Game Preview: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas is next up on the Pac-12 docket and Washington is tasked with moving the conference's postseason record to 2-0 against a tough top 25 foe in Boise State. This will be the Huskies' third straight bowl game, and after the bitter disappointment in the Apple Cup, the team likely is fired up to get back on the field and end the season with a win.
Both teams have plenty to prove on national TV as they lay it all out on the line Saturday.
Who: Boise State (10-2, 7-1 Mountain West) vs. Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12)
What: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
What MAACO is: “The premier collision center that also paints cars.”
When: Saturday, Dec. 22. 12:30 p.m. PT
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Where to watch: ESPN with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Tom Rinaldi (sideline)
Where to listen: Washington IMG Radio Network (KJR 950-AM/102.9 FM in Seattle), Sports USA Radio Network
All-time record: Washington 1-0
Last meeting: September 8, 2007 (Washington 24, Boise State 10)
Washington: 137.17 ypg (90th in NCAA) Boise State: 173.08 ypg (51st)
Washington: 210.42 ypg (86th) Boise State: 216.92 ypg (79th)
Washington: 23.8 ppg (88th) Boise State: 30.42 ppg (54th)
Washington: 164.33 ypg (66th) Boise State: 141.25 ypg (39th)
Washington: 23.83 ppg (37th) Boise State: 14.92 ppg (6th)
How they got here
Give credit to the Huskies for playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation and handling it OK. After a season-opening win against San Diego State, Washington traveled to Death Valley and was man-handled by the Tigers to the tune of 41-3 in an ugly game for the Pac-12 team. The squad rebounded, however, and knocked off Portland State and a Stanford team that was ranked in the top 10 in a low-scoring affair on a Thursday night ESPN game.
Washington continued its up-and-down season with a tough stretch in which the Huskies lost three straight games to Oregon, USC and Arizona. Another bounce back effort surfaced with a 20-17 upset of Oregon State at home that touched off a string of four straight victories, including becoming bowl eligible against Utah with a 34-15 win.
Heartbreak would await in the Apple Cup against rival Washington State, as it looked as though the Huskies would cruise to an easy win. That wasn't meant to be as the Cougars erased an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime for the largest comeback ever in the series. Turnovers and penalties were the story of the game for Washington, which will have to win its bowl game to hit the eight win mark for the first time since 2001.
This isn't the Broncos of yesteryear as Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a host of defenders are off in the NFL and watching the boys of the blue turf from home. Replacing a number of longtime starters caught up to the team in the opener against Michigan State as the offense failed to get going in a tough 17-13 loss. Execution wasn't quite what the coaching staff was looking for, but play on both sides of the ball continued to get better by the week as the Broncos ran off seven straight wins. Shockingly, it was San Diego State who came into Boise and wound up knocking off BSU in a 21-19 stunner that would wind up as the only conference blemish for the team, which wrapped up the season with three straight wins to give the program yet another 10-win season.
Steve Sarkisian has led quite the turnaround on Montlake after coming up to Seattle from USC. A prolific play-caller, he took one of the worst FBS programs in the country and built them into a consistent bowl presence. Heading into the Las Vegas Bowl, Sarkisian sports a 26-24 record.
On the opposing sidelines will be one of, if not the, best coaches in the country in Chris Petersen. There's a reason he gets a call every time there's a job opening, and it's because he's taken Boise State football to the top of the non-BCS mountain top with two BCS bowl wins to his name. He's 83-8 over seven seasons and never won fewer than 10 games each season with the Broncos.
Running back Bishop Sankey – In a loaded year for running backs in the Pac-12, Sankey went a bit under the radar, but still was a pleasant surprise for the Huskies' rushing attack as he topped the 1,200 yard mark. The team went 5-1 in games when he rushed for over 100 yards.
Quarterback Keith Price – It wasn't quite the season many thought Price would have as he was bruised and battered behind a makeshift offensive line. Still, he managed to turn in the eighth-best season passing-wise in school history and lead his team back to a bowl game.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins – A Mackey Award finalist, ASJ has taken the step from good to great in his sophomore season. He's set a number of school records in 2012 and presents a matchup problem with whoever tries to cover him.
Running back D.J. Harper – It seems as though the senior has been around forever and indeed he has, having started his career with the Broncos in 2007. He's turned into a reliable threat out of the backfield this season, rushing for 1,065 yards and catching 20 passes on his way to scoring 16 times total.
Quarterback Joe Southwick – Not as efficient or turnover free as his predecessor last year, as Southwick goes so does the offense. He struggled in the Broncos' two losses but still managed to turn in a nice year to the tune of 2,466 yards passing and 17 touchdowns.
Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence – The defense for Boise State has remained one of the better units nationally thanks to their stellar defensive line play led by Lawrence, who racked up 36 tackles - 13.5 for a loss - and 9.5 sacks on the year.
- This will be the first of two meetings in eight months as Boise State is Washington's 2013 season opener.
- Washington went from 106th in total defense last season to 30th in 2012.
- Before the Apple Cup, the Huskies had won 11 straight games decided by 10 points or less.
- This is Washington's first time ever at the Las Vegas Bowl while Boise State is making their third straight trip.
- Boise State is 5-1 against Pac-12 schools, with the lone loss coming to Washington.
- This is the first season the Broncos won't have 12 wins since 2007.
- At one point in the season, Boise State didn't trail for six and a half games.
Keys to the game
This will be one of the few bowl games in which the Pac-12 team has a bit of an uphill climb to win the game. Washington has jumped up and surprised some highly ranked teams this season (Stanford and Oregon State among others) but also struggled with Washington State and blew a big lead in the rivalry game. There's no question the Huskies have the talent to win the Las Vegas Bowl, but it will come down to execution and guys playing well on both sides of the ball if they want to hoist a trophy Saturday afternoon.
Both teams sport good defenses so it likely will fall on the quarterbacks to make something happen through the air in order to open up some running lanes and help take pressure off themselves. Southwick doesn't have an explosive group of pass catchers, so the Broncos won't mind some methodical scoring drives during the game with Harper and fellow tailback Jay Ajayi providing yards on the ground. Likewise, the good Keith Price will have to show up and make some plays like he did in last year's bowl game, as the Huskies' offense is virtually at a standstill if he's not getting the ball out quick. Seferian-Jenkins and Sankey have big-play potential, but it will come down to Price for Washington if they want to come out with a win.
It should be a tough, defensive battle from the looks of things on paper, but one never knows with so much time to prepare for an opponent. There should be a few trick plays from both sides - hopefully it's an entertaining matchup as the two programs hit the field for one of the more even games of the early bowl season.