Drawing a Line in the Sand

In years past, Boise State lived on solid line play on both sides of the ball. The Broncos could do no wrong on offense with the o-line providing a sure-fire level of protection for quarterbacks and running backs. Defensively, Boise State's defensive line stopped the opposition in its tracks, allowing linebackers to stuff the run. This is not what we have seen in the first four games of 2008.

The game of football is often won at the line of scrimmage.  It's the big boys up front that clear the way for the entire offense to be successful.  Likewise, a tenacious pass rush and a great amount of time spent in the opponents' backfield will make it very tough for an offense to do what they want to do.


Boise State is only averaging 140 yards per game on the ground this season, a lackluster 73rd in the country.  Ian Johnson, once a Heisman trophy candidate, is now just 73rd individually. 


Quite simply, the holes aren't there for backs like Johnson to run through.  The members of this offensive line are fine with backing up and pass protecting.  But when it comes to actually pushing people around (what football is supposed to be about), this group falls short.  Their best effort results in not allowing opposing defenses to tackle a runner in the backfield. 


Line Coach Scott Huff is in charge with bringing his troops around.  Huff is certainly a known commodity around Boise—he anchored the offensive line at center in the early part of this decade when Boise State first burst onto the national scene.  The Broncos were 14th in the country by averaging 229.83 yards per game and scoring a nation's leading 49 touchdowns on the ground.  What has happened?


We know opponents have increasingly "stacked the box" against Boise State, putting more defenders up on the line of scrimmage in an effort the stop the Bronco ground game.  They have done this for years, however, and it had little effect in years past.  In the first four games, Boise State has had no answer.    


You can flip the lines around to the defensive side but the news gets no better for Boise State.  The Bronco defense is 60th in the country against the run, allowing 140 yards per game.  When you look at those two numbers (140 yards rushing and 140 rushing yards allowed) the conclusion is clear:  when Boise State goes against itself, it would do OK.  However, most of the country's offensive lines are better than Boise State and most of the nation's defensive lines are better as well. 


In 2002, Boise State was 16th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 109.4 yards per game.  In 2003, the Broncos were 11th by allowing just over 100 yards per contest.  They were again 10th in 2004 in allowing 103.9 yards.  Boise State was 16th in 2005, allowing 107.9.  In the Fiesta Bowl year of 2006, the Broncos were 8th, allowing 89.1 yards per game.  Last year, in apparently what was a precursor of things to come, the Broncos slipped to 35th in giving up 130.8 yards a game.


Much improvement, then, is needed on both sides of the ball.  Boise State has been fortunate to be undefeated in four games so far.  In the remaining games, the Broncos will need to begin to control the line of scrimmage.  You know, the way they used to!

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