The Writing Is On The Wall – Do Superstitions Help?

The only thing more agonizing than being a fan, willing their team to win while watching live, is being a fan, willing their team to win, and having to totally ignore the game because they’re convinced they have become a jinx. I had a good couple hours last night to ponder what exactly good it might do to be superstitious at all, since recently discovering that my eyeballs on a basketball game will cause the Broncos to lose.

Since all animals form habits, which can be construed as superstitions without magical thinking, it follows that from the first time that an ancient human hit a rock with a stick and laughed because it was fun, sports superstitions have likely followed. Lots of athletes have them – watch the next few times a Bronco is at the foul line and see if they have a very specific dribble/ball spin sequence that they follow each time. To this day I always put on left sock, right sock, right shoe, left shoe. I don’t do that because it’s fun, I do that because one time I performed really well after putting on my shoes that way. It’s lucky.

Scientific research has proven that superstitions can bring people a positive result. A few studies have been done, and it was concluded that while it’s probably not the superstition itself that is bringing good fortune, the power of confidence and positive thinking can improve performance. For example, a group of people being tested were in a putting contest. There was a group told that their ball was a “lucky ball,” and they regularly outperformed those who had a regular ball. People who carried talismans of some sort were able to surpass their unlucky counterparts on memory tests. People who were told that the person administering a puzzle test was crossing their fingers for the participant’s good performance in another type of hand-eye coordination test outdid the control group as well.

Fans can take this to extremes – lucky clothing, lucky food, and lucky spots on the couch. Like the ad told us, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.” Last night, I was the basement guy on the Bud Light commercial, watching bad reality television and willfully ignoring my phone while the Broncos stomped on Colorado State in an epic show of threesmanship. I wasn’t alone – at least 3 of the awesome people who I follow on Twitter avoided the game for the same reason I did – fear of jinxing that win.

So why do we persist with these little actions, even when they probably will make no difference in the outcome? Because we believe in our team. Sure, third-party superstition so far has proved nothing whatsoever scientifically, but if it works first hand, and fan support can help athlete confidence, would it be so much of a leap to think that a few chumps doggedly hanging on to superstitious nonsense could help fans that are actually AT a game feel better about the team’s chances and therefore cheer louder?

I dunno, but I’m not going to test it. Y’all have fun watching the guys play UNLV on Saturday.  I am going to hide with a blanket over my head until my phone notifies me that the Broncos are still thundering toward their victorious destiny and the win has been secured.

The Art Of Losing

Growing up, I was a passably decent basketball player, who trained year round. My last 3 years in high school, while being pretty much consumed by the sport, the teams I played on were a collective 27-36. 42%. We won 12 games the last two seasons. Now, I’m not going to go all Uncle Rico about my mediocre basketball career. I do want to impart to Bronco Fans who did not suffer through the football win droughts of the 80’s and part of the 90’s, though, an important lesson. That is the art of losing.

Losing more than winning is painful. It’s a land of heartbreak, and what the Broncos Men’s basketball is dealing with, since they are now 5-6 in conference after a loss to Utah State this afternoon in Logan. The guys are also 3-5 away from Taco Bell Arena, and not only does their confidence seem drained after losing several games this season when up big at one point, but fan support is waning.

One thing I learned from the debacle in the first paragraph was that changing coaches is a rough affair. If it can be avoided, it should be. We had 3 coaches in 3 years, and it was awful. Coach Rice is three seasons in, and still winning more than losing, and that means that the hot seat is nothing more at this point than a nice warm leather car seat in 20 degree weather. Teams require consistency, and Rice is statistically the best Bronco Basketball coach EVER in Bronco History, currently 70% win percentage. No Boise State coach ever is that high – even Bobby Dye ended up at 61%. Coach Rice is having the best season he’s ever had, and has a two-year improving streak, not including this season. There is ZERO reason to be calling for his job at this point.

The next thing I learned is that losing can’t be the end. Basketball, in my experience on a losing team, is about the fight. Winning is about asserting your will – being creative and having fun, while ensuring the outcome is the one you envision. The keys to winning anything from games of quarters to National Championships are simple: Have a plan, have the skill, desire to finish, and work ethic to execute that plan to the very best of your ability, figure out a way to enjoy the process, and share it with great people. If a person gets up excited to attack rather than dreading the action, then winning is inevitable.

