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BY JASON VONDERSMITH/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Broncos get Ducks' undivided attention in bowl game

COURTESY: BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY - Boise State coach Bryan Harsin will lead the Broncos in Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl game against Oregon.Uncertainty is gone, the chosen coach is staying and the Oregon Ducks are focused on their Las Vegas Bowl opponent without any worry over who will lead them in the future.

And Boise State (10-3), the Ducks' opponent in the 12:30 p.m. Saturday game (ABC) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, will "get all of our attention," quarterback Justin Herbert says.

Defensively, the Broncos play a similar defense to Oregon's and "they're disruptive, top 25 in just about every defensive category," says Mario Cristobal, the new Oregon head coach. "High-effort, high-motor operation. They force turnovers, they're efficient in the red zone, they don't allow big plays."

A top Boise State player is linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the Mountain West defensive player of the year.

The Broncos are 20th in the country in run defense, giving up 125.8 yards per game. They've allowed more than 200 only once.

The Ducks (7-5) are eighth in run offense (268 yards per game), with 40 rushing TDs.

Offensively for the Broncos, QB Brett Rypien leads the way. From film he has watched, Cristobal says the nephew of former NFL star Mark Rypien is "efficient, tough, athletic, he knows exactly what to do. Very well-coached individual."

The Broncos may be without 1,000-yard rusher Alexander Mattison, who had a boot on his left foot and lower leg in an appearance in Boise last week; he was injured against Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game.

"I know at that position, you have to be almost full speed because you're playing tailback and the cuts and how you want to run," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin told the Idaho Statesman. "If we can get him in (this week) where he can have some practice reps, then we'll find out if he's ready to go."

Cedrick Wilson (73 receptions, 1,290 yards, six TDs) and Jake Roh (nine TDs) are top Rypien targets.

Overall, Cristobal adds of the Broncos: "They're tough and physical, talented and well-coached. We know how good they are."

But he adds: "Our guys are going to go into this game with a chip on their shoulder. I feel our guys will be more than ready ... I'm really confident about the mind-set of our guys."

n Cristobal says his players will be instructed to stay out of trouble in "Sin City," and there'll be rules and curfews and such.

And, "if you have to have a ginormous book of rules and policies, you probably have the wrong guys in the locker room."

n It'll be the second year in a row that UO players will have off both Christmas and New Year's Day.

Of course, last year it wasn't by choice, it was by virtue of the team's 4-8 record.

The Vegas Bowl is one of six bowls to be held on Dec. 16, the first day of postseason games.

n Boise State players made a halftime appearance at a Broncos basketball game recently. According to the Idaho Statesman, receiver Wilson proclaimed, "See us beat the Ducks, just like the basketball team did," 73-70 on Dec. 1 at Matthew Knight Arena.

The Broncos beat the Ducks in football 37-32 in 2008 and 19-8 in 2009, with now-Washington Huskies boss Chris Petersen as head coach.

On the Dec. 16 match-up, Harsin tells the hometown newspaper: "One of the things that's exciting is this is another school we run into in recruiting. The branding of it, people know Oregon. We know about each other, there's history there."

n Cristobal says this year the Ducks have set "a strong foundation, especially at the line of scrimmage. Those guys have played with toughness and energy and knocked back opponents and set the tone on a game-to-game basis."

n The Ducks have suffered several de-commitments (including receivers) with the departure of Willie Taggart as coach and his landing in a new job at Florida State, but Cristobal and the program held a big recruiting weekend before they left for Vegas. It sounds like Cristobal might be salvaging much of the ballyhooed class.

We'll see. A strong Vegas bowl and another week of recruiting before the Dec. 20-22 early signing period will factor in heavily.

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