Petersen appointed ECU offensive coordinator

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, December 31, 2015

GREENVILLE — Tony Petersen, who has directed some of the nation’s most exciting and prolific offenses that have paved the way for championships and bowl victories, has been named East Carolina’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach according to an announcement from first-year head football coach Scottie Montgomery on Thursday.

Petersen brings over 25 years of experience to the ECU program, including success as a coordinator in the Big Ten Conference and recent record-setting tenures guiding units at both Marshall and Louisiana Tech. His arrival at East Carolina ends a three-year stay in Ruston where he played a pivotal role in the Bulldogs’ 18 combined victories and consecutive bowl titles in 2014 and 2015.

He recently helped Louisiana Tech to a 9-4 record, which included a 47-28 win over Arkansas State in the 2015 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Petersen’s last contest under (former ECU) head coach Skip Holtz served as a fitting conclusion as the Bulldogs racked up 458 passing yards, 687 total yards and set or tied 17 New Orleans Bowl records at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Dec. 19.

“While many can easily point toward the exciting style of play, the outstanding numbers and a host of records Tony’s units have accomplished over his coaching career, what remains the most impressive is his ability to collectively reach and teach individuals how to get there,” Montgomery said. “His experience and background is defined by a consistent high level of production and we are thrilled about his desire to be at East Carolina.”

A record-setting quarterback at Marshall, Petersen joined the Bulldog staff in January, 2013 after serving as the Thundering Herd’s co-offensive coordinator for three seasons in the second of two stints at his alma mater.

Petersen led a 2015 Louisiana Tech offensive attack that ended the regular season ranked in the top 10 in school history in five different offensive categories, including total yards, points scored, rushing touchdowns, touchdown passes and passing yards. For his efforts, he was formally named a nominee for the Broyles Award – an annual honor that recognizes the nation’s top assistant coach.

As the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach, Petersen molded senior Jeff Driskel into one of the nation’s top signal-callers who earned top 25 statistical ratings in eight different offensive categories in 2015, including total offense (335.1 ypg), passing yards (4,033), passing yards per completion (14.4 ypc) and passing touchdowns (27). Louisiana Tech completed the regular season ranked 14th in the NCAA in passing offense and 17th in scoring offense with 37.5 points per game.

A year earlier in 2014, Petersen directed an offense that stood fifth at the FBS level in most improved scoring offense (37.4 ppg) as the Bulldogs powered their way to a 9-5 overall record that included a C-USA West Division title and a 35-18 win over Illinois in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. Transfer quarterback Cody Sokol helped the Bulldogs become the 13th-highest scoring offense in the country, while Petersen’s guidance resulted in No. 11 and No. 20 national ranks in passing touchdowns and passing yards, respectively, for the senior standout.

In his first season at Tech, Petersen inherited an offensive unit that lost eight starters to graduation with a quarterbacks group that had never taken a collegiate snap. That 2013 season saw four wins with another three games decided by 10 or less points.

Petersen’s third season on Doc Holliday’s staff at Marshall proved to be his best as he mentored sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato to an impressive 2012 campaign. The Herd’s signal-caller became the first Marshall player and underclassman in C-USA history to earn MVP honors. Cato led the nation in completions per game (33.83) and passing yards per game (350.08) and finished third in TD passes (37), fourth in completion percentage (69.5) and fifth in total offense per game (352.67). He also led the league in pass efficiency (147.1).

As co-coordinator, Petersen’s unit led the league in scoring offense, passing offense, total offense, pass efficiency, third down conversions and first downs. In the latter two categories, Marshall ranked second nationally.

Prior to his second stint at Marshall, Petersen spent the 2009 season as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at the University of South Dakota. He served the previous two seasons as quarterbacks coach at Iowa State University.

Under Petersen’s leadership, Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer finished his Cyclone career in 2007 with school record totals for passing yards and total offense.

Prior to serving Iowa State, Petersen coached at the University of Minnesota from 1999 to 2006. He was co-offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and eventually the passing coordinator for the Golden Gophers, where quarterback Bryan Cupito set an all-time passing mark under Petersen. He also played a critical role in the development of Asad Abdul-Khaliq, a quarterback who rewrote UM’s record books.

In Petersen’s eight seasons during his first stint at Marshall, the Thundering Herd qualified for the postseason eight straight times, winning Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) national championships in 1992 and 1996, and Mid-American Conference titles in both 1997 and 1998 when the school moved up to the FBS level.

Petersen served as wide receivers coach in 1992 and directly worked with eventual three-time Super Bowl Champion Troy Brown. Peterson served as quarterbacks coach for five of his previous eight years at Marshall and was offensive coordinator in 1998, coaching future NFL quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich in that capacity.

As a player at Marshall, Petersen was named the 1988 Southern Conference Athlete-of-the-Year and the SoCon Offensive Player-of-the-Year in 1987 after leading the Herd to the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game with a school-record 35 touchdown passes.

A free agent signee of the Minnesota Vikings in 1989, Petersen set 16 Southern Conference single-season and career standards in passing and total offense, to go along with six Marshall single-season school marks.  He also established NCAA records for most passes in a game without an interception (68) and for most regular season games (11) with more than 200 yards passing.

Petersen went to Marshall after a stellar career at Delta Community College in Stockton, Calif. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals after his first season at Delta CC.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management and marketing in 1990 and master’s degree in administration in 1995, both from Marshall.

Petersen and his wife Beth have three children – Andy, Nikki Nelson and Taylor.

Petersen is the fifth official hire for the newly-appointment Montgomery, joining defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson, defensive line coach Deke Adams, wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan and assistant athletics director for football operations Terrell Smith on the Pirates’ staff. Additionally, Rick Smith was retained as secondary coach on Dec. 23.