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Behind Enemy Lines: Boise State

Oregon State hosts Boise State on Saturday, and as we do each week, we check in with an expert who covers the opponent in our weekly "Ask the Expert" feature at BeaverBlitz. Today we check in with Martin Sondermann from BroncoCountry.com.

1.       What has been the biggest change in the Boise State program with Coach Harsin at the helm?

Sondermann:  As you might imagine, Harsin and Petersen are two totally different personalities. Harsin brings emotion, energy, and passion to everything he does--and anyone around him is going to know about it.  Coach Petersen had all those same qualities, but he displayed them in a more subdued way, and in many ways was introverted. He also didn't seem to care too much for the public side of coaching, but the same can't be said of Harsin. Of course, that's just my opinion from my own observations. However, both coaches seem to care deeply for their players, and focus on a blue-collar work ethic, and demand excellence on the field, in the classroom, and in each player's personal life. Since Harsin has arrived he has continued a demand for excellence, and he has brought a lot of his own flavor which includes a more open atmosphere around the Boise State program. 

2.       With Oregon State’s struggles over the past several years, is there a chance Boise overlooks the Beavers?

Sondermann: I guess there is always the possibility of overlooking a team, but it doesn't feel that way in Boise right now. Regardless of Oregon State's record or recent struggles, this game is not just "another opponent" to the Broncos. The Pac-12 is highly respected in these parts, and as a member of that conference the Beavers will not be taken lightly. The fact is that Boise State doesn't get many chances to face power five competition, and when they do get their opportunities they usually make them count. Also, there are some members of this team that remember the fiasco in 2013 when Oregon State thumped the Broncos 38-23 in the Hawaii Bowl (a game that wasn't even as close as the score might indicate). That painful game came on the heels of losing head coach Chris Petersen, and there was also a lot of team drama to go along with the trip to the islands. Not to say that will be a huge motivation, but it might contribute to some of those players wanting to set things right. Lastly, the chip on the shoulder seems to be back this season for Boise State. After starting 2-0, and defeating Washington State at home, the Broncos aren't getting much respect nationally. That may be another focus factor going into this weeks contest. 

3.       If the Beavers are able to pull off the upset how would the Boise fan base react?

Sondermann: I think it would be a huge blow to the fan base, and the program. In 2014 when Harsin came back to BSU there were limited expectations. However, the Broncos went on to win the Fiesta Bowl that year. Last season there were high expectations, and then Boise State faltered down the stretch losing two games in a row on the blue turf of Albertsons Stadium. It rattled the fans, and that support still hasn't recovered even after a 2-0 start. If Boise State were to lose at Oregon State, the fan support might take a significant dip, and it could have a detrimental impact on the rest of the season. 

4.       What are the strengths of this year’s squad? Who are some players Beaver fans should know?

Sondermann: The strength of this team in 2015 is the offense. Quarterback Brett Rypien is an accurate, methodical passer, and he has several really good targets. Leading that list is senior wide out Thomas Sperbeck who has some of the stickiest hands in Boise State history. Along side Sperbeck you have a very talented, and future NFL player Cedrick Wilson who has shown only a fraction of what he can do in the first two games of the season. He and Sperbeck are special players, and opposing defenses are going to have a hard time covering these two. Rypien also has another deep threat with Chaz Anderson, and a solid group of tight ends that get things done in the middle of the field. If the pass game falters in any way there is always the run game, and it's lead by another NFL prospect, Jeremy McNichols. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he runs the ball with speed and power. His nickname is the McWeapon. Both the passing game, and the ground game are aided by a veteran offensive line that doesn't get nearly the credit they deserve. On defense, the Broncos are young, but talented. They have stepped up in a big way so far under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. The secondary and line have done a great job, but the strength of the defense thus far is an outstanding linebacker corps led by seniors Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo

5.       What do the Beavers need to do in order to win on Saturday?

Sondermann: They will have to disrupt the passing game and force the Broncos to play to the Beavers strength on defense which is stopping the run. If they can rattle Rypien, sack him a few times, get him off his rhythm, and force turnovers, it could be a long day for Boise State. On the offensive side the Beavers will need to do something that combats the influence of the linebackers. They will also need to have some success throwing the ball. They will be facing a very young Boise State secondary, and if Garretson can find a way connect consistently and frustrate those young players, the Beavers would probably be able to put up a fair amount of points on the board. Also, Nall will have to be better than he was against Idaho State. When he is 100 percent he is a force to be reckoned with. If he plays to the level he is capable the Broncos will spend a lot of time and energy trying to slow him down. That could bring balance to the Beavers offense, and make this game very interesting.

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