The teams I played on always got stuck in the step after the one the guys are in – a rough stretch of close games, taking losses at home and away, making nothing about the game much fun at all. Let’s face it, losing freaking sucks. Bad. Players internally question their skill and their teammate’s commitment, they stop communicating well which just exacerbates the issue, and then all of a sudden nobody is having a bit of fun and starts playing to Not Lose.

I don’t think the Broncos have hit that mark yet, they’re still talking, but the outside noise is louder and it’s probably getting hard to ignore losing. They’re on the verge of two outcomes – Bronco Nation stops showing up, games continue to be lost, and everybody on both sides gets disillusioned and are happy to be out in the first part of the tourney, or the team finds their identity, does some conditioning, finds their killer instinct, and makes a run we’ll never forget.

The last thing I learned about losing is this: being a gracious loser is much better than throwing tantrums. Shockingly, I had a foul mouth and a violent set of elbows back in those days. I fouled out nearly every game, usually 4 fouls that could probably be considered misdemeanor assault if they happened at a bar, and a technical. My attitude was crap, losing hurt my heart, and since we were a bunch of teenage girls everything was theatrical and The Worst Thing Ever in the History of Things. (It was kind of like a IRL twitter fit, except all the time and at high pitch with tears.) Losing causes trauma and drama with the wrong mindset. Bronco Nation, we don’t have to be happy with losing. We don’t have to pretend like nothing is wrong and never criticize anybody for anything. We do, however, need to keep perspective. The Bronco Bouncyhoop team wins more than they lose, they’re working hard, and if anybody can figure out the puzzle that is getting personalities of young men to mesh and work together in a way that makes victory achievable, I think it’s probably the all time winning-est coach in the history of Boise State.

 

Boise State Basketball: Nevada Bound

Photo courtesy Otto Kitsinger

There are some teams in the Mountain West that are difficult to work up rage toward. UNR is emphatically not one of them. The fact that Reno exists is irritating in itself, let alone the dormant coals of a rivalry that finally got blown into a full-on inferno during a football game in 2010 that never happened and must not be recalled.

Boise State is a long way off from meeting the Wolfpack again on the gridiron, but the Basketball Broncos play them Tuesday night at the Lawlor Events Center. Reno is off to an annoyingly good start, currently 4-0 in conference games. Making that stat more infuriating, is the fact that Nevada’s signature OOC wins so far include such perennial powerhouses as Cal Poly and Iona. This is a team that has lost to not only UCLA and Mizzou, but Morehead State and Nebraska-Omaha. What gives, Reno?

Basically, they are Boise’s opposite in that:

-          They are from Reno, and all that entails.

-          They have gotten hot going into conference play.

Most of that heat is coming from one particular player, Deonte Burton. He has been posterizing players forever, but the best example is this filthy dunk against UNLV.

Burton is the biggest weapon for the Pack by far, scoring 21 PPG, and playing almost every minute. However, there are more players for Nevada that hold their own – Jerry Evans Jr. leads the team in assists, and A.J. West is pulling down 7.8 (!) boards per game. In their last outing against Utah State, Cole Huff dumped in 16 points, 12 of those coming from behind the arc. Evans has been in a 3lo like slump for the last few games, but just like Jeff, could break out of that rut at any point and really put a hurting on a team not prepared to defend him.

Going on the road in the Mountain West is kinda like SEC football, except the “Murderer’s Row” thing is real. MWC teams have a tendency to protect their home courts with a ferocity usually reserved for mothers of small children who are in danger. That’s why this upcoming game is so nerve-wracking – The Broncos are a quite talented team whose members aren’t all playing up to their potential. Elloriaga might as well be in Siberia for how cold his shot is right now, Marks and Iggy, while helping the cause, just aren’t taking enough pressure off Drmic and Watkins. Anthony and Ryan have been carrying most of the Bronco’s load as of late, and while it’s pretty awesome to watch them both play like they’re half-possessed by the lingering spirits of Chris Childs and Tanoka Beard, it’s going to be a long conference schedule and a disappointing post-season if something doesn’t change soon.

