By Tim Dahlberg Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — Once again, Boise State is in this gambling city for a bowl game to end yet another successful season. Unlike previous years, though, no one is talking about where the Broncos should really be.
There is no BCS controversy for the No. 20 Broncos coming into the Las Vegas Bowl to play Washington. No talk about Boise State being in the chase for a national title, either.
But if this season is what rebuilding is all about, Boise State coach Chris Petersen will gladly take it.
“Part of the problem with sports today, particularly college football, is that you do well and that sets the bar high,” Petersen said. “In our case it’s set so high that anything but a perfect season is looked upon differently.”
Petersen’s team wasn’t perfect this year, though the Broncos aren’t complaining about a 10-2 season and a national ranking. Not after losing six starters from last year to the NFL draft and having to find a quarterback to replace Kellen Moore, who went 50-3 as a four-year starter for Boise State.
Still, the year could have been even better had the Broncos not lost a 21-19 game at home to San Diego State that might have kept them out of a bigger bowl game.
“Win one more game and we’re in the BCS,” Petersen said.
Instead Boise State is in the Las Vegas Bowl for the third straight year, hoping to come up a winner in the city once again. They’re five-point favorites against a Washington (7-5) team that had won four in a row before being upended in overtime by Washington State in the regular-season finale.
In a bit of a twist, it’s the first of two straight games between the two schools. Boise State travels to Washington next year to open the season in the newly renovated Husky Stadium.
“It sets the stage for an intriguing offseason for nine months before the rematch here at Husky Stadium,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said when the matchup was announced. “I think it’s pretty cool.”
Boise State has won two straight Las Vegas Bowl games, the first coming after an overtime loss to Nevada cost the then-undefeated Broncos a certain spot in a BCS game in 2010. Last year, Boise State lost 36-35 at home to TCU on its way to a 12-1 season that ended with a blowout win over Arizona State in the bowl.
If playing in the relatively minor Las Vegas Bowl was a disappointment for Boise State the last two years, it’s a reward this year after a season that would be good by any standards other than those set by Petersen’s teams in Boise.
“It’s a good matchup,” Petersen said. “And the players are always excited to come to Las Vegas.”
That goes for the players on Washington, too. Aside from a well-stocked gift room for players to select something for their dorms, the city’s hotels and casinos are always a lure.
The Huskies looked like they wouldn’t have a postseason during a three-game slide that included blowout losses to Oregon and Arizona. But they rebounded before a startling loss in the Apple Cup.
Quarterback Keith Price will be trying to rebound from an interception in overtime that led to the loss to Washington State and ended the regular season on a low note.
“We lost a game we shouldn’t have lost,” he said. “I was mad about it. But I can’t do anything about it now. People are going to blow it up or whatever. We should have won the game.”