West Linn's Elijah Molden named Las Vegas Bowl MVP
The last time West Linn fans saw Elijah Molden in a Lions' uniform, it was pretty special.
The senior running back and defensive back rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns to lead his team to a record-breaking 62-7 win over Central Catholic in the 2016 Class 6A state championship football game at Providence Park.
Now, the rest of the country is beginning to understand what West Linn fans have known for a long time — Elijah Molden is a very, very good football player.
Molden just completed his junior season with the University of Washington and capped his year with a bang, earning Most Valuable Player honors in the Las Vegas Bowl after leading the Huskies past Boise State 38-7 on Saturday, Dec. 21, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Whitney, Nevada.
Molden picked off one pass in the game, forced a fumble and played a central role in sending Washington head coach Chris Petersen out with a big win over No. 18 Boise State — the team Petersen coached before he started his six-year tenure with the Huskies. Petersen announced at the start of December that he would step away from the team at the end of the 2019 season.
"It's a pretty good incentive with (Petersen leaving) and the seniors, too," Molden said in the post-game press conference. "Every game is important, but some games are a little more important and we had a lot of reasons to kind of let this simmer, and when we went out there, we played well."
Washington started fast, kept its foot to the accelerator, and after Molden picked off a screen pass by Boise quarterback Hank Bachmeier and returned it 31 yards, extended its lead to 24-0 on a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Richard Newton early in the third quarter.
"It starts with this guy," Petersen said of Molden. "When we get turnovers, it changes everything. We got turnovers tonight and it was good."
For the game, Molden finished tied for team-high honors with nine tackles (six solo), but his performance against Boise State was just an extension of what he'd done for the Huskies all year.
Beyond the Huskies' big win and Molden's heroics, the Vegas Bowl was special for another reason in the Molden household. It turns out that Petersen coached at the University of Oregon back when Elijah's dad, Alex Molden, starred for the Ducks (Alex Molden is a member of the University of Oregon Hall of Fame and followed his U of O career by playing eight years as a cornerback in the National Football League with the New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions.
Petersen initially downplayed his impact on Alex Molden's college career, joking that "I was coaching the wide receivers back then, and really the only coaching that I did with his dad was just talk a lot of smack to him during practice."
Turning serious, Petersen added this about his relationship with both Moldens: "They have a wonderful family. I was so excited when we got Elijah to come to Washington because of our connection with his family because I know what type of people they are. And this guy is like everything you want in a college football player, for the type of student he is, how he treats people and how he plays."
In his team's 13 games (Washington finished 8-5 overall), Elijah Molden led Washington with 79 tackles (49 solo), made 5.5 tackles for 15 yards in losses, led Washington with four interceptions and led his team with 17 passes defended.
In response, the honors came rolling in for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound former West Linn star. In addition to his Las Vegas Bowl honors, Molden's junior season also included the following awards:
• He was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 team.
• He was named to the Pro Football Focus All-America second team.
• He was named first-team All-Pac-12.
• He was named to the Pro Football Focus and Associated Press All-Pac-12 first teams.
• He was named to Phil Steele's All-Pac-12 first team and an All-America honorable mention.
• He earned a spot on the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll.
• He earned honorable mention on the preseason All-Pac-12 team.
• He was named the UW coaches' defensive player of the game for the Vegas Bowl.
• He was named winner of the Husky Excellence Award and the 101 Club Academic Award at the team's postseason awards banquet.
With all that hardware crowding its way into his personal trophy case, one might expect Molden to take a well-earned rest after his fabulous 2019 campaign.
"I feel pretty good but I can always get better," he continued at the end of the Vegas Bowl press conference. "I've always been sort of a perfectionist so I'm looking forward to the offseason where I can get better."
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