Five Strikes: Things We Learned From Boise State's Victory Over Wyoming
Last season I started a running segment on the Broncos during their run to the Fiesta Bowl entitled "Five Strikes."
I understand that this season things are a little different for the Broncos, so instead of pointing out five somewhat obvious things about the Broncos performance, I'm going to delve a little bit deeper.
No more "Kellen Moore is really good."
Think more along the lines of, "how good could this team be if Moore goes down with an injury?" That kind of stuff.
I'll try to keep up at a pace of one "Five Strikes" article after each game, and feel free to comment on anything you agree or disagree with. You get used to arguing as a Bronco fan, so bring it.
Strike ONE: The Broncos Realize That This Season Isn't About Winning...
...it's about winning with style.
As stylish as Boise's last-minute victory against Virginia Tech was, all those points flew out the window the minute the Va. Tech-James Madison game ended.
This year the Broncos need as many style points as possible. No longer will 28-21 wins over Tulsa be accepted if the team expects to retain it's top three ranking. No more allowing 35 points to a Louisiana Tech team that was favored to lose by that same number of points.
In that regard, the 51-6 thumping of Wyoming was ripe with style points. The Broncos were firing on all cylinders. Junior QB Kellen Moore and backup Mike Coughlin combined for 373 passing yards and two scores, while the three-headed beast of Doug Martin, D.J. Harper and Jeremy Avery combined for 201 yards and two scores.
On defense, the Broncos blanketed dual-threat QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, holding him to a completion percentage well under 50%, forcing two interceptions, and one fumble that was recovered for a Boise touchdown.
True to their form as a run-stuffing unit, the Broncos held the Cowboys to -21 yards on the ground, and only 156 through the air.
And all of the Broncos stars had great days. Moore solidified his Heisman status, tossing for well over 300 yards and two scores. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes, and earned the 28th win of his career.
He is now 28-1 as a starter, a much better number than Vince Young, Matt Leinart, or Tim Tebow. Austin Pettis made a huge play before getting benched for showboating after his 58-yard TD grab.
Speedster Titus Young was all over the place, gaining 152 total yards on seven touches (four catches, one carry, one punt and one kick return).
Clearly, the Broncos know that this season isn't about just going undefeated. In order to achieve their supreme goal, they'll have to do it with more style than a Queer Eye marathon.
Strike TWO: Shea McClellin Is The Best Defensive Lineman That The Broncos Have
No offense to Ryan Winterswyk, who is a bit of a lame duck after having pre-season surgery, but McClellin has emerged as the go-to guy on this line.
Against Virginia Tech, the junior McClellin posted four tackles for loss, and notched two-and-a-half sacks on Tech's speedy QB Tyrod Taylor.
Against Wyoming, McClellin had a similar effect against Wyoming's running QB Carta-Samuels.
McClellin didn't even have to post one tackle to show his effectiveness in getting to the QB, forcing several ill throws from the Cowboys signal-caller, and he had the awareness to chase down a fumble and pounce on it in the end-zone for the Broncos first touchdown this past Saturday.
McClellin might not have as huge of an impact in this Saturday's nationally televised tilt against Oregon State, but who can blame him?
He said it best before last week's game, that he loves chasing QBs, especially running ones.
With OSU coming to Boise, and bringing with them their pocket-passer Ryan Katz, expect Winterswyk to notch some huge plays of his own.
Strike THREE: Aaron Burks and Kirby Moore Are The Future Superstars of This Team
Let me first start off by introducing you to both players.
Moore is easy. He's the baby brother of record-setting QB Kellen Moore. Kirby played in eight games last season, snagging 21 catches for 242 yards and two TDs. He caught four passes for 28 yards in Boise's victory over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Burks is a redshirt freshman from Texas. He represents the far reaches of Boise's recruiting now that they have two BCS game victory patches on their jackets.
Burks was a heralded recruit, who had his choice of a few different schools, but wound up at Boise, with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.
Moore suffered an injury early in camp, and will most likely redshirt this season, due in part to the depth the Broncos feel they have at the wideout position, in guys like Burks.
Anyone who saw Burks first career catch last Saturday saw an excellent route runner with soft hands and a mentality to fight for some extra yardage after the catch.
Both Titus Young and Austin Pettis are seniors, so both will be gone next year, missing from Kellen Moore's quest for a potential third BCS appearance, leaving tons of slack to be picked up by Burks and the younger Moore, both of whom will be sophomores.
Strike FOUR: Despite Talent, No Wide Receiver Will Reach 1000 Yards
Few teams anywhere in the nation have a wide receiver tandem as talented and experienced as Pettis and Young.
Pettis offers the sure-hands, and Young can blaze by you with some of the quickest bursts in college football today.
And yet, while the two might hit double-digit TDs for the second year in a row, I don't expect either to come close to topping the 1000-yard mark.
This Broncos offense is a very diversified one. Nine players NOT name Young or Pettis caught a pass on Saturday, accounting for nearly half of the Broncos 373 yards through the air.
The Broncos have a solid slot option in Tyler Shoemaker, who caught one pass for 39 yards, two quick four-wide guys in Chris Potter (two catches for 16 yards) and Mitch Burroughs, and two immensely talented tight ends in Kyle Efaw (he of the the now famous fake punt in last year's Fiesta Bowl) and Tommy Gallarda (two catches for 20 yards).
Not to mention the Broncos stable of running backs, all capable of taking it to the house off of a quick screen or a deep route.
Boise's backs combined for six catches for 70 yards against Wyoming, and are yet another contributing factor to both Pettis and Young not reaching 1000+ yards.
Strike FIVE: The Broncos Could Have Two 1000-Yard Running Backs
Currently Doug Martin is on pace for over 1100 rushing yards. D.J. Harper is quietly on pace for more than 800.
Together, they could give Boise State their first set of 1000+ yard rushers in the same season since they turned Division I.
The coaching staff has made it clear that Martin is going to be the featured back this season, and he has been so far, notching the most carries, and making the most of them. He gained 83 yards against Tech and ran for 105 in limited work against Wyoming.
Coach Pete has also made it clear that Harper is going to get the second-most attempts, and so far that has held true.
Harper has only 15 carries, but has made the most of them, averaging 9.3 yards per carry so far, helped greatly by his 71-yard TD scamper against Tech.
His longest run of the day against Wyoming was only 11 yards, but he's capable of busting loose every time he touches the ball.
The only real threat to dual-1000-yard running backs is the prospect of injury.
Harper went down with a season-ending injury in Boise's second game of the year in 2009, and while Martin has remained injury-free, we could be seeing even more of Jeremy Avery if one, or God forbid both of these guys go down.
BONUS STRIKE...and Prediction For BSU-OSU
Normally, I like to take some time to project what I look to see going from the next upcoming game.
And what I see, is a dominating Broncos performance. I think they'll force Ryan Katz into a very TCU-like performance (9-25 159 yards), but without the two TD passes.
I think they'll squeeze some INTs out of the young sophomore QB, and the Broncos D-line will have a field day, chasing him all over the field.
Look for big games from the Broncos linebacking corp, a deep, nameless bunch that is one of the best units in the country.
Also, look for the Broncos to try to establish the running game, early, late and everywhere in between.
They know their best bet to keep Oregon State off the scoreboard is to keep the ball out of the hands of anyone named Rodgers.
Also, look for another huge special teams play from Boise.
Bottom line, I'll take the Broncos 37-10.