Luckily, basketball is a game of streaks. Winning streaks, losing streaks, games where it seems like all is lost from the opening tip, and games where everything goes right, the calls go the right way and the rims are friendly. While that at-large bid was very nice last season, all it takes is one hot run through the conference tournament and all of a sudden the guys are dancing again. Can the Broncos take control of their fate, starting with a good ol’ fashioned Wolf stomp on Tuesday night? That depends on if they can do the most difficult task in the MWC – take the home crowd out of the equation, control time of possession, and hit some dang shots. Be careful down there, guys, make sure to measure the basket before ya play, and please wipe the Reno off your shoes before you get home.

The game tips off at 8:05 Boise time and although it will not be televised it will be streamed online at www.broncosports.com/sports/m-baskbl/live-game.html and can also be heard on the radio at 670 AM KBOI.

Accepting Goodbye is Bittersweet

Thursday, 12/5-

The coaching frenzy had just begun hitting full stride and my undivided attention was solely to Twitter and any other form of media able to relay instant information. By now, Broncos fans were well-trained to know that anytime a coaching position opened,  Pete’s name would be tossed in, no matter the likelihood. Early in the day, news struck that Coach Pete might have interest in the newly vacant Washington job. UW’s opening was due to a chain of events resulting in the former Washington head coach accepting an offer to his dream job at USC (Southern California). Much like any other head coaching job that has had rumors linked to Pete’s name, I was confident, but had the lingering fear of “maybe this is the one.”

As the day rolled on, more and more rumors surfaced from various outlets stating they had sources confirming Pete was interested, others contradicted it. But one thing was certain, Washington was interested. By late afternoon the rumors were quickly jolted to a higher level—leading to what would become a series of unfortunate events. The speculation was an interview had been scheduled. Coinciding with the rumors, my anxiety was gradually gaining. My biggest fear being a tweet or a sudden Sportscenter clip, stating- BREAKING NEWS: Chris Petersen has accepted a deal to be the next Washington Huskies head football coach.

As evening came, the next rumor brought life into some Bronco fans and took it away from others. It was all but assured at this point Pete was willing to listen to what UW had to offer. Now it was more a question of–was he listening or was he just hearing. Obviously the latter was what we hoped, and hindsight is always 20/20, but I should’ve known the potential outcome. News broke that Washington had sent a private jet with two members of the university’s athletics department hoping to sway Petersen into jumping ship. At first glance of the news, I suddenly became tense, saddened, and filled with irrational thoughts as if I had just been broken up with and didn’t know how to bear the news. Slowly I cooled down and managed to ‘woosah….woosah’ myself until I regained my composure and fully gathered my thoughts. Once again only devoted to Twitter, a few tweets from other Bronco supporters helped me translate the news and spin it into a positive. If Coach Pete isn’t going to Washington and is making them come here—why worry? If he was truly interested, he would fly out there and interview on their terms and their campus. Some might definitely call that foolish or even naïve. Maybe, but at that point, any reason to think the unspeakable was NOT going to happen… was surely enough for me to find it valid.

Bronco Nation patiently waited for an update on what had transpired in the interview. Those of us still awake were on pins and needles, hoping to hear a resounding “All clear”, similar to what you’d expect from a soldier after clearing out an empty room.

Boise State reporters turned into spies, staking out at the Boise airport as if sudden news broke that Santa Clause was making a surprise visit. The writers, reporters, and columnists were all looking to find any tidbit of information that could indicate whether Pete was gone or was yet, once again, refusing a formidable job offer. While it unfolded rather quickly, the angst made the meeting’s length seem more than double. Only two hours after landing in Boise—Washington reps were on their way back home, Coach Pete, not along for the ride. The glimmer of hope suddenly started to shine just a tad bit more.

The last of the news was enough for Bronco fans to sleep with ease.

We had reportedly won; Coach Pete was in fact just hearing what Washington had to say and ultimately decided to stay a Bronco…. Another team had failed. Boise State, ONCE AGAIN managed to retain their phenomenal coach and even better leader for at least one more year. Until of course, the rumors emerge again, next year. As Boise State fans all over the country went to bed that Thursday night, we felt nearly invincible. Teams can pry and pry to get our head coach but—he was a Bronco—not a Husky, a Trojan, or anything else, only a Bronco. It was seemingly impossible to not be more partial to Coach Pete. In an era where loyalty in sports was no longer existent, Chris Petersen was defying the norm year in and year out. We bled blue and so did he.

