Chris Petersen

Penn State continues pursuit of Chris Petersen


There’s a miniscule chance that Chris Petersen will leave Boise State for just about any other job in the country at this point in time, let alone stepping into the “situation” at Penn State.

That didn’t stop the school from pursuing the coach earlier this month. And apparently it’s not stopping them from continuing it, either.

According to David Jones of the Patriot-News, and citing two sources close to the search, a member of Penn State’s search committee made two trips to Idaho within the past eight days in what were believed to be attempts to recruit Petersen. Jones writes that “[i]t is not known what, if anything, resulted from those attempts.”

As a public service, we now give you the results of those attempts: nothing but additional frequent flier miles.

There’s no reason to begrudge PSU for conducting what will likely be a fruitless pursuit. And there’s a reason why a report earlier this month quoted a person familiar with the search as saying Petersen is atop PSU’s coaching to-do list and is “the kind of guy who interests them“; he’s one of the top coaches in the country.  Of course he’s the object of many school’s desires, much like he was with UCLA and Texas A&M earlier this year, with the overtures from both schools being shot down.

Pre-Jerry Sandusky scandal, Petersen may — may — have reciprocated the interest PSU is expressing. Combine the toxicity of the State College situation with the fact that’s he’s spent exactly one season east of Idaho since he began coaching in 1987, though, and it all adds up to possibly being time for the search to shift whatever time and focus is dedicated to a pie-in-the-sky candidate to more realistic ones.

As for who those may be, the paper mentions Tennessee Titans’ head coach and former PSU player Mike Munchak — he’s already denied any interest in the job — and a pair of current coaches at the collegiate level — Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe and Duke’s David Cutcliffe.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.