Pac-12 football coaches teleconference: The Huskies and Buffs clash for the Pac-12 title
The Huskies and Buffaloes are ready to take the trip to Santa Clara to face off for the Pac-12 football title, which will either be Washington's first in over a decade, or Colorado's first ever. While they're on opposite sides of the field, Washington head coach Chris Petersen and Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre both have nothing but good things to say of one another, and agree on one thing: Defense wins championships.
Washington's Chris Petersen
The Huskies are headed to Santa Clara, and Washington head coach Chris Petersen definitely isn’t turning down the heat on his team between now and then. “Pressure is good,” says Petersen. “You need to feel a little urgency every day when you’re out at practice.”
Despite being the highest ranked team in the conference this season, Petersen never took his spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game for granted. When asked when he and his team felt confident they’d have a shot at the title, Petersen said they didn’t “until after last game.” Petersen also knows that his team won’t be facing an easy opponent in Colorado. “All the games are really hard in this league,” says Petersen. “On any given Saturday, anybody can beat anybody. That’s what I’ve known about this league forever.”
Petersen is keeping an eye on Colorado’s defense — especially the secondary. “These guys are good players,” he says. “They’re experienced, they’re well coached, and they’re not going to give you anything easy. You have to earn it.”
The Huskies haven’t played Colorado since 2014, a time when Petersen says the two programs were at a similar stage of growth: The very beginning. “When we did play them a couple years ago, we felt like we were kind of the same. [We were] not really winning as many games as we thought we should,” reminisces Petersen. Seeing the Buffs’ program grow has left Petersen with nothing but respect for Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre.
“He knows how to build a program and win. He did it at San Jose [State University] and he’s doing it at Colorado. It’s awesome that he’s been given time. He’s had a chance for his philosophy to set in and for his players to take off and run with it.”
When asked about his own philosophy, Petersen said it all starts with recruiting. “The guys need to know what they’re getting themselves into,” says Petersen. “You need to be brutally honest with the expectations of your program. What we do is really hard fought grinding work and these kids need to know that. Every year is different and good coaches figure out the mindset and what the guys are feeling and thinking, and where they’re gonna go with this thing.”
Petersen’s philosophy has worked so far, as his team is about to play for its first Pac-12 football title in over a decade. Cautiously looking beyond that, Petersen is familiar with the lack of attention his team has been getting this season, saying he’s fine with it unless it “hurts the program,” making reference to the College Football Playoff decisions. “I have confidence that the powers at be will get this thing right,” says Petersen. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
Colorado's Mike MacIntyre
Colorado has had (nearly) a fairytale season. Head coach Mike MacIntyre has put in the time and the effort with his Buffs, and now gets to see them compete for their first ever Pac-12 football title. “We talked about being Pac-12 champions when nobody else thought we should,” says MacIntyre. “I saw it in their eyes, and they took it and ran with it.”
McIntyre says that developing a program the way he has developed Colorado’s takes one thing in particular: Time. “It always takes a while. The culture is where you start first. You develop that with the guys you sign and bring in. That takes a long time,” he says.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s championship game, MacIntyre has his eyes on Washington’s John Ross, Dante Pettis, Myles Gaskin and Jake Browning — oh, and the entire Husky defense. “Defense wins championships,” says MacIntyre. “You’re not always going to go out and have a great offensive game. That’s why we’re both in the championship game: Out defenses have played well throughout the year.”
Something else MacIntyre admires about Petersen’s coaching, but knows it will pose yet another threat to the Buffs, is how many new plays Petersen has introduced every game this season. “Coach Petersen has done a phenomenal job of introducing different wrinkles from game to game,” says MacIntyre. “There will be a bunch of new things about to hit us. I’m amazed they’re able do do as many new things and remain so accurate.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Pac-12 title game, MacIntyre feels “very fortunate and very blessed” just for the opportunity to travel to Santa Clara and beyond. When asked about concerns with what game Colorado will play after the Pac-12 championship due to “east coast bias,” MacIntyre said as long as you “just keep playing and finding a way to win, it will take care of itself.”
Now with the rebuilding of two college football programs under his belt, MacIntyre shared his main secret for their success: “If you care about young people and get young people who are committed; you set high goals and you don’t budge from them; and you keep caring and loving and working, great things can be accomplished.”