Boise St. (8-4, 6-2 in the Mt. West) vs. Oregon St. (6-6, 4-5 in the Pac-12) / Autzen Stadium / 3 PM HST (5 PM PST) / ESPN / KEJO 1240 AM / KEX 1190 AM
Oregon St. and Boise St. renew their northwest rivalry thousands of miles from either Corvallis or Boise, in today's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. It's the first time the teams have ever met at a neutral site.
Oregon St. leads the all-time series 4-3, but Boise St. has won the last 2 games, and are 3-2 against the Beavers since the Broncos moved up to (then) Division I, now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision, in 1996, having won 3 of the last 4 meetings.
The Broncos defeated the Beavers 37-24 in the last meeting, in Boise in 2010, and 42-14 in 2006, also in Boise, in the last of a 4 year stretch of games. Oregon St. won 30-27 in 2005 in Corvallis, after the Broncos had walloped the Beavers 53-34 in 2004.
The Beavers began the 4 year series with a 26-24 win in Reser Stadium in 2003. Oregon St. beat Boise St. twice while the Broncos were in the Big Sky Conference (then Division I-AA, now the Football Championship Division), 37-30 in Boise in 1989, and 34-3 in at then Parker Stadium in 1986.
The current home and home series will conclude in 2016, when the Broncos visit Corvallis.
It's the 11th bowl trip in the last 15 years for Oregon St., and the 8th bowl under Head Coach Mike Riley. It's also the 4th bowl game in Hawaii for the Beavers, though its the first one against someone other than Hawaii.
Oregon St. beat Hawaii 39-6 in the Pineapple Bowl on Jan. 1, 1940, and again, 47-27 in the Jan. 1, 1947 Pineapple Bowl. The first of those 11 bowls in the recent "modern era", and the Beavers first post season game since the Rose Bowl that followed the 1964 season, was also on Christmas Eve, in 1999. But Hawaii won that one, 23-17.
Here's what they are playing for this time:
The Beavers won't be wearing their white helmets, though, as Oregon St., being the designated home team, will be in black helmets and jerseys, though they will be wearing their road white pants.
Oregon St. will be on the "sunny" sideline, and with the game starting midafternoon, temperatures will be in the low 80s. The black look will be an issue, and the Beavers must focus on hydration and cooling.
This is the 16th consecutive winning season for Boise St., and the 12th consecutive bowl trip for the Broncos, but the first time Boise St. has won fewer than 9 games in the regular season since their 8-4 campaign in 2001, which is also the last time they missed out on a bowl trip.
The Broncos finished second in the Mountain Division of the Mt. West Conference, 1 game behind Utah St. despite the fact that they beat the Aggies 34-23 in Logan. The problems were a 41-40 loss at eventual West Division and Conference Champion Fresno St., and a 34-31 loss in overtime at San Diego St., whom Oregon St. beat 34-30, also in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Boise St. also lost the season opener 38-6 at Washington, in the reopening of remodeled Husky Stadium, and 37-20 at BYU.
The Broncos will be led offensively by junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who hails from Monmouth, OR, and Central High, located just 20 miles from the Oregon St. campus, and sophomore TB Jay Ajayi.
Hedrick took over for starter Joe Southwick after Southwick suffered a broke ankle on the first play of the game against Nevada, in Boise St.'s 7th game, and led the Broncos to 4 wins in the last half of their regular season.
Southwick returned to action late in the last game, and even threw a touchdown pass in Boise St.'s 45-17 win over New Mexico, giving rise to speculation whether Southwick or Hedrick would start in the bowl game.
But Southwick, a senior, was suspended and sent home from Hawaii on Friday, a day after arriving in the islands, by interim coach Bob Gregory, for unspecified violations of unspecified team rules. Southwick was alleged to have conducted himself in an unbecoming way in public, and Boise St. opted to dismiss Southwick after only a limited investigation.
Southwick completed 151 of 208 passes, for 1,654 yards, and 12 touchdowns against just 5 interceptions, though he was sacked 11 times this season. The more mobile Hedrick, who also played in certain packages before Southwick was injured, completed 135 of 198 passes this season, for 1,443 yards and 15 touchdowns, against only 5 interceptions and 5 sacks.
