Is The Grass Greener On the Other Side?

The Washington Huskies travel on the road to Provo, Utah this week to take on the BYU Cougars for their first road test of the season.

With playing at a hostile environment like Lavell Edwards Stadium, there will certainly be intangibles for the Huskies to deal with.

How will the altitude affect them and their stamina?  Husky coaches have been quick to dispel the notion that it will affect them this week.

For some of the young players on the Husky roster, this will be their first experience on the road, at a place where the fan base will be loud.

Certainly, the Huskies have their work cut out for them to battle through these elements and somehow gain some traction.

Oh yah..speaking of traction – the Huskies will be playing on a grass field against the Cougars, which could prove to be a hindrance.

The Husky Football fields consist of playing on turf on a daily basis, with the east practice field and inside Husky Stadium itself.

Having the opportunity to practice on grass just doesn’t really exist in the Seattle area, for Washington head coach Chris Petersen and his players.

“We’ve researched this long and hard..there’s no grass around here!  I mean that’s the bottom line..that we can use.  So we practice on turf and its really not an issue” Petersen told the media today.

Recently, the Huskies installed brand new turf on the east practice field, which appears to be much softer..but it’s not grass.

There have been discussions in the past about the University of Washington installing a grass practice field, to help the players gain a level playing field with playing road games on grass.

With the weather and the constant need to upkeep the grass, those thoughts never came to fruition and as Petersen said, they must practice on turf.

Against the Cougars, this will be the first time the Huskies have played on grass all season and there are some parallels to past seasons.

Historically when playing on grass, the Huskies have had their struggles and have appeared to take longer to acclimate to the surface.

Most recently, the Huskies took until the 4th quarter of the Rose Bowl to finally “find their way” and make it a competitive game against Ohio State.

Past games against UCLA, Arizona State and Stanford come to mind, as the Huskies have appeared to come out flat and sluggish.

While these trends have existed for the Huskies, and it is definitely a caveat to watch this Saturday, coach Petersen is not buying it.

“We’ve been on grass a long time. If we’re not getting things done out there, it has nothing to do with the surface,” Petersen said.  “Guys slip on our surface. The surface we have on the practice field is different than the game field. So it’s all about the fundamentals of planting on the correct foot and those type of things. It is what is it is.”

One thing is for sure..while Petersen feels the whole “playing on grass” thing is overblown, the coaching staff has certainly made provisions for the placekickers.

“Maybe the kickers, and they’ve been on grass. We’ve got them on grass. And it shouldn’t, that should be no different as well, but we do it because sometimes kickers overthink things. So we took them over to the grass.”

A creature of habit, Petersen is meticulous in everything he does and taking the mental part out of the “kicking on grass” is simply a precautionary step.

When asked about whether his team could use the soccer field to gain experience with practicing on grass, he quickly responded…..

“No. That’s their field…and our kickers get over there and play with it a little bit. But we’re not going to be able to go out there and practice. That’s their field!”

When playing against opposing teams, the occasional narrative is that they try to use the grass field to their advantage against teams like the Huskies.

It’s the same notion that the Huskies use the northwest stormy weather to their advantage against teams that typically play in hot and dry weather.

“Yeah, I think so. But you know, a lot of these kids, maybe it’s different now,” Petersen said.  “I was going to say high school, but I guess everybody is turf these days. I think a lot of guys, they come here and they’re used to playing on perfect surfaces. I think growing up they didn’t play on perfect surfaces. Like I said, that to me is a bunch to do about nothing, whether we’re talking about the altitude or the grass. That’s not going to have anything to do with us playing well or not.”

Whether the grass certainly affects his team’s performance or not, Petersen is not even letting the most simple mind entertain that thought.

He is all about results and the product they put on the field on Saturdays.  In his mind, any element or intangible can be overcome by sound execution and performance.

It will be imperative for the Huskies to get off to a fast start against BYU this Saturday, and that includes getting the proper grip on the field.

Is the grass greener on the other side?  Do the Cougars have a clear advantage playing on their home grass field against the Huskies?

That answer will be provided on Saturday afternoon and make no mistake…Petersen will make sure the grass factor doesn’t psych them out.

A more definitive answer to the question is YES!  The grass is always greener on the other side for coach Petersen himself.

“I think grass is better. I do. I just think it feels better because I’m old and when I stand on turf my back hurts and it doesn’t hurt when I’m on grass,” Petersen said last season before his first coaching trip to Rose Bowl Stadium to face the UCLA Bruins.


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