After watching his Huskies fall behind 21-3 at the half in a Rose Bowl they'd eventually lose to Ohio State, 28-23, Washington coach Chris Petersen had no problem shouldering the blame for his team's start.
“Tough one,” Petersen said following the game. “Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It's on me. It's not these kids. They practiced hard. They're ready to play. But we really didn't play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.
“I don't know, being off that much time, it just didn't seem the same. I'm proud of them. A few adjustments at halftime, but really more than anything, just an attitude adjustment, make a few plays. And that breeds excitement when you make a few plays and kind of feed off each other.”
Petersen's team concluded a successful three-year run that saw his team rack up 32 wins, two Pac-12 titles, a College Football Playoff berth and his first Rose Bowl, but come away with losses in the final game of each of those three seasons.
Asked how he felt about that run, there was disappointment, but high praise for the Buckeyes.
“When you play the three teams we just got done playing the last three years, and there's very little margin for error, and you have to play your best football,” Petersen said.
“I think Ohio State's as good as anybody out there. I think they could have been in the tournament, the four-team tournament. I think a lot of people think that.”
“And, I mean, I think Ohio State's as good as anybody out there. I think they could have been in the tournament, the four-team tournament. I think a lot of people think that. I just think it's frustrating for us, when you feel like you didn't put your best foot forward the whole entire four quarters. And so that's what it comes back to, us coaches to figure that out.”
Asked about the decision to punt, down 28-17 with four minutes to play, a decision that was questioned by many watching the game, Petersen said his team had the option to fake the punt, but Ohio State's alignment thwarted that.
“Yeah, we were going to go for it. And then if we didn't convert, we don't want to put our defense in such a bad situation there, we actually might have had a little something else going on there in terms of the punt. But they lined up not -- the punt return team lined up not how we wanted them to.
“So we had to kick it out of there.”
Another curious sequence in the game came late in the first half, when Washington had the ball deep in their own end with 1:21 to play. Instead of chewing clock to head to the locker room down 14-3, two incompletions forced a Huskies punt, which Ohio State fielded 21 seconds later and promptly went 57 yards in five plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Rashod Berry to go up 21-3 at the half.
“Yeah, that was frustrating,” Petersen said. “I mean, really frustrating. Yeah. That's a frustrating one. The thought process was: Let's not get -- you know, let's try to run the ball, get a first down. We threw a pass right away. Got about five yards, and then I think on third down we ended up missing a pass.
“They came down scoring. I thought that was a big, huge key to the game for those guys to score right before. It was frustrating on both sides that we don't eat a little clock, that we didn't convert the first down, and then they got the ball, went right down the field on us.”