The comparison, at least on the surface, seems apt.
Washington is a big underdog in its national semifinal against No. 1 Alabama.
Ten years ago, Boise State was regarded as an underdog in its Fiesta Bowl matchup against
No. 8 Oklahoma.
Chris Petersen coached Boise State to a 43-42 upset in that game, employing a successful Statue of Liberty play on a two-point conversion in overtime to pull out the improbable victory.
Petersen now coaches the Huskies. So, here we go: Does this upcoming game feel anything like that game?
“I don’t even remember, that was so long ago,” Petersen said. “I just know it’s a big game. We’ve played in a lot of big games over the years.”
It is Petersen’s style to downplay these kind of storylines, and so him and his assistants — the ones who were around, anyway — have shown little interest in reminiscing about the day Boise State shocked the Sooners.
UW receivers coach Bush Hamdan, who back then was a sophomore quarterback for the Broncos, remembers BSU’s approach in vague terms: “We felt we belonged in a big game, and (were) just ecstatic to get an opportunity to showcase who we were on a national stage.”
Asked if facing Alabama feels at all like facing Oklahoma a decade ago, UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, who in 2006 was in his first season as Boise State’s defensive line coach, replied: “Where it feels that way is we’re playing a really good opponent and it’s a big stage. But all that stuff, that was that year, and this is all different. But from the standpoint it’s a big stage and we’re playing a really good opponent, heck yeah.”
To be clear: Washington is facing a far more difficult challenge against Alabama than Boise State did against Oklahoma, and the Huskies are much bigger underdogs than the Broncos were. Oklahoma had two losses and was favored by a touchdown in that Fiesta Bowl. Alabama is undefeated and currently favored by 15 points.
One similarity, at least, might be the way Petersen and the Huskies are approaching this game — which is to say they’re approaching it the way they would any other, or at least that’s what they’re telling reporters. Hamdan said Petersen has changed very little since he coached Boise State to that Fiesta Bowl victory.
“I still remember to this day, when (Petersen) was my quarterbacks coach and his wife would bring a cup of coffee in at 10:30 at night and we’d be grinding,” Hamdan said. “Same guy, every single day.”
Changing their approach, Kwiatkowski said, is “the last thing you want to do. Every week should be the same, no matter who you’re playing, whether they’re unbelievably good or they’re not as good. It’s all about what you do. And what you do is the process of everybody working to get better. We’ve just got to stay the same.”
LAKE ‘EXTREMELY HAPPY’ AS A HUSKY
It’s worth wondering now more than ever: how much longer will it be before UW defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake leaves the Huskies for a head coaching job?
His stock continues to rise after molding UW’s secondary into one of the nation’s best. The Huskies could have as many as three defensive backs drafted in 2017, and they again landed two players, Budda Baker and Sidney Jones, on the All-Pac-12 first team.
Lake’s name was mentioned by ESPN in connection with the San Jose State opening before that school hired former Oregon State assistant Brent Brennan as its new coach. That will likely not be the last time Lake is mentioned as a potential head-coaching hire.
But Lake says he is “extremely happy” at UW, and would only leave for “something magnificent.” Lake signed a two-year contract extension in January that pays him $500,004 annually, and he was also promoted to co-defensive coordinator.
“I feel like I’m in a really good spot, and I can be very, very picky, because I work for such a great man in a great city at a great university,” Lake said last week. “And now it’s just going to have to be like … you’re going to come to me and go, ‘oh, Jimmy had to take that job. He had to go take that job.’
“And if it’s not that, I’m completely happy here. I love coaching defensive backs here. I love working with Coach Kwiatkowski. I love working for Coach Pete. This is a sweet setup, and it would be awesome to just try to get championship after championship here.”