By Troy Phillips, www.theheartofdallasbowl.com
In those final seconds of regulation and overtime of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Chris Petersen made his reputation.
He was already known as an innovative offensive coach. Fair or not, Petersen became the coach on whom you never, ever got caught sleeping.
His legacy at Boise State, it turned out, included this little caveat: If you played the Broncos, you trusted Petersen as far as you could throw him. Over and over, his opponents paid.
He took his bag of trickeration to Washington two years ago, but highlights of Boise’s infamous 43-42 upset of Oklahoma should be in the ESPN cue when Petersen’s Huskies (6-6) face Southern Mississippi (9-4) Saturday in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Fair Park.
Frustrating, maddening, face-reddening. Southern Miss coach Todd Monken knows the feeling. The Golden Eagles played at Boise State in 2013, Monken’s first season in Hattiesburg. On offense and special teams, Boise dropped a few trick plays (including a fumble-rooski) on USM in an easy victory.
That was one of 20 defeats USM suffered in Monken’s first two seasons as he, his staff and players painstakingly rebuilt the program to today’s bowl form. Then, Monken knew Petersen would dabble in the dark side, even against a weaker foe. He also knew he might be helpless to stop it.
“Easier said than done,” Monken said as coaches and players for both ZHODB teams met with the media on Tuesday. “You need to prepare your back end (secondary) to put yourself in a position to give up a game-changing play.”
Western Kentucky took a similar approach vs. USM in the Conference USA championship game (which the Hilltoppers won) earlier this month.
“We expected that from them,” Monken said. “They were a lot like what Boise liked to do. Good teams have a variety of things they’ll try to do to score. Some do more. Chris and them have done a great job over the years of formations and trick plays. What we’ve seen over the years, we have to be ready for.”
This season Washington has uncorked one or more acts of bamboozlement in each game, the opening kickoff in a 52-7 rout of Oregon State being notably creative.
Marvin Hall ran the kickoff about 10 yards, stopped, looked left and threw to Chico McClatcher near the far sideline. Before the catch, McClatcher stood up after Oregon State’s coverage team missed him playing dead on a 10-yard-line field number, his white uniform camouflaging him.
McClatcher didn’t score but returned the kickoff 56 yards. How does a team fall for that?
“We’ve been working to expect the unexpected,” said Southern Miss cornerback Kalan Reed, remembering that Boise State back who ‘ran right by me’ on the fumble-rooski in 2013. “Make sure your eyes are in the right place, and just keep playing your role so nothing big happens.”
Tricks and fakes in college football are hardly new, Petersen said, but Boise was bold/skilled enough to regularly call them. The Broncos were only the second team from a non-BCS conference (Utah previously was the first) to play in a BCS bowl in ’07. The visibility of Petersen’s risk-taking resulted in a reputation that took on a life of its own.
“We’ve always had some things,” Petersen said. “Now everybody’s doing things. I thought everybody made too big a deal out of it. We played the one game that we pulled out some things – that we had to – to win that game. We got branded as a team that ran trick plays all the time.”
Petersen remembers “99 percent” of Boise’s football being straight up but was fine with letting opponents believe otherwise. “Let ‘em think that’s who we are,” he added.
Washington will “sneak one in” if it can on offense, but Petersen said it’s different now. Perhaps not as overt or aggressive. In the regular season, tricks are more situational. In bowls, who knows?
All anyone remembers is that the ’07 Fiesta turned into eight shades of crazy. OU scored 25 unanswered in the second half for a 35-28 lead.
Boise later scored on the Youtube-worn hook and lateral from Jared Zabransky (pass) to Drisan James (catch) to Jerard Rabb (pitch and run for 35-yard TD on fourth and 18) to end regulation at 35-35.
OU’s Adrian Peterson opened overtime with 25-yard TD run before Boise emptied the bag. Zabransky went in motion from his QB position, and Vinny Perretta took the Wildcat snap, rolled and found Derek Schouman on fourth and 2 for six.
On the go-for-it-all conversion, Zabransky took the snap, faked the pass right, switched hands to hide the ball behind his back and fed it to Ian Johnson for the winning 2-point dash. A variation of the Statue of Liberty play, it was “Statue Left” in Boise’s vernacular.
Insanity in Arizona and in millions of living rooms ensued, and Johnson took a knee minutes later to propose to his girlfriend on ESPN.
“By then, it was pretty much out of control,” Petersen said of the entire scene.
Circumstances would dictate Washington engaging in such all-out deception. It’s unlikely, but Monken puts nothing past Petersen.
“A lot of people runs tricks and fakes,” Monken said. “We’ve done our fair share. My wife always says call the ones that work. Execution is what matters, not the plays or the play-calling.
“If they try to execute something, we’ll have to execute something to try to stop it.”
Tried and failed, many have.