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Washington dominates Boise State defensively, sends Chris Petersen out with a Las Vegas Bowl win

UPDATED: Sat., Dec. 21, 2019

Washington defensive back Keith Taylor (27) breaks up a pass intended for Boise State wide receiver Octavius Evans (1) during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game at Sam Boyd Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Steve Marcus / AP)
Washington defensive back Keith Taylor (27) breaks up a pass intended for Boise State wide receiver Octavius Evans (1) during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game at Sam Boyd Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Steve Marcus / AP)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

LAS VEGAS – Jimmy Lake spent the first two weeks of December on the road, and in the air, crisscrossing the west coast to personally reassure Washington’s 2020 oral commits.

Lake was a constant in the living room, alongside the Christmas tree. He said in a signing day teleconference last week that “there was a lot of phone calls and a lot of text messages as well, every single day to all of our (committed) guys and all of their families.” He traveled a lot, slept a little and celebrated his 43rd birthday somewhere in between.

Oh, and there was one more thing:

Amidst the convoluted recruiting chaos, Washington’s soon-to-be head coach devised a game play to dominate Boise State.

UW’s defense certainly did that in the first half on Saturday, and the Huskies sent Chris Petersen out with a 38-7 win over his former team in the Las Vegas Bowl.

“Boise State has an excellent offense,” Lake said after the game. “They give you a lot to deal with – different formations, different game plan from week to week, two different quarterbacks today. They sprung that on us. Give a lot of credit to them, because we had to spend a lot of time to prepare.

“But with our guys, we just talked about, we have to tackle, we have to communicate, get lined up and play fast. From the sidelines, it looks like that’s what we did.”

Lake’s defense was particularly deadly in the first half inside Sam Boyd Stadium, limiting the bumbling Broncos to 96 total yards and 3.6 yards per play. Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier completed 9 of 17 passes for 75 yards and an interception in the first two quarters. The Broncos rushed for a grand total of 21 yards and 2.1 yards per carry. They punted in four consecutive drives.

It was the first time Boise State has been shut out in the first half of a game since Sept. 27, 2014, against Air Force.

Junior nickelback Elijah Molden added his fourth interception of the season in Boise State’s first drive of the second half, before sprinting up the sideline for a 31-yard return. He finished with a team-high nine tackles, as well as a forced fumble and the aforementioned interception.

“I kind of read his eyes and then saw the running back flare out and then took it,” Molden, the Las Vegas Bowl MVP, said of the pick. “After that play I went to the offense and was like, ‘OK, it’s your turn to go.’

“They did their thing. That’s when I looked at Skinny (Jacob Eason) and Nick (Harris) and those guys, and you could just see that we were all having fun. It turned out the way we wanted it to.”

At times, it looked like the Broncos didn’t have an offensive coordinator.

And that makes sense, because they don’t. Zak Hill accepted the same position at Arizona State last week and opted not to coach in the Broncos’ bowl game.

But UW’s oft-inconsistent offense made enough plays. In what could be his final game at Washington, redshirt junior quarterback Eason completed 22 of 32 passes, throwing for 210 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. And after it was over, he declined to comment on his future, saying, “I’m not really into discussing it right now. I’ve got to have a conversation with my family and these coaches and this team and figure it out.”

“He hadn’t played in a long time, until this year,” Petersen said at the postgame press conference of Eason, who was sitting to his left. “I think he learned a lot of things and I think he’s growing. Whatever his future holds, I know it’s going to be bright.”

But Eason’s right arm didn’t account for Washington’s entire offense. Senior wide receiver Andre Baccellia bolted through several tackles on a slant for a 17-yard score. Behind an offensive line missing left tackle Trey Adams and right guard Jaxson Kirkland, Salvon Ahmed tallied two rushing scores while Richard Newton added a rushing touchdown of his own.

Speaking of Newton, the bruising redshirt freshman (literally) showed off his right arm as well. Early in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot, 210-pounder took a wildcat snap from Boise State’s 13-yard line, rolled to his right and lofted a touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Terrell Bynum to extend the Huskies’ lead to 31-7. As he was mobbed by the Husky masses, Newton held up the aforementioned right arm with his left, presenting it in all its glory like a trophy to his teammates.

Appropriately, Washington sealed Petersen’s final win with a trick play touchdown.

“I loved it,” Petersen said, when asked about the play call. “It was good.”

There was a lot to love in Petersen’s UW farewell. In the closing minutes, he was serenaded by a “Thank you Petersen” chant that rose out of the Husky section behind the bench. An ice bath quickly followed. After it was over, Boise State players formed a line at midfield to hug him and shake his hand.

Eventually, Petersen climbed onto the elevated stage near the north end zone – flanked by Molden, bowl representatives, the Husky mascot and a pair of Las Vegas showgirls. As he answered questions and addressed the crowd, Lake stood smiling at the 20-yard line, arm-in-arm with his wife and kids.

“I’d just like Jimmy Lake to come up here,” Petersen announced midinterview, shifting the spotlight (presently and permanently) to UW’s next head coach. “Jimmy, come on up.”

Upon his arrival, Lake was immediately asked about Petersen. He said that “he changed my life, and he changed my family’s lives.” Then both coaches lifted the bowl trophy and presented it to the crowd – UW’s present on the left and its future on the right. Confetti shot out from behind the stage, and the Husky marching band waved its instruments triumphantly in the air as “We Are the Champions” boomed out of the stadium speakers.

“That’s Coach Pete,” Lake said, when asked about Petersen’s gesture to bring him up on stage. “He’s always going to deflect. Even though he deserves a lot of credit, he’s always going to deflect to his assistants. He’s going to deflect to his players. That is Coach Petersen, right there.”

Added Petersen in the accompanying press conference: “I’ve always felt so strongly that this bowl game needs to send the seniors out the right way and catapult the program forward. Every time it seems like we’ve won a bowl game, good things have happened that next year. It’s the way you want to end it.”

When it comes to his time at Washington, Petersen ended it in his winning way. The Huskies left Las Vegas with a trophy.

And a new head coach.

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