Huskies to meet Oklahoma State in Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2
The first season of the Chris Petersen Era at Washington will close at the Cactus Bowl against Oklahoma State in Tempe, Ariz. on Jan. 2, the team announced Sunday.
Washington (8-5 overall, 4-5 Pac-12) owns the Pac-12’s eighth-best record but earned the Cactus Bowl bid, which is designated for the Pac-12’s seventh-best team, due to Arizona making the Fiesta Bowl, one of the “New Year’s Six” games that are tied in with the new College Football Playoff.
“We’re really excited to go down there,” Petersen said while meeting with the media Sunday night. “I think Oklahoma State has one heck of a program. (I’ve) known and known about coach (Mike) Gundy for a long time and know what type of staff he has and what type athletes they have, so it will be a real nice matchup, a real competitive game, and we’re excited to get a great opportunity to play in an awesome place against a really, really good program.”
The Cactus Bowl continues a string of five straight bowl appearances for Washington, and it will also be the eighth career bowl game for Petersen.
Oklahoma State (6-6) is coming off a 38-35 overtime upset victory over rival No. 20 Oklahoma on Saturday. The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Cowboys, which was preceded by a five-game winning streak. All but one of their losses came against ranked opponents.
The Cowboys are in their 10th year under Gundy, who has amassed an 83-44 record with five bowl wins, including a 12-1 season and Fiesta Bowl victory in 2011.
Petersen said he has passed through Stillwater, Okla. before to watch a Cowboys practice but is only a little familiar with the team.
“I think he’s done a wonderful job of building that program,” Petersen said of Gundy. “I don’t know a ton about him but I do know that they’ve done some very good things.”
The Cowboys will bring to Tempe a passing offense that is 57th in the FBS with 235.7 yards per game. Oklahoma State’s offensive leaders are junior quarterback Daxx Garman (2,041 yards, 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), senior running back Desmond Roland (647 yards, 10 touchdowns), and junior wide receiver Brandon Sheperd (34 receptions, 639 yards, four touchdowns). On defense, sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is tied for eighth in the nation with 11 sacks.
As for Washington, the team is in good shape a week after wrapping up the regular season with a dominant Apple Cup win over rival Washington State. And with nearly a month until the Cactus Bowl, they’ll have plenty of time to both practice and rest, which could be both a blessing and a curse.
“We’re really pretty healthy for this time of the year,” Petersen said. “They’ll get some good time off this week to finish their finals and then next week will be game plan and practice, and then they’ll get some time off to go home (for Christmas) … But it’s gonna be no timing and rhythm for six days.”
Petersen was sure to point out was his satisfaction of playing a bowl game in a warm climate, something that gets less and less likely the farther down the bowl pecking order teams get.
“I think the location is awesome. Who doesn’t want to be heading to Arizona probably this time of year?” he said. “With a little luck we’ll get that true Arizona December/January weather.”
This will be the inaugural game for the Cactus Bowl under that name, though its lineage dates back to 1989. It has been known as the Copper Bowl, Insight Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in previous years. All games have been played in Arizona – first at Arizona Stadium in Tucson from 1989-99, then Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix from 2000-05, and finally in its current home of Sun Devil Stadium starting in 2006.