7:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: Washington -3.5, Over/Under: 49.5
The Bowl Season rolls along as old acquaintances meet once more, as the No. 19 Boise State Broncos face off against the Washington Huskies in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, from Sam Boyd Stadium, in Las Vegas, Nevada. After seeing a sixteen-year streak of Bowls come to an end last season, Boise State (12-1, 9-0 in MWC) is back at it again, with an opportunity to win thirteen games for the first time since going undefeated in 2009. The Mountain West Champions were arguably the top Non-Power 5 School in the country, with the Broncos spending all but the first week of the campaign occupying a place in the AP Poll, announcing themselves in style with a shocking 36-31 victory in Tallahassee against Florida State, with a True Freshman Quarterback no less. Of course, Bryan Harsin’s charges have been impressive no matter who has started under Center in 2019, and that’s really saying something, for this is a team that has seen three different Quarterbacks lead the way. First, it was Hank Bachmeier (63.5%, 1,760 YDS, 9.2 Y/A, 9 TD, 4 INT), who engineered that victory over the Seminoles, throwing for 407 Yards, a freshman school record. Bachmeier went on to win each of his Seven Starts, completing 63.5% of his Attempts for an average of 251.4 Yards on 9.17 Yards per Attempt, Nine Touchdowns and Four Interceptions, though his run would end prematurely, when he suffered a serious shoulder injury in a midseason victory over Hawaii. The Frosh would sit out the following week’s tilt with Brigham Young, coincidentally the only loss that Boise State would sustain this season, a 25-28 defeat in which Sophomore Quarterback, Chase Cord (59.4%, 670 YDS, 7.0 Y/A, 9 TD, 3 INT), put the visitors in an early hole with a pair of Interceptions. Bachmeier would return the following week, a 54-42 shootout at San Jose State only to once again succumb to injury, causing Harsin to shelve him for the rest of the term. After Cord failed to impress the following week, his Senior teammate, Jaylon Henderson (63.2%, 1,032 YDS, 7.8 Y/A, 11 TD, 2 INT), got his shot, and quite frankly hasn’t looked back. In leading the Broncos to four consecutive victories to end the Regular Season, Henderson completed 63.6% of his Passes for an average of 236.0 Yards on 7.8 Yards per Attempt, with Ten Touchdowns in comparison to just Two Interceptions, while also making some things happen with his legs, rushing for 119 Yards and two more scores. When last we saw him, he led denizens of Boise, Idaho to a 31-10 triumph over Hawaii in the Mountain West Championship Game, overcoming a slow start to score back-to-back Touchdowns inside of a minute heading into Halftime. Henderson was very efficient, completing 20-of-29 Passes for 212 Yards, Two Touchdowns and an Interception, while rushing for a season-high Fifty-One Yards and another score. Sophomore Receiver, Khailil Shakir (77 Touches, 905 TYDS, 11.8 Y/T, 9 TD), led the way with Seven Receptions for Eighty-Nine Yards and a Touchdown, while adding a 4-Yard Rushing Score late in the Third Quarter. However, when you manage to remain successful despite so many changes at Quarterback, that’s usually an indicator that you’re pretty stacked in other areas, which is certainly the case when you consider how the defense has performed in 2019; Boise State has allowed 20.6 Points per Game (24th Overall) on 347.5 Total Yards, including 234.4 Yards against the Pass and another 113.1 Yards versus the Run. After that aforementioned shootout with the Spartans, Harsin’s Defense really buckled down on the competition, yielding just 16.2 Points per Contest on 340.3 Total Yards, with that yardage being largely compensated for with Takeaways, logging eight over that span, including two apiece in each of the last four outings. The Defensive Line is one of the most fearsome int eh country, led by Junior Edge Rusher, Curtis Weaver (50 TKL, 19.5 TFL, 13.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 INT, 3 PD), who if he does decide to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, will do so as the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leader in both Tackles for Loss (48) and Sacks (34), leading the league in both categories this season with 19.5 and 13.5. With that said, he’s far from alone up front, with Defensive Tackles Sonatane Lui (49 TKL, 6.0 TFL, 4.5 SK, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 TD) and Chase Hatada (36 TKL, 9.0 TFL, 4.0 SK, 2 FF, 1 PD) combining for creating havoc in the trenches with a combined Fifteen Tackles for Loss and 8.5 Sacks, along with Three Forced Fumbles and a pair of Recoveries. Historically, the Broncos are one of the better programs when it comes performing in Bowls, often reveling in the opportunity to face some of the bigger schools in the country, winning ten of the last sixteen that they’ve competed in, including a 38-28 victory over Oregon in coincidentally the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl. If they wish to bring their campaign to a close with a thirteenth win, they’ll have to do it against Chris Petersen, who led them to seven of those Bowl Wins.
