Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: Chris Petersen has faced Sac State in must-win game before

Chris Petersen lived the anxiety of “Sacramento State Week” a generation ago, and here he is again – in a different role, against the same opponent.

The mandate for Petersen as UC Davis’ quarterback in 1985 and ’86 entering the Causeway Classic was: Don’t lose to the Hornets.

Petersen did his part, dazzling in a 37-30 victory in 1985 as a junior and in a 29-6 win in 1986 as Division II UCD set an all-levels collegiate record by winning its 15th consecutive conference championship.

Petersen, in his second season coaching Washington, faces another mandate, much like 30 years ago. He cannot afford to stumble against Sac State in the Huskies’ home opener Saturday in Seattle.

The Huskies are heavy favorites, but Petersen said he respects every opponent, and he knows the Hornets have beaten Oregon State and Colorado on the road in recent seasons.

This week, he has praised Sac State’s coaches, players and effort.

“They have some very good talent,” Petersen said. “I know what Sacramento State is going to bring. They’re going to bring tremendous focus, energy and effort. They’re going to play well. They’re going to play inspired.”

When he was at Yuba City High School, Petersen wasn’t sure he would play quarterback in college, never mind his meteoric rise as a coach.

Many colleges offered him a shot at defensive back, but he decided to go to Sacramento City College, where he quarterbacked the Panthers to conference and bowl championships in 1983 and 1984. Petersen was a rare transfer for UCD, but he quickly learned coach Jim Sochor’s intricate passing schemes. In addition to the two victories over Sac State, he led the Aggies to a stunning victory over Division I Pacific, which he said offered him a shot to play defense.

Against the Tigers in Stockton, Petersen completed 30 of 40 attempts, including his first 16, for 355 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-41 victory in 1986. After the game, he was praised by coaches and teammates, and hugged by parents Ron and Pat, with Ron saying, “Chris always amazes us.”

In Petersen’s debut with the Aggies, a year earlier at Boise State, he passed for 237 yards in a 13-9 loss, then gave himself a C-plus grade because of mistakes and missed opportunities.

Sound familiar?

Jake Browning, Washington’s heralded freshman quarterback from Folsom, made his collegiate debut last week at Boise State. Browning showed promise in the 16-13 loss to the Broncos and frowned when asked if he was pleased or encouraged.

Petersen said he was pleased to know Browning was irked: “You want your quarterback to be that way after a loss.”

That sounded familiar, too.

After Petersen’s debut at Boise State, Sochor said, “I’m glad to see him hard on himself. If that’s what it takes to keep improving, that’s fine.”

Around the region

▪ Tu’uta Inoke used to avoid tacklers as a quarterback for Burbank High in 2010. Now he lives to make stops as a middle linebacker for Cal Poly.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Inoke had 16 tackles and forced two fumbles in a 20-19 victory at Montana to earn Big Sky Conference and Football Championship Subdivision Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Cal Poly plays at Arizona State on Saturday.

▪ Outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (Grant High School) will start in his NFL debut for Carolina at Jacksonville on Sunday. The first-round pick from Washington missed parts of the preseason with hamstring injuries.

“It’s important that he plays fast,” Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott told reporters this week. “Good things happen when you play fast.”