Attack The Opponent: Boise State Broncos (Spring Game Edition)

To start, if you have not yet seen the latest video out of the football complex, please watch it now. In fact, if you have seen it, watch it again until you have it memorized because it is one of the best illustrations of the whole “what it is to be a Bronco” concept that has ever been. Anybody else think Hars has a future in voiceover work if this whole football thing ever gets old for him?

After an offseason rife with controversy (both the position battles as well as a little of the, uh, off field kind), it’s nice to have a day with real football in the long drought after March Madness ends.  Yeah, there will be some interesting stuff going on in the interim, but time itself is marching toward the biggest season opener since some short lefty kid from BFE, Washington went to Eugene and took down the mighty Ducks.

Attempting to analyze the spring game as an indicator of where a team will be in 4 months is a little like trying to project out what a child will be like as an adult by tearing apart every detail of how they play in the yard as a toddler. However, since this is football and there’s nothing else to do between now and The Beginning, we’re going to do just that.

There are two questions that will be argued about all summer long, no matter what happens today. Who is going to carry the offense, and will the team be ready to play UW next fall and win? Because everybody knows that while yes we will keep cheering and showing up whether the Broncos win that game or not….we’re really going to need them to step up and win that game. For themselves, their program, and Bronco Nation as a whole.

Boise State didn’t lose a whole lot of seniors last year, but the gaps that they have left are looming large. The QB position is loaded, but at this point, nobody really knows what’s going to happen. We need to look at not only throwing and footwork mechanics, but also understanding of the offense as well as the speed of making the reads. At RB, while The Weapon himself, Jeremy McNichols won’t be out there today, we should be watching for which guys have that vision and patience that set great BSU running backs apart. The Broncos need to find their workhorse, and while depth shouldn’t be an issue at that position, it would be nice to not have to RB by committee all the time.

It would be nice to see some progression on the lines, both sides of the ball. Last year they were talented and strong, but it’s going to take stepping up to exceptional to make the playoff dream even part of the discussion. On offense, there is a lot returning. 5 OL are back this season, with two more around who saw significant playing time last season. These were the guys that made Jay Ajayi a star, and now to be able to come in with experience and depth, well, the new RB and QB will be very lucky, well protected and well blocked for guys. Defensively, losing a guy like Beau Martin would normally be very difficult to do. However, BSU is basically sitting on a gold mine of experienced leadership on the line, rolling 2-3 deep at every position. This defense will be the envy of the Mountain West for sure, and could easily make national noise.

The receivers and TE’s also will be fun to watch today. Getting to see what Chase Blakely and David Lucero are working with will be good. I’m looking to see that they have a handle on the playbook and also try to get an idea of what role the TE’s will have this season. It was nice to see them back last year, but it felt like they could’ve been utilized a bit more. Jake Roh and his awesome hands are returning, and Holden Huff has a great opportunity to step up and be a leader right now in this young and potentially epic group. On the receivers side, there are a billion questions. Based on last season, Sperbeck and Anderson are the fire, but leadership is important. Gotta get those spark type plays from Shane Williams-Rhodes. There is depth at WR, but not much experience. There is more speed on the way as well. Highly touted recruits Akilian Butler and Bryan Jefferson will be arriving this fall, but spring is about the guys on campus.

Remember what it was like to have depth on defense, with amazing returning talent, some up and comers with something to prove, and the knowledge that There Will Be Shut Down Defense Played By Boise? 2006-2011 were pretty good times. The noise out of the complex is sounding a bit like a renaissance. Deayon, Moxie, Maston, and Thompson are all back. So is college-football acclimated Dylan Sumner-Gardner.

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Tyler Rausa has been appointed the Broncos new kicker. You only get one chance at a good first impression, bro. Don’t shank it wide left on your first time out in front of the crowd and all will be well.