Meanwhile, it’s certainly poetic that Petersen will be ending his tenure as the Head Coach at Washington (7-5, 4-5 in Pac-12) against the school that helped put him on the map. Over course, his tenure at Boise was equally beneficial for both sides; the 55-Year Old went a staggering 92-12 (.885) in eight years with the Broncos, leading them to seven consecutive Bowls in which they went 5-2, highlighted by an undefeated campaign in 2009 that culminated in a 17-10 triumph over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, which earned him National Coach of the Year honors to boot. He would go on to become a hit in Seattle, where he led the Huskies to three consecutive 10-Win Seasons from 2016 to 2018, which included a Pac-12 Championship and a trip to the College Football Playoff in 2016. However, this season was far from the smoothest for Petersen, with his charges mustering an uneven 7-5 finish, including a disappointing 4-5 record in league play which saw them slump down the stretch losing four of their final seven contests. And it’s with that said that to the surprise of many, the Head Coach decided to step down from his post, bringing an end to his tenure on the sidelines, though he will be assuming a leadership advisory role with the Athletic Program following tonight’s game. Taking his place will be Defensive Coordinator, Jimmy Lake, who has served at his side since the two were at Boise State. The 42-Year Old has worked his way up the Coaching Staff, and has been a major voice in their recruiting efforts over the past seasons, not to mention curating what has annually been one of the better Defenses in the country. Since 2016, Washington has ranked Eighth or better in Points Allowed on three occasions, all the while sending a wealth of talented prospects to the NFL. This season, they’ve felt the effects of their success in that regard, fielding a rather inexperienced group, particularly in the Secondary, that yielded an average of 20.4 Points per Game (23rd Overall) on 358.3 Total yards, including 225.1 Yards against the Pass and another 133.3 Yards versus the Run. Over the final seven games, they’ve been gashed for 400 or more yards three times, losing each tilt, including a season-worst 482 in a 13-23 loss at Stanford. However, that’s not to say that this unit isn’t capable of stepping up for they were stellar in their annual Apple Cup showdown with Washington State, whom they humbled in a 31-13 victory in which the Defense ruled the day with 339 Total Yards allowed and Three Takeaways. Petersen’s charges got off to a slow start, trailing 7-1- midway through the Second Quarter, but managed to turn the tables with three consecutive Touchdown Drives, intercepting Cougars Quarterback, Anthony Gordon, twice, and sacking him on five occasions. Sophomore Linebacker, Joe Tryon (40 TKL, 12.5 TFL, 8.0 SK, 1 PD), had a pair of those Sacks, bringing his total on the season to eight, while Defensive Backs, Elijah Molden (70 TKL, 5.0 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR, 3 INT, 12 PD) and Trent McDuffie (41 TKL,2 FF, 3 FR, 1 INT, 2 PD), both snared an Interception. The victorious Season Finale also featured an efficient showing from Junior Quarterback, Jacob Eason (63.8%, 2,922 YDS, 7.8 Y/A, 22 TD, 8 INT), who looks to have saved his best for last in 2019, completing an efficient 15-of-22 Passes for 244 Yards and a Touchdown. It’s been a long road for Eason, who once upon a time was the highest-rated recruit at his position, committing to Georgia where he saw his second season as Starter come to an end due to injury, and was never able to regain his job thanks to the ascendance of Jake Fromm, who led the Bulldogs to the National Championship. Eason then transferred to Washington, where after sitting out the 2018 term entered this season as a bit of an unknown commodity. Needless to say, this year has been a mixed bag for the Signal-Caller, completing 63.8% of his Attempts for 2,922 Yards on 7.8 Yards per Attempt, with Twenty-Two Touchdowns and Eight Interceptions. At 6-6, 227 Yards, he possesses the desired measurables by NFL Scouts with a rocket arm to match, though his mechanics and decision-making have left a lot to be desired at this point of his collegiate career. While he’s yet to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, the popular opinion is that while he’s likely to be selected within the first two rounds of the Draft, he would undoubtedly benefit from another year in Seattle, even with the aforementioned coaching change. During their seven-game swoon, Eason completed just 59.2% of his Passes for an average of 239.9 Yards on 7.4 Yards per Attempt, a dozen Touchdowns and Six Interceptions, all but one of which came within a three-game span before the Season Finale. With a strong performance tonight against the Broncos’ stout Defense, he may be able to convince NFL Scouts that he is deserving of being selected on the first day, which would not only send Petersen out a winner, but bring an end to a three-game losing streak in Bowls that continued with last year’s 23-28 defeat against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. That affair served as Urban Meyer’s final game as Head Coach of the Buckeyes, and it would be fitting that he enjoys the same experience after being on the opposite side of the fence roughly a year ago.