In the Las Vegas Bowl of 2012, the Washington Huskies could very easily have upset the 11-2, Boise State Broncos. It didn’t happen but they ran the ball right down the Bronco’s throat with Bishop Sankey rushing for 205 yards. With a returning quarterback and older and bigger and stronger offensive line, and with the help of an already sold-out and amped-up crowd, the Huskies could very well knock them off in the season’s opener for both teams. Boise State has a pre-season ranking in the top twenty and that should make them the favorite but I like the Huskies’ chances because I think they could’ve and should’ve won last year and Boise lost way more good players to graduation than did the Huskies.
There is no doubt that the Broncos are one of the best football programs in the western part of the country. They have been like that for over a decade and even though their success has been earned in a weaker league, they have beaten some great teams along the way and have one of the best winning percentages in the whole country. Their coach, Chris Peterson, has repeatedly turned down more offers to leave than any coach in America and it is his commitment to staying that has made Boise State a consistent winner.
Peterson’s record as the Bronco head coach is nothing short of amazing with an overall count of 84 wins and only 8 losses for a 91.3 winning percentage. This is his seventh season and they have also made 3 BCS bowl appearances besides going to the last three Las Vegas Bowls. That record puts him in a category with Nick Sabin of Alabama. Nuff said. He is a great coach and he has developed one of the best programs in the country. They practically red-shirt every single kid they sign and that gives them a developed depth which is something Washington hasn’t had for over a decade.(until this year)
In all of last year they only gave up 10 total sacks and were one of the least penalized teams in the country with only 59 penalties. In the bowl game against Washington they only were sacked once and had a grand total of 3 penalties. They won the turnover battle 3-1. Essentially they don’t beat themselves and you can expect them to play that way in the opening game because that is what Peterson preaches and teaches.
So why don’t the Broncos get more respect? I think it’s basically because they come from a small state, play in a small stadium, in a small time conference. They tried to correct that by moving to the now defunct Big East but are now back home playing the likes of Air Force, Utah State, Nevada, Colorado State, Wyoming, and New Mexico to name a few.
In last year’s bowl game the Broncos jumped on the Huskies early with the help of a fumble and an interception and scored four times (2 FGs and 2 TDs) to one field goal for the Huskies. Cruising to an 18-3 lead it looked as though the Dawgs may have left their game on the famed Las Vegas strip. Seriously, Boise State had played in “sin-city” so many times that their players and coaches knew how to handle the distractions but when they tried to go for two following their fourth score and failed, the momentum swung almost entirely in the opposite direction. Washington eventually took the lead by holding the ball for over 17 minutes in the second half. The Dawgs finally took the lead at 26-25 with just over 4 minutes to play but had already missed a critical short field goal (from the Bronco 24 yard line). That miss ended up costing them the ballgame. Along the way to victory Boise State went for it twice on fourth down and completed both attempts. (That can’t happen) Still it wasn’t until a last ditch pass interception by Keith Price that the Broncos were able to secure the victory. It was simply a terrible play and it ended all hopes of one more field goal.
The most obvious statistics of how close the game was were the 28-26 score and 21 to 20 first downs. Unfortunately, the Broncos won both categories. The Huskies had over 100 yards more rushing but the Broncos won. Right there is the key to winning this year’s game. The Huskies need to continue to run the football and defensively need to win the turnover battle which Boise won 3 to 1 in the bowl game. Then they need to flat out win the kicking game. Price needs only to protect the football and run himself instead of trying to force a throw. I think he will hit a bomb in this game and the Huskies will get another cheap score in the kicking game. If they do all those things they win.
Sometime, somewhere Boise State will try a trick play and it can happen at any time. Coach Peterson is famous for fake kicks, statue of liberties, flea flickers, and gadget plays but usually runs them when the momentum is going their way. Expect the unexpected is a good policy when playing the Broncos and the Huskies would do well to reverse the tables and pull a trick or two themselves.
Washington would also do well to attack the Broncos’ corners. That’s because they lost both of their starters to the NFL in addition to graduating both starting linebackers. The Broncos likewise are going to be using rookies at all their specialist positions in the kicking game. This is always a key swing area when teams play their openers and if Washington can return or block a kick it would be huge in the final outcome.
Bottom line this is the Dog House. Keith Price will return to form and Washington will pull the upset and do so in front of over 70,000 fans. (And the vast majority of them will be wearing Purple.) This is easily the biggest opener of the Sark era besides of course playing LSU in his first game. No mistakes, don’t get fooled by trick plays, score in the kicking game and run the football and Washington makes a statement to start their season with a victory over a highly respected and worthy opponent. They win this game because it is being played Dog House. If they don’t, so be it, but it would be a signature win for the program.