During their climb to national prominence, Boise St. has had one of the most impressive runs of success in college football. While there are countless arguments against their success, you must give credit where it is due. Few schools have ever risen to prominence so fast, and none from Idaho, where potatoes are what they are known for, not football.
As a diehard BYU fan, I have watched their growth with envious eyes, as my beloved Cougars seem to be headed in the opposite direction. Since winning the national title in 1984, and creating the driving force for the creation of the BCS, they have slowly slipped backwards with rock bottom, hopefully, being hit last Saturday with an embarrassing loss to their in-state rival, Utah.
Having watched both teams' games this last week, I couldn't help but notice some stark differences in the way the games played out. Granted, they are coming from drastically different situations, but there are some simple facts that are leading directly to Boise State's success, and to BYU's demise.
1. Run the ball down their throats. This may be the single most simple piece of football wisdom ever. Good, old-fashioned smash-mouth football. You hit them right in the teeth, and if they stop you, then they simply must be better.
The more in-depth aspect of this is that it is nearly impossible to successfully pass the ball without an established running game.
Supposedly, BYU was going to establish the run to set up the pass. In reality they only ran the ball 15 times the entire game, compared to Boise's 38. While Boise didn't rack up a ton of yards, they forced the defense to be honest by continuing to run the ball.
What is to blame for BYU's struggles?
2. Go through your progression. Kellen Moore is rightly regarded as one of the best college quarterbacks in the country. He plays with a poise and confidence that is unreal. He reads defenses like the Sunday morning paper.
Jake Heaps, on the other hand, stares at one receiver from the moment the ball is snapped, until he throws it at him, whether he is open or not. He also is completely unwilling to throw the ball over the middle, which is the foundation of any solid offense.
In a season that was supposed to be tough for Moore, with new receivers and a new coordinator, he is putting up incredible numbers, and continues to silence the critics. Meanwhile, Heaps has talked a big game, and done next to nothing to back it up.
3. Use what works, and get rid of what doesn't. This may seem obvious, but it must be said. Both teams got new offensive coordinators this season. At Boise, because the old one was so good that he got lured to greener pastures, and at BYU because it looked like the old one was ready to be put out to pasture.
Judging by Boise State's early success, the new coordinator has embraced what has worked in the past and run with it. On the other hand, Brandon Doman has embraced the stuff that got his predecessor fired, and isn't even using the stuff that worked.
For one, Doman needs to get his butt in the press box so he can actually see what is going on. Second, he needs to stop handing the ball to Di Luigi, who likes to prance his way around, and he needs to give it to Kariya, who could actually execute number one mentioned above.
4. Ball Security. Duh. BYU's defense has kept them in every game this season, much the way that Boise State's has to a large extent. While the Broncos' D gets little to no credit, they always do enough to give their team a chance to win.
There was just no chance for BYU's D against Utah considering how much they were on the field. It also carries over from the two previous games, when the defense was the only reason it was even close.
Seven turnovers is just plain inexcusable, and comes down to a lack of focus, and ultimately poor coaching.
5. Pressure the Quarterback Much has been made of the success of BYU's defense against the run, but in terms of quarterback pressure, they have been lacking. Believe it or not, BYU doesn't have a single sack this year.
Quarterbacks have been given way too much time, and any D-1 quarterback will complete passes if you give them enough time. Boise doesn't have some huge number of sacks, but they put pressure on the quarterback, and force him into bad decisions for the whole game.
Boise State has garnered more national attention than possibly any team in the country the past five years or so. Granted, in the non-BCS world there hasn't been a ton of newsworthy competition, but Boise has owned that spotlight ever since that dramatic win over Oklahoma.
Here's hoping that BYU will find a little humility, learn from Boise and go through the necessary motions to find some success. Heaven knows it can't get much worse.