LAS VEGAS The Boise State football team hoisted senior kicker Michael Frisina into the air and formed a mosh pit around him Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Frisina! Frisina! Frisina! they chanted.
For a few moments, and for a change, the kicker was the most beloved person in blue and orange.
Frisina made a 27-yard field goal with 1 minute, 16 seconds left to give the No. 20 Broncos a 28-26 victory over the Washington Huskies in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
That had a little to do with the curse, you can call it, that we had, Boise State sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller said of the celebration. For him to step up and make a kick, I think it shows we dont have a kicker problem anymore.
Washington tried to answer, but Boise State sophomore safety Jeremy Ioane sealed the Broncos victory with an interception with 14 seconds left.
The Broncos, whose lone losses in 2010 and 2011 occurred when their previous kickers missed potential game-winning field goals, finished the season 11-2. They have won at least 11 games in five straight seasons, will finish in the Top 20 for the fifth straight season and have won bowl games in four straight years for the first time in school history.
The Broncos built an 18-3 lead over the Huskies (7-6) in the first half, led 18-17 at halftime and trailed for the first time, 26-25, late in the fourth quarter.
The script was flipped from the rest of the season with the Broncos much-maligned offense delivering clutch plays in bunches they converted nine third or fourth downs and their usually dominant defense staggered by the Huskies brute-force attack.
We knew Washington was as good an opponent as we could face, and they were, Boise State junior quarterback Joe Southwick said. They showed it on the field today. We knew it would take all four quarters. We were able to, in the fourth quarter, take care of business.
Southwick capped his first season as a starter with his most impressive outing. He was 26-of-38 for 264 yards and two touchdowns, often shuffling in the pocket or scrambling to the outside to find his receivers. He also rushed 11 times for 39 yards using his athletic ability to keep scoring drives alive and operated much of the game without a huddle.
In the last four games of the season, he tossed nine touchdown passes and no interceptions while completing 69.9 percent of his passes.
He really did a nice job in the game today, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. He managed their offense, especially in their up-tempo stuff. He threw the ball efficiently and accurately and then when he pulled the ball down and scrambled, he was effective. He hurt us with his legs today.
Washington sophomore tailback Bishop Sankey, the game MVP, kept the Huskies within reach in the first half and finished with 205 rushing yards, 279 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. He got help in the second half from a third-down passing attack that featured sophomore wide receiver Kasen Williams (six catches, 95 yards) and sophomore tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (six, 61, TD).
(Sankey) was doing a good job of finding holes in our defense, said Boise State senior linebacker J.C. Percy, who made a career-high 17 tackles. He was able to run hard, break tackles and use his elusive moves and get away from us.
One of the Huskies three stars touched the ball on 11 of 13 offensive plays as they marched from their own 4-yard line to the Boise State 20 in the fourth quarter. On third-and-8, cornerback Jamar Taylor broke up a pass and forced a Travis Coons field-goal attempt.
Coons, who missed from 41 yards on the previous possession, hit a 38-yarder for the 26-25 lead with 4:09 remaining.
The Broncos offensive players sought out Southwick.
Hey, youre our leader, they told him, according to senior wide receiver Chris Potter. Take us down there and were going to win this game.
True freshman wide receiver and kickoff returner Shane Williams-Rhodes, whose highlight-reel quickness got him on the field this season, provided a spark. Williams-Rhodes fielded the kickoff at his own 11-yard line, started to the left where his blockers were and then broke into the open field along the right sideline.
He nearly escaped for a touchdown but stepped out of bounds at the Washington 42-yard line a career-best 47-yard return.
Hes such a little jitterbug, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. Hes got great instincts. The play was designed to go to the other side and he could feel them rotate too fast and he hit it back across the field.
Southwick barely converted a fourth-and-1 sneak and completed three passes to push the ball to the Huskies 12. The Broncos took one shot at the end zone but were content to place the ball on Frisinas preferred hash mark, the right, and force the Huskies to use two timeouts.
Petersen figured hed found Frisinas sweet spot. He was 13-of-13 on field goals of 30 yards or less and this was a 27-yarder.
Hes been like clockwork, Petersen said.
Frisina made a solid strike I knew I made it right when I hit it, he said and the ball sailed about a yard inside the right upright.
On the sideline, many Broncos watched from one knee.
I thought, Third times a charm, Percy said. I knew Friz was going to make it.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat