SAN FRANCISCO -- Although his long-term future is up in the air, interim Washington football coach Marques Tuiasosopo isn't worrying about whether he'll have a job on new coach Chris Petersen's staff.
Right now the former Oakland Raiders' backup quarterback is focused entirely on the Dec. 27 Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park, pitting Tuiasosopo's Huskies against BYU.
Tuiasosopo, who spent seven seasons with the Raiders, was named the interim coach at his alma mater when Steve Sarkisian bolted for USC on Dec. 2. Petersen was lured away from Boise State to take the Washington job, but he won't coach the bowl game.
Tuiasosopo, 34, has never been a head coach until now. He was the quarterbacks coach under Sarkisian.
"Right now I don't know what's going on," he said Thursday during a Bay Area news conference to promote the matchup between two 8-4 teams. "There's a little bit of a learning curve for all the things I'm responsible for now. My main focus has been to take care of that."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall can relate to what Tuiasosopo is going through.
Mendenhall became the Cougars' coach after the 2004 season when several dozen players lobbied athletic director Tom Holmoe on his behalf. Mendenhall arrived at his office the next day at 5 a.m., anxious and unsure he was qualified for the job. His religious beliefs led him to getting down on his knees to ask for help, during which he lost track of time.
At about 8 a.m., there was a knock on his office door. It was LaVell Edwards, the legendary former BYU coach.
"It was a great act of compassion," Mendenhall said of Edwards' timing. "He kind of sighed and said, `You have a tough job.' Then he paused for a long time, and said, `But you have a great job.' I didn't know completely at the time what he meant by either."
Mendenhall understands both the challenges and rewards of the job now, but said Edwards' appearance that day was a lifesaver.
"I felt everything was going to be OK as long as he was in my office. The minute he was gone, the safety net seemed to be gone," he said. "But I was comforted."
Tuiasosopo said Petersen has tried to stay out of the way while making himself available, if needed. The interim Husky coach said he also has had the support of UW assistants Justin Wilcox, Eric Keisau and Dan Cozzetto, while getting calls from some of his former coaches, including Rick Neuheisel, Keith Gilbertson and Jim Mora Jr.
"It's a great honor," Tuiasosopo said of coaching the bowl game. "Also a great opportunity for me to experience what being a head coach is like. My dreams were to play in the NFL and also to be a head coach at the college level. It's just an awesome deal, especially to lead these young men, being that I'm a Husky just like them."
But he started just twice in the NFL and never really got the chance to show his full skillset. Did he simply arrive a decade too soon?
"I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind," said Tuiasosopo, who as a junior in 1999 became the first Division I player to pass for 300 yards and run for 200 in the same game. "It's a fun time to be part of football. We're kind of chipping away from the old ideals of this is how football's played and we're not going to do that crazy stuff. I love it."
But it might exclude BYU from being considered from the four-team playoff to determine a national champion that starts next season.
"Unless we're 12-0, I don't think there is an opening, to be blunt. I think we have to be undefeated," Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall is confident the format soon will expand to include eight teams, but said there is little wiggle room for BYU in the four-team arrangement.
"When it comes to the playoff, how do we get included?" he asked. "By playing better teams, mostly on the road in front of more people on the biggest stages, and we have to win 'em all. That's the reality."
Mendenhall said going through life named Bronco presented him with challenges he decided would benefit his sons.
"I liked those lessons, not that they were easy lessons," Mendenhall said. "The motive for the names, there were going to be experiences they wouldn't have had without them."
Bowl spokesman Doug Kelly said the Giants, as landlords of AT&T, have accepted the change gracefully.
"They've been wonderful," Kelly said. "They fully understand we need to play the game in a stadium designed for football."
Kelly said Giants CEO Larry Baer will handle the pre-game coin flip.