The Boise State Broncos made their way to the icy mountains of Wyoming to take on the Cowboys in a Mountain West showdown Saturday.
However, the showdown turned into a beatdown, as the Cowboys, in their attempt to break the Broncos, found themselves face down in the dust after being soundly bucked by something more closely resembling a mechanical bull.
The offense for Boise State was running like an "adequately" oiled machine; meanwhile the defense continued its methodical dominance.
There were many lessons learned on Saturday, but it was the Broncos who did most of the teaching.
Let's look at what we learned Saturday when Boise State took on Wyoming.
1. The Defense Is a Very Offensive Family
Another game, another defensive touchdown. While enough can't be said about the Boise State defense, it is amazing at how many players simply make remarkable plays.
Yes, the secondary is awesome. Yes, the linebackers are incredible. Yes, the line is playing lights out. However, who is the superstar? Who are the key players?
If you answered "all of them," you win a prize. The prize is that you are now a member of those who "get it."
The Broncos do it "The Bronco Way." It means any and all players get involved. It means every player steps up. It means that the family that is called the defense is part of a bigger family called the team, and they make it happen together.
This week Corey Bell scooped up a fumble and scored after running it back 19 yards for a Broncos touchdown. It was a team effort that featured many incredible individual efforts, and that's what makes the Boise State defense so impressive.
2. Joe Southwick Packs Duct Tape
The Broncos rolled into Laramie with several weapons on their side. It was to be an old-fashioned, wild-west, high-noon—okay 1:30 MST—showdown with the Cowboys.
However, one of the best weapons in the Broncos arsenal has to be the duct tape that Joe Southwick keeps in his holster.
After another solid performance Saturday in Laramie, Southwick once again was able to quick draw his sticky silencer and paste a strip over the sometimes large and often moving mouths of his critics.
No, he hasn't replaced the legend of Kellen "Quick Draw" Moore. But, he has become better and better as the season has rolled on, and Saturday was no exception.
On the day, Joe "The Kid" Southwick completed 20 of 28 passes for 198 yards and had a single interception. He was efficient on third down and managed the game effectively.
His passes were as crisp as the Wyoming air, and he and his receivers seem to be getting their timing down. It has been a steady progression for Southwick, and his progress has been impressive.
3. Thunder, Lightning and Lightning Bolt
Jay Ajayi once again added some thunder to D.J. Harper's lightning. Ajayi had some bruising bursts and a touchdown to boot.
Harper looked incredible as well. On the day, Mr. Lightning himself ran 19 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Several of Harper's runs were amazing. Just when you thought he was stopped, he would spin out of it or break the defender's tackle.
It was another solid performance for the senior, who now has 713 rushing yards on the season.
Then there is the lightning bolt known as Shane Williams-Rhodes. SWR carried the ball just three times on the day, but one of them was a 28-yard touchdown to start the second half scoring-fest for the Broncos.
4. The Bug Bit
The injury bug hasn't been an issue so far this season for Boise State. Yes, there have been a few, but overall, it hasn't been a big problem.
However, on Saturday against Wyoming, several players had to leave the game.
Cornerback Bryan Douglas looked to have a somewhat serious knee injury, and had to be taken off the field. Greg Grimes, Kharyee Marshall and Dextrell Simmons also left the field with injuries, but none of them seemed to be as serious.
Since coach Petersen keeps those kind of things quiet, it is anyone's guess of how bad any of the injuries are. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of those players return against San Diego State next Saturday in Boise.
5. Coach Pete Does Not Use a Sliding Scale
Last week it was the Broncos sack leader that sat out for breaking an unspecified team rule. This week it was freshman tight end Hayden Plinke and sophomore starting safety Lee Hightower.
After Bryan Douglas went down with an injury early and the Wyoming passing game was chewing up serious yardage, the loss of Hightower loomed large.
You have to believe Hightower was watching the game somewhere and kicking himself.
Lawrence and Plinke are first-year players, and that doesn't excuse anything. However, Hightower is in his second year, and he ought to know that coach Petersen doesn't mix words.
Kudos once again for coach Petersen and his willingness to live by his own standards.
6. The End of a Streak Was the Alarm Clock
When Wyoming scored in the first half of the game on Saturday it broke the streak. The Broncos defense had held the last five opponents to zero points in the first half.
However, the touchdown by the Cowboys seemed to be just what was needed on a frozen day in Laramie. The defense was playing a little soft until Brett Smith ran in for a 4-yard score, but after that—not so much.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Wyoming would score again. However, that was after some substitutions and the game was well out of reach.
7. Boise State Is All Alone
The Broncos are 7-1 overall, 4-0 in the Mountain West and in sole possession of first place.
Fresno State, Air Force and San Diego State are all 4-1 in the MWC, while Nevada fell to 3-2 after losing to the Falcons Saturday.
Boise State plays the Aztecs next Saturday and Nevada the last week of the season. However, they don't play Air Force, which coach Petersen is probably okay with considering how much he loves playing against the triple-option.
8. Sacks Alive
Boise State once again had a sack-happy defense. On the day the Broncos sacked the Wyoming quarterback four times.
J.C. "Tackle Happy" Percy and Demarcus "I learned my lesson last week" Lawrence led the way. However, Beau "What about me" Martin and Armand "Hammer" Nance got into the action as well.
Percy also had 10 tackles on the day, which led the team, but Lawrence wasn't far behind with seven.
9. The Sky Is the Limit
Every week it seems the Broncos make improvements. Some weeks it's the running game, while others it's the defense. The passing game has gotten better, and Joe Southwick continues to rise.
This week it was everything.
The 45-14 win looked like a Boise State victory. From the play of the quarterback, running backs, receivers, offensive line and the entire defense and special teams, the Broncos were complete.
Yes, there were issues, but it was the most complete game the Broncos have played all season.
If this continues and the Broncos find their way into a BCS game somehow, they may just shock some folks—including some of their own fans.
10. The Broncos Should Climb
When the BCS rankings come out, don't be surprised if Boise State makes a move.
Even with strength-of-schedule issues, the Broncos are rising in the human polls and should be ahead of any Big Ten team that is eligible.
All Boise State has to do is finish the season ranked in the top 16 of the BCS and ahead of any BCS AQ conference champion. Right now, Nebraska is the closest to the Broncos in the Big Ten, and they play at Michigan State next week.
The Broncos are hitting their stride at the right time. It should be an exciting finish to a season that many thought would bring the team's demise.
If experience is any indication, and it is, Chris Petersen won't allow his team to overlook a single remaining opponent.
For Bronco fans—true fans, not the "oh ya, I knew the Broncos would do great this year" latecomers—there should be a considerable amount of optimism.
If Boise State wins out, not only will they take the Mountain West title in their last year in the conference, but they will be in a realistic position to make a BCS game.
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