Over and over for nine months, Saturday’s game between Washington and Boise State has been called a rematch.
After closing last season playing each other in the Las Vegas Bowl – a 28-26 Boise State victory – Washington hosts the 19th-ranked Broncos at 7 p.m. at Husky Stadium to kick off the new season for each.
However, that’s where the rematch talk should end.
The Broncos are different in many ways, making this game more a showdown between last year’s Huskies and an altered Boise State group.
Of the 22 offensive and defensive starters listed on Boise State’s two-deep depth chart from the Las Vegas Bowl in December, just nine remain.
The Broncos have elevated some players from second team to starters. They have changed the positions of others. They also have a large factor returning in defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who was suspended for the bowl game. Lawrence was named first-team All-Mountain West after picking up team highs of 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
Subsequently, the supposed strangeness of ending then opening a season with the same opponent is a little lost on Boise State coach Chris Petersen.
“In some ways for us, it doesn’t feel weird because we’re so new and so different,” Petersen said.
Yet, Boise State is ranked 19th in the nation. That’s in part based on expectations developed the past decade or so. Eleven-win seasons have become standard fare, if not disappointments, for the Broncos. They finished “just” 11-2 last year after their win over UW in Vegas.
To get back to that number of victories, the Broncos will count on the few holdovers they have, starting with quarterback Joe Southwick.
Southwick was a rock in Washington’s shoe throughout the Las Vegas Bowl. He scampered around leaving the Huskies flailing and faltering. His rushing numbers were not gaudy, 11 carries for 39 yards, though were a large influence in the game.
“I think as a defense, we underestimated his mobility,” Washington middle linebacker John Timu said.
Southwick had the inauspicious duty of replacing record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore last season as the starter. It’s a bit like replacing the beloved king of Idaho.
The Prosser High graduate completed 69.8 percent of his passes during his Boise career. He threw 142 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
Southwick had a stumbling start when he took the throne as a redshirt junior. He completed just 48.4 percent of his passes in last season’s opening loss to Michigan State. By the end of the season, Southwick had his act together. Over his last three games, including the Vegas bowl, Southwick completed 73.8 percent of his passes.
“It’s different (now),” Southwick said. “Very comfortable.”
Part of his comfort comes from the return of redshirt junior Matt Miller as Boise’s “X” receiver and senior Kirby Moore as the “H” receiver. Geraldo Boldewijn is Boise’s third starting receiver, moving into a top-rung spot as a redshirt senior.
Defensively, safeties Jeremy Ioane – who intercepted Keith Price in the Vegas bowl – and Darian Thompson are back.
Despite the turnover, it would be nave to doubt Boise State. Petersen is 84-8 since taking over and 26-3 when having 10 or more days to prepare for an opponent. Win 26 came against Washington last time. He’s been working for nine months since.
Uncomfirmed reports Thursday night said the Huskies will suspend starting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the Boise State game for his DUI arrest.
huskies’ opponent this week
no. 19 boise state broncos
7 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium, Fox Sports 1, 950-AM, 102.9-FM
Coach: Chris Petersen (84-8, eighth season)
Against the Huskies: Series is tied 1-1.
Washington connections: Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox coached at Boise State from 2006-09 for Petersen, and was on the staff that faced Washington in the Huskies’ 24-10 win on Sept. 8, 2007. ... Boise State secondary coach Jimmy Lake coached at Washington in 2004 under Keith Gilbertson. ... Also, Petersen was on the Oregon staff when Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon were playing for the Ducks.
Scouting report: Boise State is a blue-collar team that folds in trick plays and up-tempo offense. Quarterback Joe Southwick has good feet, and his accuracy increased as last season progressed. The Broncos have steady veteran receivers but will have to find a replacement for running back D.J. Harper. Harper was a hard-nosed back who racked up 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. The Broncos are also known for their gadget plays. In the Las Vegas Bowl, they ran four and converted two. One big one was when wideout Chris Potter caught a lateral from Southwick and hit Holden Huff for a 34-yard second-quarter touchdown. Defensively, Boise State starts in the back with veteran safeties Jeremy Ioane and Darian Thompson.
Did you know: The Huskies are 26-10 against current Mountain West Conference members.
*2012 statistics for leading returners
Saturdayat Washington, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7Tenn.-Martin, noon
Sept. 13Air Force, 5 p.m.
Sept. 20at Fresno State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 12at Utah State, 5 p.m.
Oct. 19Nevada, 5 p.m.
Oct. 25at BYU, 5 p.m.
Nov. 2at Colorado St., 5 p.m.
Nov. 16Wyoming, TBD
Nov. 23at San Diego St., 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30New Mexico, TBDtodd.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas email@example.com