BOISE — His 84-8 record over eight years probably entitles Boise State University head football coach Chris Petersen to a throne fit for the king of Idaho football, not the diminutive stool offered Monday for him to sit in at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s season opener against the University of Washington.
Petersen, who at 5-feet, 11-inches joked about needing a pillow, can only hope the chair incident is the one low point of the week leading to Saturday’s big rematch: In December, his Broncos beat the Huskies in the Las Vegas Bowl, 28-26.
Playing this time at Husky Stadium following its $250 million redecorating job, Petersen expects to encounter a raucous, signal-extinguishing crowd of around 70,000 on Seattle’s waterfront — and a foe with 20 returning starters trying to make sure what happened in Vegas stays there.
No question, Peterson said: The Huskies will employ the same no-huddle offense his own Broncos, ranked No. 19 in The Associated Press pre-season poll, used to great effect to win four consecutive bowl games.
“It’s not if,” Petersen said, of UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s hurry-up style. “They will.”
Saturday’s game will be a clash of two quarterbacks who at 2012’s end were on different trajectories.
BSU’s Joe Southwick shined, particularly in the Broncos’ final four games when he threw nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Husky QB Keith Price was picked off at critical moments, including the misfire that sealed the Huskies’ Dec. 22 bowl-game fate against the Broncos.
Petersen has praised Southwick’s progress and leadership, especially during spring and fall workouts.
Still, he said Price can’t be written off just because of his 2012 slump.
“Joe started to figure out some things in the latter half of the year and did a nice job,” he said. “And we know that Keith Price is a very dangerous quarterback.”
Southwick told reporters Monday that it’s impossible to compare his current mentality with the one he had during 2012’s opening 17-13 loss to Michigan State University, a game where he didn’t throw a touchdown and was intercepted once. His field command has come naturally, he said, not from an “in-your-face” confrontational style, rather one borne of respect that accompanies results.
“There’s some more credibility when you play a little bit, kind of get some production,” Southwick said. “I just feel really comfortable.”
His biggest worry among Washington’s defenders is Shaq Thompson, the outside linebacker who started every game as a true freshman last year.
Thompson “is the best player on their team, probably,” Southwick said. “He stands out on film.”
BSU plans to rotate numerous players in its backfield, including running back Jay Ajayi, a sophomore who averaged nearly 7 yards a carry in 2012, and tailback Aaron Baltazar, who Southwick said sports a field presence that belies his true-freshman status.
On defense, BSU faces uncertainty just who its players will line up against.
Sarkisian hasn’t confirmed Saturday’s status of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams.
Both Huskies were involved in scrapes with the law. Williams was cited in May for being under 21 and operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol or marijuana, while Seferian-Jenkins pleaded guilty in July to DUI. Additionally, Seferian-Jenkins needed surgery on his pinky finger this month.
BSU defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe said he doesn’t care who trots out opposite the Broncos.
“We’ve still got to prepare like we need to prepare,” he said.
From Petersen’s little chair Monday — one he vowed to substitute with something more commanding at BSU’s next media session — he said his biggest fear was aggravating penalties and careless mistakes that might help Washington knock BSU and its lofty Bowl Championship Series-busting aspirations off their pedestal.
“So much of it, early in the football season, is about self-inflicted wounds,” he said. “If you can eliminate some of those, you’ll feel better about your chances.”