This spring game is unlike any we’ve seen. First, we will be celebrating the career of one of the greatest Broncos ever or ever will be, Kellen Moore. The university has already confirmed that the ol’ #11 won’t be retired, but are also saying that nobody will be wearing it for a good, long time. Kellen is building himself a career in the NFL, looking to be the #2 QB after re-signing with Detroit this spring. We at the BTN are still beating the JUST PLAY HIM ALREADY drum, but Kellen is obviously a much more patient person than we are and is willing to play the long game. It will be good for Bronco Nation to see him today, and help celebrate a wonderful college career.

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After the game, BSU has invited 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks to perform a concert on The Blue as part of their Bronco Day celebration. Fans will be allowed on the field, and it’s at least a unique opportunity to watch a pop concert on the turf. Hey, if Jordin’s excited about it, why not?!

A Letter to Brooke Pahukoa & the Lady Broncos

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Dear Brooke & Broncos

I am writing this letter to let you know we noticed. We noticed the heart, the fight, the determination, and the effort you gave against Tennessee. Don’t let the result get you down, we all saw you put on an incredible show and you deserve the accolades to go with it. Brooke, your performance against the Vols is something that will go down in history for Boise State Women’s Basketball. The future is bright, and I am here to tell you I will be at your games. You made Bronco Nation proud against all odds, and it was something to behold. You put the Mountain West Conference and the rest of the NCAA on notice today, and we couldn’t be prouder to be  Broncos. Few performances have been as inspiring as yours was today. We have watched a lot of basketball in our time, and what you did today was truly amazing. Once again congratulations, and thank you for choosing to showcase your skills in a Bronco uniform.

To Coach Presnell, and the rest of the Broncos. Congratulations on a great season, your heart and determination was truly inspiring. We all saw the odds you faced, (In Tennessee, the refs against you, ESPN even calling the game in favor of the Vols.) you ladies never quit and you represented Boise State with incredible pride and sportsmanship. To all of the seniors, congratulations on finishing an incredible season. To those of you who will be back, see you next season. We can’t wait to see how you follow up an incredible performance.

Best Regards,

Bronco Nation

Attack The Opponent: Everyone

Perhaps it’s fitting that the both the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournament Committees are burying the Broncos and their Idaho loving faithful in shoulder chips leading into March Madness.

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The women’s team got seeded to start tournament play vs. Tennessee in Knoxville, so while it would be fantastic if Bronco Nation could show up to support the team and all, it’s still the powerhouse of the Lady Vols on their home turf we’re talking about here. The 2 seed vs. the 15. Real David and Goliath stuff. Winning can happen for the correct orange and blue, but it’s going to take a perfect storm to get there.

The men also are between a rock and a hard place – their last venture on to the court ended in a stupid miracle banked three pointer in OT with what seemed like half the team unable to make anything happen offensively. That half included MW Player of the Year, Derrick Marks. It was as heartbreaking as it was infuriating to watch. But now, they’re back in Dayton, OH for the second time in 3 years, facing off against yet another fire hot team in the hometown Dayton Flyers. Dayton finished second in the Atlantic Ten, and some of their fans felt slighted by having to go to the play-in game. There’s some less than enthused faces around the player’s table during the announcement as well. These boys are ready to cause a bloodbath on their way to the Sweet 16 and Boise is just in the way. Shoulder chips all around, then!

However, it depends on point of view. Yes, Dayton is a very good basketball team riding a home winning streak in a tough conference. So were Utah State, SDSU, and New Mexico. The venue and experience of playing in Dayton won’t be new to the leadership of this team. If the Broncos are loose and ready to go, this game will be a metaphorical fist fight full of three-ball haymakers. The home team is a walking, talking, shot-sinking highlight reel, not unlike some other gentlemen we know.

