By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
LAS VEGAS — The MAACO Bowl Las Vegas held its annual press conference Friday morning. Washington was represented by coach Steve Sarkisian, quarterback Keith Price and cornerback Desmond Trufant. Boise State was represented by coach Chris Petersen, tailback D.J. Harper and cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Here are some highlights:
Price, on Boise State’s defense: “They don’t get beat deep. They have a very sticky secondary and when we have our opportunities to make plays we have to make plays. They do a great job. They’re very disciplined and they don’t make mistakes.”
Trufant, on coming off the Washington State loss: “I think we’re always motivated regardless of what happened previously. But how we lost that game … we’ve got that bad taste in our mouth and we’re looking forward to moving on.”
Sarkisian, on the rebuilding effort: “I’ve been proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’ve had some really good highs, tremendous wins, and some tough lows and tough losses. That’s part of the process.”
Sarkisian, on back-to-back games vs. Boise State: “We’re just trying to play really good football against them in this one tomorrow and that’s what we need to do if we want to win.”
Sarkisian, on the season: “I would summarize it as gratifying. Sometimes your record isn’t indicative of how you feel about your team and the work you’ve put in and the resilience to overcome some adversity. … There’s a lot of stuff from the season we’re going to take from it and build upon in 2013.”
Sarkisian, on tough times this year: “I’d go back to training camp. These (players) know. It was literally an injury a day that was season-ending. We went for a week and a half of one guy after another that was a significant contributor to our ballclub. … We were just kind of waiting for it to stop. And then the season began and we lost two more in the first quarter of the first game.”
Harper, asked immediately by the moderator about life without Kellen Moore (the shadow continues): “Obviously you can’t replace Kellen Moore. I definitely don’t think our offense has been underrated by any means. We’ve had a lot of adversity. This has been one of the toughest teams I’ve been a part of, really overcoming the losses and coming together and finding different ways to win the game. I know we haven’t always been used to scoring 20-25 points, you guys are used to seeing 50 points, but it shows the toughness of this team to come together the way we did.”
Petersen, on the season: “It has been different. Like D.J. says, in so many ways we’re really proud of these guys because it’s been a different feel. We’re not used to winning games 7-6 and the defense scores seven of them. That is different for us. But to these guys’ credit, every week they’ve come to work. It really hasn’t mattered how good the score turned out. They’ve been there to get better. This has been a good group to coach.”
Harper, on bowl week: “Even though we’re in a place like Vegas, we came down here for one goal and that’s to win a bowl game.”
Taylor, on freshman Darian Thompson and sophomore Jeremy Ioane at safety: “They’re just growing constantly. Every practice, every game. They make mistakes and they fix them. They’re very coachable. They just play fast. They’re playmakers.”
Harper, on playing his last game: “It’s definitely set in. It’s something I think about every night as the game draws closer.” Added Petersen: “I’m not sure it’s his last game. We’ll see about that.” (He’s kidding.)
Boise State wide receiver Chris Potter has enjoyed a career year as a senior, with a chance to catch more passes this year (25 so far, third on the team) than in his first three years combined (27). He has been particularly productive the second half of the season with 18 catches in the past six games.
Potter also is a strong punt returner and a wildcat quarterback.
“The last few years, just watching him has been a pleasure,” quarterback Joe Southwick said. “I love watching him return punts. I always try to get to the very end of the sideline to watch him do his thing. ... He’s contributed a lot to this receiving crew this year. He’s kind of been a security blanket for me.”
Said Potter: “The last four years have been awesome, but I think this year will definitely stick out in my memory.”
Southwick gets a chance to end his tumultuous first season as the starter with some serious momentum. He played well in the final three regular-season games but hasn’t shown that he can dissect a high-end defense.
Southwick was 53-for-75 (70.7 percent) for 624 yards in the closing three-game stretch — good for a 171.35 rating.
He still hasn’t won over the fans, some of whom wonder if he can retain the job for 2013, but that could change with a bowl win.
“It’s really been an awesome experience for me,” Southwick said. “There’s been some trials for me this season, going through this year and being a quarterback in this town. My teammates have done an awesome job supporting me, telling me that we’re going to get better, that we’re going to keep winning games.”
Boise State sophomore backup quarterback Grant Hedrick might have made his biggest impact of the year against Nevada. He made a 20-yard catch and operated two running plays that gained 17 yards in a three-play burst of playing time.
“He’s done a great job all year just staying engaged, staying focused, understanding what his role is each game,” Southwick said. “… you see him growing, definitely, on film.”
Said offensive coordinator Robert Prince: “We’re just trying to take advantage of his skillset. I think it’s more of a motivation (than a challenge for him) that he knows, ‘I’m going to have an opportunity to play in this game.’ It probably keeps him in the game a little more.”