Given Boise State's recent history with kickers and season-determining field goals, it was a bit of a daring move.
Except for one pass to the end zone, the Broncos worked for the kind of field goal that has haunted them, even calling three plays in a row to make sure Michael Frisina would kick from the right hash mark.
"Mike's done a great job most of the season," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "Once we figured out (where) he's very, very consistent and comfortable, we used that landmark. He hasn't missed since we figured it out."
Frisina didn't miss this time, either, coming through by delivering a 27-yard field goal with 1:16 left to give the Broncos a 28-26 victory over Washington in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on Saturday.
Safety Jeremy Ioane clinched the victory before 33,217 at Sam Boyd Stadium with an interception with 14 seconds to play.
Boise State (11-2) became the first team to win three Las Vegas bowls in a row, and the Broncos have won four straight bowls overall as Petersen improved his postseason record to 5-2.
The Broncos overcame the second-best rushing performance in Las Vegas bowl history. Washington's Bishop Sankey rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, second only to a 254-yard effort by Utah's Mike Anderson in 1999 against Fresno State. Sankey was so impressive, he became the first Most Valuable Player in the bowl's 21-year history from a losing team.
Sankey nearly led the Huskies (7-6) to victory. They took their first - and only - lead when Travis Coons' 38-yard field goal with 4:09 remaining made it 26-25.
But then the Huskies suffered a special teams breakdown when Boise State's Shane Williams-Rhodes returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to Washington's 42-yard line.
The Huskies still had a chance to stop Boise State and all but seal the win by forcing a fourth-and-1. But Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick pushed through on a sneak to barely pick up the first down to Washington's 32.
"At first, I was kind of like, 'Uh oh, I don't know if I got this,' " said Southwick, who passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 39 yards. "But then I really lowered my legs and tried to move that pile as little bit as I could, and it was good enough for a first down. That was a big play."
It was a close enough play that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian could have challenged the spot, but he didn't want to gamble losing one of his three timeouts.
"I contemplated it," Sarkisian said. "It's a hard one to overturn. It's a quarterback sneak, and he's piled up inside the pile."
The Huskies wound up using two timeouts after it became clear Boise State was playing for a field goal a few plays later. For the Broncos, however, to leave the game up to a kicker in that situation would be like trusting Congress to reach a critical budget deal.
Boise State has suffered its share of pain, with Kyle Brotzman missing two critical field goals in 2010 at UNR and Dan Goodale sending a game-winning attempt wide right last year against Texas Christian. The Broncos were denied Bowl Championship Series appearances because of those failures, forcing them to instead spend both postseasons in Las Vegas.
"I thought, 'Third time's a charm,' " said linebacker J.C. Percy, who led Boise State with 17 tackles. "I knew (Frisina) was going to make it."
Petersen was more concerned about a bad snap than the kick, and Frisina said he wasn't thinking about Boise State's past.
"We were just focused on this game right now, and if it happened to come down to a field goal, so be it," Frisina said. "I had a talk with Coach Pete earlier this week. He said he wanted to make sure I was ready, I was prepared, because he was like, 'OK, I think this is going to come down to a couple of kicks.' Sure enough, it did."
And Frisina gave the Broncos plenty to celebrate three days before Christmas.
"It's every kicker's dream to hit a game-winning field goal," he said. "For this one to come on the last game of my career, I couldn't ask for anything more."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.