LAS VEGAS — Now that all the razzle dazzle of a week in Las Vegas has ended, Washington will try to change the tenor of the season by beating Division-I college football’s winningest program over the past 12 seasons.
The Huskies will head east to Sam Boyd Stadium from their digs at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff against 20th-ranked Boise State. They are chasing an elusive eighth win, a winning bowl-record under coach Steve Sarkisian and a partial dispatch of bitterness after a historic collapse in the Apple Cup.
Even at the Las Vegas Bowl, the loss to the Cougars was still a topic. Sarkisian stuck to his theme of not placing too much weight on his team giving up an 18-point lead to their rival.
“One quarter, one game, is not going to define our season,” Sarkisian said. “It’s the overall body of work.”
Which is among the reasons today appears so important. An eighth win would give Washington its highest total since 2001. It would also give Sarkisian a bump from the past two seasons, when the Huskies finished 7-6.
To get there, Washington will have to figure out a Boise State team powered by defense. The small numbers associated with the Broncos make large points. Boise State is sixth in the country in points against, allowing 14.9 per game, and the Broncos have allowed a total of three passing touchdowns this season. Contrast that with Boise State’s 16 interceptions. It’s a staggering ratio.
“I think they’re disciplined,” Sarkisian said. “They have really good athleticism, especially in the back end.”
The storyline for Washington quarterback Keith Price has moved along with that of the season. When the team results were dismal, his personal results were, too. When things went well, Price began to revert to his record-setting form of 2011.
Price has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception in the past three games, a total bolstered by a five-touchdown performance against Colorado. The one interception – coming in overtime of the Apple Cup – stands out.
“I haven’t lost confidence in myself, I haven’t lost confidence in my teammates,” Price said. “It’s been a roller-coaster year for me. But, it’s taught me a lot about myself.
“I can’t do everything, I can’t expect to do everything. That’s where I messed up at, trying to be Superman and trying to live up to these lofty expectations.”
When Boise State rolled into the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, it’s national prominence was low. But after upsetting Oklahoma in overtime, 43-42, the Broncos’ and their bag of tricks are no secret and Sarkisian is on the lookout.
“Boise will have a few trick plays up their sleeve that they have every week,” he said.
What’s not a trick is how well the Broncos protect the ball. Boise State is fourth in the country at plus-18 in turnovers. The Huskies have come up with 32 turnovers on the season, good for sixth in the nation.
“I think that in and of itself will be one of the keys to the game,” Sarkisian said. “These are two of the best defenses in the country in turning the ball over. Who can continue to do that and which team can continue to take care of the ball will be a big factor in the ballgame.”
As will record-setting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Boise State coach Chris Petersen is astute and rarely stumped, but he sees complications when trying to figure out how to slow the Gig Harbor High School graduate.
“I don’t know because no one else has really handled him very well,” Petersen said. “That’s why he’s going to play in the NFL. Those guys don’t come along like that very often, who can run like that and make those plays.
“They’re just really, really hard match-ups. We’re just going to have to know where he is at all time, just scratch and claw and compete hard. It doesn’t really look to me, from what I’ve seen on tape, anybody’s really had any great answers in terms of how to stop this guy.”
Boise State will get a chance to figure that out today on national television. For Washington, the next step is on the line.
WASHINGTON HUSKIES (7-5)
vs. No. 20 BOISE STATE (10-2)
12:30 p.m. today, Sam Boyd Stadium, ESPN, 950-AM, 102.9-FM
THE MATCHUPSTHE EDGE
THE MATCHUPSTHE EDGE
What an interesting year for Keith Price. Enormous expectations from himself and o
What an interesting year for Keith Price. Enormous expectations followed him into the season after a record-setting performance in 2011. He took a step back statistically and his turnovers were an issue. Price says everyone will see him back to his best soon. Boise State’s Joe Southwick took over for Kellen Moore, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college history. Like Price, Southwick has been up-and-down.
Bishop Sankey has been a revelation. He’s on his way to having the third-most carries in a single-season in Washington history and is 156 rushing yards short the fifth most in a single season for UW. The Broncos’ D.J. Harper is no slouch, either. He’s run for 1,065 yards and 15 TDs.
Washington never found a consistent third receiver and relied on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wideout Kasen Williams all season. Boise State’s receiving corps is led by sophomore Matt Miller who has 60 catches for 679 yards. The next receiver has 36 receptions.
Any lack of success for the Boise State passing game can’t be passed onto the line. It has allowed nine sacks, which ranks seventh in the country. Washington’s offensive line has been as inconsistent as any unit on the team, in part because of injuries.
Washington’s D-line had to deal with injuries, too. At times, the Huskies have had Seferian-Jenkins playing defensive end on passing situations. Coach Steve Sarkisian has been searching for any kind of pass rush. The Broncos tied for 14th in the country in sacks, with 34.
Despite switching two players (Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney) from safety, this group has excelled. The three main guys – John Timu along with Thompson and Feeney – are young. Timu is a sophomore, Feeney a redshirt freshman, Thompson a true freshman. Boise senior linebacker J.C. Percy made 101 tackles this year.
Huskies cornerback Desmond Trufant was first-team all-Pac-12 and is on his way to the NFL. Opposite him, Tre Watson and Marcus Peters shared playing time, with Peters as the starter in the second half of the season. Safety Sean Parker has been inconsistent. Boise State’s secondary is one of the best in the country. It helps create turnovers, doesn’t bust and stays disciplined.
Coverage for Washington has been good and it has needed to be. Kicking has been mediocre. Travis Coons handled all three facets and his last kick is one that will be remembered: a game-winning 35-yard attempt in the Apple Cup that was wide as time ran out. Boise State kicker Michael Frisina was 12-for-17 this season, but 3-for-8 from 30 yards or beyond.
This is Boise State’s third consecutive season in the Las Vegas Bowl. The team has been to a bowl game every season coach Chris Petersen has been in charge of the Broncos. Washington can take general experience from playing in bowl games the past two seasons. But Vegas has become a second home to the Broncos, who always seems to come up big on a big stage.
Turnovers: Washington commits them, Boise State does not. Probably the difference in what should be a tight, low-scoring email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org