College Football

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       === Washington welcomes Boise State to renovated Husky Stadium ===
 
 Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - A replay of the 2012 Las Vegas Bowl is on tap
 in the Pacific Northwest this weekend as Washington re-opens Husky Stadium
 while hosting the 19th-ranked Boise State Broncos in non-conference action on
 Saturday night.
 
 The Huskies, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, are
 finally back in their home stadium following an extensive renovation to the
 93-year old facility. The last time the team played in the venue was Nov. 5,
 2011, so the Huskies are hoping to lift the lid off a new season in grand
 style.
 
 In 2012, Washington began with three wins in four tries, key among them being
 a stunning upset of Stanford, while the one setback being a blowout loss to
 LSU on the road (41-3). But then the team hit a dry spell with three
 consecutive defeats before rolling up four straight Pac-12 Conference
 triumphs. Unfortunately, the Huskies dropped their annual rivalry game with
 Washington State (31-28) in overtime, leaving them at 7-5 overall and 5-4 in
 conference play heading into the postseason.
 
 The winningest football team in the nation since 1997, the Broncos have a
 record of 168-35 (.828), and have been even more dominant under the direction
 of head coach Chris Petersen who is a staggering 84-8 (.913) through his first
 seven campaigns in Idaho.
 
 The Broncos have won no fewer than 10 games in each of Petersen's seasons and
 for a span of four years (2008-11) the team won 12 or more each time out, the
 only school to achieve that lofty feat since 1900.
 
 Boise State is hoping for a better start to 2013 than it had last year when it
 stumbled out of the gate versus Michigan State on the road in a 17-13 setback.
 The Broncos did turn it around however, stringing together seven straight wins
 before suffering a hard-fought 21-19 loss at home versus San Diego State.
 
 Nevertheless, BSU finished strong with three more regular-season victories,
 making the team 10-2 overall and 7-1 in what was supposed to be their final
 year in Mountain West Conference before moving to the Big East for football.
 Luckily, the Broncos decided that remaining in the MWC was to their advantage
 and are again a favorite to take the crown in what has become a two-division
 league with a total of 12 teams, following the demise of the Western Athletic
 Conference's football program.
 
 "The football programs in the Mountain West Conference continue to get
 stronger and we look forward to the challenge and competing in a strong league
 for many years to come," coach Petersen remarked.
 
 Washington won the first-ever meeting between the programs in 2007 by a score
 of 24-10 in Seattle, but last year the Broncos returned the favor with a
 narrow 28-26 triumph during bowl season.
 
 After a rough start to 2012, quarterback Joe Southwick ended up completing
 almost 67 percent of his passes for 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns. The good
 news for Southwick is that he has his top two receivers back in Matt Miller
 and Kirby Moore who combined for 102 receptions, more than 1,100 yards and six
 TDs last season.
 
 "Kirby is one of the rocks of our offense," coach Petersen said during Fall
 Camp. "He is always out here competing, he is always going full speed and he
 is always giving good effort."
 
 Another holdover is Holden Huff who, with just 17 catches in 13 games,
 averaged almost 15 yards per grab and tied for second on the team with four
 receiving scores. Now a sophomore, Jay Ajayi figures to get more action after
 placing second on the team a year ago with 548 yards and four scores on 82
 attempts. Placing sixth in the country in sacks allowed (0.77 per game), the
 offensive line will have to fill a few vacancies as well, although Charles
 Leno and Matt Paradis are coming back as returning starters in the trenches.
 
 While the BSU offense continues to pull out a few gimmicks now and then, the
 defense will once again be the focal point of the program even though it too
 is going to be rebuilding. Last season the unit ranked third in the nation in
 forced turnovers with 36 and second overall in turnover margin with a
 plus-1.54 per game, but those sort of numbers will be hard to come by in 2013
 given the slew of new faces that will be trying to grab a spot in the starting
 lineup.
 
 Gone is top tackler J.C. Percy who hammered out an impressive 118 stops. So
 dominant was Percy, his 70 unassisted tackles was the same number of overall
 tackles that Jeremy Ioane managed as the second-best tackler on the squad.
 Ioane's return at safety also, along with that of Darian Thompson, means the
 Broncos have one of the best secondaries in the league once more this season
 as both players logged three interceptions for BSU. Earning a spot on the 2013
 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Defensive Team is Demarcus Lawrence who
 comes back after claiming All-MWC First-Team honors following a 2012 campaign
 in which he led the Broncos in tackles for loss (13.5), sacks (9.5) and forced
 fumbles (four), not to mention registering the only blocked kick of the season
 for the group.
 
 Another player to keep an eye on is junior linebacker Corey Bell who came on
 strong with four starts in the final five games of the season, finishing with
 45 total tackles, 22 of them solo efforts.
 
 After starting all 13 games for Washington as a junior, Keith Price is back to
 reprise his role as quarterback for the squad. His 2,726 passing yards
 represented the sixth-highest single-season total in program history, but
 still the team was eighth in the conference and 81st nationally with 212.9 ypg
 through the air.
 
 A key outlet for Price will be wide receiver Kasen Williams who was named
 honorable mention All-Pac-12 in 2012 thanks to his 77 receptions for 878
 yards, both of which were top-10, single-season efforts at UW. Unfortunately,
 the unit will be without the services of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins,
 recognized as one of the top performers at his position, due to a broken
 pinkie finger on his right hand.
 
 Bishop Sankey is slated to handle the bulk of the running back tasks again
 after he finished 2012 with 1,439 yards, the third-highest total in UW single-
 season history.
 
 Defensively, there were only a handful of games that got out of control for
 the Huskies a season ago. For the most part, the team was able to hang in
 there by allowing a respectable 24.2 ppg and the hope is that linebackers John
 Timu and Shaq Thompson will get some added support in 2013. Both players are
 All-Pac-12 performers in the middle for the Huskies.
 
 Safety Sean Parker, second on the unit in total tackles with 77, 14 stops
 behind Timu, was responsible for three forced fumbles, while defensive end
 Josh Shirley piled up six forced fumbles and was tied for the team lead with
 nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
 
 "No one wants to get their emotions too high where they can't control
 themselves," said Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha, who missed all
 of 2012 because of injury, of coming back to Husky Stadium. "But at the same
 time you have to respect what's going on around you: This beautiful, new
 stadium; being back here after being in the Seahawks' stadium for a whole
 year. You don't want to take anything away from that, but you have to be
 focused in on every single play, at that moment."
 
 
 
 08/28 11:38:22 ET

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