The Boise State offense started slow in the rain, scoring just seven points before the half. However, by the middle of the fourth quarter it looked as if all was well for the team and its fans. Then, without warning, although the rain had mostly stopped, painful lessons began to cascade onto the blue turf. Let's look at some of those lessons and takeaways from Saturday night.
A win is not a win.
In his post-game press conference Boise State Head Coach Bryan Harsin corrected the idea that a “win is a win”. Harsin said,“Not a win's not a win – a win is very valuable, and it's hard to get every single week.” He went on to explain that his team won a game against a good team, and “protected our house.” Harsin was all about the bottom line. “It's a win,” He said. “There's no apologies for a “W” at all, whatsoever.” “Is there a positive? Hell ya,” he stated. “Major positive – 6-0,” he added.
If I had a McNichols for every time "The McWeapon" takes over a game.
Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols touched the ball 44 times in the game against the Rams. He had 40 carries (a new school record) for 217 yards and two two touchdowns. He also had 4 catches for 47 yards on the night. Once again McNichols took the game over, chewed up yardage and digits on the clock, and helped propel the Broncos to their sixth win of the season.
A three legged stool.
Football is made up of three phases; offense, defense, and special teams. Boise State has been playing well on defense this season. There have been great moments for the offense as well, but the scoring droughts that have shown up a few times this season have to be a concern. However, with the weapons they have on offense the Broncos are doing enough to win, and should be able to do a lot more. When it comes to special teams however, there have been moments that have hurt Boise State, and Saturday night was no exception.
The three phases of the game are a lot like a three legged stool. If you remove one of those legs, the stool collapses. Against Colorado State special teams did that, but recovered in time to stop the tipping. On two onside kicks in-a-row Boise State players were either out of position, or simply couldn't handle the ball, and this isn't the first time we have seen this kind of thing this season (Oregon State). Cedrick Wilson was able to get the third onside kick, but if he hadn't, this might be a very depressing week in Boise, Idaho.
Coach Harsin defended his players in the post-game press conference explaining that it's difficult to handle a ball coming that fast, and he's right. However, privately you know he probably isn't very happy with what transpired. This is an area that his team has to fix. After some mistakes made early this season on kickoff coverage, and punt returns, the special teams of the Broncos needs to step up if this team wants to win out. The team made it through this game, but if corrections aren't made it will catch up to them.
Mum's the word.
Just about anyone who watched the game Saturday noticed that Boise State's dynamic wide receiver Cedrick Wilson did not play in the first half of the game, but he was suited up on the side line. He did however, come in for a play on offense in the second half, and he was also the player that snagged the third Colorado State onside kick that thwarted the Rams comeback effort. When asked about why Wilson missed playing time coach Harsin didn't have a lot to say. When asked if he would be ready to go when BYU comes to town on Thursday Harsin quickly added, “Yep he'll be ready for BYU,” and then moved on.
Update: Coach Harsin explained Monday in his weekly press conference that Wilson had a high-ankle sprain, and could have played more if needed.
It's not over 'til it's over.
The 2006 Fiesta Bowl was a game in which Boise State led 28-10 in the third quarter until Oklahoma came roaring back. The rest is history, and Boise State fans know all to well that a game isn't over until it's over. On Saturday night during half time the Broncos honored that 2006 team on The Blue. The current team even wore throwback Fiesta Bowl uniforms and helmets. However, just because they did so didn't mean the team had to let the CSU Rams come back late in the game as a tribute. Although a fake Statue of Liberty play was called, and the Rams did try their own version the hook-and-ladder late in the game, there didn't need to be any other similarities. However, the Rams almost had their own fiesta on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium.
It finally happened.
Boise State was the last team in the FBS to not trail in any game this season. When Colorado State managed to go up 3-0 it broke the streak.
Thomas Sperbeck can drop a pass... or two?
A crazy thing happened Saturday night. Boise State wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck actually dropped a couple of passes. One of those passes would have been a touchdown in the first quarter. When asked about it Sperbeck said, “I think I was trying to let it cross my face, I should have just went up and caught it, but it hit me, I think it hit me in the face mask.” He then added, “It's just one of those things you wish you could have back.”
However, this wouldn't be how his game against the Rams would be remembered. Sperbeck led the team with five receptions for 72 yards and a score. He also threw an eleven-yard touchdown to A.J. Richardson. Sperbeck is now just 34 yards shy of the Boise State all-time receiving yards record. If all goes according to plan he should break that record versus BYU Thursday.
The Broncos need to finish strong.
For the fourth time this season Boise State allowed a team to get late points after dominating a game. Washington State scored 14 points late to make it close, Oregon State scored 17 second-half points to make a dominate win look much closer, and New Mexico got 14 points during cleanup time against backups. Saturday night however, this trend almost cost more than some poll votes or junk-time numbers. It nearly cost BSU a game, the chance at a NY6 bowl, and the national respect they have had to earn the hard way this season.
Boise State is 6-0. They have only trailed once this season by a score of 3-0. They are ranked No.14 in both the Amway Coaches Poll, and the AP Top 25. They have the No.23 ranked offense, are averaging just over 300 yards per game, and are averaging just over 35 points per contest. However, there is no doubt that with the talented offensive line they have, the remarkable running back, the weapons at wide receiver, and the best quarterback in the MWC, that this offense should be much more consistent.
There are plenty of theories out there about why this is not happening, but the truth is it probably isn't just one thing. This is an issue that will need to be resolved quickly because BYU is coming to town, and they are the biggest test remaining on the Broncos regular season schedule. Fail to score points on them, and the season could take a downturn.
Boise State came out against Colorado State and appeared to play uninspired Saturday night. In the first quarter they looked flat. The offense was going through the motions, and the defense wasn't swarming like they have been in every other game this season. It was an odd site. The second-half was a different story, as they looked much more inspired, but this team has yet to put together a full game. Yet, they are undefeated.
They will need to start inspired, play inspired, and finished inspired to beat a BYU Cougars team that doesn't give up. Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” The will of the Broncos will be tested this Thursday.
The Broncos have just five days to get ready for the Cougars. It will be a Thursday night game on The Blue, and an effort like Saturday won't cut it. This team will need all three phases playing inspired, consistent, and avoiding mental mistakes and missed opportunities. When BYU and BSU play it's always a hard-hitting game with plenty of drama. No doubt this season it will be the same.