running the wildcat a lot this year. What was it about their look and why you thought the wildcat would be successful tonight?
MYLES GASKIN: The O line did a good job. The hole was there. That’s how it worked out.
COACH PETERSEN: I will tell you that our tight ends a couple times made some really nice adjustments. They bring a lot of pressure. And if we can pick up that pressure on the edge, there’s a real nice crease in there, but they have to recognize it.
And I think it was Will Dissly — both those guys were in there, one of those two guys — make the right call, catch it on the edge and there’s a nice crease in there. And Myles is usually going to find it.
But it was really good play on those — those plays kind of sometimes look simple. There’s a lot of art to them. And I think it starts with that O line, but those tight ends as well.
Q. Coach, you had some guys back in Hunter, played a little bit Lavon played a little bit. Dante played a little bit. But none of them looked 100 percent. How beat up were you going into this game?
COACH PETERSEN: It’s how it goes. I think sometimes for you to really do some special things at the end of the season you’ve got to somehow have a little luck on your side and stay relatively healthy.
And we just didn’t have that luck. But I think a lot of guys stepped up at all positions. Luke Wattenberg got some great reps, getting thrown into the fire midseason. And Ty Jones as well and Jordan Chin getting in there.
And all of that will help us down the road. But it is painful and hard when you’re playing with a team with this much firepower to not have Jordan Miller and — you need them all really to compete like you’d like to.
Q. Chris, I wonder if you had any theory of the Pac-12 going 1-8 in bowl games this year?
COACH PETERSEN: I don’t know about that. I really don’t. Sometimes you have those years and everybody says that’s a bad conference. And I don’t really think that.
I think you look at the games individually, and you gotta kind of analyze them that way. I know it’s nothing that we’re excited about, for sure. But I do think we have some good teams and really good players and sometimes it happens like that.
Q. Jake, when you think about a game like this what do you take out of it in terms of the first 24 hours? And what do you think and this offense take from it, going forward in the spring and next year?
JAKE BROWNING: I think anytime you go into the offseason you’ve got to find something to build off. Last year it was Alabama and the year before that it was winning the Heart of Dallas Bowl. You always gotta find something to build off of.
And that’s a really good team and they did some good things. And I thought against those teams you’ve got to make some of those plays that are kind of 50/50 or make those plays outside the pocket.
And I think that all kind of starts with me, and I gotta make sure that we get rolling a little bit quicker and stuff like that and don’t get behind like that and get caught on our heels.
But I think as far as something to build off of, we just gotta find something. And each person there’s going to be some people that leave, we lose Dante and stuff like that. But people gotta step up. And we have another offseason now and going into an offseason healthy and all that. So we’ve just got to build off of it.
Q. Coach, given your history here, this bowl game, Boise State, 2007, the hook and lateral, were you thinking of that play when you dialed it up the hook and lateral? If not, what were you thinking?
COACH PETERSEN: You get to that situation where you have to score. You don’t have a chance to throw it and get out of bounds and all that. So you’ve got to try something that’s out of left field. And that’s kind of (indiscernible). I don’t think we’ve ever called it again except for today, since then.
Q. There were a couple of times you went to Salvon on a couple of quick screens on the outside on third down. What did you see out of him today and what did you see out of him his true freshman season?
COACH PETERSEN: He did a good job. He’s a good player that we have to find the way to get the ball to and that’s one of the ways. And it’s a good play for us this season. We disguise it with different formations, try to get the ball in his hands and get blockers on him on a third, medium type call. He seems to find a crease and make it happen.
Q. Jake, tough situation at the end but you get a chance with 34 seconds left no timeouts. What’s the mindset at least kind of running on the field that you’ve at least got a chance?
JAKE BROWNING: Just go score. You’re going to have to take a couple of chances here and there and go score. And I think drives like that you’ve got to be great in the pocket, too. Everybody in the stadium knows you’re going to pass the ball. They’re going to be teeing off and they’ve got a good “D” line and up front. So you’ve got to be great in the pocket and deliver some accurate balls and I thought I missed obviously Aaron on a little bit of a scramble move and I thought we were set up pretty nice opportunity with the ladder roll and stuff like that.
But for me it’s just making those plays and you’ve got to take a couple of risks here and there and being great in the pocket.
Q. Jake, you mentioned you had to get things going early. What wasn’t working in the beginning offensively?
JAKE BROWNING: We’ll have to watch the tape. But seemed like little things here and there we missed executing on, I don’t think it was necessarily this guy was messing up over and over.
I think it was a couple times I’m missing guys in reads and a couple of times someone misses an assignment or something like that. But I don’t think problems like that that are easy enough okay this guy just wasn’t playing well or this wasn’t working. I think there’s different things every play and you’ve got to watch the film.
COACH PETERSEN: I thought it was the run game was the problem. It takes a minute to get into the rhythm of a run game. But going three and out three and out that’s not going to help us. We’ve got to come out stronger and faster than and the pass game can be hitting us sometimes but we’ve got to be able to cover guys up if we do that Myles will get at some positive yards. For whatever reason we started slow there. That was my take on it.
Q. Keishawn, after everything you’ve been through the last few years what does this game mean to you and what are your thoughts?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: You know, it’s just something to build on. Honestly, I remember when I came in my freshman year, we were nowhere near this level. And every year this team has risen. I know we made it further, we made to it the playoffs last year, but honestly think this team is going to be way better next year.
Defense, offense, guys are going to grow. We’ve got a bunch of guys coming back. It’s going to be a phenomenal team. But constantly, it’s just seeing these guys grow.
Me growing, me being this is my fifth-year senior, this will be my last game, I can’t be nothing but be proud. I didn’t go out the way I wanted to, but how I seen this team play, how I seen them battle, the mindset they had at halftime, that just shows they’re ready, they’re ready for me to leave and for them to take over.
Q. Coach or Keishawn, just the mental aspect of trying to get off the field on third and longs and unable to do it several times?
KEISHAWN BIERRIA: So definitely we look at the film, a few of them third downs was definitely on me eyes on Trace McSorley. He stepped up, I stepped up, he throws it right over me. Maybe three or four of those third downs are on me. But as far as that, they just made plays. Defense, we understood that going in. We game planned that. And we understood third down is a money down, you’ve got to get off the field.
And every time we have a problem with that, we lose games. But again, I mean, it’s football. They made plays, we made plays. They just got the better of us tonight.
Q. When you look at this season and the Fiesta Bowl what are you going to take from this building on to next year? You guys had a great season, the program is going in the right direction, what could you use from this for next season?
COACH PETERSEN: I think like Keishawn said, I think there’s just been a lot of guys that have moved the needle forward in this program in terms of — it’s not just about like executing on the field in my opinion. It’s what is it like on a day-to-day basis, what is the culture like, what is the expectations in the locker room, how do we work out, what’s the standard, what’s the level of excellence there.
And I think it’s different. And I think that these guys understand what it’s going to take to — it’s very hard to stay and win 10 games and try to get to the playoffs and all that. We know that.
But I think they’ve had a taste of it enough to understand that and we do have some good players. And I’m so proud of guys like Keishawn like how they pushed this place forward. I think we’re in a good spot.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.