 

Oh….

 

 

The reason lengthy careers in sports don’t usually begin and end in one place is simple, because… it is a business. Easily forgotten and more often chosen not to be remembered. We as fans love the stories where a player or coach refuses to leave their hometown team, first team, or team with a long tenure, etc., just because they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Unfortunately, that is uncommon and more special than it is customary. Thus, alluding to why those who manage that feat are often remembered as legends and a sports version of a hero.

Friday morning served as the heartbreak Bronco Nation had long dreaded, we lost the legend in the making. And while it was quick and almost painless—truly, it was entirely the opposite. Those who woke up bright and early that morning (such as myself) were greeted, half-awake and squinty eyed with the jarring news. My prior mentioned biggest fear was now a reality—Chris Petersen was gone before I could ever truly soak it in. He had decided to take the next step in his career and depart for the University of Washington.

Bronco fans all over were in utter disbelief. Traumatized of what we all thought could happen someday, yet never truly foresaw, just happened right before our very eyes. The most predictable question came rushing into my head like a freight train, WHY? It’s different when players come and go. They already have a predetermined shelf-life when introduced and there is no changing that. Coach Pete didn’t, his occupancy was infinite, free of charge. One can almost picture Boise State and the city of Boise saying, “Stay as long as you want, take whatever you need, just stay. Promise us you will. Do you promise?” Guilty of desperation, but no doubt, we all would have said it.

I promise.

The national speculation prior to Pete leaving was that Boise State is on the decline, reached their peak, and will falter to succeed at a high level, ever again. With Pete gone, we might as well go back to being a junior college, set our own time bomb and quickly self-destruct. Thankfully, any time bomb in Boise at the moment would freeze itself dull before any destruction occurs.

Surely, Coach Pete deserves enormous praise for everything he has done as Boise State, and his record speaks for itself (92-12), but now it is time to move on. Change is never easy and is always feared; especially when it’s forced upon, therefore, making it twice as difficult. Now, Boise State is faced with another challenge, and certainly should have the ‘Boise State chip on our shoulder’ we’re all accustomed to.

Fiesta Bowls and trick plays may have put Boise State on the national map, but that’s not where it began. Prior to Pete’s days as head coach, the Boise State foundation was being built from the ground up. Boise State was rising the ranks from a little junior college in Podunk; Boise, Idaho, to a quality D1 program. The groundwork was laid by leaders who saw a bigger picture of excellent people off the field rather than just a product on it. Boise State wanted good people before good players, which in turn, ended up leading to excellent players and frequent wins.

Boise State burst onto the scene in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Winning had now started to become a constant. Recognized only by its blue turf, the Broncos were building towards the future and doing so in a time where mid-majors were an afterthought. Boise State was changing the landscape of college football; they just didn’t know it yet. Throughout their rise to success, Boise State stayed focused on specific principals that would present the Broncos in the proper manner. Boise State was building the blue-collar image.

Dirk Koetter was the first to get the ball rolling. He was the Broncos Head Coach from 1998-2000, the beginning years of Boise State’s evolution to dominance. Koetter went 26-10 during his tenure with Broncos. He was the launch that led to the BOOM that was 2000’s for Boise State football.

Next was Dan Hawkins, Hawkins was hired to work under Koetter’s staff and then was promoted to head coach after Koetter left for Arizona State University in 2000. Hawkins posted a remarkable record in five years at Boise State. He was 53-11 and led the Broncos to multiple bowl games. Hawkins moved on to Colorado after the 2005 season and left Boise State in a situation of paranoia similar to today. The Broncos and the fan base were rattled. What had been an incredibly successful run for Boise State was possibly about to poof….. Welcome, Coach Pete.

Petersen was the offensive coordinator at the time and filled the “next man up” mantra, perfectly. The greatest of the three by far, but each one equally contributed to the overriding theme, leaving the Broncos in a better state than prior to their arrival.

