For over 8 months, Bronco Nation weathered the harshness of an unprecedented frosty year that we hadn’t seen in almost a decade. With matching opening losses to Washington and dual “Aloha means goodbye” bowl game losses in Hawaii, it seemed like we’d gone back to 2007. That’s where the similarities end though. We’d just finished our first, and until 2013, our worst year in the Coach Pete era. This April brings a renewal. The Bryan Harsin-Era brings a rebirth. And, on April 12, 2014, me and 13,821 Bronco fanatics got our first look at it.
There is a buzz around the Boise State football program that is noticeably different that it’s been in recent years. Coach Harsin has done that by being the opposite of what Coach Pete was (this isn’t an indictment on Coach Pete. To each his own.). He’s accessible and he makes sure that his staff is. He lets us in on the program in ways that we haven’t been used to. Coach Harsin is an Idaho boy and most of us can identify with his mannerisms and the way he speaks his mind. I only bring this up because the electricity around Bronco Stadium was palpable. The last time I felt that personally was when College Game Day was on campus. And it wasn’t just a grown up event. It was a family event. Bring Dad Bronco, Mom Bronco, Brother, Sister, & Baby Bronco down and get some sunshine and football in your Saturday. It was a perfect day weather-wise.
Inside Bronco Stadium, the crowd was amazing. The goal was to get 20,000 fans out. It was a lofty goal and I was pretty sure by the way people were filing in that we’d get close. Obviously, I was a little incorrect as to my estimation but I think that it the Nation showed good form. In comparison, the University of Michigan only had just over 15,000 fans at their Spring Game in a stadium that holds 109,901. I say we shoot for a sellout streak that starts with our first home game and goes on in perpetuity.
As far as the Spring Game is concerned, I’ll give you the laymen’s analysis. I am in no way an expert in college football and I can only give you my opinion on what I saw. A good friend once said “I’m not a reporter, I’m a writer.” and I fully identify with that statement. Also, I do realize that Coach Harsin and his staff have not fully installed their playbooks, we have plenty of people learning new schemes, and there are some players that didn’t participate for various reasons. This is in no way representative of what this Bronco team is fully capable of.
What is better than starting a “game” off than a kickoff return for a touchdown? Not really anything, I’m quite sure. Ask Devin Hester. Sure – it was the scout team that covering the kick and it didn’t seem full speed but the crowd seemed to enjoy Bryan Douglas taking it back for 100 yards. I know I did. After that, special teams was pretty much an afterthought. No field goals were attempted. The PATs were all made. The punting was made interesting by the wind but the return game wasn’t really a focus.
The two teams were “Boise State” and “Broncos”. Boise State was made up of the first team offense and defense and Broncos were the 2nd team. Everyone else filled in. In the beginning, it seemed like a huge mismatch. The Boise State offense had the ball moving really well on the first drive with the big play coming on a 52 yard run by Shane Williams-Rhodes. Jay Ajayi punched it in from one yard out two plays later. That, and the kickoff return, was the only scoring of the first half. The defense for Boise State dominated Broncos and Broncos settled in and held Boise State after the first drive (the names make it confusing, right?). The second half was basically more of the same. Defense dominated. Boise State’s first drive ended with Dionza Blue picking off Grant Hedrick and Broncos were moving the ball with Tommy Stuart at the helm but a fumble stopped that drive. The Broncos team did get their only score on a wheel route from Ryan Finley to Devan Demas for 82 yards while the Boise State team topped off their scoring on a 13 yard run by Shane Williams-Rhodes. We were treated to a bit of excitement with a final score of Boise State 21, Broncos 7.
So here are some observations/predictions:
-The offense still needs some work.
-Grant Hedrick is well ahead of Ryan Finley and Tommy Stuart.
-I think Finley will be #2 although Stuart looked more “on-point” to me yesterday.
-Jay Ajayi will get 75%-80% of the carries this year. Maybe more.
-Derrick Thomas will get more carries than Jack Fields and Devan Demas.
-Matt Miller will never have a regular game that resembles this Spring Game.
-Shane Williams-Rhodes will be utilized like no other Bronco ever.
-The future is bright on both offense and defense.
-Sometimes I state the most obvious things.
-Our defense will be better than expected.
-Statue Left will always-ALWAYS-be the greatest play ever called in history.
We, as fans of this great program, are lucky enough to be here for the rebirth. We are in for something special I believe. Does that translate into a perfect season in 2014? Most likely not. Does it translate into great expectations? Yes and that’s not a bad thing. Judging on the way things went yesterday and the excitement of every fan that I know, the annual Blue and Orange Spring Game was everything that we hoped it would be. Welcome back, football. Welcome back, Bronco Nation. Only 137 days until Ole Miss.