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October 24, 2014

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Elite senior class powers Boise State into MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Broncos out for 50th victory in four years against Sun Devils

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Christopher DeVargas

Players from the Boise State football team watch highlights of this years season up on Fremont Street’s overhead canopy, Monday Dec. 19, 2011. Boise State and ASU will face off at this year’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium.

2011 Outback Buffet Bowl

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman welcomes the Boise State Broncos and the Arizona State Sun Devils during the Outback Buffet Bowl on the Fremont Street Experience, Monday Dec. 19, 2011. Boise State and ASU will face off at this year's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium. Launch slideshow »

No major recruiting services found the 2007 and 2008 Boise State classes impressive enough to rank in the top 50 nationally.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen should probably demand a recount. The Broncos senior class, made up entirely of pieces from those two recruiting hauls, comes into Thursday’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas against Arizona State looking for its school-record 50th victory in four years.

It’s not a stretch to label the group as one of the most accomplished in recent college football history.

“We certainly recognize that,” Petersen said. “Around Boise, you don’t go too far without hearing about it. We know these guys have been really good players for us for a long time.”

The 25 seniors on Boise State’s bowl roster have established the program as a perennial power by losing only three games, by a combined five points, in four years. They’ve served as the cornerstones on teams that have continually captured the attention of America for their dominance in a non-BCS conference.

Quarterback Kellen Moore and left tackle Nate Potter starred as freshmen on the 2008 team that went undefeated in the regular season before losing 17-16 to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Eight members of the class of 2012, with a few others playing prominent reserve roles, started as sophomores on the team that went 14-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl two years ago.

This year, 17 of Boise State’s 22 offensive and defensive starters are seniors. Moore, who has more victories than any quarterback in college football history, admitted it would be emotional at Sam Boyd Stadium when they took the field together for the final time.

“But I think we got a little example of it on senior night,” Moore said. “We went through that whole emotional experience and now we’ve got this one. We’re excited and looking forward to it.”

Moore’s story mirrors most of his teammates. Evaluators overlooked him because of his 5-foot-11 frame. Although he was the Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year of high school in Washington, Moore received only two Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers.

Petersen signed several other less-heralded players, including Las Vegas High defensive lineman Billy Winn, like Moore. Petersen thought the group was better than advertised, but didn’t know how outstanding they could become right away.

“You don’t know until you get them in your program for a short amount of time,” Petersen said. “It was probably after the first year that we had them (because) most of them redshirted.”

Moore fondly reflected on when he first arrived on the Boise State campus and met his comrades. They bonded quickly and looked forward to the future.

“We saw a great opportunity,” Moore said. “We had a ton of talent and guys from all over the place. It was a matter of putting it all together.”

They’ve done that and bought into all of Petersen’s philosophies along the way. It’s part of the reason why Petersen isn’t the least bit worried about the Broncos lacking motivation for the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

As the No. 6 team in the nation, Boise State deserved a higher-profile bowl bid. A date with a .500 Arizona State squad that recently fired its coach is far from ideal, but Petersen expects nothing less than full focus from his experienced bunch.

“I think our guys are fairly well-trained in our thought process,” Petersen said.

Moore also scoffed at notions of the Broncos having nothing to play for against the Sun Devils. It’s the last time most of their standouts will play together.

And a 50th victory is a milestone with meaning to the group.

“It’s something Boise State can be proud of,” Moore said, “and the senior class can be proud of.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. They actually played in back-to-back years in bowl games. In 2008, TCU beat Boise State in the Poinsettia. After the 2009 season, Boise State beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.