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Breaking Down the Gate Crashers: Boise State Broncos

Boise State is a program in transition as we approach the 2014 season. For the first time in five years, the Broncos weren’t voted a preseason top 25 team. For the first time since 2005, their coach is not Chris Petersen. For the first time since 2002, Boise State is following up a season in which it won fewer than nine games.

Boise State has been one of the most consistent programs in the nation in the 2000s. The five-loss season it suffered in 2013 represented the most losses BSU has had since 1998. Boise was in the Big West in 1998. That tells you how far the program has come. We, as watchers of college football, will get to see how far the Broncos have come in the offseason, because they kick off tonight against Ole Miss.

2013 Record: 8-5, Lost Hawaii Bowl

About 2013: The 2013 season for Boise State opened with a 38-6 pasting at the hands of Washington. It was a surprise to see Boise State blown off the field like that. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come. The Broncos bounced back with blowouts of nothing teams before they traveled to Fresno State. In one of the better games of the year, the Broncos showed a lot of heart and fire as they stormed back from a 34-19 deficit very late in the third quarter to take a 40-34 lead halfway through the fourth.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they got picked apart by Derek Carr, who led Fresno State down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Boise’s rally came up short.

The Broncos rallied back to win their next three games by double digits. Speaking of double digits, that’s the margin by which they suffered their third loss of the season at BYU. Boise State rebounded to hang 40 on both Colorado State and Wyoming. The road looked clear to a rematch against Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game, but something got in the way. That something was San Diego State.

The Broncos gave away points on offense and special teams by throwing an interception the Aztecs took to the house to tie the game at 21. When the Broncos retook the lead 28-21, they gave up a punt return touchdown to tie the score. The Broncos had a chance to win, but kicker Dan Goodale missed a 43-yard field goal. In overtime, Goodale made a field goal, but the Aztecs countered with a 10- yard touchdown pass to pull off the upset. San Diego State was the first team to beat Boise State in back to back years since the early 2000s.

Boise popped New Mexico, 45-17, before falling in the Hawaii Bowl, 38-23, against Oregon State in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.

All Conference Selections

WR – Matt Miller

RB – Jay Ajayi

DB – Donte Deayon

DB – Jeremy Ioane

Players to Watch

Grant Hedrick

167-242, 69%, 1,825 yards, 16 TDs, 5 INTs; 277 rushing yards, 6 TDs

Highlight Performances

18-21 – 85.7% – 150 yards -1 INT – 115 rush yards – 2 TDs

19-27 – 70.4% – 305 yards – 5 TDs – 30 rush yards -1 TD

27-36 – 75% – 265 – 3 TDs – 1 INT

32-44 – 72.7% – 382 – 1 TD (Hawaii Bowl)

Grant Hedrick is a redshirt senior. Hedrick took over as the Bronco quarterback for the last seven games of 2013. The Broncos went 4-3 in that span. His starting debut was a gem, and most of the consistency stayed. The only game in which Hedrick completed under 60 percent of his passes was the loss to BYU. Hedrick completed at least 70.4 percent four times. He did some of this against poor competition, but the last game mentioned was the bowl game.

His performance in losses was a bit worrisome and should be seen in the same way for tonight’s season opener. Hedrick completed 64.4 percent of his passes in losses, compared to 73.3 percent in wins. He had 4 TDs to 3 INTs in the losses, 11 TDs to 2 INTs in the wins.

Also, Hedrick’s own running game could be a concern. Two of his six rushing touchdowns came in mop up duty, along with 77 of the yards. A total of 115 yards came in the Nevada game, which means he ran for 85 yards in the final six games. Hedrick scored no touchdowns the final four games of the season.

Matt Miller

88 receptions, 1,140 yards, 12 TDs

Highlight Performances

10 receptions – 112 yards

9 – 93

5 -107 -1 TD

6 -96 – 2 TDs

7 -143 – 3 TDs

8 – 80 -1 TD

9 -111 – 3 TDs

11 – 206 -1 TD (bowl game)

It would be pretty accurate to say that over the last five games of 2013, Matt Miller was one of the best receivers in America. His overall season numbers were fantastic. Over the last five games, Miller had 41 receptions for 638 yards and 10 touchdowns. He and Grant Hedrick proved to be a deadly combination for opposing secondaries. Three of his five 100-yard reception games came in the final five.

It’s not as though Miller was having a bad year before that.  The two games before he became amazing, Miller had a combined 10 catches for 105 yards. The only game when he was shut down, he was held to 2 receptions for 11 yards against Utah State. The Miller-Hedrick connection should be going early and often for Boise State this season.