The Flyers are a scrappy, small-ball team that shoots 35% from the arc and averages 68 points. They’re led by senior Jordan Siebert, a guard who averages just under 17 points a game. There are three point threats all over their squad, which I guess is the tradeoff when you don’t have a player over 6’6 on the roster. James Webb III and Rob Heyer should be gorging themselves on the boards all night. However, that means that the big time Boise defense that we saw in the thick of the run through the MWC better return in force. The Flyers are fast and dangerous, scoring 68.2 ppg and holding teams to 60.9 points on average. Boise State is just as stingy on defense, but has been averaging 70.8 ppg.

Also have to remember that Dayton was last season’s Cinderella. They made a run to the Elite 8. They also have fought through some tough stuff, with their starting big guys all dismissed from the team amongst…circumstances…and having to regroup in January. Huh. I mean, it’s not exactly the MWC POY candidate in the midst of having a stellar senior season getting injured and having another senior stand up and put the team on his back leading to a stellar conference campaign and POY accolades for him, and the team tied for first place in the regular season, but it’s a pretty good story.

Thinking in the context of giant killers, this is probably new ground for Dayton. They spent last season winning the country’s collective hearts and minds with their improbable run, and now they are the home team against what is probably the biggest name connected with the idea of a Cinderella in Division 1. Sport be damned. Of course, that line of thought won’t matter much if the Boise State Broncos that Wyoming has managed to tame all season show up in Dayton on Wednesday. Because bricking three pointers and allowing anybody and everybody to drive to the basket willy-nilly will not a win make.

With it basically being a home game for Dayton (even though the Broncos will be in their home whites), the fact that, well, Dayton has won in the Dance before and the Broncos have not stacks the deck some. It felt fortunate to even get to the play-in game with the way the committee was hosing the mid-majors this season (Sorry, CSU, but your tears are still delicious.) On the other hand, Boise State has been very good at spoiling other team’s good times at home. IF Derrick Marks plays his A game AND Nick Duncan can get hot AND Webbie does what he should on the boards and Hutchison plays some stellar, lights out defense and IF Rob Heyer and Montigo Alford both are on their collective game and can cut down the outside threat as well as protect the paint effectively, then, it’s going to be a real good time. The Broncos did that a lot this season. Now they just need to do it again. Everything after this game is a bonus.

It’s truly a great year to be a Bronco fan. Football champions, regular season men’s basketball co-champs, women’s basketball tournament champions. So much hardware coming to Boise, we’re going to have to start storing them at the University of Idaho downtown campus offices. Running out of space over there Vandals, sorry. They’re in preparations over across the river, yanno. It’s the Broncos vs. the World.

Why This One Was Special – The Coaches Bleed Blue

635523439815040361-USP-NCAA-FOOTBALL-BOISE-STATE-AT-WYOMING-68949140Take out the records, take out the stats, take out the implications for the program. Seriously take all of those things out, and this one is still special. Perhaps even more so than the previous two Fiesta Bowl wins. Before this season however I would have never even thought that possible. Then, I rushed the field, I heard Harsin speak after winning the MWC Championship game, and it all started to line up. This season really meant everything to this program. And maybe to the outside world this is just another bowl game, another moment Boise State upset the big boys. But when you listened to Bryan Harsin on the mic after winning another Fiesta Bowl, you knew this one was special for a lot of different reasons. This game keeps Boise State relevant yes, it keeps Boise State in the discussions for all those important topics like expansion, and playoffs. But more than that, this was a win by a bunch of guys and coaches who truly “bleed blue”.

After the game was over on TV, I quickly went to my car to listen to the post game show. I am glad I did, because everything I was starting to believe about this game, this win, was solidified when Mike Sanford was interviewed by Bob Behler. The emotion that ran throughAnne-Marie-Sanford-2014-3-425x425 his words was palpable, his tears of joy noticeable, even on the radio. He stated it made him proud to sing HIS fight song, to represent the school that “made him a man”. It was these words, this emotion, this understanding that very well might have saved a program. These coaches instilled the values that make Boise State special. From day 1, this coaching staff knew that to be a Bronco, you have to work hard, have that blue collar mentality, and earn everything that is presented to you. This is a program that has continued to rise despite all the odds, and this game, this season was no different. That is why this game was so pivotal, why this win matters so much, why these coaches are so important, and why this Fiesta Bowl win is so special.

