Washington State's Mike Leach and Washington's Chris Petersen shower each other with compliments and pleasantries ahead of one of the most highly anticipated Apple Cups ever.

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PULLMAN – While fans of Washington and Washington State exchange cross-state jabs at one another over the next four days, the men coaching the Huskies and the Cougars decided to open rivalry week with a different type of game.

Dish a compliment, take a compliment, dish another one, take another one.

“He’s just a great guy,” Leach said of Petersen during a Monday news conference. “He’s a good guy, he’s the guy that the teachers probably always liked and got to school early, got his homework done early. And your parents would occasionally say, ‘Why can’t you be more like the Petersen boy?’ ”

Earlier in the day, Petersen spoke with the same high regard for the man who’ll be opposing him Friday night at Martin Stadium, where the Huskies (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) and Cougars (10-1, 7-1) will be playing to determine which team gets a date with Utah in the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, California, Nov. 30.

“He just does it his way,” Petersen told local media of Leach. “I think there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat, obviously. I think he believes in his way. I think he’s a really smart guy and he sticks to the script and he can weather the storm. He just perseveres and comes through it.”

No barbs between the rival coaches approximately 120 hours before the biggest game of the season for both – just pleasantries.

“He’s a fantastic guy,” Leach said. “I can see why parents said I should be more like him. At this point, it probably won’t happen, but I can see their point of view a little bit.”

Leach and Petersen don’t cross paths often outside of the annual rivalry game, but the UW coach rehashed a comical non-Apple Cup encounter with his WSU counterpart during Monday’s media availability.

Eleven coaches had already arrived at Pac-12 media day in July when Leach – In-N-Out Burger bag in hand – showed up to the meeting nearly 30 minutes late.

“We were all looking at our watches thinking, ‘This might not turn out good for him,’ ” Petersen recalled. “He walks in with this In-N-Out burger and milkshake and we’re all like, ‘Really?’ And waiting for somebody to say something. He’s just happy as a clam eating away and we’re like, ‘Why didn’t we do that?’ That’s really the last time I saw him.”

The story is accurate, Leach later affirmed at his news conference, but the WSU coach gave an explanation for his tardiness.

Leach had been at his home in Key West, Florida, and the cross-country flight to Los Angeles was delayed.

Said Leach: “It wasn’t entirely unlike Jeff Spicoli in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ when he walked in with the pizza and Mr. Hand says, ‘What do you think you’re doing on my time?’ Well, everyone was there so I felt like it was our time. So we might as well enjoy some In-N-Out Burgers as long as we’re all there and getting the edification of the meeting.”

Notes
• Gardner Minshew was named one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given annually to the best quarterback in the country. “I’m super excited about it, super humbled by it,” Minshew said of the nomination; the honor will be awarded Dec. 6 in Atlanta. “Obviously none of it’s really possible without the guys around me.”
• Linebacker Jahad Woods was selected as the Pac-12 defensive player of the week. Woods led WSU with a career-high 11 tackles against Arizona. Woods also had a hand in two turnovers, forcing one fumble and recovering another