Hedrick also carried 57 times, for 257 yards, and 6 touchdowns, which made him the Broncos' second leading rusher behind Ajayi. Ajayi had a very strong season, picking up 1,328 yards and 17 touchdowns on 226 carries, and also caught 16 passes for an additional 189 yards, and another score.
The Broncos' receiving corp features Matt Miller and Shane WiIliams-Rhodes, both of whom had 77 catches. Williams-Rhodes, who normally also returns punts, is hampered by an ankle injury though, and Kirby Moore, the younger brother of Kellen Moore, who quarterbacked Boise St. through its best 4 year stretch ever, and one of the best in history by any team, will see an expanded role as a result.
Gregory, who has been the Boise St. linebackers coach, took over for the bowl game after Chris Peterson, who was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos from 2001 through 2005, and the head coach since then, left to take over the head coaching job at Washington.
Gregory will follow Peterson to Seattle after the game, as former Boise St. player and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who was the offensive coordinator at Texas in 2012, will take over as the Broncos head coach after Christmas.
Oregon St. is around a 3 point favorite, with the coaching change the primary factor in that.
Defensively, Boise St. is led by DE Demarcus Lawrence, a 6'3", 245 lb. next-level player that Oregon St. coach RIley described as "An NFL guy we have got to handle if we are to have any chance at all."
Lawrence recorded 10.5 sacks, 10th most in the country this season, and 19.5 tackles for a loss, 9th best in the country, among his 67 total tackles, 34 of which were unassisted.
Lawrence also blocked 2 field goals against Southern MIssissippi, and is 1 of only 2 players in the country this year to block multiple kicks in the same game.
Lawrence tied with SLB Corey Bell for second most tackles this season for Boise St., following freshman WLB Ben Weaver, who recorded a team high 86 tackles, 49 of which were unassisted.
Mannion, above, finished the regular season second in the nation behind Fresno St.'s Derek Carr in both passing yards, with 4,403, and touchdown passes, with 36, and was 3rd in the country in completions, with 376 out of his 570 passes.
Cooks, the Biletnikoff Award winner, caught 120 passes, 2nd in the nation, for 1,670 yards, most in the country, and 15 touchdowns, also #2 in the nation. Cooks also kicked in 188 yards and 2 additional touchdowns on 28 carries, mostly fly sweeps, and added 72 more yards on a dozen punt returns, which led the Beavers in both categories.
Together, they helped make Oregon St. the #3 passing offense in the country.
Defensively, both senior CB Rashaad Reynolds and junior CB Steven Nelson had a half dozen interceptions, including the one by Nelson that proved to be the game winner over San Diego St.
Junior safety Ty Zimmerman leads the Beavers in tackles, with 93, 54 of which were solo, with junior LB Jabral Johnson close behind, with 82 tackles, 42 of which were unassisted.
Junior DE Scott Crichton, who along with Cooks, will be making a decision about turning pro a year early after the bowl game, anchors the Oregon St. defensive line, with 44 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss, and 6.5 were for sacks.
The Beavers will be looking to snap a 5 game losing streak that followed a run of 6 consecutive wins, 4 of which were on the road. Like the Broncos, the Beavers worst loss of the season came at the hand of the Huskies, a 69-27 beat down in the next to last game of the regular season.
Oregon St. did bounce back the following week, and took a 35-30 lead with 1:38 left at #10 (#12 at the time) Oregon in the Civil War, only to have the Ducks pull out the 36-35 win, scoring with only 29 seconds left.
What to expect from Boise St., with both their coaching staff and their quarterback situation in upheaval. The Broncos are known for both a dynamic offensive scheme, and creative "trick" plays that further extend it. How much of that will happen today is one of the questions to watch for answers to, but Oregon St. did work in their bowl season practices specifically at stopping them. How effective that preparation will be could be key.
Though both the Broncos and Beavers had "good" years, but disappointing ones that didn't match last year, or expectations for the current season, both put together good final week efforts, earning them an opportunity to renew what's been a good rivalry historically, and a Hawaiian vacation to boot.