It was only a matter of time before Chris Petersen’s next great quarterback would emerge and take the Washington State University football program by storm. In 2020, it happened. Senior quarterback Mike Pattinson took the reins, and he never looked back. Now, in early 2022, he is poised to lead the Cougars to yet another 10-win season and appear in yet another bowl game. Is this the start of a fantastic new era for the WSU football program?
Pattinson’s Historic Return
Mike Pattinson is a name that most WSU fans will recognize, as he spent four years playing quarterback for the Cougars. In his time there, he established himself as a reliable passer and a leader who established a culture of excellence on the football field. It was no secret that Pattinson wanted to be the next great Washington State quarterback. Now that his time has come, can he live up to the lofty expectations that many have for him? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to revisit some of the most important moments in WSU football history, as we await the start of the 2022 season and the next great chapter in the franchise’s storied history.
When Chris Petersen arrived at WSU in December 2019 to become the new head football coach, most assumed he would bring along his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Mike Sanford, to be his top assistant on offense. After all, both men were at the helm of the Huskies’ offense for the previous 13 years and had extensive knowledge and experience in developing quarterbacks. While it is true that Mike Sanford came along with Petersen, the soon-to-be-40-year-old coach chose to bring someone along from his previous position at Colorado rather than bring along an experienced assistant. What he got in Mike Pattinson was someone who had already been through four years of college football and developed into a competent quarterback. In 2019, while the Huskies were winning the Rocky Mountain Showdown, a reporter asked Petersen about Pattinson’s future in football. “I’m proud of [Pattinson] and what he was able to do this year,” Petersen said. “I think he has a really good future in this sport, and he’s made a lot of progress in the right direction.” The right direction being, of course, behind the desk, where Chris Petersen is accustomed to being located. It was a bittersweet moment for WSU fans, as while they were happy to see their team advance to a bowl game, they also had to watch as their star quarterback was leaving for the Big Ten. But as we all know, football is a demanding sport, and there are many stories of student-athletes needing to balance classes with practice and games. This is especially true for freshmen and sophomores, who have to take on even more responsibilities as they transition into college life. For a player to succeed in this manner, they have to be mentally and physically prepared to deal with the rigors of a full-time college football season. This undoubtedly helps to explain Pattinson’s ability to lead the Cougars to a 6-0 start in his sophomore campaign despite a less-than-stellar supporting cast around him. In fact, he led the team in both passing and total offense and earned him Freshman All-American honors. It was a remarkable performance from a first-year quarterback, and it demonstrated how much potential he has and how quickly he can develop with the right guidance and support. It is also notable that when Petersen did bring along an offensive coordinator from his previous position (at Colorado, it was Joe Southwick), he chose a 30-year old who had previously been the quarterbacks coach at Villanova rather than an established position coach who’d had plenty of experience and success in the Pac-12. Southwick was brought in to help take care of the offense in the event that Petersen needed a breather (which he rarely did), and he was tasked with developing Villanova’s offense as it pertains to the ever-changing rules and regulations that are dictated by the NCAA. This further proves the importance of having someone on hand who is not only familiar with the offensive scheme but who is also able to translate the Xs and Os into real life on the field. One of the things that makes Patterson such an intriguing prospect is that while he has been known to struggle with his accuracy and decision-making at times, he has also shown that with the right coaching and mentoring, he has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Can he finally fulfill his many fans’dreams and lead the Cougars back to the football ranks of prominence? Let’s take a quick look at his journey from a small town in Washington to the quarterback of the Washington State University football team.
The Road To Moscow
While many great quarterbacks have come out of the Pacific Northwest, only two major college football programs currently pay attention to it: Washington State University and the University of Oregon. It’s understandable considering that the majority of fans in the area support one of the other 64 schools in the Pac-12 rather than WSU or Oregon. At the time that the University of Washington football program was still blackballed by the NCAA, many in the Pacific Northwest were rooting for WSU to sign Steven Terrell, one of the Huskies’ great quarterbacks from the 1980s. Unfortunately, the NCAA didn’t feel that Terrell was strong enough to lead the Cougars to victory, and he ended up going to grad school at Cal rather than the University of Washington. Like many other WSU fans, Terrell’s departure left a void in the hearts of Cougars fans, as he was a key member of the team for many years and helped lead them to their only two Pacific 12 championships. Since then, the Cougars have had a couple of solid quarterbacks, but none of them have been able to live up to the tremendous expectations that came with the Terrell legend. It was only a matter of time before someone emerged to continue the tradition. Enter: Mike Pattinson. While he did not start out in Pullman playing quarterback, he soon found himself in the position of being the team’s backup behind Ryan Finley and Casey Mateux. During his walk-on season in 2015, he saw time behind the center and was given the opportunity to showcase his potential. The rest, as they say, is history. After taking a couple of years off to get his feet wet in the coaching world, Pattson returned to his alma mater in 2019 and immediately took the reins of the offense. In his first game as the starter, he led the Cougars to a convincing 51-13 win over Idaho on September 20th. It was a game in which he completed 21 of 31 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Since then, he has continued to flourish under center, leading the team to a 6-0 start and establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. In his first year as a starter, he set a new single-season school record for most passing yards (3,850) and tied the mark for most touchdowns (28) by a quarterback in a single season. There is a lot of talent in the Pacific Northwest, and it appears that Mike Pattinson is the man to finally bring the glory back to Pullman. With his rapid success, many are wondering: can he be the next great Washington State quarterback?
The Perfect Storm
In the words of the great Jimmy Kimmel, “perfection is not attainable, but if you strive for it, you’ll never be satisfied.” As much as we would all like to see the perfect football player, the fact is that no one person fits the mold perfectly, which is why no quarterback ever grasps the attention of football fans around the country. When you have a quarterback like this, you can understand why people are so devoted to them. They are the athletes that everyone roots for. The perfect storm, as it were. When you have a quarterback like Jimmy Kimmel’s Jimmy, you do not need additional adjectives when it comes to describing his talent. He is, quite simply, amazing to watch and brings an energy to the field that is impossible not to love.