LAS VEGAS – Field goals were the reason Boise State played in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas the previous two years. Missed field goals against TCU in 2011 and at Nevada in 2010 kept the Broncos from completing undefeated seasons and perhaps playing for the BCS championship, certainly removing them from big money BCS bowls, etched forever in infamy.
But on Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium, Boise State put to rest its field goal woes, for one game anyway, as Michael Frisina connected on a 27-yard kick with 1:16 to play in the fourth quarter for a 28-26 win over Washington.
“I thought third time’s the charm,” linebacker J.C. Percy said. “I knew Fris was going to make it.”
“I knew I made it the time I hit it,” Frisina said. “I don’t know where it ended up, I just know it went through the goalposts.
“That’s all that matters.”
Frisina was 3-for-3 on field goals, including from a career-best 34 yards out early in the first quarter. It was the longest Boise State kick since Nov. 19, 2010, one week before the 34-31 overtime loss at Nevada.
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen had met with Frisina on Monday to make sure the senior was ready for what was expected to be a close game, though it was envisioned as a defensive battle between teams both ranked in the top 35 nationally in yards allowed.
“I was prepared because he was like, ‘I think this is going to come down to a couple kicks,’ and sure enough it did,” Frisina said.
Frisina had never kicked a game-winner, let alone attempted one at any level of football. The closest he had come was a fourth-quarter try to go up by 10, Frisina said.
Instead, there he was on the right hash after Shane Williams-Rhodes returned a kickoff 47 yards down the Boise State (11-2) to the Washington 42 and four D.J. Harper runs and three Joe Southwick passes and one run picked up another 32 yards.
Frisina calmly made the kick, one that means “everything” to him, he said.
“It is every kicker’s dream to hit a game-winning field goal,” Frisina said. “For this one to come in my last collegiate game, the last game of my career, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Petersen said he was more concerned about the mechanics of getting the ball down rather than Frisina’s kick with long snapper Chris Roberson suspended for a violation of team rules.
Sophomore backup Kevin Keane got the ball away cleanly, redshirt sophomore holder Matt Miller got it down cleanly, and Frisina put it through for Boise State’s fifth consecutive season of 11 or more wins and third consecutive MAACO Bowl win.
It also set the stage for 2013, as Southwick delivered another strong performance. After struggling early on this season as the successor to Kellen Moore, college football’s winning quarterback, the redshirt junior completed 26-of-38 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Southwick also rediscovered his mobility, something that had been lacking much to Petersen’s consternation. Southwick carried the ball 11 times for 39 yards, converting three third-downs with his legs and extending several other plays.
“He has finally figured out that he has legs and he knows how to run,” Petersen said “He came in here as a good athlete and somehow getting through our program he has turned into a bad athlete, in his mind at least. He needs to do more of that. Everybody knows a scrambling quarterback can crush you, and he made some big plays there. His whole game was extremely clean.”
Southwick admitted he had been in a “robot mode” at times this season, trying to stay in the pocket and go through his progressions instead of taking off even at the expense of a positive play.
“Just going back to my instincts of just playing football, it was awesome being able to use them,” Southwick said.
That was the progression Boise State made all season, the development that both Southwick and Petersen were pleased to see.
“I think the whole season our M.O. on offense was just get better,” Southwick said. “The most satisfying thing about this season is each week you saw us get a little better, each position group.
“In the last three or four games, it really showed. We were really executing at a high level as an offense.”
Said Petersen: “It’s been a hard season, but what has been really satisfying is going to practice with these guys. They don’t go through the motions. They have shown up and they try to get better.”
There was no better example than Frisina. He made 15-of-20 field goals on the season, making 11 of his last 13 attempts and ending with Boise State career making his last six kicks.
“What a game. This guy came out,” said Southwick, slapping Frisina on the shoulder, “ice in his veins, and knocked it through.”
Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.