Flash forward to 2013, the Broncos are still here, pushing to better themselves on and off the field; still standing by the same fundamentals a decade later. Only difference now is the recognition that comes with winning. Boise State has received the shiny equipment, fancy buildings, Nike contracts, and ESPN deals. Certainly, Coach Pete had an enormous impact on making Boise State who it is and why it is as successful as it is today, but the blueprint was already in place, he just put the cherry on top.

The Broncos have been prepared for this moment, as they’ve experienced it before. Boise State is ready to once again prove their worth, and continue the tradition of success.

Chin up, Bronco Nation, neither plateaued nor peaked is a word used here at Boise State.

 

Welcome, Coach ________, you’re turn.

 

 

Bleed blue.

Broncos in the NFL Week 10

Here is how all of our former Broncos did last week.  Unfortunately, Doug Martin was placed on season ending injured reserve, so we wont be seeing him any more this year.  Chris Carr was re-signed and played significantly for the Saints against the Cowboys.  Click a thumbnail to start the gallery.

5 Keys Boise State vs Wyoming

27c1f54c-851d-4918-b72b-e718677562b1_zps1a5e06fd1.) Boise State’s Defense vs Brett Smith: Brett Smith is the weapon that Boise State has to fear the most. He is another “dual-threat” QB, who can beat you through the air, and on the ground. So far this season Smith has thrown 20 touchdown passes, and ran for 3 more. At his best, he can cause problems for anybody, against Nebraska, Smith threw for 383 yards, and 4 touchdowns. For Boise State to beat Wyoming, they will need to repeat last years performance against Smith, where they limited him to 9 rushing yards, and 9 touchdowns through the air.

2.) Expose the Weak Defense of Wyoming: Grant Hedrick against Colorado State had a game for the record books. Going against Wyoming at home could provide another opportunity at a big night. Wyoming currently ranks 100th in the nation for points scored against them. They are giving up 33 points per game, and have really struggled in all areas. They have a new defensive coordinator as of their last game against Fresno. However, this late in the year it would be surprising to see much fixed. Against San Jose State, and Fresno State, they have given up 842 yards through the air. If Boise State can continue this success through the air, with an already potent running attack BSU could have an easy game.

3.) Weather, Late Start, and a Bye Week: If there was ever a chance for a team to have a weird game it could be Saturday night. You have a game that starts very late, you are coming off a bye week which cold be good, or it could make you rusty to start, and oh yeah an 80% chance of rain and cold weather Saturday. Boise State will have to be able to block these factors out against Wyoming if they hope to pull of a win. 1 x-factor can be hard, 3 could be a problem.

4.) Calling Korey Hall, Can We Learn to Tackle?: For anybody watching Boise State this year the biggest weakness has been obvious. That weakness is tackling, which is odd for a Boise State team which prides itself on fundamentals. With young players, injuries, and inexperience comes growing pains. But this late in the year with a Mountain West Championship berth on the line, Boise State must tackle better. Wyoming does not have the “play-makers” like Fresno State on the edge, but if they can’t tackle it won’t matter. Boise State has to tackle better or it could be another unexpected long night for fans.

5.) Regain that Boise State Attitude: I could be in the minority, I could be wrong, and this could mean nothing. However, when I watch this years edition of Boise State I don’t see the same attitude I have seen in years past. Before this year, under Coach Pete, our guys played with confidence, so much so that it almost came off as a weird respectful arrogance. Losing 3 games can bring anybody down, and Coach Pete has said as much in his press conferences this year. But for Boise State to snag that Mountain West Championship they will need that attitude back. Boise State needs to find their chip, they need to find that under-dog mentality again. If they can do that, Boise State can once again rise to the level we are use to.

Follow Me on Twitter: @HeathBTN

Broncos in the NFL week 9

Here is how our Broncos fared in the NFL last week.  Click a thumbnail to start the gallery.

5 Keys Boise State vs Colorado State

79526644-ec05-49a8-aa8b-11aa881be089_zps89ea57161.) Grant Hedrick Has To Get Going: Think Hedrick vs Nevada, not Hedrick vs BYU. Really it comes down to Grant as a runner. It was said during the week Hedrick had some opportunities to run against BYU, however, he chose not to. Against Colorado State Hedrick has to trust the type of player he is and just go out and play. He can’t over think it, confidence is a must for Hedrick to succeed on a weekly basis. If Grant can break some big runs off early, it would be huge for inexperienced QB and Boise State in this game.

