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MAACO Las Vegas Bowl Preview: Washington vs. Boise State

The NCAA Bowl season will continue on Saturday in a Pac-12 and the Mountain West conference battle between the Washington Huskies (7-5,5-4) and the the #19 Boise State Broncos (10-2, 7-1) at 3:30 p.m. ET. This is only the second time the two teams have met but there’s already future games on the schedule for them.

The Broncos have a fondness for Las Vegas and Saturday’s bowl game in Sin City represents its third straight visit to this bowl. They are 2-0 with big wins (55 points combined) against Utah and Arizona State.

For this series, Washington leads 1-0 (a 24-10 win) after a 2007 game with former quarterback Jake Locker at the helm. For the Broncos, the loss ended a 14-0 win streak.

This season, the Huskies had a midseason slump losing to conference foes #2 Oregon (52-21), #11 USC (24-14) and Arizona (52-17). Key wins included Stanford (17-13) and four of five wins to end the season with an upset against #7 Oregon State during that time (20-17).

For the Broncos, they lost only two games this season–close ones–with the first against the #13 Michigan State to begin the season (17-13) and their sole conference loss against San Diego State (21-19).

With their 10-2 season, it represented their third straight one and the country’s longest streak. The team shared a portion of the Mountain West title after a Dec. 1 27-21 win over Nevada. Its defense playing tough, holding its opponent to 17 points below their season average and in the first half only gave up 90 yards.

The move to defense comes after having stellar quarterback Kellen Moore as their leader but it proved to be the right change. Broncos coach Chris Petersen said of the group via ESPN, “The defense has been so stellar all year, and has carried us for most of the way.”

Broncos linebacker J.C. Percy

The team is ranked in the FBS top 10 with its 14.9 points and 304.7 yards allowed per game defensively. Key players include four first-team All-Mountain West picks: sophomore defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence (9 1/2 sacks, 13 1/2 tackles for loss), senior linebacker J.C. Percy (team-high 101 tackles), senior cornerback Jamar Taylor and senior defensive tackle Mike Atkinson.

The Broncos will bring a tough pass defense that gives up 163.4 passing yards per game, placing it in a tie for No. 12 nationally; they have also only given up three passing touchdowns the entire season.

Offensively, quarterback Joe Southwick has 2,466 yards (66.7%), 17 touchdowns and seven picks from the regular season. It took the junior awhile to get going with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first nine games but he ended strong with seven touchdowns and zero picks in the season’s last three games.

The team will be reunited with former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. He was at Boise State from 2006 to 2009 and this is his first season at Washington.

Wilcox recalled Southwick and said, “I know Joe, and he can throw the football, and he can run well enough to beat you, whether it’s zone read or scrambling, too.”

His counterpart on Saturday will be Huskies quarterback Keith Price. He’ll have to enter the game with a short memory.

In his last game on Nov. 23, the Huskies lost 31-28 in overtime to in-state rival Washington State for the Apple Cup. Entering the fourth quarter with an 18-point advantage,  they blew it and the game will be remembered as the greatest comeback for Washington State in their rivalry’s history.

For Price, he had a fourth quarter fumble that led to a Washington State touchdown, narrowing the lead to 28-25, followed by pick that came in OT (the first play) that ended with the game’s winning field goal.

Price is 2,486 yards (61.8%) , 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the season.

His defense has been allowing 23.8 points and 353.3 yards per game. This is better than last season’s 15.1 and 137.8, respectively.

As for this year’s Las Vegas Bowl, things will happen in three for Boise State (-5, 44 o/u).

 

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