Boise State's football coaches award the right to carry "The Hammer" prior to each game to the player who gives the most effort, plays with the most passion, delivers a key hit, etc. But when it comes to "putting the hammer down" on the opposition, the young Broncos have not mastered that task.
For example, one need look no further than one year ago when Boise State held a commanding 37-13 lead over Oregon in Eugene. The Broncos let Oregon off the hook and it nearly came back to bite them, as they won a squeaker 37-32. Deja vu in Reno last fall when Boise State grabbed a 24-3 halftime lead and then had to hang on for a 41-34 victory. The Broncos did it again in postseason, taking a 10-0 lead over TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. They played with fire yet again, only this time they got burnt to the tune of a 17-16 TCU win. These lost leads and close calls are reminiscent of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when Boise State surged to a 28-10 lead and only a miracle finish saved them in Glendale.
The 2002 Boise State team set a great example that these Broncos should sit up and notice. They blasted Wyoming 35-13, Utah State 63-38, a 10-4 Hawai'i team 58-31, Tulsa 52-24, a pretty good Fresno State team 67-21, San Jose State 45-8, UTEP 58-3, Rice 49-7, Louisiana Tech 36-10 and Nevada 44-7. No close calls there. One of their toughest games, in fact, was an 18-point blowout of Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
A truly great team doesn't make mistakes like was seen by the 2008 Broncos, and certainly not three times in one season. If the 2009 Boise State wants to achieve its potential, they will need to clean up that aspect of their game--when they have a team down, especially one as talented as Oregon, they need to finish the job. Lady momentum can be a twisting, turning phenomenon and once you have it, you'd better hold on to it. That means playing with the same intensity at the end of the game, no matter what the score, that you did at the start. It means making crushing blocks and bruising tackles down the stretch, running crisp routes and following your assignments.
Easier said than done. Boise State often doesn't make mistakes like that. Perhaps it can be chalked up to an inexperienced group last fall, but one thing's for sure: if Boise State leaves the hammer on the sidelines after the pre-game celebrations, a second chance will be like gold to the Oregon Ducks.