2.) Stop Kapri Bibbs: The RB from Colorado State is averaging 6 yards per carry, and has 12 touchdowns. When he gets going (See them vs Wyoming) Colorado State is very hard to stop. Garrett Grayson the QB of Colorado State seems to rely heavily on Kapri for big games. If Boise State can contain Bibbs, they should have an easy day against Colorado State.

3.) Use All of Your Player-Makers: Too often this season Boise State seems to have games where it is all about Rhodes, Miller, Ajayi, etc… Boise State has always been successful because they use all their weapons well. Tonight would be a great time to start finding multiple players to get involved early to keep Colorado State off balance. It would also go a long way in building confidence as the season comes to a close.

4.) Who Are We on Defense?: In Boise State’s 5 wins this season, they have given up 16.4 points per game. In Boise State’s 3 losses, they have given up 38.7. Boise State knows how to score points, but when the defense doesn’t come to play Boise State is in over it’s head. Colorado State knows how to score the ball, they average 33.4 points per game. If Boise State, as a defensive unit doesn’t show up at full force, it could be a long day.

5.) Forget BYU, Washington, & Fresno: It is odd to pick up the paper, or turn on the TV and hear about how Boise State is a little down in terms of moral. It just is not what Boise State fans, players, or coaches are use to. But everyone has to remember, some major goals are still in sight. Winning the Mountain West Championship is still a real possibility. Another season of going undefeated at home is in sight. And last but not least, another bowl trophy in the trophy case is still possibly on the horizon. It is time to stop comparing this team to every team of the past, and time to start to support this team for what they are. They may not be busting down the door to the last BCS, but they still have a chance to do some great things. Forget, BYU, forget Washington, and forget Fresno at least for now. It is time to focus on achieving what is possible, not what has been lost.

Gameday Poll: What will be the outcome of Boise State vs. Colorado State?

The computers have told us what might happen in our NCAA simulations, so what do you think?  Vote and leave a score prediction in the comments!

What will be the outcome of Boise State vs. Colorado State?

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What We Learned- Week 8

Brady Moore/KTVB

What a difference a week makes.

Last week; Boise State, its fans, and opponent, readied themselves for another game with Joe Southwick at the helm. This week is a little different… Joe Southwick’s career at Boise State is sadly—quite possibly over.  On the very first offensive snap from the Broncos, Saturday night, Southwick scrambled ahead for a quick seven yard gain. A frequently reliable option if Joe feels defensive pressure, but this unfortunately was far from the usual 7-yard scamper. As Joe was being tackled to the turf, his leg got caught behind him, forcing him to fall awkwardly on it. It appeared awful on TV… and in a moment’s time, before you could even think of how bad it might possibly be; instantaneously, it was obvious he was in severe pain. Boise State’s fans suddenly felt their heart sink; disaster was evident. The 5th year senior quarterback had just broken his ankle.

Settling in was something Joe never really got to experience. From day one after earning the starting job, a sweltering amount of heat was bestowed to Joe’s name. He was the chosen one, the one who had to follow in the footsteps of a legend. If trying to replace the quarterback with the most career wins in College Football history isn’t a daunting task, I don’t know what is. Given the circumstances, Joe handled it well. Never complained…just led his team to battle, week-in and week-out. Albeit knowing no matter what he did, a shadow was cast over him that he couldn’t control.

How does the story go? An athlete starts to receive his/her own recognition, earning fans over, becoming a leader, and then snap—tragedy strikes. This is what makes sports so great, but yet so painful at the same time, unpredictability. The not knowing of whether one of the following might occur: An athlete makes a career defining play, or an athlete’s career ends before the blink of an eye. As a fan it reminds you to not take players for granted, even if they do just come and go. And while it’s not fair, when was fair to ever be expected.

Joe was slowly starting to win over the Broncos’ fan base–just like the story has it. He had removed some of the harsh negativity surrounding his name, no longer restricted to the title “our best option”. Making big plays wasn’t spotty. It was becoming more and more consistent. Stepping up when needed… Joe was the leader the Broncos’ longed for. Coming into a season with a roster full of youth and inexperience, he led by example. Nothing more you can ask for from a senior quarterback.

Thank you for everything, Joe.

