Washington’s Chris Petersen has succeeded against Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, like no other coach

Washington head coach Chris Petersen talks on his headset during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Hawaii, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Seattle. Washington won 52-20. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Kyle Whittingham's coaching tree will be showcased Saturday night, when BYU's Kalani Sitake visits Utah State's Gary Andersen in an in-state rivalry and Sacramento State's Troy Taylor hosts Weber State's Jay Hill in a meeting of top 10 teams in the FCS.

“I love all those guys,” Whittingham said. “They did a great job for us while they were here.”

As coordinators of Whittingham's Utah offense, defense or special teams at various times, the four coaches all played major roles in some of his biggest victories. None of them, though, ever beat Chris Petersen's Boise State or Washington teams.

Whittingham’s only win vs. Petersen, a 34-23 victory at Washington in 2015, came with John Pease as his defensive coordinator and Aaron Roderick as his offensive coordinator. Whittingham (127-62) has won two-thirds of his games, while going a combined 5-1 vs. nationally recognized coaches David Shaw of Stanford, Nick Saban of Alabama and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan.


Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's results against Chris Petersen's Boise State and Washington teams:

2006 • Boise State 36, Utah 3.

2010 • Boise State 26, Utah 3 (Las Vegas Bowl).

2015 • Utah 34, Washington 23.

2016 • Washington 31, Utah 24.

2017 • Washington 33, Utah 30.

2018 • Washington 21, Utah 7; Washington 10, Utah 3 (Pac-12 championship game).

Yet he’s 1-6 vs Petersen, with four straight losses to the Huskies. Whittingham’s background is defense; Petersen is an offensive guy, creating a natural matchup and an aura of respect.

Pease’s defense had four takeaways, including linebacker Gionni Paul’s fumble return for a touchdown, in Utah’s 2015 victory in Seattle. Otherwise, Petersen has owned Whittingham, unlike any other coach — although it is odd how former coaches Todd Graham of Arizona State, Rich Rodriguez of Arizona and Jim Mora of UCLA, each fired after the 2017 season, went a combined 11-7 against Whittingham.

Petersen's teams are “very disciplined,” Whittingham said, “and the scheme he has, it's always balanced. That's another thing: To me, as a former defensive coordinator, it's always harder to defend the teams that are balanced.”


When • Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT

TV • Ch. 13

In his weekly news conference, Petersen said of Utah's staff, “Those guys are doing a phenomenal job. Kyle always does. Nothing different. I think he's playing exactly the style of football in general he's always wanted to play, which is great defense, and tough run [-oriented] offense.”

Petersen’s Boise State and Washington teams usually beat Utah with their dynamic offenses. In 2017, for example, Taylor’s offense produced one of the best performances of his two-year Utah tenure as quarterback Tyler Huntley passed for 293 yards. But the Huskies scored 10 points in the last minute of a 33-30 victory. Last season was different, with the Huskies winning via their defense, 21-7 in September at Rice-Eccles Stadium and 10-3 in the Pac-12 championship game at Santa Clara, Calif.

Taylor didn’t have Huntley or running back Zack Moss in the title game. Their presence will help Ludwig, as he competes against Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, whose $1.4 million salary makes him easily the highest-paid assistant coach among the 10 public schools in the Pac-12 and likely the entire conference.

Lake’s defense is “very fundamentally sound; the players run to the football and you don’t see blown assignments,” Ludwig said.

Ludwig’s move from Vanderbilt in January resulted in Utah’s giving him and defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley by far the biggest assistant coaches’ salaries in the program’s history. They’re being paid $820,000; the previous high was $525,000. They’ve proven to be worth the investment, with Scalley’s defense ranked No. 3 in the country and Ludwig’s offense at No. 30 (and the offense’s clock-eating methods greatly assist the defense).

Washington will challenge Utah on both sides of the ball. The Huskies play with some swagger. Lake is not shy about saying he has the solutions against rival Washington State's Air Raid offense, for example, with five straight wins since Petersen's staff took over Washington's program. With nine new starters this season, though, his defense has not been as dominant.

The Huskies rank fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense and allowed Oregon to come from 14 points down late in the third quarter of a 35-31 victory in Washington’s most recent game.


Coaches with the most success against Utah's Kyle Whittingham in his 15-year tenure (minimum five games):

Chris Petersen • 6-1 (Boise State, 2005-10; Washington, 2015-18).

Todd Graham • 4-2 (Arizona State, 2012-17).

Mike Leach • 4-2 (Washington State, 2012-19).

Rich Rodriguez • 4-2 (Arizona, 2012-17).

Jim Mora • 3-3 (UCLA, 2012-17).

Gary Patterson • 3-3 (TCU, 2005-10).