The Boise State football team's 2012 senior class became the second in school history to leave with a fistful of rings.
The 2013 seniors will go to Hawaii with every intention of matching that accomplishment.
The Broncos (8-4), who have won a conference or bowl championship every year since 2002 except for 2007, will close this season against Oregon State (6-6) on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl.
"It's always important to end our career with a win and try to get that fifth ring," senior defensive end Kharyee Marshall said. "If we don't get that win, we'll feel like we let the past Broncos down and let the future Broncos who are coming in down. We're going to prepare like we usually do. We're not going to miss a beat."
This will be one of the most challenging bowls in Boise State history not necessarily because of the opponent, although the Beavers were ranked before a late-season slide but because of the circumstances.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen accepted the job at Washington on Friday and won't coach in the bowl game. He also has hired running backs coach Keith Bhonapha.
That leaves eight full-time staff members to lead a young team through a confusing time in their lives, finals week and a six-day stay in paradise.
"It's going to be fun over there," interim head coach and linebackers coach Bob Gregory said Sunday at his first media availability since Petersen's departure. "I just can't say enough about the kids that we have in this program. I know that they're all going to do it the right way. Our kids aren't going to go over there and be distracted. They'll have time to go to the beach and have fun. When it comes time to practice and focus, they're going to do that regardless.
"That's what they've done all year. That's what this program is all about. I don't anticipate that being any different than the way it's been."
The Broncos began bowl practices Saturday and Sunday the best possible therapy, players said.
They woke to the Petersen news Friday morning. Marshall received a text message from former teammate Shea McClellin, who plays for the Chicago Bears. Linebacker Jonathan Brown got up at 6 a.m. to buy shoes he didn't get them and spotted a headline on ESPN.
"Everybody was kind of in shock," Brown said.
Petersen addressed the team Friday morning most of the assistants still were on the road recruiting. Athletic Director Mark Coyle asked Gregory to lead the team through the bowl game.
Marshall said Petersen told the players "it was time to move on and accept a new challenge."
"Coach Pete did a great job addressing the situation," senior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. "I wish him the best. I'm very thankful he was here our whole five-year careers."
The transition will be much more difficult for the players who came to Boise to play for Petersen and his staff and now face an uncertain future. The seniors' message to them: Trust the administration and the tradition of the program.
"Obviously, it varies from guy to guy," Moore said.
The seniors and coaches have tried to lower the players' "anxiety level," Gregory said.
"It's such a great place here and the tradition and process we have in place there's no reason for anxiety," Gregory said.
For a Broncos team that has fallen short of its own expectations this season, the Hawaii Bowl provides the chance to beat a quality team in their final act together.
The Broncos have knocked off a Pac-12 member in five straight seasons. This is a shot to make it six.
"We know what it comes down to and what we're here for," Brown said. "We're trying to win and be successful young men on and off the field. A lot of onus comes down to the seniors and the people who have been here a while to not miss a beat and not show any weakness."
Gregory, the linebackers coach and assistant head coach, interviewed for the full-time job with Coyle on Sunday. Offensive line coach Chris Strausser, the associate head coach, also has applied.
"This is a great situation," Gregory said. "It would be great to stay here in Boise with my family and Boise State."
He said he has not "yet" been offered a job under Petersen at Washington.
RECRUITING ON HOLD
Boise State coaches have removed themselves from the recruiting process. Eight prospects were scheduled to visit last weekend; those trips were postponed.
"It's just not fair to coaches and the recruits," Gregory said. "We really can't give those kids answers."
Instead, Coyle and Senior Associate Athletic Director Curt Apsey have contacted prospects who have committed to Boise State.
SOUTHWICK ON THE MEND
Senior quarterback Joe Southwick, who played the first series Nov. 30 against New Mexico, likely will play in the bowl game, Gregory said. The extent of his role hasn't been determined.
"He practiced (Sunday)," Gregory said. "Obviously every day he's getting a little better. I certainly anticipate him playing."
GOING TO THE BASKETBALL GAMES?
The Boise State and Oregon State mens teams will be in Honolulu, too, for the Diamond Head Classic.
The Broncos play Hawaii on Dec. 22 and Saint Marys or South Carolina on Dec. 23. The final round is Dec. 25. The other side of the bracket includes Akron, George Mason, Iowa State and Oregon State.
MILLER, LAWRENCE GET TOP HONORS
Junior wide receiver Matt Miller was named the Broncos' offensive MVP and junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was named the defensive MVP at the team banquet Sunday. The MVPs were decided by player vote.
Miller leads the team with 934 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches. Lawrence is tied for second with 67 tackles and leads the team with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
Sophomore safety Dillon Lukehart of Eagle High was named the special teams player of the year for the second straight season.
Ultimate OSG Award (weight room) TE Alec Dhaenens, Fr.
Iron Bronco Award OG Spencer Gerke, Sr.
Denny Erickson Valor Award LB Jonathan Brown, Sr.
Offensive Scout Player of the Year WR Terrell Johnson, Jr.
Defensive Scout Player of the Year LB Joe Martarano, Fr.
Special Teams Scout Player of the Year WR Tanner Shipley, Fr.
Hammer Award S Taylor Loffler, So.
Outstanding Defensive Lineman DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Sr.
Outstanding Offensive Lineman C Matt Paradis, Sr.
The Mountain West will announce its awards Tuesday.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat