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Chris Petersen leads Boise State to third straight Maaco Bowl Las Vegas victory

Petersen sensed Joe Southwick and Michael Frisina would need big games against Washington

2012 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas

Sam Morris

Boise State wide receiver Matt Miller yells at kicker Michael Frisina after his game winning field goal against Washington during the 2012 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Boise State won their third consecutive Vegas Bowl 28-26.

2012 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas

Boise State fans cheer on the field after their 28-26 win over Washington in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

Boise State Football Team

Boise State football team prepares for their upcoming game Saturday when they face off against Washington in the 2012 MACCO Bowl Las Vegas, Thursday Dec. 19, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Washington Prepares for MAACO Bowl

Washington quarterback Keith Price practices with his team at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Washington is preparing to face Boise State in Saturday's Maaco Bowl Las Vegas Launch slideshow »

Knowing their importance to the outcome in Saturday’s Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, Boise State coach Chris Petersen held individual meetings with his kicker and quarterback earlier this week.

Michael Frisina, senior kicker, said Petersen just wanted to make sure he was ready.

“He was like, ‘Hey, I think this is going to come down to a couple kicks,’” Frisina recalled.

Junior quarterback Joe Southwick’s chat was more of a diagnosis than a check-up. Petersen told Southwick he needed to break out of his frequent “robot mode,” where the quarterback systematically stuck to his reads on passing plays.

“In the game of football, it doesn’t always work like that,” Southwick said. “Being able to not see the first guy, feel some pressure, seeing a running lane and hitting it. Going back to my instincts. That’s what it really is.”

Petersen’s eye for correcting what’s wrong with his team and knack for coaching proved undeniable again at Sam Boyd Stadium. Boise State defeated Washington 28-26 in the 2012 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, in large part because of Southwick’s legs and Frisina’s mental approach.

Frisina drilled all three of his field-goal attempts, including a game-winning 27-yarder with 1:16 remaining. Southwick had arguably his best game with 264 passing yards and two touchdowns, aided by the way he improvised and rushed when no one was open.

Southwick rushed for a career-high 39 yards on 11 carries, but was truly more effective than that on the ground because one sack for -10 yards bit into the total.

“It changes everything,” Petersen said. “Everyone knows a scrambling quarterback can crush you. He made some big plays. I thought his whole game was extremely clean.”

Southwick got Boise State out to a 18-3 lead, but a performance for the ages from Washington running back Bishop Sankey, who had 30 carries for 205 yards and won the bowl’s MVP honors, sparked a comeback.

The Huskies snagged their first lead at 26-25 with four minutes left in the game when kicker Travis Coons converted on a 38-yard field goal. Coons missed from 41 earlier in the fourth quarter, meaning Frisina was more efficient and the difference in the game.

“If you look across the country, and maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there are a lot of inconsistent kickers out there,” Petersen said. “And, really quietly, Mike has been doing a great job all season.”

After Coons’ go-ahead field goal, freshman Shane Williams-Rhodes returned the ensuing kickoff to Washington’s 42-yard line. It was a luxury for the Broncos to start with that field position, but they were still 22 yards away from Petersen’s desired range for Frisina.

Washington limited the first three plays of the possession, bringing up a fourth-and-1 from the 33-yard line. Petersen told Southwick to keep the ball on the ground, and to sneak up the middle for a first down.

Southwick gave his best, but initially appeared to come up short.

“At first, I was kind of like, ‘uh-oh, I don’t know if I’ve got this,’” Southwick said. “But then, I just tried to lower my legs and really move that pile as much as I could. It was enough for a first down. That was a big play right there.”

Southwick completed two more passes — one each to Chris Potter and Geraldo Boldewijn, who combined for 14 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown — from there to get the Broncos to the 10-yard line. Southwick missed Matt Miller, the Broncos leading receiver on the day with 90 yards, in his one shot at the end zone.

That brought out Frisina for the game winner. Some Boise State players dropped to their knees on the sideline. Others couldn’t watch with the negative memories lingering over the situation.

The Broncos only two losses in the 2010 and 2011 seasons came when kickers missed field goals in the final seconds of games against UNR and TCU, respectively.

But Frisina said he never thought about that. He went through his normal routine and never worried despite the fact that he had never attempted a game-winning field goal in his entire football career.

“I knew I made it right when I hit it,” Frisina said. “I don’t know where it ended up, but I know it went through the goal post. That’s all that matters.”

Washington threatened and advanced to midfield with a minute to go, but Boise State’s Jeremy Ioane intercepted a Keith Price pass with 16 seconds remaining to end the game.

The Broncos became the first team to win three straight Las Vegas Bowls. This was the first year they didn’t blow out their opposition.

It was emblematic of Boise State’s entire season. Unlike the past two seasons when the Broncos clobbered teams with one of the nation’s top offenses, this year they squeaked out four wins by less than a touchdown.

The significance of notching 11 wins and a bowl victory in a year dedicated to rebuilding wasn’t lost on Petersen.

“What’s been so satisfying is going to practice with these guys,” Petersen said. “They don’t go through the motions. They show up and try to get better.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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