By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
LAS VEGAS — Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick ended up with the challenging task of replacing Kellen Moore.
Moore threw for 43 touchdowns and completed 74.3 percent of his passes last season. He was intercepted nine times. Moore threw for 14,667 yards in his four seasons as the Boise State starter.
“Kellen is the best college pocket passer, even though he was six feet, that I’ve ever seen,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “With that being said, you know there’s going to be a change and you hope you can continue to do things and score enough points, but it’s been a little bit of an adjustment. We’re slowly but surely making strides.”
Southwick is a 6-foot-1, 187-pound junior who struggled in his first start this season. He completed 15 of 31 passes in a 17-13 loss at Michigan State. He’s improved during the season and completed 78.3 percent of his passes the past two games. He has also run a bit more, carrying six times for 25 yards in Boise State’s final regular-season game, a 27-21 win at Nevada.
“He does a nice job of managing their offense and it’s a relatively difficult one with the personnel groupings, the shifts, the motions, the formations,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Southwick’s work won’t get any easier Saturday. Washington has been stout against the pass this season, finishing 16th in the country in pass-defense efficiency.
In a city built on a foundation of people losing self-control, Washington is trying to find a balance between fun and work.
The Huskies landed in Las Vegas on Monday and have practiced three times at pristine Bishop Gorman High School, which has facilities many college programs would envy.
That’s the work side. Wednesday night started the fun side when Washington went down to Las Vegas’ Fremont Street Experience. Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodwyn, Boise State’s team and a couple of bands were on hand to give the Huskies a full show. Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a sophomore from Auburn, was crowned champion of the dance competition.
Thursday, the Huskies went to a special showing of the Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo Casino.
This is the third bowl go-around for elder statesman and center Drew Schaefer, who has become accustomed to navigating the temptation.
“It’s just a fun time,” Schaefer said. “The part you have to learn about is you have to find the work, happy balance. There’s time to have fun, there’s time to work — practice and meetings — but there’s also time to go out and enjoy the city that you’re in and the activities that they have. Overall, it’s a great way to end the year.”
Sarkisian called practice Wednesday “one of the top three or four spirited practices we’ve had all season long.” Thursday’s practice was more scouting than physical contact. Today will be a walk-through. … Washington’s seniors ran the gauntlet at the end of practice Thursday, keeping with a tradition that Sarkisian started when he arrived at Washington. … The Las Vegas area experienced a rare frost advisory this week. Game day is supposed to be the warmest of the week, with temperatures reaching 55 degrees.