The ESPN crew handling Saturday’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas between UW and Boise State is the so-called “A” team of Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit and Tom Rinaldi.
I had a chance late last week to talk to Musberger and get some of his thoughts on the game. So here they are:
On some general thoughts about the game: “It’s sort of interesting to me, the Huskies were a big national brand and they have sort of declined over a decade and a half or whatever the turning point was.. And we would all in the position I am in see them climb back if for no other reason than we all love going to Seattle. But Steve Sarkisian is a very popular figure with media people so we have pulled for them to make that next step up and compete for that Pac-12 championship. So I think we enter into this game with a few question marks about the Huskies and what level they are playing at right now. But I suspect that their motivation is going to be pretty good, matched against Boise State. As everybody knows and has written about, it’s interesting that these two teams are going to open up next season in Seattle and here they are now. Boise State’s point of view in this game is interesting to me because this is the third straight year they have gone to Vegas.. And I am assuming that sometimes you get tired of going to the same old locale when you go to bowl games and how motivated are you going to be going back? Chris Petersen, on the other hand, is a proven commodity as one of the best coaches in the college game, so he will work on that as a motivating factor when they get down there or they could stumble and lose a game like this. So motivation and locale are always very, very important when you analyze bowl games.”
On some reasons behind Boise State’s success: “First of all, recruiting. They targeted areas in California where they could go in and get talent that for whatever reason wanted to leave the state and their circumstances and come to Idaho,m which is a wonderful, wonderful environment for kids who want to break away and come play football, I put that as number one on the list. And that stems from the head coaches they have had through the years have all been very good, and Chris Petersen is one of the elite coaches in the country and the fact that he has turned down job after job speaks a lot and I think that the youngsters understand that. Back in the heyday of Don James they (UW) hit hard into California and recruited kids because it’s such a fertile ground down there and USC can’t take everybody. So I would say that they have targeted very well. Y0u don’t go anyplace in college football without recruiting well. So it starts with recruiting and the head coach — once you get those established then you go from there.”
On some key matchups in the game: “It will be interesting to see how the Washington quarterback performs. Through the years the one part of the Boise State game that has been underrated is over on the defensive side. We’ve all talked about the Kellen Moore regime and now that they have come through that with his longtime backup Joe Southwick at the controls. But as far as I was concerned, the defensive side of things was always underrated. So it’s going to be interesting to see how Washington attempts to move the ball against this defense. It’s probably the key to the game if Washington can get its offense going. I did the Boise State-Utah bowl game in Vegas a couple of years ago (a 26-3 Boise State win) and Utah fell behind early and was never able to come back. And I think that’s going to be very critical for the Huskies to stay within distance. If they can do that and get into the fourth quarter with the game on the line, that’s all you can ask for in a game like this.”
On what stands out about Boise State’s defense: “Their defensive line has been over the last decade one of the best in all of college football. They have been able to get pressure up the middle and they kind of go from the nose tackle and then they spread out when you go back through the years in there, they have always had a couple of kids that have stood out. They are kind of big, tough kids and once you get up against them they are a little bit harder to move than you think they are. Everything starts with the defensive front and coach Pete Kwiatkowski (the team’s defensive coordinator) just does a marvelous job with their defensive line. I’ve just been very impressed with them over the years.”
On if Washington looks ready to emerge again on the national scene: “Well, you wondered midway through this season when they went through that rough patch when they lost three in a row before they snapped out of it. And I would say I was most surprised that they blew the Apple Cup game, not because I don’t have respect for Mike Leach but because they had an 18-point lead in that game. I was kind of shocked when I saw they had lost. So I would think that coming out of that game,m which had to be a big disappointment for coaches and players, I would think the focus would be trying to get back on the stage out West against Boise State. Obviously they were taken out of the national stage when they went to Baton Rouge and got drilled by a good LSU team. So we all have questions about the Huskies right now and we’ll see what they come up with against Boise State.”