By Lauren Kirschman
McClatchy News Service
SEATTLE — Washington’s bowl game is going to be all about Chris Petersen. And judging by the wry grin he offered when asked about it, he’d prefer that it wasn’t.
The Huskies (7-5) were selected on Sunday to play in the Las Vegas Bowl against No. 18 Boise State (12-1) on Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m. PT. Petersen, who announced last week that he’s stepping down as UW’s head coach after the bowl game, was the head coach at Boise State from 2006-2013. He was also the Broncos’ offensive coordinator from 2001-2005.
“That’s part of the reason I don’t like that,” Petersen said of the focus on him. “You know, and that’s not what this is about. It’s not even kind of about that stuff. These players, you know, work really hard all season. You know, Boise’s had an unbelievable season over there. … You’re playing a really good team. That’s what it should be about and nothing else.
Petersen will take on a leadership role in the athletic department after the season while defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will take over as head coach. During his press conference last week, Petersen said he needed a chance to recharge. On Sunday, he was asked if he felt a sense of a relief since making the decision.
“I don’t know if it’s really relief,” Petersen said. “I just kind of go back to like, I just feel very strongly let’s the right thing on both accounts. I’m also under no illusions that like … OK, this is easy now, all of this is behind me and now my life gets good. There’s a lot I gotta get figured out.”
Petersen went 92-12 in eight season at Boise State, winning Fiesta Bowls in 2006 and 2009. The Huskies played Boise State once during Petersen’s time at UW, falling 16-13 in 2015. The the all-time series between the two teams is tied 2-2 with UW winning in 2007 and 2013.
“Personally speaking,” Petersen said, “there’s a lot other teams that I would probably like to be playing for this last time, but it is what it is. It’s interesting how sometimes you things work out.”
After starting the season ranked No. 13, UW went on to finish 7-5 and quickly drop out of contention to defend its Pac-12 championship. They closed the season with a 31-13 victory over Washington State, which marked their seventh-straight Apple Cup win. UW has made a bowl game in each of Petersen’s six seasons at the helm, including three-straight New Year’s Six bowls from 20016-2018. Last year, the Huskies fell to Ohio State 28-23 in the Rose Bowl.
Boise State, coached by former Petersen assistant Bryan Harsin, topped Hawaii in the Mountain West championship on Saturday. The Broncos’ only loss this season was a 28-25 loss at BYU in October. The Huskies dominated BYU in September, topping the Cougars 45-19 on the road.
Boise State also played in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon in 2016 when it beat the Ducks 38-28. The Broncos, who have played in 19 straight bowl games, are 4-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Junior tight end Hunter Bryant, who recently declared for the NFL Draft, won’t be playing in the bowl game. Senior left tackle Trey Adams will also sit out while quarterback Jacob Eason will play.
Cougars to play Air Force
Washington State (6-6) will face Air Force (10-2) in the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz. on Dec. 27 at 7:15 p.m. PT. Air Force finished second behind Boise State in the Mountain West Mountain Division. The Falcons only lost to the Broncos and Navy this season. They closed the regular season on a seven-game winning streak.
The Cougars last played in the Cheez-It Bowl — then known as the Copper Bowl and played in Tucson, Ariz. — in 1992. Washington State topped Utah 31-28 in that game as Drew Bledsoe threw for 476 yards.
Washington State is making its fifth-straight bowl appearance and sixth in eight years under Mike Leach, which is the first time the program has reached either mark. Last season, Washington State beat Iowa State 28-26 victory in the Alamo Bowl.