It only takes one.
One hook and ladder play. One Statue of Liberty play. One stunning upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. One game to put the Boise State football program on the college football map as a perennial Division I power.
The man responsible?
Former UC Davis quarterback and wide receiver coach Chris Petersen.
What’s amazing is Petersen, who was only a second-year head coach when his Broncos shocked the Sooners on a series of remarkable plays, doesn’t even think he would have been a head coach at the college football level had it not been for his time as an Aggie.
“I never even had thoughts of being a head coach,” Petersen said. “I don’t think that I would have become a coach had I not gone to Davis. When the Boise thing came up, it was something that just happened.“
Next week, something else will happen. The Aggies will travel to play the Broncos in Boise, Idaho in a matchup that Petersen says just came up by chance.
“[The Boise State athletic department] asked me, ‘What do you think about playing Davis?’ and I said, ‘Sounds good,‘” Petersen said. “Next thing I know we’re playing Davis.“
Still, you can’t deny the Aggie connection as Petersen, who was the top-rated Division-II quarterback in the nation when current UC Davis head coach Bob Biggs was the offensive coordinator, speaks about his upcoming coaching counterpart.
“I went to Davis because of Bob Biggs,” Petersen said. “I really wanted to play right away so I went to junior college. When I was done one-and-a-half years later, Biggs was there to recruit me again. He is one of the best people I have ever met and one of the better coaches out there. He introduced me to Davis.“
Biggs displays the same sentiment for Petersen as a player, coach and human being.
“When he went to Sac City, they tried to make him a defensive back,” Biggs said. “I just stayed on him and said, ‘Hey, you are a quarterback.‘ I just believed in him. He is a great competitor. He has tremendous charisma.
“When you take a combination of his throwing ability, his charisma and his leadership – he was just the glue that offensively made us go when he was playing here. He has that same sort of charisma in his coaching. He is a wonderful human being and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.“
While Biggs was the one who brought Petersen to UC Davis, it was actually former UC Davis head coach Jim Sochor, the namesake of Jim Sochor Field at Aggie Stadium, who introduced Petersen to the idea of coaching.
“Sochor was really the one who opened my mind to coaching and strategy,” Petersen said. “He also showed me how the game of quarterback should be played.“
It would seem that Sochor had the right idea introducing Petersen to the discipline of coaching.
In a little over three years at the helm of the Boise State football team, Petersen has amassed a record of 39-4. He was named the winner of the 2006 Paul ‘Bear‘ Bryant Award, an honor for the national coach of the year, for his team’s 13-0 record and Fiesta Bowl victory.
In addition, he was chosen as the Western Athletic Conference Coach of Year and one of eight finalists for the Bryant Award in 2008, when the Broncos‘ 12-1 record got them an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl and a No. 11 ranking by the Associated Press to finish the season.
In that same year, he was also named as a finalist for the Liberty Mutual and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Awards.
So far this season, Boise State has a 4-0 record and is ranked as the No. 5 team in the country by both the Associated Press and USA Today Polls. The Broncos have strong wins at home against then No. 16 Oregon and on the road versus Fresno State.
Petersen’s success at Boise State hasn’t made him forget about his stay at UC Davis, though.
“Some of my really close friends to this day I met in Davis,” Petersen said. “I am proud to be part of the university and to have graduated from there. To this day, my ears perk up whenever I hear ‘Davis.‘”
He also displays much excitement when asked about UC Davis‘ recent transition to the Football Championship Subdivision.
“It’s great,” Petersen said. “I know that Davis will continue to make strides.“
This year’s version of the Aggie football squad marches into Bronco Stadium, also known as “The Blue,” on Saturday at 5 p.m. While UC Davis is overmatched on paper, it hopes to leave Boise feeling less blue than the grass on which they will play.
MAX ROSENBLUM is excited to see a UC Davis alum having so much success. Show your enthusiasm at firstname.lastname@example.org.