Bigger, Faster Huskies Look to Impose Will on BSU

Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Posted on December 21, 2019

Nick Bartlett
  By Nick Bartlett, SportsPac12


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Washington (7-5, 4-5) vs. #19 Boise State (12-1, 8-0)
Saturday, December 21, 2019
4:30 p.m. PT, ABC
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Straight-Up Pick: Washington in a Blowout
Against the Spread: Washington (-3.5)


Neither the Huskies nor the Broncos envisioned themselves in the Las Vegas Bowl when the season began. And neither seem particularly thrilled about the idea of making their respective former and current coach the centerpiece of the contest. But once the pregame hype settles, both Washington and Boise State will have plenty to play for in Sin City on Saturday. BSU hopes to keep its six-game winning streak alive into next season, and UW would love to gift-wrap a victory for their outgoing and incoming coaches. There’s also a potential recruiting boost at stake come February. Ultimately, the contest could hinge on a disparity of talent, with the Broncos outmatched. If common opponents are a predictor, Washington would get the nod. While both teams destroyed Hawaii, BSU lost to a BYU team the Dawgs blew out in Provo.

What the Huskies Must Do to Win

Jacob Eason

While Washington is the more talented team, recruiting stars alone won’t win this game. We’ve seen that confirmed throughout the season with the Huskies losing to inferior competition. For the Huskies to avoid another slip-up they’ll need to play power football. The Dawgs field one of the best offensive lines in the Pac-12, and they’ll need to lean on it throughout the contest. Running back Salvon Ahmed could have his best performance of the season as a result, provided Washington commits to getting him the ball consistently. Quarterback Jacob Eason needs to manage the game and not force throws, especially on third down conversions—a category in which UW ranks dead last in the Conference. It won’t help to be without tight end Hunter Bryant, the team’s leading receiver, who caught 52 balls for 825 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season. Graduate senior offensive lineman Trey Adams has also chosen to sit out the bowl to prep for the NFL Draft. Fortunately, UW has the depth to pick up the slack.


UW’s Salvon Ahmed rushes against Washington State. | Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On defense, the Huskies should be able to stop the Broncos easily enough, given their size advantage and athleticism. The Dawgs may want to implement a man-to-man scheme, forcing Boise State receivers to win in one-on-one battles, while also bringing pressure on BSU quarterback Jaylon Henderson. Washington needs to play physical early on, leaving the Broncos wondering what hit them. Otherwise, as Boise State demonstrated against a talented if poorly coached Florida State team in Tallahassee last August, discipline and an effective game plan can go a long way toward countering the advantages of recruiting disparity.


What the Broncos Must Do to Win

George Holani

First and foremost, the Broncos must find a way to keep from being pushed around by Washington. Much like a Marshal Arts fighter, BSU needs to counteract the Huskies’ size and strength by keeping their defense off balance. One way to accomplish this would be to run a litany of screens and draws to slow down the UW pass rush. Boise State also must get exceptionally smart play from Henderson at quarterback. The athletic senior doesn’t need to throw 50-yard bombs downfield; just dink-and-dunk the Huskies early, setting up the deep pass later in the contest. The Broncos have done an excellent job of moving the chains this season, in the air and on the ground, converting on a remarkable 49% of their third-down tries. Running back George Holani should be able to find seams in a Washington run defense that’s been inconsistent all year. His main focus should be protecting the ball, as a fumble in this matchup could be a backbreaker. 

BSU’s Jaylon Henderson scores against Hawaii. | Loren Orr/Getty Images

On defense, the Broncos need to find a way to stop the run, making Eason beat them with his arm. They may consider stacking the box to complement Curtis Weaver, one of the nation’s best edge rushers, who has the ability to pressure Eason into making ill-advised throws. Weaver, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, as well the Conference’s all-time sack leader, has 13.5 sacks this season. If the Bronco defense can make Washington’s offense one-dimensional, Boise State’s chances of winning increase exponentially,  especially if it can create a game-changing turnover.


What Happens on the Field
BSU has momentum in its favor, having gone undefeated in MWC play. But with the news of Chris Petersen’s departure, the Huskies will play their best game of the year, sending their head coach out in style, and setting the stage for his replacement, Jimmy Lake. Washington remains one of the most talented teams in the Pac-12, even if their record suggests otherwise. The Huskies will pound the ball behind their offensive line, wearing down the undersized Broncos. When BSU stacks the box, Eason will take advantage and complete passes downfield. Expect Aaron Fuller and Terrell Bynum to have breakout performances. On the other side of the ball, Boise State may find some running room against Lake’s vaunted defense, but not enough. Boise State simply does not have the firepower to hang with the Dawgs for four quarters. The Huskies take the lead early, and win going away.

NotesThe all-time series is tied at 2-2, with Boise State winning the last matchup in 2015. This is Washington’s 40th appearance in a bowl game. BSU has appeared in 19 bowls, winning 12. The Broncos are 4-0 all-time in the Las Vegas Bowl. Petersen began his head coaching career at BSU, where he posted a 92-12 record before going 54-26 in his six years at Washington. Husky quarterback Eason has thrown for 2,922 yards, 22 touchdowns, and eight interceptions this season. Henderson has thrown for 1,032 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions this season. Ahmed has rushed for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns for the Dawgs. Holani has rushed for 979 yards and seven touchdowns for the Broncos.



WashingtonKEY STATS AND INFOBoise State
Pac-12 NorthConferenceMountain West – West
N/RCFP Committee RankingNo. 19
31.5Points per Game36.8
20.4Points Allowed20.6
395.4Yards per Game441.5
245.1Passing Yards per Game267.4
150.33Rushing Yards per Game174.15
130.42Rushing Yards Allowed per Game112.31
225.1Passing Yards Allowed per Game234.4
355.5Yards Allowed per Game346.7
Jacob Eason
2,922 yards (22 TDS, 8 INTS)
Passing Yardage and TD LeadersJaylon Henderson
1,032 yards (11 TDs, 2 INTs)
Salvon Ahmed
1,000 yards, 9 TDs
Rushing LeadersGeorge Holani
979 yards, 7 TDs
Aaron Fuller
673 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving LeadersJohn Hightower
923yards, 8 TDs
Elijah Molden
70 total tackles
Defensive LeadersRiley Whimpey
69 total tackles


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