When Chris Petersen arrived at Boise State, he quickly learned the nature of the Broncos’ biggest rivalry game.
In Boise, they hate the University of Idaho.
“I remember when I first got there, like, ‘Hey, if you only win one game, it’s got to be against Idaho,’” Petersen said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I’m thinking, ‘so you’re good if we win one game?’ They’re like, ‘Well, maybe not, but if you win one, it better be that one.’”
Beating Idaho, of course, is a considerably lower bar than beating the Washington State Cougars, a Pac-12 outfit that hasn’t won very often this season but tallies enough yards and points to make anyone nervous. (And for the record, BSU beat Idaho every year from 1999-2010 — nine of those 12 victories coming by 31 points or more — and they haven’t played each other since.)
Predictably, Petersen said he’s excited to participate in his first Apple Cup, which will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Pullman. But he’s not hyping it to his players as an end-all, be-all contest.
“The fans are the ones that are so intense about this,” Petersen said. “We’re intense about the game anyway. So to say, OK, now we’ve got to really play extra hard … I mean, really? Harder than we wanted to play last week?
“But I do think they’re fun. I think they’re fun for the universities. I think they’re good for the fans and all those type of things, but sometimes I’ve got a little bit of a hard time saying, ‘OK, now we’ve got to really go.’”
Asked jokingly if he had anything derogatory to say about WSU ahead of his first Apple Cup, Petersen responded: “No, I do not. My first Apple Cup, I should probably just say nothing.”
Instead, he said a bunch of nice things about WSU coach Mike Leach, redshirt freshman quarterback Luke Falk and Cougars athletic director Bill Moos, with whom Petersen worked when he was the receivers coach at Oregon from 1995-2000.
On Leach, Petersen said, “I enjoy him. I really do. The little that I’ve been around him, I’ve really enjoyed talking to him and hearing what he has to say.”
He said he’s read part of one of his books — presumably ‘Swing Your Sword,’ Leach’s autobiography — and praised WSU’s pass-heavy offense, saying “they’re never going to be out of games, no matter what’s going on.”
Petersen also marveled at how Falk has debuted in place of injured starter Connor Halliday. Falk, a former walk-on from Logan, Utah, has thrown for 1,504 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions and completed 66.5 percent of his passes in 194 attempts.
Last week at Arizona State, Falk completed 45 of 74 passing for 601 yards and three touchdowns, though he also threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.
“(Falk) looks like he’s been playing the whole season,” Petersen said. “One thing that Mike Leach knows is quarterbacks and how to throw the ball, so those kids he recruits over there know what they need to do to fit into the system.”
Kikaha named Butkus finalist
Hau’oli Kikaha, the Huskies’ fifth-year senior outside linebacker, was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award on Monday. Named after legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, the award seeks to honor the best linebacker in college football each season.
Kikaha is tied for the national lead in sacks with 17.5 and leads the nation in tackles for loss with 23.5. Both of those marks are UW single-season records, and Kikaha also owns the UW career sacks record.
Last week, he was named a finalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Polynesian Player of the Year award.