 

What we learned from Boise State following a comeback win against Nevada:

1. Age is Just a Number-

By all accounts, Boise State is one of the youngest teams in the FBS. Relatively young on offense…but defense is where most of the youth lies. The Broncos’ heralded only two-starting-seniors on defense against Nevada, and once again will do the same versus BYU. Thus only leaving; juniors, sophomores, and freshmen for the other nine starting slots. The official breakdown goes as follows: Juniors-4, sophomores-3, freshmen-2.

The saying “youth is a virtue” applies to football as it does, real life. The benefit of having an overwhelmingly young-football-team is the years ahead. The drawback is obvious; a learning curve. Learning from your mistakes and trying not repeat them. Boise State in all its glory has felt the drawback at stages through-out the 2013 season. Opponents have feasted on youth and inexperience, targeting the younger and more undeveloped players who have yet to make a name for themselves.

Despite the bumps in the road, progression is evident. Yes, a few shoddy performances by the defense have skewed the statistics; but Boise State’s numbers have been on the rise ever since. Currently the Broncos are 54th in nation in rushing defense, 78th in passing, and 40th in total scoring. To break it down-Boise State has given up 38+ points twice this year (Washington and Fresno State). Other than that, the defense hasn’t let up more than 23 points in any game (The 23 was due to a late meaningless touchdown).

Saturday vs. Nevada was further evidence of Boise State’s continued betterment on defense. It just so happens, that this time; the improvement occurred in 30 minutes. Going into half at Bronco Stadium– Boise State’s defense looked gassed, confused, and unsure of themselves. Nevada had just put up 17 on the board with 246 yards of total offense.  Their drives were long and clock-killing. Running plays were all but assured first downs. Play after play, they ran the ball to the left-side of the offense, working their way down field. Boise State defenders were glued to their blocks and unable to show any block-shedding ability whatsoever.

Like clockwork the Broncos decided enough was enough; instead of accepting the bullying that they received in the first-half, they instead returned the favor. Whether it be from a rumored, Joe Southwick speech at half or simply being chewed out by the coaches, it was clear a loss to Reno was not an option.

The Broncos came out looking like an entirely different defensive unit. They had prepared their counter-punches and were ready for whatever Nevada decided to throw at them. The Broncos held Nevada to an utterly impressive 127 yards and 0 points in the second half. Boise State’s offensive and replacement quarterback (discussed in detail below) rightfully received most of adulation, but the defense was on lock-down. The plays that Nevada ran flawlessly in the first half were no longer existent; the very same plays resulted in losses or no gains. Defensive players were flying to the ball and no longer stuck in an imaginary rut while being blocked.  The Broncos, just like their jerseys, turned black. No running alleys, passing lanes, or breathing room allowed for the rival, Nevada–just a good luck next year.

Three underclassmen on defense to watch:

Donte Deayon (Cornerback, #5), Armand Nance (Nose-Tackle, #40), and Ben Weaver (Middle-Linebacker, #51)

 2. The Forgotten Child-

Grant Hedrick? Who’s that? I think I’ve heard of a Grant *Hendrick*, but not the previously mentioned individual.

Dialogue of that nature has surely risen in the aftermath of losing quarterback, Joe Southwick. A frenzy of confusion as to what the Broncos and Coach Petersen plan to do for the remainder of the season is surely practical. Therefore, it would only make sense to review who exactly Grant Hedrick is: Grant is red-shirt junior from Independence, Oregon. He played football and graduated from Central High School.  As a senior, Grant was named Oregon’s high school football player of the year. Similar to past and present Boise State quarterbacks, Hedrick lacks ideal height, but has an array of other intangibles. His biggest asset being his legs, Hedrick, has top-notch speed. Short-fast strides and quick feet make him far more explosive than you’d expect from a quarterback. He gives the position a boom possibility even when he’s not throwing, something the prototypical pocket-passer doesn’t have.

Hedrick has/had been forgotten, Southwick was the now and the future was already pre-determined. Those who love looking ahead (such as myself) are zealous for the likes of either Nick Patti or Jalen Greene. Patti–a big name recruit from Florida has had everyone excited from the moment he arrived in Boise. Labeled the real heir apparent to Kellen Moore…and if some were to have it their way; would have started long ago.

