Spending time on the islands during football season is not Washington coach Chris Petersen’s idea of a vacation.
He learned the difficulty of taking a team to Hawaii when he was the head man at Boise State and a trip to Oahu to face the Rainbow Warriors was a part of conference play.
He’s a fan of Hawaii, but not necessarily playing there.
“Get off that plane and get that nice ocean air and it feels like vacation. So it’s very easy to lose that mental edge and not be in tune to how it’s going to be and how it’s going to feel,” Petersen said.
“Then to play the game, little bit of time change, certainly the weather is different. Usually a little more humidity, sometimes some rain, always some sort of wind. After the game you have to get on that plane and get back here about eight in the morning, get ready for the next week, so there’s nothing easy about this trip at all.”
Petersen made the trip with Boise State three times and went 2-1. So his debut at Washington will come in familiar territory when the No. 25 Huskies face Hawaii on Saturday night.
This trip comes with the added intrigue of Petersen finally taking the jump and leaving the comfort he had with the Broncos to take on the challenge of coaching in the Pac-12. And while his first conference game is still a month away, the tenor for what’s to come can be set by how the Huskies play.
Hawaii is looking for any kind of positive buzz after last season’s 1-11 stumble, a lack of interest around the program and concerns that budget shortfalls could eventually spell an end to the Warriors program. Hawaii is expecting a crowd of less than 30,000 for the opener.
“It’s a fun opportunity for us,” Hawaii coach Norm Chow said. “It’s a challenge for us and we would hope the fans would enjoy that.”
Here are things to watch as Washington starts the Petersen era:
QB QUESTION: Quarterback is the most uncertain position as Petersen beings his Washington tenure.
Sophomore Jeff Lindquist will get the nod as the starter against the Warriors, beating out redshirt freshman Troy Williams. But neither could be under center a week from now as presumptive starter Cyler Miles returns from a one-game suspension. Miles has the most experience of the three, having started one game last season, but missing all of spring practice due to suspension while a new system was being implemented still has him behind.
Lindquist could make the decision on who takes over tougher depending on how he plays Saturday.
“Looking at it as a job to lose I think is a little bit negative,” Lindquist said. “I’m just going to try to basically do the best I can and we’ll see where the cards fall.”
NEW BISHOP: Bishop Sankey left a major void in Washington’s backfield after the best season running the ball in school history. Sankey ran for 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns last season and it won’t be just one player asked to replace that productivity. Dwayne Washington will get the first chance, but Lavon Coleman, Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper will all get carries.
PASS HAPPY: Chow’s teams are known for their passing proficiency and the Warriors will be facing a young Washington secondary. Cornerback Marcus Peters has the look of a future NFL star, but he’ll be joined in the secondary by two freshmen and a sophomore. The most anticipated debut will be that of safety Budda Baker, the gem of Petersen’s first recruiting class with the Huskies.
CARRY THE LOAD: Hawaii may have a running back in junior Joey Iosefa who can handle the pounding of trying to control the game on the ground. Iosefa showed that last year when he carried a school-record 37 times against San Diego State. At 6-foot, 245 pounds, Iosefa won’t run away from defenders, but might be the counter needed against Washington’s big, aggressive front seven.
ISLAND TIME: Washington has four players on its roster who went to high school in Hawaii, but it’s a chance for Hau’oli Kikaha to star in a new position. Kikaha’s position is called the “Buck” in Washington’s new defense, a hybrid between outside linebacker and rush defensive end and many around the program think Kikaha will thrive there.