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UW And WSU Football Teams Lose Key Players

It hasn’t been a good week for the University of Washington or Washington State University football teams. They both lost key players, and for different reasons.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Huskies dismissed a player who had a reputation as a troublemaker.Last Straw?

Problems have reportedly been building between UW’s star cornerback Marcus Peters and his coaches.

“I think they were really fed up with a series of events,” Art said. “The one that was noteworthy to the public was during a game earlier in the season when Peters was very upset with the coaches and threw his helmet, threw his gloves, and was seen by television cameras arguing with his coach on the sidelines. So he was already suspended once.

“I think the relations had deteriorated. Clearly, it had to be some pretty serious stuff for (head coach) Chris Petersen to dismiss a player midweek in preparation, also mid-season. (Peters was) his best player in the place where the Huskies were weakest — the secondary. Now they’re starting three true freshmen among the four secondary players for Saturday’s game against UCLA at Husky Stadium.

“It’s a very awkward and burdensome decision, but Petersen obviously had bigger things in mind in getting rid of Peters," Art said.

Principles Over Pressure

Petersen, who was a successful head coach at Boise State before coming to the UW last year, has a record of strong discipline.

“He’s been pretty firm. He’s either suspended or dismissed nine players since he was hired last December,” Art said.

He says Petersen appears to be “cleaning house” from former UW head coach Steve Sarkisian.

“He really does want what he likes to call his OKG: ‘our kinda guys.’ And some of Sark’s players were not his kind of guys. And I think Peters was right at the top of the list.”

Star Players Don't Get Royal Treatment

Petersen hasn't shied away from disciplining star players. Take, for example, the case of starting quarterback Cyler Miles. His involvement in a post-Super Bowl altercation led to his suspension from spring practice and the opening game at Hawaii back in August.

It cost the team some valuable preparation time with their starting QB. But Art says for Petersen, the punishment was about something bigger than this season.

"Petersen is not bashful about setting a standard that he hopes will carry on in the future," he said. "I think he’s looking at this season with the Huskies almost as a Mulligan. He’s just going to toss this one away, get the players he wants to do as he commands and is not going to take a lot of trouble from a guy like Marcus Peters.”

WSU Loses Its Leader

The Huskies' rivals, WSU, lost their starting quarterback and team leader this week. Senior Connor Halliday suffered a broken ankle in the team's loss to USC last Saturday, ending his college career.

“That was a real blow to the Cougars who were already 2-7 and struggling,” Art said. “Connor Halliday is a great young leader of that team. A lot of people are really dismayed over this.”

“It was a broken ankle on a clean hit last Saturday night. There were no illegal blows or anything like that, just fate of the game.

"It was too bad for a young man who wound up leading the nation in passing. And also because he was such a leader with those guys. It’s going to be really hard to recover emotionally for the Cougars’ last three games, including the Apple Cup in Pullman on Nov. 29," Art said.

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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