Chris Petersen was in disbelief with the way things shook out regarding Washington’s bowl opponent.
Petersen had announced his resignation as the Huskies’ coach earlier in the week and now he was learning that Boise State — the program he formerly coached — would be pitted against his team in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21.
“How many teams are there in FBS football? 130-something?” Petersen asked at a press conference. “This is probably my last choice to get matched up with.”
But the matchup is real, and Petersen leads the Huskies (7-5) into the stadium against the Broncos (12-1) in a contest that is highly intriguing due to the coaching situation.
Petersen went 92-12 in eight seasons at Boise State from 2006-13 before leaving for Washington. He was replaced as Broncos coach by Bryan Harsin, who worked on the offensive side of the ball with Petersen for 10 years in all, including five with Petersen as head coach.
Harsin isn’t overly thrilled with the matchup either, especially with it being Petersen’s final game.
“There is an obvious storyline in this game,” Harsin, who is 64-16 in six seasons at Boise State, said in a press conference. “The most important thing that we all have to consider is to not overshadow the players that are actually going to play in the game, which is going to be the shame if the story continues to be not about the game.”
The two men are forever linked in Boise State lore due to their part in a game that is considered one of the best in college football history.
Petersen was head coach and Harsin was offensive coordinator during Boise State’s unforgettable 43-42 overtime conquest of Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.
Petersen and Harsin pulled out a hook-and-lateral for a touchdown on fourth-and-18 to force overtime, called for a receiver to take a direct snap and throw a touchdown pass in overtime, and went to the Statue of Liberty play for the winning two-point conversion. Star running back Ian Johnson, who scored the decisive points, then proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on national TV.
The two coaches don’t plan to do any reminiscing in the leadup to the bowl game. Not when both are trying to limit the chatter.
Harsin maintains he is only interested in notching a 13th win, which would tie for second most in school history.
“Our mindset hasn’t changed. We want to finish out the season 1-0,” said Harsin, referring back to his usual weekly mantra.
Petersen was the Boise State coach when the school notched its undefeated 14-0 season behind quarterback Kellen Moore in 2009.
But he’s more worried about dealing with this year’s Broncos than celebrating any 10-year anniversaries.
“Boise has had an unbelievable season over there,” said Petersen, who is 54-26 with the Huskies. “Our guys have been through a lot and grinding through a lot, and now we’re going to play a really good team. That’s what it should be about.”
While it is known to be Petersen’s farewell, Huskies junior quarterback Jacob Eason hasn’t yet decided if the Las Vegas Bowl will be his final game for the school. Eason, who has passed for 2,922 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions, is forecasted to be a high NFL pick if he elects to enter the draft.
Two other Huskies, senior left tackle Trey Adams and junior tight end Hunter Bryant, are sitting out the bowl game to protect their draft statuses.
“Everyone has their own decision and their own personal choices for health reasons and all that,” Eason told reporters. “I’ve just been wanting to finish the things I start and felt like we started this season and we have to finish it, no matter what the case is. I’m excited and ready to go have fun on Saturday.”
Fifth-year senior Jaylon Henderson will again be the starting quarterback for Boise State. Henderson has thrown 10 touchdown passes against two interceptions while adding two rushing scores in his four starts.
Junior pass rusher Curtis Weaver, who has 13.5 sacks this season and a Mountain West-record 34 for his career, is the star of the Boise State defense. Sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon has racked up a team-high eight sacks for Washington.
The two schools met in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl when Petersen guided the Broncos to a 28-26 win over the Huskies, then coached by Steve Sarkisian.
Harsin and Petersen have met once as head coaches, with the Broncos prevailing 16-13 in 2015 in Petersen’s much-anticipated return to the blue turf in Boise.
–Field Level Media