The time for the Boise State Broncos to celebrate their Mountain West Championship title has come and gone. The team must now prepare to face the Washington Huskies in the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m.
From a record standpoint, Boise State seems to have the upper hand with 12-1 on the season, while Washington trails with 7-5. However, the Huskies’ case is strengthened with their 45-19 victory over BYU – the team that defeated the Broncos 28-25 – handing them their single loss of the 2019 season.
The bowl will feature an incomplete Washington offense, missing both senior left tackle Trey Adams and junior tight end Hunter Bryant. In their absence, redshirt junior quarterback Jacob Eason will rely on second-string protection and senior wide receiver Aaron Fuller. Junior tailback Salvon Ahmed also poses a threat to the Broncos as he comes off a 1000-yard rushing season.
Washington’s defense ranks 23rd in the nation, just above Boise State. In this season alone, junior defensive back Elijah Molden has accumulated 70 tackles and three interceptions, and redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon has 40 tackles and 8 sacks.
For deep-rooted Boise State fans, this year’s bowl selection may feel like déjà vu, since the same matchup was seen in the 2012 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, when the Broncos came up with a 28-26 victory after a nail-biting battle with the Huskies.
Despite the repeat in teams, there is a key difference between then and now: head coach Chris Peterson.
When Boise State defeated Washington in the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl, Peterson was the head coach of the Broncos. This year, however, Peterson is entering the Las Vegas Bowl as head coach of the Huskies, opposing the team he first led to the event.
Peterson was on Boise State’s coaching staff for 13 seasons, where he served as offensive coordinator from 2001-2005 and head coach from 2006-2013. Peteron left the Broncos in 2014 to be Washington’s head coach, remaining in the position since.
The 2019 Las Vegas Bowl will be Peterson’s last game with Washington before he steps down. One may say that playing the Broncos in his send-off game is full-circle, while others may consider the situation to be awkward.
At his press conference, Peterson spoke on the connotations of the approaching bowl game and how playing against the Broncos is not ideal.
“Obviously, personally speaking, there’s a lot of other teams that I would probably like to be playing for this last time,” Peterson said.
Current Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, who worked under Peterson as offensive coordinator from 2006-2010, made it clear that he did not want the implied rivalry to distract from the game itself.
“There is an obvious storyline in this game,” Harsin said. “The most important thing that we all have to consider [is to]not overshadow the players that are actually going to play in the game.”
Boise State graduate defensive tackle David Moa heads into the bowl with a perspective not shared by the newer additions to his team. Peterson was directly involved in the recruitment of Moa.
“That one opportunity I got to talk to him on the phone, you could just see how special of a person he was through what he was saying… I honestly committed right then, on the spot,” Moa said.
Moa committed to Boise State on Nov. 21, 2013, less than a month before Peterson’s departure, but bears no hard feelings toward the coach and looks forward to seeing him on the field.
Senior safety Kekoa Nawahine, who committed nine days before Moa, shares a positive outlook on facing coach Peterson and his Huskies.
“I feel like it’s kind of a poetic ending to my career here at Boise State,” Nawahine said.
Despite the excitement of athletes and fans, Harsin and Peterson’s press conferences shared an overlapping theme of disregarding the stigma.
“It is what it is,” both coaches said.
A victory in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl holds great value to each coach – Harsin would cap off his winningest season yet, and Peterson would end his coaching career on a high note.
When the Broncos and Huskies take the field, the country will see the effects of Peterson’s past with the Boise State coaching staff and roster, if any effects at all.