Creative Petersen elevated Huskies

Tim May
Coach Chris Petersen presents quarterback Jake Browning two roses after Washington defeated Utah for the Pac-12 title on Nov. 30. Petersen has the Huskies in the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 2001. [Dean Rutz/Seattle Times]

LOS ANGELES — Maybe it’s tough to recall the coach, but it’s not difficult for many college football fans to remember how Boise State upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2006 season.

Washington quarterback Jake Browning was 9 years old at the time, but no way he could forget how the Broncos bamboozled the Sooners.

“Just all the trick plays,” Browning said. “I remember watching the guy do the ‘Statue of Liberty,’ then go propose to his girlfriend right after.”

He referred to Boise State running back Ian Johnson, whose two-point conversion score and proposal became legend. Also gaining instant fame for that come-from-behind win was first-year coach Chris Petersen, who had the audacity to call a hook and lateral that produced the touchdown that sent it to overtime, and a halfback option pass for the overtime TD that led to the clinching two-pointer.

Who knew years later Browning’s path would cross with the creative Petersen, but here they stand, at the end of a four-year run together at Washington, preparing to take on Ohio State in Tuesday’s Rose Bowl. Washington has reclaimed a place among the national powers during the five-year tenure of Petersen, hired away from Boise State in 2014.

To appreciate what he has done, which includes guiding the Huskies to a College Football Playoff semifinal in 2016 and to their first Rose Bowl appearance since Jan. 1, 2001, just look past the trick plays, running back Myles Gaskin said.

“It’s coach P at the end of the day,” Gaskin said. “He made all this happen. The way that he kind of goes about each and every day … he’s just a great coach and tries to teach us to be men. That’s the biggest thing.

“He just does a lot for us, and I think he tries to influence us not to just be good football players but great men, on and off the field. I think that’s the biggest thing that kind of changed this program. Guys were all in with his program, and that’s put us where we are today.”

But the trick plays are examples of Petersen’s find-a-way approach that have helped him build a 139-32 overall record in 13 years as a head coach. The Huskies practice them just like they do their regular plays because in essence they are just as much a part of the offense.

“I think we’re in this thing to win it, and it doesn’t matter if it means playing different players or calling certain kinds of plays,” Petersen said. “To me it’s more of a mindset of you’re just going to do whatever you need to do to win the game.

“Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But I will never sit back and say, ‘Oh well.’ "