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.<