Petersen continues to push the right buttons

Steve Emtman may have lost the coin toss before the 109th playing of the Apple Cup in Pullman Friday, but he had already done his job. All he had to do was show up. 

His alma mater, the Washington Huskies, were more than happy to take care of the rest. And they did it often, scoring on their first four drives and tying an FBS season mark for most passing yards in a first quarter en route to a 45-17 thrashing of No. 23 Washington State.

“It felt like how i thought it was going to be,” Washington senior cornerback Kevin King said postgame. “None of this is surprising.”

Emtman, the former Lombardi and Outland Trophy winner, has obviously been to Martin Stadium many times, but bringing him out as an honorary captain for the Apple Cup was a little surprising. 

It was also a master stroke, penned by UW Head Coach Chris Petersen.

Versus California, the Huskies matched Marshawn Lynch Bobblehead night with a former player known for knocking heads - Dave Hoffmann. Hoffmann and Emtman were teammates on Washington's 1991 National Championship team. 

Again, a move made under the radar, which is Petersen’s modus operandi. 

“Oh, I love our ex-players,” Petersen quipped this week when asked if he would bring any of them back to talk to the team prior to the Apple Cup. “I get educated on the history of this program and what goes on. So we’ll see.”

Fact is, Petersen was being his usual coy self. Of course he’d already thought about it. He is a CEO that leaves little to chance. And if any did show up this past week, no one outside the program would know about it. 

But it’s the sly moves, like seeing Emtman show up for the coin toss, that's all Petersen. It’s a way to keep active ties with the past while doing it the way he wants to do it - respectfully, subtly, nothing that would take away from the team’s laser-like focus, but with an impact all its own. 

Any Washington fan that recognized Emtman at midfield for the coin toss got it. They understood what it meant. 

This was my takeaway: You don’t invite Steve Emtman to take part in an Apple Cup coin toss unless you’re there to take care of business. 

And for any Washington State fans still salty over not having Luke Falk last year in the Cougars’ 45-10 Apple Cup loss, the Huskies left no doubt this year that Falk was nothing but a bit player. He was worth exactly one touchdown, and in their own house. 

Washington held the Cougars to a season-low for points, the only team this year to keep them under 20. They had two goal-line stands, one that was turned around for a 98-yard touchdown drive that completely broke WSU’s back. 

“That’s Death Row, baby,” King said emphatically. “That’s all I can say. That is the epitome of Death Row. Fourth down stop is execution time. That’s us right there.”

King can make one claim Emtman can’t: the senior from Oakland finished his UW career unbeaten in Apple Cups. The year Emtman redshirted the Cougars won 32-31, but then he helped the Huskies whomp WSU his final three years. 

King and his teammates outscored WSU 148-57 the last four games. 

“They’re going to make some other excuse this year,” said King of the Cougars. “I’m not sure what it’s going to be, but you’re going to read the papers and they’re going to say something again next year. We just come out every year. I haven’t lost to the Cougs. We’re not a team to really talk too much before hand, but now that I’m 4-0 against the Cougars it’s not really a rivalry for me.”

That’s Petersen’s plan in a nutshell: finish first, then if you feel like you need to have a word once it’s all said and done, go ahead. 

Problem is, Washington isn’t done. And after the game Petersen wasn’t finished talking about finishing. 

“I think this thing is always about how you finish,” he said, matter of factly. “That’s one of the things that we talk about everyday to our kids about finishing everything whether it’s school, a weight workout, or a practice. I think the really good teams, the special teams can finish.”

Husky fans can enjoy tonight knowing that 11 regular-season wins has never happened before until now, except once. But Emtman knows all about how it's done. Granted, 12 regular-season games didn’t become a regular thing until 2006, but records are still records.

And in-state Dawgs like Trey Adams had to do it all while fans in the stands yelled out stuff like ‘Wenatchee sucks!’ - which might come as a bit of a surprise to WSU offensive lineman Adams' former Wenatchee Panther Cody O’Connell - and obviously much, much worse.

“I have a lot of friends who go to WSU, so this one’s a little sweet for me,” Adams said with a sly smile. 

The Huskies scored more points (537) this season than any other UW team in school history. In fact, they are the only UW team to ever push pass the 500-point threshold. With six touchdowns Friday, this year’s UW team became the first to score more than 70 touchdowns in a season (71). 

And no matter what happens next, Washington will keep setting records. They won their first Pac-12 North Division Championship, and will try and win their first conference title since 2000. 

“It feels good just knowing that we haven’t played for something this special in years,” said junior receiver John Ross. “Last year we were fighting to be bowl eligible. Now we’re playing for something very special. It’s really nice.”

And it’s not over yet. Until it is, Petersen will continue to push the buttons and pull the strings to get the Huskies ready for their next challenge, whether that be Colorado or USC. 

The only question that remains is, which UW legend will show up in Santa Clara? 

My pick? Dennis Brown, flashing that Super Bowl XXIX ring. 

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