After one year sitting out at Texas State and one year playing in Division II after transferring to Washburn, the qualities Blake Peterson brought to the quarterback position were unusual.
His college experience had taught him how to play, umm, wide receiver.
Things have changed dramatically for the Topeka sophomore, who will quarterback the Ichabods (6-5) in the Heart of Texas Bowl, a 6 p.m. matchup Saturday against Angelo State (6-4) in Copperas Cove, Texas.
“I didn’t realize how hard it was to play receiver. I thought you had to run to get open and it wasn’t that hard, but it’s a lot tougher than you think,’’ Peterson said.
“Getting open is not an easy thing to do. It really did help me understanding when I’m running a route, where the quarterback needs to throw the ball and how hard it is to catch the ball in situations. Now I understand what the receiver’s thinking.’’
Peterson became WU’s starting QB in the third game after Logan Twehous was ruled out with a back injury. Peterson, who split time with Twehous the first two weeks, has passed for 2,054 yards, with 55 percent accuracy, and 15 touchdowns against five interceptions.
As a team, the Bods have thrown just seven picks, their fewest since 1951. Angelo State, however, thrives on pressure from Lone Star Conference defensive player of the year Markus Jones, who has 10.5 sacks among his 18 tackles for loss. The Rams have 12 interceptions.
“Blake has big-play potential with the run game and the passing game the way he’s doing things,’’ WU coach Craig Schurig said of Peterson, who has added 415 yards rushing.
“Making smart decisions is something you’ve got to do all the time and be ball-secure, and that’s probably the thing his lack of experience has hurt, making something happen that’s not there yet. But that’s growth.’’
Growth that Schurig can assess a little more than with other players since Peterson came through the Washburn Rural system alongside the WU coach’s children.
“I’d always called him, ‘Coach,’ so I didn’t have to change that,’’ Peterson said. “I never really thought I’d be playing for him, but I love him. Awesome guy, great coach, he made it easy on me coming back and helped a lot.’’
Washburn’s 16th-year coach, who will be making his seventh postseason appearance with the Ichabods and fourth bowl game, realizes he is aging when he coaches Topekans he watched compete on youth fields and diamonds.
“It’s not hard, though,’’ Schurig said. “It’s almost like you can trust their abilities and their athleticism more than with a kid you’ve never known.
“Once they’re on the field and once the game is going, they’re like any other player for you. But you have more of an understanding of what they can do because you’ve seen them since they were 10 years old and you know what kind of kids they are.’’
The Heart of Texas Bowl, which was won by Fort Hays State a year ago, will include a junior college clash between Garden City and Trinity Valley. That game is scheduled at 11 a.m.
HEART OF TEXAS BOWL
MATCHUP: Washburn (6-5, 6-5 MIAA) vs. Angelo State (6-4, 4-4 Lone Star).
KICKOFF: 6 p.m. Saturday, Bulldawg Stadium, Copperas Cove, Texas.
RADIO: KTPK-FM (106.9).