Washington draws one of the most consistently dangerous teams in America when they face the Boise State Broncos for their Las Vegas Bowl matchup. Even though the Broncos’ coach, Chris Peterson, has lost three offensive coordinators in the past four years he has always been known for his tendency to use “trick” plays especially in big game. Sometime in this upcoming game I promise you we will see a reverse, a reverse pass, a double pass, a flea-flicker, a statue of liberty play, as well as an assortment of screens, draws, and quarterback boots. We will probably see a number of different plays designed to fool you by using them in unusual and even critical situations. He does it on purpose because he wants you to use extra practice time preparing for all the unusual things his offense brings to the table. He has also added such plays to his defense with more pressure packages as well as the use of disguise in his secondary. He has used reverses and throwbacks on kick returns and of course there are fake field goals and fake punts to consider.
Wow? How can they possibly practice that many things in addition to preparing their regular offense and defense? They can’t, but they will prepare a few and make you guess what, when, and where they will use them. It really gets back to your players being disciplined with their eyes. Read your keys and stay disciplined in checking all things every play before jumping to conclusions. Boise State will definitely be trying to fool you especially in their passing game where they often use double moves by receivers or crossers that run you into the referee who stands right behind the linebackers. Most of these routes take time to develop so rushing the passer becomes paramount to playing good pass defense.
Let’s be clear that Boise State is not really an all-out passing team like WSU but is really more of a “gun-run” team that prefers to move the ball more conventionally by use of the run. If Washington is to win this game they will have to stop the Bronco’s running game and their thousand yard rusher, DJ Harper, or at least not allow that aspect of their offense to dominate. A lot of this is based upon the fact that they have a first year quarterback, Joe Southwick, who took over for a four year starter, Kellen Moore, who moved on to the NFL. Leaving with Moore over the past few years were some great wide receivers as well as a number of key linemen on both sides of the ball. Point is, this Bronco team is not the same throwing machine they were under Moore so the Huskies’ defensive front better key up to stop the run first and then try to key for the pass while at all times expecting the unexpected. That’s a lot to put on the kids but that is a reality when comes to bowl games simply because teams usually have three weeks to prepare for the game. That’s a lot of extra time to put in plays that could catch your opponent off guard.
In Boise State’s final game of the season they completed two passes for touchdowns where there wasn’t a single defender in the picture. They were both wide open routes based upon trick maneuvers. Protecting the football though might be the single most important thing the Huskies can do. This year Boise State lead the nation in fumble recoveries and was in the top five in caused fumbles and their turnover ratio. They are constantly ripping and tearing at the football and if Washington has no turnovers they will greatly enhance their chances of winning the Vegas Bowl.
Those might be the keys to winning this game; stop the run, don’t turn over the football, and don’t be fooled, oh and pound the rock by running the ball themselves. Not really that simple but certainly those things will be major factors in the Huskies winning this game. Husky fans must face it; Boise State is one of the best programs in the west and have been for almost a decade. The Huskies would love to have their record of 82-8 since 2006 when Peterson took over the team. They are really a solid football team but Washington can win this game if they mix their own run game and get a great game out of Keith Price at the quarterback position.
Price has been the brunt of much of the criticism thrown at this year’s team. He will be rested, fresh, and revitalized and I predict and expect him to win the player of the game honors for this bowl. Anyone who has followed the Huskies this year realizes that Keith has struggled and some even have begun discussions about replacing him for next year. I think this game will prove he is capable of leading the Huskies into the upper echelon of the conference and becoming a true contender. If I’m right then it couldn’t happen to a nicer kid because this is just a special individual and this is still his team. He has been very good in bowl games and will need to be again in order for Washington to pull off this upset.