- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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During Chris Petersen's tenure at Boise State, he was known for getting his teams to beat others that were -- on paper -- better than his own. He almost did that Friday when he returned to Boise State with his own Washington Huskies.
The Broncos had a 16-0 lead before Petersen's Huskies took the field for the second half and led a charge that pulled them within three -- before kicker Cameron Van Winkle's game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt missed just right, giving Boise the 16-13 victory.
It was a heartbreaking end to a day that had mostly been awkward for Petersen. He chose not to exchange pregame pleasantries with Broncos coach Bryan Harsin, and their postgame handshake was stiff, as expected.
In his return to Boise, Petersen decided to give the start to quarterback Jake Browning, the first true freshman to do so for the Huskies. Because of this and the Huskies' struggles along the offensive line, the Broncos were able to stack the box and contain the Washington rushing attack, as well as Browning's general production.
Washington's efforts to do the same weren't as successful, especially in the first half. Boise State leaned heavily on Jeremy McNichols in the first half to make up for the yardage left behind by Jay Ajayi, and he did just that, rushing for two touchdowns and 70 yards on just 14 carries. Until the second half, it didn't look like the Huskies had any kind of answer for McNichols (or Stanford transfer Kelsey Young).
At the end of the day, Petersen helped aid the effort he started when he was at Boise State -- he kept the Broncos' home turf win streak alive.
What the win means for Boise State: The Broncos came into the 2015 season with high hopes of being a Group of 5 representative in a New Year's Six bowl, and though this win over Washington was sloppy, it was a win nonetheless. An early-season loss isn't completely unforgivable (Ohio State taught everyone that last season), but an early-season loss to Washington at home could've spelled disaster for a non-Power 5 team. The Broncos travel to BYU next weekend, giving them another chance to pick up a solid win for their résumé.
What the loss means for Washington: It wasn't pretty but it was far better than many expected. The defense didn't necessarily look like a group that lost nearly its entire front seven to graduation and the NFL. Defensive back Budda Baker was all over the field and the special teams were ... special. Browning had his moments when he looked like a freshman, but he also had his moments when he played very well. All things considered, this was a far better performance -- especially in the second half -- than was expected, and the positive moments can give Huskies fans reasons to be optimistic.
Player of the game: Washington's special teams -- it's cheating to pick a group instead of a player, but they were so good we couldn't not pick them. The examples were plenty: Baker blocking a Broncos PAT, Van Winkle's 40-yard field goal to put the Huskies on the board, Dante Pettis' 76-yard punt return touchdown to pull Washington within six, and Jaydon Mickens' block of a Broncos punt at the 19-yard line (which set up a Washington field goal to pull the Huskies within three).
Stat of the game: Browning completed the first five pass attempts of his college career. Though he finished 20-of-34 for 150 yards and one interception (and closed out the game by taking a few sacks he should've avoided), it was a promising performance for Washington's quarterback of the future.
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