Boise State will have a short week to prepare for the Lobos, and it will be a real test for this Broncos defense when they face an offense that likes to utilize the option. It is well known about the past struggles BSU has had with those kind of offensive schemes, and it will certainly be a challenge Friday. However, before we look too far forward, let's look back at what was learned in the Broncos win over Utah State.
Some fans have short memories.
Boise State remains undefeated, and they have yet to trail in a game this season. However, that doesn't stop some fans from blasting their opinions about “what is wrong with the Broncos.” Now, before I get in too much trouble, I only bring this up because I think some perspective is needed. Football is a passionate sport, and teams want passionate fans. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But, looking back in Boise State football history there has never been a season when the Broncos blew every team out of the water, or ran away with every game.
In the famous 2006 season that was capped off by that electric win over Oklahoma, the Broncos faced their share of close games. In week three Boise State traveled to Wyoming and nearly lost to the Cowboys. It was a hard fought game, and BSU battled to a 17-10 win in War Memorial Stadium. The following week the Broncos had another close win over Hawaii 41-34. They then had wins by 12 at New Mexico State, by 16 in Moscow over the Vandals, and nearly lost a heartbreaker to San Jose State in Spartan Stadium squeaking out a 23-20 victory. Yes, there were big wins over Sacramento State, Oregon State, Utah, Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, Utah State, and Nevada. But, not every game on the Boise State schedule was a dominant win.
The same can be said about the 2009 season that Boise State finished with a win over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Yes, there were big wins over Bowling Green, Miami Ohio, Hawaii, San Jose State, the Vandals, Utah State, and New Mexico State. However, does anyone remember the 34-16 win over UC Davis that season? Not the most impressive win, but a win nonetheless. Most fans remember the game that was capped off with a LeGarrette Blount punch to the jaw of Byron Hout when Boise state beat Oregon 19-8 in the season opener. But, in that season Boise State also narrowly defeated the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 28-21 in H.A. Chapman Stadium to remain undefeated. There was also a scare down in Ruston, Louisiana, and that team from Reno put up a good fight with BSU winning by just 11 in Bronco Stadium.
In 2010 Boise State started off by beating Virginia Tech 33-30, and that season most of their wins were dominant. There was the somewhat close game to Oregon State, but for the most part Boise State didn't have any trouble until they traveled to Mackay Stadium down in Reno. Most fans remember that painful 34-31 overtime loss, and a missed field goal in regulation that could have put Boise State into the national championship conversation.
I only bring this up for the sake of perspective. Football is a game where rarely one team trounces everyone on their schedule, or covers point spreads every single week. Undefeated seasons are still pretty special in the CFB world, and I am sure there are over a hundred fan bases that would love to be 4-0 or 5-0 at this point in the season. Boise State has earned a reputation of being one of the best programs in college football. Teams don't sleep on the Broncos, and usually those same teams step-up their game when facing them. I think it's great that fans are passionate, and that they have such high expectations and a demand for excellence. I think it's part of what has made this program so special. I just hope many of those same fans can learn to enjoy hard fought, grind em' out defensive wins, like we saw on Saturday night.
The defense continues to shine.
The 2016 Boise State defense is fun to watch. They swarm to the ball, they display great open-field tackling, they put pressure on the quarterback, and pass coverage has been solid. Even with the 287 yards passing Utah State had against Boise State, we didn't see players out of position, or leaving opposing players wide open because of blown coverage (for the most part). Safeties Coach Gabe Franklin, and Defensive Backs Coach Ashley Ambrose deserve a lot of credit. They have taken a very young group of players, and have them playing at a very high level. When asked about the defense post-game Head Coach Bryan Harsin had this to say, “I know my background is offense, but I'm all about the defense. If you're going to be a successful football team, you play very good defense.”
The old saying, “defense wins championships,” has endured because it is, most of the time, very true. If Boise State wants to win the MWC championship, and perhaps more, this defense will be crucial.
The offense did enough to win, but they will need more.
