PULLMAN, Wash. — It’s something minor that most wouldn’t find noteworthy, unless you’re Chris Petersen.
As he was closing out his first season in charge at Washington, Petersen started to notice the focus and approach of his players as game day approached was more in line with what he had been seeking from the start of the season. He knew it would take some time, and it became more obvious to Petersen as November arrived.
No surprise that when Petersen started to notice these changes, Washington’s three most complete performances followed.
“Nothing’s easy early on and it takes a while, like we talk about, this process. You can’t snap your fingers. They don’t just get it,” said Petersen of his teams progress through the season. “To their credit, they’ve been trying, they’ve been buying in, they’ve been working hard. They haven’t ever backed down and it’s just starting to come together. I think as a coach and coaching staff, the one thing we’re always wanting is to feel like we’re improving and on an upswing. And I think the last three, four games we’ve kind of felt like that.”
Petersen wrapped up his first regular season at Washington with a 31-13 rout of rival Washington State in the Apple Cup late Saturday night. It was the 100th career win for Petersen, becoming the fastest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision to reach 100 wins, coming in just 117 career games.
Only eight of those have come at Washington (8-5, 4-5 Pac-12). And while Petersen was given the benefit of 13 regular season games thanks to a season-opening trip to Hawaii, eight wins is the most for any first-year coach at Washington.
Petersen wasn’t flawless in his first season in the Pac-12. He called a failed fake punt at midfield in the fourth quarter of a tie game against Stanford that the Cardinal converted into a touchdown for a 20-13 win. He also had the time management mistakes in the final two minutes against Arizona that led to the Wildcats pulling out a 27-26 victory.
Washington won the expected games, but failed to beat an FBS team that finished the regular season with a winning record.
“You’re only as good as this last win and that lasts about two days and you’re onto the next thing,” Petersen said of reaching 100. “I’ve been put in some really good situations — I mean that sincerely — some unbelievable administrators to stack the deck for us and got us really good coaches to recruit really good kids.”
After an inconsistent first 10 weeks, the Huskies were playing their best as the regular season wrapped up. Dwayne Washington established himself as the Huskies main ball carrier going forward with three consecutive 100-yard games, quarterback Cyler Miles posted a passer rating of 125 or higher in four of his past five games and Washington’s defense held both Oregon State and Washington State to 13 points in the past two games.
“I think we just stepped back and realized that this game needs to be played with trust. It can’t be played with a bunch of individuals trying to do their thing,” Miles said. “I think the trust has been improving game after game and I’m so happy for my teammates.”
The Huskies have a week to await their bowl assignment. By having the eighth best conference record, the Huskies could be headed for the Cactus Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, based on Pac-12 agreements. It will be the Huskies fifth consecutive bowl trip, the longest streak since going to eight in a row between 1995-2002.
“I’m just glad that we get a chance to play again with these guys,” Petersen said.