As Washington prepares to face juggernaut Alabama in the Peach Bowl, I couldn’t help but find the atmosphere a little too familiar.
USA Today’s Dan Wolken tweeted “I feel bad for Washington players by this point. The tone of 75% of the questions this week is basically: ‘Are you afraid you might die?’”
Ten years ago to the day the Huskies play the Crimson Tide on Saturday, the questions in Phoenix were pretty close. Oklahoma, one of the blue bloods of college football, was going to tee off on little Boise State, many thought. Let’s not forget, however, the Sooners were only touchdown favorites. Alabama is about twice that.
But if I were Alabama, I would not want to face any coach in the nation less than Chris Petersen, given how much time he’s had to prepare. The man who went 92-12 at Boise State would prefer to spend his waking hours breaking down film, not giving press conferences or making public appearances.
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We once talked about how he would hang out with his dad, Ron, a coach himself, and watch cutups projected onto a white bedsheet when he was little. That’s just how he is. In Boise, when the Broncos had a long time to prepare, they beat teams like Oregon, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, TCU and Arizona State.
It’s not hard, being around Petersen and his teams for so many years to see plenty of similarities in the Huskies. Porting the Boise State template to Colorado didn’t work for Dan Hawkins, but it has at Washington for Petersen.
In recruiting, Petersen used the term “OKG” or “Our Kinda Guy” when he was in Boise, and it’s become more widely spoken about in Seattle. He sought guys that fit what they envisioned in the personality of the team, even if he was a step slow or an inch short. At Washington, they’re getting those players, but now they’re a step faster and an inch taller. Hawkins struck out with higher-caliber recruits, and players who might have thrived at, say, Boise State, could not in the Big 12.
The Huskies have no doubt seen the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, they know what a Petersen team can accomplish when no one else says it can be done.
The Huskies have a quarterback who put up insane touchdown numbers in high school who doesn’t turn the ball over in Jake Browning. In Boise, he had Kellen Moore.
The Huskies have a defense built on havoc, leading the nation with 33 takeaways. In both of Petersen’s Fiesta-winning seasons, the Broncos were in the top 10 nationally in that category.
The Huskies have hammered teams that have been in the top 25 this season, like Colorado (by 31), Washington State (by 28) and Stanford (by 38). Under Petersen, the Broncos were 10-2 against ranked teams from 2006-11, and he’s 5-0 against top 10 teams.
A lot of talk this week has been about trick plays, and if Washington uses one, it probably will work. Petersen never called them just for fun, he did it because they’d work. Or as he once jokingly said, “around here, we just call them plays.” They didn’t need them in most of those Pac-12 routs, and may not even against Alabama. But on that stage, he sure seems to dial up the best ones.
What Petersen has done is taken what made Boise State so good and expanded upon it, used the resources at his disposal to great success. Eight of the 10 full-time staff members, himself included, coached or played at Boise State.
Wolken wrote earlier this month about how fans here are not upset at Petersen, which most people around knew to be true, but the rest of the nation now knows. When I spoke to him after last season’s opener at Albertsons Stadium, twice it was interrupted by people yelling “we love you Coach Pete!” If anything, his success is proof that Boise State’s culture can thrive on a larger scale.
Here’s 10 reasons Washington could beat Alabama, courtesy of the Seattle Times.