The last time the Boise State football team played the same team in consecutive games, the Broncos were in the early stages of their Big Sky Conference era. The last time Washington faced such a scheduling quirk, the opponent was USS Idaho (1927).
Thats how rare this two-game series between the Broncos and Huskies is.
Boise State beat Washington 28-26 on Dec. 22 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. They meet again at 8:05 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
This is probably more like what the NFL has to deal with, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said.
In pro football, teams play three opponents twice a year. And its not unheard of for teams to meet in the regular-season finale and the first round of the playoffs.
But in college football, teams usually get about a year and a seasons worth of games to forget about their last encounter.
Boise States last back-to-back games against a single opponent were in the 1976 finale and 1977 opener against Weber State. The Broncos also played Idaho consecutively in 1972-73.
It feels weird back-to-back, a little bit, coach Chris Petersen said, but in some ways for us it doesnt feel back-to-back because were so new and so different.
Thats the wrinkle in this setup.
The Broncos return only 10-of-24 starters from last season.
The Huskies return 20, but they have switched to an Oregon-style, up-tempo offense and are counting on new players, including true freshman receiver/kick returner John Ross, who already is considered the fastest player on the team.
Theyre going to change it up, Boise State defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. We just played them. Theyre definitely not going to go in with the same exact game plan. I tell my guys its a rules ballgame. We have rules that cover all scenarios. Whatever they bring, well be ready.
In some ways, this matchup is remarkably similar to the last one. The Broncos are ranked No. 19 in the preseason polls and they were No. 19 in the Bowl Championship Series standings going into the bowl game. Washington is a possible Top 25 team this year its getting votes in the polls and had fallen out of the polls before the bowl.
In other ways, it will feel much different. Renovated Husky Stadium seats 70,138 and will be packed for its anticipated re-opening with just a smattering of orange. The Huskies, a budding team in 2012, boast an experienced roster. And if theres an emotional edge, youd think it would belong to the team that spent the offseason thinking about that two-point loss.
It's been nine months with a lot of question marks, Sarkisian said. Ad a lot of who is this team, are they mentally tough, can they handle being in tight games against good teams, are they consistent enough? I think that's really put a chip on their shoulder, and they're eager to prove that they can be that team.
The Broncos, known for a chip-on-the-shoulder, underdog attitude despite their success, will need to match that intensity.
They feel like theyve got a lot to prove this year, Boise State senior quarterback Joe Southwick said. Same here for us. We feel like its going to be a slugfest.
A few notes on Southwick:
He has become more comfortable as a team leader in his second year as the starter. Does that mean, he was asked, that hes more willing to confront a teammate? It might be the opposite of that, the fiery quarterback said. Just growing as a person has really helped me.
Southwick was seen several times last year engaging in animated sideline conversations with coaches. Hes extremely competitive, Petersen said. And were in this together. He and I can be a bad combination together on the sideline. Ill see what he sees and we can be frustrated together.
Southwick went into the summer hoping to improve a couple specific skills and that work showed up in fall camp, he said. But he declined to provide specifics. I know why hes saying that, Petersen said. Weve got to go out and prove it in a game, but theyre subtle things that down the road we might discuss. Its stuff thats important to us that may have to do with schemes.
Petersen is 6-1 in season openers, a record that includes defeats of ranked Oregon (2009), Virginia Tech (2010) and Georgia (2011) teams and a four-point loss last year at ranked Michigan State.
Its fundamentals (the coaches) get us ready to play football, senior defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe said of why the Broncos have started well. It doesnt really matter who we play. If we know our fundamentals are right, we can basically play anybody and play with them.
Petersens message every year: Dont give anything away on mistakes like misalignments, false starts and dropped passes.
So much of it early in the football season is about self-inflicted wounds, he said.
Offensive coordinator Robert Prince admittedly struggled at times early last season to call plays fast enough and the right play in his first year as the Broncos play-caller. The Broncos scored 30.2 points per game, the worst output since Petersen arrived as offensive coordinator in 2001.
Prince is more comfortable now particularly with Southwick and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith in their second years, too.
I think (play-calling) has come faster this year, Prince said, because we're more comfortable with each other, understanding what plays can be successful where last year, especially early, we were still finding out what each other can do and so certain play calls weren't working. I was kind of getting stuck and saying Aw, man, what do I need to call here to have a successful play? and was probably more conservative, especially early on. This year, with Joe having that year under his belt, if we call a bad play, he does a good job audibling out. As a staff we feel more comfortable.
The two defensive coordinators Boise States Pete Kwiatkowski and Washingtons Justin Wilcox put their friendship on hold this year. They worked together when Wilcox was the Broncos coordinator (2006-09).
They went fishing together in Montana last year but didnt get together during this offseason.
I did not (hang out with him), Kwiatkowski said. Typically would. This year, didnt do it, nope.
The teams are scheduled to meet again in 2015 in Boise.
Senior tight end Gabe Linehan started nine games and caught five touchdown passes in 2011. He returns to the lineup Saturday after missing nearly all of 2012 with a hamstring injury.
Despite the year off, he expects this to be his best year.
Im playing better than I was before my junior year, he said. Im a little faster, Im definitely in better shape and my blocking is better. And I dont really think much about my sophomore year or what could have been my junior year.
The Mountain West faces five Pac-12 opponents this week: Boise State at Washington, Utah State at Utah, USC at Hawaii, Nevada at UCLA and Colorado State vs. Colorado a big opportunity for coaches to show what they pushed at media days in Las Vegas, that the conference is on the rise.
Boise State is 6-1 vs. the Pac-12 under Petersen. That includes five straight wins since a loss at Washington in 2007.
Were saying we think this conference is talented, Petersen said. Weve just got to go out and win some games to back that up.
Boise State has painted the purple-and-gray Mountain West logos on the field at Bronco Stadium. Theyre now blue and orange. The Broncos are 9-2 vs. BCS-conference teams under Petersen. Boise State has been ranked at least once during each of the past 12 seasons since making its Top 25 debut in 2002. Seven Broncos already have earned their bachelors degrees. That ranks 10th in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Individual-game tickets went on sale Thursday. Tickets for all games, and season tickets, remain available. Call 426-4737 or visit boisestatetickets.com.
The Seattle Times reported late Thursday night that Washington junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been suspended for Saturdays game against Boise State.
Seferian-Jenkins pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge in July related to a March incident and had been battling a broken pinkie injury he suffered Aug. 12. According to the report, he was medically cleared to play, but will still be suspended.
In the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Dec. 22 against Boise State, Seferian-Jenkins had six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-6, 276-pound tight end had 69 catches for 852 yards and seven touchdowns in all of last season.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian did not say if Seferian-Jenkins would play Monday during a press conference, though Boise State had been preparing in expectation of him playing. He had been suspended for spring practices, but returned for fall camp. Washingtons depth chart lists two tight ends as Seferian-Jenkins backups sophomore Josh Perkins and junior Michael Hartvigson.
Perkins did not have a catch last season, while Hartvigson had six receptions for 55 yards.
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Chadd Cripe is in his 12th year as the Idaho Statesman beat writer for Boise State football. He also is a voter for The Associated Press Top 25. You can contact him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at @IDS_BroncoBeat and read his blog at blogs.idahostatesman.com/broncobeat.