Jay Ajayi

249 carries, 1,425 yards, 5.7 yards per carry, 18 TDs; 22 receptions, 222 yards, 1 TD

Highlight Performances

15 carries – 80 yards – 2 TDs

17 – 126 – 4 TDs

22 – 109 – 1 TD

24 – 222 – 3 TDs

23 – 151

11 – 70 – 3 TDs

22 – 103 – 1 TD – 55 receiving yards

22 – 147 – 1 TD – 105 receiving yards – 1 TD

23 – 97 -1 TD (bowl game)

Jay Ajayi is another Bronco offensive weapon looking to build on a pretty great 2013 season. Ajayi hit the 100-yard mark six times in 2013, three additional games of yardage totals in the 90s, and two in the 80s. Ajayi did pretty much all of his pass-catching damage against New Mexico. Boise State did get him more involved in the passing game, feeding him 20 receptions, once Hedrick took over at quarterback.

Yards per carry in wins: 5.3, 7.4, 5.9, 5, 9.3, 7, 6.4, 6.7.

Yards per carry in losses: 4, 2.7, 6.6, 4.7, 4.2.

It’s not hard to see where Boise State has to concentrate in terms of the running game. When it’s not establishing Ajayi’s explosiveness, the Broncos are in a lot of trouble. Nearly 500 yards and 8 TDs were had in the Air Force (125 yards-4 TDs), Nevada (222-3 TDs), and Wyoming (147-1 TD) victories.

Donte Deayon

54 tackles, 3 for loss, 6 INTs, 9 passes defended, 15 passes defended

Donte Deayon might be the best cornerback in the Mountain West. In terms of raising hell in the secondary, he absolutely is a terror. Four of his six INTs came in Mountain West play, as did two of his three tackles for loss. He also chipped in returning punts for a couple games with a 21-yard average. Deayon makes a great corner combination with ….

Jeremy Ioane

59 tackles, 1 pass broken up, 1 pass defended

Ioane was one of the leading tacklers on the Broncos. He ended the season with 10 in the bowl game. The numbers that definitely jump out are the no INTs and only 2 passes defended or broken up. That shows that teams avoided Ioane… or everyone completed every pass against him and he was awful. Since he’s an all-conference corner, that was not the case. Ioane did have 3 INTs as a junior if you were worried.

New Coach

Bryan Harsin

Bryan Harsin was the coach at Arkansas State in 2013. He led the Red Wolves to an 8-5 record, ending the season with a victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. It’s that bowl game which teases you with action, and then you have to watch the rest on GoDaddy.com.

Harsin was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach when the Chris Petersen era started (2006) until 2010. From there, Harsin went to Texas to be co-offensive coordinator with Major Applewhite. I’m sure some of you remember that (at least that Major Applewhite was a part of it). It’s kind of a risk hiring a second-year coach to run a program as successful as this one, but Harsin has Boise ties and a good track record, including as a coach.

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2014 Schedule

August 28 – vs Ole Miss (neutral site)

September 6 – vs Colorado State

September 13 – at Connecticut

September 20 – vs Louisiana-Lafayette

September 27 – at Air Force

October 4 – at Nevada

October 17 – vs Fresno State

October 24 – vs BYU

November 8 – at New Mexico

November 15 – vs San Diego State

November 22 – vs Wyoming

November 29 – vs Utah State

ESPN Games

Ole Miss – Colorado State – Connecticut – Fresno State – BYU

CBS Sports Network Games

Louisiana-Lafayette – Air Force – Nevada – New Mexico

Boise State is going to be on your TV a lot this season. The Broncos play a favorable schedule in many ways. None of the four conference road games are against anyone Boise State shouldn’t beat by double digits. None of them had a winning record in 2013. Fresno State and BYU come to the smurf turf on Friday nights, which should result in a rowdy atmosphere for those rivals. Colorado State is the home opener, a revenge opportunity against San Diego State is at home, and tricky Utah State, a contender in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division, is the senior day game. The conference slate is there for a title game appearance if the Broncos can take care of home field.

The non-conference slate has a lot of opportunities. Ole Miss is a very tough test to start the season. One thing we know about season starting games, anything can happen. Boise is a bit of an unknown with a new coach. One would assume there would be nothing left in the bag of tricks, which will be emptied against the Rebels. The Louisiana-Lafayette game is an interesting clash between smaller conference powerhouses, one being more powerful than the other. BYU is the other non-conference game that is dangerous. As mentioned, it’s at home.

Matt Miller image via the Quad/New York Times

Scott

About Scott

I write Bearcats Blog and also on the Student Section.

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