HONOLULU (AP) -Boise State was greeted by a big banner that read ``Western Athletic Conference champions'' as it opened practice in preparation for Sunday's Hawaii Bowl.
The banner was proudly displayed at the University of Hawaii, where the Broncos are practicing this week.
``They have the right to put that up there. They earned that. But all that does for us is to put a bitter taste in our mouth,'' Broncos senior quarterback Taylor Tharp said. ``Hopefully the young guys, that motivates them for next year.''
Boise State's five-year stranglehold on the WAC was snapped this year by Hawaii, which won its first outright conference title and earned a Bowl Championship Series berth to face Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
The Warriors are basically trying to repeat the Broncos' season from last year, which was highlighted by a stunning victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Broncos coach Chris Petersen said he hopes the Warriors' sign will serve as motivation for his team, which finished the regular season 10-2 and faces East Carolina (7-5) in the Hawaii Bowl.
``Right now, we're concerned with East Carolina and trying to do a good job this week and take care of business, but I'm sure they all saw it,'' he said.
As if the banner didn't sting enough, the Broncos practiced for about 20 minutes next to the Warriors' workout. The two WAC powerhouses glanced at each other, but didn't exchange any pleasantries.
``It was interesting watching those guys over there,'' Petersen said.
The Broncos ended the regular season Nov. 23 with a 37-27 loss to the Warriors. When asked if he wanted a rematch on the practice field, Petersen replied: ``Next year.''
Petersen also announced that the team's top receiver, Jeremy Childs, and two other backup players did not make the trip and will miss Sunday's game for violating team rules.
Besides Childs, who set a school record for receptions this season, cornerback Keith McGowen and linebacker Ben Chandler were suspended for the game.
``Unfortunate, but we'll move forward,'' Petersen said. ``Somebody has always stepped up, carried the flag and we expect no different.''
He did not provide details of the violations other than to say they were unrelated.
Childs, a sophomore, was voted first-team all-WAC after finishing the season with 82 catches for 1,045 yards and nine touchdowns.
``Initially, I was devastated,'' Tharp said.
He called Childs his ``go-to guy'' this season.
``To not have him out there, I feel like a part of myself is missing,'' Tharp said. ``But like coach Pete said, we have young talent on this team and a lot of guys have been stepping up. That's what we're going to need.''
Without Childs, the Broncos will rely on freshmen Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who combined for 74 catches and 11 TDs this year.
Tharp said it will be a chance for the youngsters to shine, but the team cannot afford to lose any more players to injuries or disciplinary problems.
``We had an incident last year with someone being sent home, so we know our coaches are serious about the team rules and taking care of business the right way,'' he said. ``We can enjoy this thing, but we have to enjoy it the right way.''
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