Boise State ready to battle Oregon in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl

Broncos Vegas Bowl practice (Photo Courtesy KVAL)

Two weeks of speculation and talk can finally be put aside. It’s time to play some football.

The Boise State football team will look to finish out the 2017 season with a win over the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl when they meet Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Though the Broncos would love to be playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game, this is not a bad alternative. The Broncos get to play a powerhouse like Oregon on national television on a Saturday afternoon with ESPN College Gameday hosts Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit serving as the broadcaster.

It’s about as good as it gets for a Group of Five program like Boise State.

“This is a big deal,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “The time, the game, the opponent, the announcers. I think it all gives us a lot exposure in this game.”

Of course the Broncos need to win the game to make the opportunity a total success. Faced with a similar scenario last year, Boise State fell 32-13 in the Cactus Bowl to Baylor and had to deal with the disappointment all offseason.

That feeling has served as motivation leading into this game for the Broncos, who would love to add Oregon to the list of big-time bowl wins the Broncos have had in recent years.

“For nine months we had to soak in the fact that our last game was against Baylor,” safety DeAndre Pierce said. “We didn’t end our season the way we wanted to and for nine months that’s all we were talking about.

“You’re only as good as your last game. We left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths and our own mouths, so it’s something where you want to end the season on a good note and send these seniors out right.”

Boise State (10-3) is coming off a win over Fresno State in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 2, while Oregon (7-5) finished the regular season by scoring 117 points in wins over Arizona and Oregon State.

And while the Broncos were certainly pleased to win the conference championship, they still have unfinished business to attend to heading into the matchup with Oregon. On Boise State’s team meeting room the goal includes both winning the conference title and a bowl game.

They didn’t do either in 2016, and the ugly loss to Baylor made a 10-3 season seem even worse.

“We don’t want to have that feeling that we had almost a year ago down at the Cactus Bowl,” Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien said. “Our goal every year is to win the Mountain West and to win a bowl game. We have one of them done and now we have to get the other one done.”

Oregon will be without star running back Royce Freeman, who has elected to sit out the game to focus on his NFL future. The Ducks do have quarterback Justin Herbert though, and they were 6-1 with him in the starting lineup compared to 1-4 when he was out with a broken collarbone.

Herbert is likely to a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy in 2018.

“They probably feel like they didn’t have the season they wanted and they want to end it on a good note, so we’re going to expect their best,” Pierce said.

Boise State is 4-1 against the Pac-12 under Harsin, but the Broncos have lost three straight to Power Five schools. The Broncos have built their program on big wins against big-time programs, and they seem eager for the chance to add another one to the list on Saturday.

“Anytime we get to play a Power Five school we always look forward to it to show we can compete with the big boys,” Pierce said. “It’s a really great opportunity and something we worked hard all season to be in and now that we’re here we just have to make the most of it and finish our season off right.”

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