Jalen Greene is a different story. Greene is verbally committed to Boise State for the 2014 season, NOT signed to a letter of intent—very different. One states an athlete is planning to play at a given university, the other requires an athlete to end all additional recruiting and attend the university he signed the intent for. It is important to know the difference because Jalen has not yet signed his letter of intent; consequently there is always a chance he made decide to take his talents elsewhere. IF, he does happen to elect Boise State as his college of choice, BSU will be receiving a phenomenal talent. The true definition of a dual-threat quarterback, Jalen can run and make it look easy, but also has a sniper-like arm. I forgot to mention… he’s left handed (EYES GET BIG). If you believe in repeated destiny—start your own recruiting pitch now—this kid might be the real deal.

With that, it’s understandable how Hedrick fell by the wayside. Now is unexpectedly his time though and deservedly so, it’s not fair to call it an audition, but ultimately that’s what it is. If he succeeds, he might lock up next years starting quarterback position, if he scuffles—2014 is that much more interesting.

If I were to predict the future, I’d put my money on option-A. Let me explain by starting with this; Hedrick is a perfect fit for the offense. If it were three years ago, I would have said something completely different. This new offense is concentrated on making quick plays and not letting the defense get comfortable by playing at such a rapid pace. Nothing says uncomfortable like a QB who can spread you out and then run it past you. The “Pistol” (offensive formation) sets are far more dangerous with a mobile quarterback. Unfortunately, we have yet to see Hedrick throw the ball more than a few times, so that is still a cause for concern. Admittedly stubborn, I don’t believe we will be losing much in the passing game…IF, he can take care of the ball and make the short throws consistently (A big if). Joe’s biggest strengths were his command of the offense, short game accuracy, and ability to connect with receivers while under pressure. BUT, he lacked the consistent–accurately placed deep ball. This talent is important and was surely missed since Kellen’s departure; it gives the offense another dimension–without it, safeties and cornerbacks can play tight coverage and cheat-in; ultimately creating a chain-reaction of less effectiveness. Thus inhibiting the offense—when and if it were in a position where passing is the only option. Not to say that Hedrick has a gun for an arm, because he doesn’t, but he can replace what’s lost in the non-existent deep ball with his legs.

I can hope the above statements are not translated into me saying that Hedrick is the superior talent, but I can understand how that indication is possible. Better fit—not superior talent. Hedrick will bring another element to an already explosive offense while hopefully not sacrificing another. Prepare yourself for a steady dose of a Hedrick/Ajayi rushing attack (full of read-options).If the small sample-size vs. Nevada is anything like the future, boy, we’re in for a treat (maybe a trick too… HAPPY HALLOWEEN, hahaha… I crack myself up).

So…without further ado, Grant Hedrick. He is the surrogated “now” quarterback, and most likely the one of the immediate future.

Good luck kid, we’re all pulling for you.

 3. Enjoy the Show-

Bronco fans are fortunate to have two superstars on the current Boise State roster: Demarcus Lawrence and Jay Ajayi. One might end up winning the award for Mountain West Defensive Player of The Year and the other should AT LEAST be First Team All-Mountain West.

Even the challenger can’t help but respect and give high praise; BYU linebacker, Kyle Van Noy (this week’s opponent) was quoted saying the following when asked about Ajayi- “That’s an NFL running back.” Although I am certainly a partial to Ajayi; I couldn’t agree more.

Jay has the tools to be an NFL player, but… Demarcus Lawrence has the tools and well roundedness needed to not only get drafted, but also start on Sundays. Scouts are so intrigued by his supreme pass-rush skills and recently, his high-motor. He is the Boise State model for one of their fundamental words- relentless. It’s the hammer tradition in a nut-shell; Demarcus is that.

Here are Jay Ajayi’s and Demarcus Lawrence’s 2013 stats and how they rank up in the country:

Jay Ajayi-

Rushing yards- 766 (16th in the Nation)

Rushing touchdowns- 12 (Tied-1st in the Nation)

Yards per attempt- 5.67 (N/A)

Demarcus Lawrence-

Sacks per game- 1.1 (5th in the Nation)

Total sacks- 6.5 (Tied 5th in the Nation)

Total tackles- 38 (N/A)

Should be fun to watch!