Petersen won’t be divulging either passion or plan for the game at Oregon Saturday. But as a former Ducks assistant, he knows well the antagoism in the rivalry.
To hear Chris Petersen tell it, the coach of the Washington Huskies has all but forgotten his time at Boise State, which included a 2-0 record against the Oregon Ducks, who entertain the Huskies in Eugene Saturday. Those games may have been the two biggest reasons he was hired at Montlake.
“It was a long time ago,” he said Monday. “I just know the kids played hard. Two good teams going at it . . . I don’t remember the details other than guys played really, really hard and effective.”
To help jog Petersen’s memory in case he isn’t sandbagging his recollection, on Aug. 31, 2008, the Broncos shocked the Judeo-Christian world by beating the Ducks in Eugene, 37-32. In the run-up to the rematch in Boise a year later, Oregon star running back LeGarrette Blount said, “We owe that team an ass-whuppin’.”
Instead, Boise State opened a second can of whup-ass with a 19-8 win as the Broncos outgained Oregon 361 yards to 152, rolling up 22 first downs to the Ducks’ six. The game became notorious afterward when, right in front of Petersen, Blount punched the face of Broncos DE Byron Hout, who taunted him. Blount went after fans in the stands and was subsequently suspended.
And Petersen doesn’t recall much. Rrrright.
Beating Oregon, of course, has become the Holy Grail at Montlake, where the Huskies last beat the Ducks Nov. 1, 2003, a 42-10 win under coach Keith Gilbertson and behind backup quarterback Cory Paus, who succeeded a concussed Cody Pickett. The subsequent 10 years, in which Oregon has become a national powerhouse aboard the wallet of Phil Knight and his Nike empire, included 10 consecutive Huskies losses and has been, in a word, hell.
Petersen Monday wanted no part of stoking the passions, speaking only in the broadest generalities about rivalries.
“I think there’s just interesting rivalries in the Pac-12, with all the Northwest schools, in a lot of ways,” Peteren said. “Certain schools are pointing at the other school, and the other school’s pointing at this school . . . When a team starts winning a lot against a certain team, that becomes their rival, and maybe not even so much (the traditional rival). You’ve got to win some to even it out, to make somebody your rival.
“But yeah, when somebody wins a lot, I know it frustrates a lot of people.”
Petersen knows it from the other side too. He coached at Oregon from 1995-2000, joining as a receivers coach under Mike Bellotti when he took over the program as it began its ascent.
“I know how the rivalry was, because when I was at Oregon it was kind of flipped in a lot of ways,” he said. Back then, it was the Huskies who dominated the Ducks, whose fans detested their arrogant, insufferable counterparts from Seattle. Now it is the Ducks, their kaleidoscopic uniforms and their nouveau riche fans who are the acme of contempt for the purple partisans.
During his time in Eugene, Petersen was described by Bellotti as a “mad scientist” for the wild offensive schemes he urged his boss to be deployed. In an interview with the Oregonian in December after Petersen left Boise for Washington, Bellotti also said Petersen, in subsequent years, expressed a hankering for the Washington job.
“That job was the one that he specifically mentioned to me in the past few years that held interest for him,” said Bellotti, who recruited Petersen in 1982 out of Yuba City, CA. “Pete is a very picky guy in that regard and not about, you know, all the other stuff.
“It’s more about how does it fit for him and his family. Is it going to be comfortable, can I bring the staff I want, are we going to have the kind of lifestyle I feel will be most beneficial to us having success?”
He said Petersen’s skills and Washington’s resources could make him “as powerful as anybody in the western United States.
“I certainly feel like it can be the next step for them because he knows how to win and knows how to compete not just for championships within his conference but for national recognition and that’s what Washington has wanted and was in the past.”
Bellotti’s high praise for Petersen is off to a 5-1 start, although until the 31-7 win at Cal Saturday, his first Pac-12 triumph, the Montlake buy-in tended to be on the cautious side. That’s because college football fans have all the patience of a Labrador retriever with a tennis ball.
But if Petersen can trouble himself to dust off the Boise State game plans from 2008-9 for the Ducks Saturday, and deploy them as best his fuzzy memory allows, he may experience a slobbery face-lick in Eugene that will be measured in fathoms.
Perkins suspended for a half
TE Joshua Perkins will be suspended for the first half of the game Saturday, a mandatory punishment for his ejection for targeting the head of a Cal defender. Petersen indicated that in a conversation with the conference office, a reversal of the punishment might be possible. That is not the case.
“The Conference does not overturn as that is the responsibility of the video replay crew,” a Pac-12 spokesman told the News Tribune. “The crew confirmed the targeting call during the game and Perkins will be required by the playing rules to sit the first half of the next game.”
Asked what he thought of the call, Petersen said, “You probably know.”
But he went on to defend in general the officiating of a difficult rules interpretation.
“Those are hard calls,” he said. “The bottom line is, officials are trying to get them right. Those are really close calls. We’re also sensitive about the head shots, trying to take that out of the game. It’s a lot easier when you’ve got the replay and you can sit there and look at it 30 times after.”
Thompson honored — again
Shaq Thompson was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week for the second week in a row.
The junior from Sacramento, CA., scooped up a fumble and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown for the first score at Cal. The return was the longest fumble return in school history and was Thompson’s fourth defensive touchdown of the season and his third fumble return for a touchdown.
Thompson also recorded a game-high 11 tackles. Thompson ranks second in the nation in fumble recoveries with three and his average of .50 forced fumbles per game ranks him fifth in the nation.