MAACO Bowl Las Vegas preview


Washington (7-5, 5-4) vs. Boise State (10-2, 7-1)

Where: Las Vegas

When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET


Pivotal matchup:

Washington QB Keith Price vs. Boise State secondary

If one area has set Boise State apart defensively, it's the team's ability to defend the pass. Through 12 games this season, the Broncos have allowed just three touchdown passes -- and one of those was thrown by a running back.

Boise State has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the nation and has forced 16 interceptions. The secondary’s strength is its cornerbacks, Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. They have helped limit opponents to 163 passing yards per game.

Throw in defensive ends Demarcus Lawrence and Samuel Ukwuachu and Price faces a challenge with Boise State’s secondary and pass rush.

The junior has struggled with turnovers at times in 2012. If the Huskies want to get on track against the Broncos, Price needs to find seams in the defense to get the ball in the hands of sophomore playmakers Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Washington also has worked its way through its share of slow starts, so Price and the Huskies’ passing attack need to establish themselves against Boise State’s defense.

If the Broncos shut Washington down quickly, it could be a long night for the Huskies with Boise State playing in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for the third year in a row.

Up-and-comers to watch:

Washington S Shaq Thompson: The freshman was so dynamic through fall camp that the coaching staff knew it needed to find a way to get the playmaker on the field. The Huskies moved him to nickelback, shifting him to a hybrid safety/linebacker.

The move has worked well for them. Thompson has 66 tackles -- 8.5 for loss. He has a pair of sacks, three interceptions, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.

He gets more comfortable with each game he plays. This is only the start for the standout.

Boise State DE Samuel Ukwuachu: Junior college transfer Demarcus Lawrence gets most of the attention for the Broncos after leading the Mountain West Conference in sacks with 9.5. But Ukwuachu is in the middle of a very good freshman campaign and will be a player to pay attention to as he matures. So far in 2012, he has 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He has recovered three fumbles and forced one.

Recruits to impress:

Patrick Enewally (Cerritos, Calif./Gahr): The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior is a top target for Boise State and for Washington. He took an official visit to Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 7 and followed it with a trip to Seattle the weekend after. Most schools are recruiting him as a big cornerback, and he would fit well in the mold the Huskies have been pushing for.

He is expected to announce his decision soon, and a bowl win by either team could sway his decision.

John Ross (Long Beach, Calif./Jordan): The four-star wide receiver visited Washington and UCLA on back-to-back weeks and has long been one of the Huskies’ top targets.

A Washington win over Boise State would be another sign to the 5-9, 170-pound senior, who is ready to wrap up the recruiting process. When asked recently whether he had a favorite program, he said the schools making a final push for him are all clustered in a pack. If the Huskies win their bowl game, it could be something to help separate the program from Ross’ other suitors.