Congratulations players, coaches, and Bronco Nation! Have a Happy New Year, and enjoy the win!

BTN Predictions: Fiesta Bowl vs. Arizona

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Derek

Here we are.  Game day for the Vizio Fiesta bowl has arrived, and I can not believe we are here.  Before the season began I thought we had a chance at a NY6 bowl.  After the Ole Miss loss I was still optimistic.  Then came the Air Force debacle and I thought all hope was lost.  But what do you know, Harsin gets our team on a run and we are back to where all the magic happened in 2007 and 2010.

This game is a tough one to predict.  I can go off all the stats and look at the match-ups and go from there, but it seems like all that goes out the window during bowl season.  At this point I think the most prepared and focused team will win. Based on everything that I am hearing about Boise State, I think they are that team. The Bronco defense will struggle to slow down Arizona, but the Wildcats will have the same problem stopping Grant Hedrick, Jay Ajayi, SWR and The Weapon. I do think it will be close though.  Vegas says Arizona will win by 4 with a score in the mid 30’s for both.  I say the same but with Boise State edging out a win on a late field goal.  Boise State 34 Arizona 31

Noel

This will be my last time this season, and this calendar year, to get this right.  I’m going to agree with Derek on this and say it will come down to the more focused team.  The Broncos have run off 8 straight wins and the Wildcats just took a beating from Oregon.  I think that translates to the field 3 weeks later and causes an incredibly slow start from Arizona.  They won’t survive the initial deluge of awesomeness and will succumb to a final collegiate dose of the Jay Train being forced down their throat.  Final score – Boise State 42 Arizona 27

Tami

This game is going to be stupid close. The match-up is a nightmare. The teams are both highly focused, very talented, and capable of winning this. It’s going to come down to want and preparation…and Boise is a dangerous group of young men when they want to win and have nearly a month to get ready.

Hold on to your sombreros and flat screens, boys, this is going to be just as wild as the rest of the Fiestas. There are many touchdowns in our collective future! Boise wins a close one with an epic final college performance by both Grant Hedrick and Jay Ajayi. Broncos – 49, Wildcats – 48

 

Heath

Last prediction of the season, and I don’t know where to start. I feel like this game is going to be close, I feel like this will emulate Fiesta’s past. The 3-5-5 is a thorn in Grant’s side that he has one more shot to fully conquer, question is will he? I hope so, and I think he will have a solid game. I actually think the game rests on Grant’s arm and not Ajayi’s legs like many believe. Jay is going to get touches, what he does with those won’t decide the game unless he goes off on a historic fashion. The thing that will decide this game is whether or not we can convert 3rd down. I think we will, and I think we win this game and take home our 3rd Fiesta Bowl Trophy. My final score – Boise State 28 – Arizona 17.

Gage

Oh joy! It’s finally here. The match up previews can only contain my anxiousness for so long and my usual limit is three. Then I start thinking … I am tired of talking about, can it just be game day already. No.More.Talking…. It.Is.Go.Time !!!

I am skeptical to believe that Grant Hedrick can carry us through a game of this magnitude. I should have no reason to believe he can’t do his consistent performance from the past 8 games, but turnover Grant looms in the back of mind and I always fear he may reappear. With just about three weeks to prepare for the Broncos, I can guarantee Arizona has their defense ready to stop Jay Ajayi at all costs. I don’ see Arizona allowing the Jay-Train to beat them, thus placing the burden on Grant’s shoulders. If Grant is able to be turnover free and continue his stellar play as of late – we win. If not – we lose. I truly think it is simple as that. So… closing my eyes and throwing all my chips in on Grant Hedrick. And it wouldn’t be a Boise State Fiesta Bowl if a trick didn’t alter the game somehow. *wink wink* to you Mr. Sanford. Boise State 31 Arizona 27