Boise State Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013
The 2013-14 football season was disappointing in many ways for Bronco Nation.
The Broncos finished the year 8-5 overall, which was their worst record since 1998 when they finished 6-5 as members of the Big West.
They also had to endure season-ending injuries to several key players, including excellent backup running back Aaron Baltazar, offensive spark plug Shane Williams-Rhodes and starting quarterback Joe Southwick.
The season seemed to go from bad to worse as Boise State lost crucial games, including one to San Diego State. It was not only the first time in a long time the Broncos lost to a conference opponent two seasons in a row, but the 34-31 heartbreaking overtime loss also hindered them from earning a spot in the first-ever Mountain West title game.
The biggest loss for Boise State, however, was in early December when the team would lose its head coach Chris Petersen after he decided to leave Boise to become the new head man for the Washington Huskies.
Not long after that, promising freshman running back Aaron Baltazar decided to leave the team for undisclosed reasons.
But, the difficulties didn't stop there.
It was, without much doubt, the worst season in over a decade for the team that has made winning look so easy.
However, adversity has never kept Boise State football down for long. Helen Keller once said:
Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.
Even if this season brought difficulty and hardship for the Broncos and their fans, the truth is that all of the blood, sweat, tears and hard work will not be wasted. This is a program that has never rolled over and played dead.
And, if history is any indication, this team will rise from the ashes of this season and continue its ascension in the college football universe.
Of course, the 2013-14 season was not without some high points for the Broncos either.
There were some very impressive and excellent moments along the way. Let's look at five such moments in a celebration of the things that did go right for Boise State in 2013 and what it might mean for this program going forward.
Before we dive into the list of highlights, we must also recognize those moments that were oh so close to finding a way onto the list.
The only thing that hindered the Bryan Douglas 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from making this list was that it only tied the game against San Diego State 7-7.
If the Broncos had gone on to win that contest, his touchdown return would have certainly landed him among the best.
The same can be said for Matt Miller's performance in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
According to BroncoSports.com, Miller had 11 catches for 206 yards and a single touchdown against Oregon State. It was a MVP performance for Miller, but because of the game itself, it just misses the list.
However, for those who may think that shouldn't be the case, just know that Miller does make the list for another performance.
Some might also think Shane Williams-Rhodes' performance against Utah State should be on this list somewhere. Against the Aggies, SWR caught 13 passes that were good enough for 150 yards and a touchdown.
If this was a list of six, it would be there.
For some people, the additions to Bronco Stadium may not seem like a big moment. However, the new 70,000 square feet Bleymaier Football Center will bring benefits to the Broncos for a long time to come.
According to BoiseStateFootball.com, the new building has coaches offices, meeting rooms, an academic and computer lab, a football weight room, a player lounge and an athletic training facility, along with a 150-seat team theater room and a recruiting lounge.
Those kind of facilities reap huge benefits in recruiting and in building an elite program.
Other additions to the stadium in 2013 were the giant video screen and brand new sound system. Again, this only adds to the atmosphere, which should help the program rise to the next level.
Now that facilities have been upgraded, the next logical step would be to add additional seating to get Bronco Stadium over 40,000 strong.
However, to do that, there has to be much better attendance. It will be interesting to see how fan support is in 2014.
Jay Ajayi's 71-Yard Run Against Nevada
The score was 17-13 in favor of Nevada with 12:14 left in the third quarter.
Joe Southwick was out of the game after breaking his ankle on his first play of the game, and the offense of the Broncos was sluggish.
On first down at their own 29, the Broncos called a run play to Jay Ajayi. He took the ball, made a quick move and was off to the races.
Ajayi ran 71 yards for the touchdown, but it did more than give Boise State the lead. The run lifted the entire team, and it would never look back.
The final score was 34-17 in favor of the Broncos.
According to BroncoSports.com, against the Wolf Pack, Jay Ajayi ran 24 times for 222 yards and three touchdowns. But it was the 71-yard score that changed the entire game.
Grant Hedrick's Performance Against Colorado State
Against Colorado State, junior quarterback Grant Hedrick gave Boise State fans something to look forward to.
In his exciting performance, Hedrick was responsible for six touchdowns. According to BroncoSports.com, he was 19-of-27 for 305 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
The Broncos won the game 42-30, and it gave a glimpse of what Hedrick could do.
Going into 2014, he will certainly be the front-runner to win the starting job. He will no doubt get some serious competition, but if he can play like he did against the Rams, he has nothing to worry about.
Matt Miller's Performance Against Wyoming
As mentioned previously, Matt Miller does make this list.
Against Wyoming, the junior wide receiver played an incredible game. He caught just seven passes, but three of them were touchdowns. One of them was an incredible juggling grab that bounced off of a defender.
According to BroncoSports.com, Miller finished with 143 yards in the game.
Miller has been a valuable weapon in the Broncos offense for three seasons now. However, look for him to have an even bigger year in 2014 as a senior.
When BroncoSports.com announced the hiring of Bryan Harsin as the new head coach for the Boise State football team, many fans celebrated.
Harsin is, after all, the epitome of what it means to be a Bronco.
He is a local guy who graduated from Capital High in Boise, but he was also a walk-on quarterback at Boise State.
After his playing days, he became a graduate assistant for the Broncos in 2001 before landing the position of tight ends coach in 2002. He would then rise to become the offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Chris Petersen in 2006.
All Harsin did in his first season as OC was help lead the team to a perfect season capped off with a win against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
He would then go on to help the Broncos to a 61-5 overall record before leaving in 2011 to take a job on the University of Texas staff. In 2013, he was hired by Arkansas State to be the head coach of the Red Wolves.
In his only season in Jonesboro, he led the team to a shared Sun Belt Conference title and an overall record of 7-5.
Harsin was quoted in his introduction as to his thoughts about Boise State. He said:
It's a special place built by special people. One of the hardest decisions we ever made was leaving Boise. We did that so I could become a better coach, so I could one day have the opportunity to return as head coach, that day has arrived.
This is truly Bryan Harsin's dream job, and with his passion and excitement, Boise State fans can be very excited about what is coming next for the program.
In the Idaho Statesman video posted above, athletic director Mark Coyle said some interesting things about what kind of coach he was looking for.
Coyle said he was looking for someone who had a "sense of urgency." He would go on to explain that Harsin told him that he "operates like it's 4th-and-1."
If you watch Harsin's comments, it is easy to see why the university chose this man to lead the program.
Harsin seems very excited, and you have to believe he is chomping at the bit to get this program back on track. If you look at one of his latest tweets, that might even be an understatement.
The hiring of Bryan Harsin was a great moment for a team, a school, a community and all of Bronco Nation. It came at a time when the difficulties of a season were compounded by the Petersen decision and hope seemed to be dwindling.
He has his work cut out for him, but his track record shows that he is more than capable of meeting the challenge.