Scouting the running game: The Broncos have leaned on the run game more this year with first-year starting quarterback Joe Southwick at the helm. They average 173.1 yards per game and 4.7 yards per game. Senior tailback D.J. Harper has shown grit and explosiveness in his first year as the featured back and redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi is a nice complement with a powerful style and 6.9-yards-per-carry average.
Scouting the passing game: Southwick has improved throughout the season and he finished the regular season playing his best football. He has 17 touchdown passes and seven interceptions and has completed 66.7 percent of his passes. His biggest flaw has been red-zone passing. Nine players have at least 12 catches and eight of them have caught a TD pass.
Scouting the run defense: The Broncos’ defense has dominated much of the season but it has shown some weakness against the run. Opponents average 141.2 yards per game, although at a meager 3.6 yards per carry. It’s the only way to beat this defense, which has allowed 18 rushing touchdowns just but three through the air.
Scouting the pass defense: Opposing quarterbacks have had a miserable time against the Boise State defense. They have two TD passes (the third came from a running back) and 16 interceptions with an efficiency rating of 101.37. Cornerbacks Jamar Taylor (three interceptions, three forced fumbles) and Jerrell Gavins (two interceptions) lead a secondary that rarely makes an assignment error.
Scouting the special teams: The Broncos have not been as dynamic on special teams as usual. They’re solid, particularly in the return game with punt returner Chris Potter and a combination of kickoff returners. The kickoff coverage, dominant early in the season, has been a weakness late in the season. Kicker Michael Frisina has been consistent — 12-for-12 on field goals of 30 yards or less and 0-for-5 on field goals of more than 30 yards.
Intangibles: Boise State will play in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the third straight year while Washington is a first-timer. That should help the Broncos handle the distractions better. Washington, though, is much more battle-tested and its fan base might turn out better considering this is the Huskies’ first visit to Sin City.
–True freshman cornerback Donte Deayon made his first start in place of senior Jerrell Gavins. “A little in-house stuff,” coach Chris Petersen said. Gavins played on defense and special teams but exited the game in the second half with a left leg injury.
–Senior nickel Dextrell Simmons (hamstring) did not make the trip to Nevada. Simmons had missed two games and was limited in a third.
–Junior defensive end Kharyee Marshall also didn’t make the trip because of injury.
–Senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs didn’t play much in his return from a wrist injury.