The offensive struggles are frustrating for the fanbase, but how much more frustrated do you think the players are? They have all the parts and pieces of a dominant offensive engine, and yet the roller coaster ride that is the 2016 Boise State offense continued at home Saturday night. Utah State is one of the top defenses in the Mountain West, and they do deserve some of the credit. However, dropped passes, missed blocks, and some play calling will need to get better going forward. Brett Rypien in the post-game press conference summed it up best, “Coming into this week what I wanted to see most was more consistency,” he said. “We still aren't there yet... we aren't firing on all cylinders yet, but I definitely see it coming, and we got a lot of different pieces that we can use,” he stated.
And then there were two.
Boise State and Miami are the only two teams in the nation that haven't trailed in a game so far this season. This has been because of the quick start of the offense in the first three games, along with solid defensive play. But, Saturday night versus Utah State the defense deserves a lot of credit for what they did against the Aggies. They contained a mobile quarterback, and didn't allow Utah State into the end zone until late in the game.
What Moa can be said?
So how many puns can we create with David Moa name this season? The answer is we don't know, but if he keeps playing the way he is, we might run out. Against the Aggies Moa, a.k.a. “The Moa Constrictor,” had 1.5 sacks on the night, and was a bully all game long. He has had 5.5 sacks in the last three games alone. Sam McCaskill, or as one fan on Twitter calls him, “Sam McPassKill” also finished with 1.5 sacks. Both these players have been impressive so far this season. These two helped a Boise State defense hold Utah state to just four third down conversions in 19 attempts.
There were no offensive turnovers, I repeat, no offensive turnovers.
Yes, there was a muffed punt, but after the eight turnovers of last season versus the Aggies, it had to feel good for fans, players, and coaches to not have a single offensive turnover on the night for Boise State. This is even more impressive when you realize it was against a defense that prides itself on taking the ball away from opposing offenses.
There's always a trick up the sleeve.
Boise State scored its first touchdown on the night with another trick play. This time Cedrick Wilson connected with Jeremy McNichols on a 61-yard touchdown pass. This was the second pass attempt in as many weeks for Wilson, and he is now 2-of-2 on the season.
Jeremy McNichols is amazing, even when he's throwing up.
It was another impressive performance by running back Jeremy McNichols. He finished with 138 yards rushing, 73 yards receiving, and a touchdown. He was also critical late in the game once again grinding out yardage and the clock. However, during the course of the game he was tackled on the Boise State sideline, and remained down for a bit. The trainers seemed to be looking at his shoulder, and then it was reported by the ESPN sideline reporter that he was throwing up in a garbage can. As gross as that sounds, you have to be impressed with his toughness. No, I don't need to hear your jokes about he was throwing up because the offense made him sick, etc., etc. The fact is Jeremy McNichols is a competitor. Plain and simple, he continues to prove his worth game-after-game, and week-after-week.
As the game was about to finish up Boise State cornerback Jonathan Moxey was called for targeting late in the fourth quarter. Yes, we all want player safety. Yes, there are very obvious targeting calls that are valid. I don't know if this was one of them. I am going to read the rule closer this week, but when watching the play again on tape it looks like the offensive player and Moxey are making a move for the ball, and Moxey is certainly going low to the ground when they collide. It will be interesting to see if the Broncos can appeal this call because as it stands right now he will miss the first half of next Friday's game against New Mexico.
The Utah State game had a number of potential Broncos in attendance as well as some already committed. By Sunday afternoon at least two “Go Broncos” were sent out by coach Harsin. For those who don't know, he Tweets that out when a new player commits to play ball at Boise State.
Climbing the Polls.
Boise State made its debut at No.19 on the Coaches Poll this week. That's a jump of eight spots from the previous week when the Broncos were sitting at No.27. Boise State also made ground in the AP Poll jumping from No.24 to No.19 as well. Now with 385 votes, the Broncos sit just six points behind the 4-1 Florida Gators, and ahead of Oklahoma, Colorado, West Virginia, Florida State, Utah, and Virginia Tech in the AP Top 25.