Five Strikes: Things We Learned From Boise State's Victory Over Oregon State
ESPN's College Gameday came and went, and as Fowler, Herbstreet, Howard, and the ever ebullient Erin Andrews headed back to Bristol, the nation is left to ponder Boise State's latest victory, over No. 24 Oregon State, in a game that shouldn't have ever been as close as the 13-point margin dictates.
Boise State's post-Virginia Tech life is all about style points, and one can argue that that fact both hurt and helped the Broncos on Saturday night. On ABC for the first time ever, in front of a national audience, many of whom had yet to see Boise play in anything other than a Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos put on a show that showed a little bit of everything, starting from their underdog, trickery-dependent upbringing, to their most recent pop you in the mouth kind of style.
What we were left with was a 37-24 Broncos win, but here's what we can take from that game, and project about the Broncos' season looking forward.
Strike ONE: BSU-OSU Has The Potential to Be an Awesome Rivalry
Boise State should ditch the MWC and hold out on an offer from the Pac-10, if only so that they could have a yearly rivalry with Oregon State.
You could tell that there was no love lost between these teams. Numerous personal foul penalties, some pretty vicious hits (see Jamar Taylor), and a see-saw battle of momentum. The Broncos have made it their business to beat soundly any team that comes to the blue turf, and Oregon State has been one of the only teams to muster the cajones, and they've met the same demise that befell Oregon last year, and numerous WAC squads throughout the years. And it doesn't seem like the Beavers have taken kindly to being embarrassed on a blue carpet.
BTW, the best sign I saw at Gameday...
"440 gallons of blue paint...$4000,
cost of applying said paint...$1000,
returning after a beat down to practice on a blue field...priceless."
The Broncos have some decent rivalries in the WAC. Fresno State is always a tough task, and Nevada has provided some of the best games in the past few years, but while those two and Idaho get me fired up, I'd much rather see the Broncos tangle with an Oregon State squad every year.
Let's just hope OSU's Mike Riley and the athletic department don't skip out on any further commitment once Boise leaves the WAC for the Mountain West.
Strike TWO: Special Teams and Penalties Kept This From Getting Really Ugly
Get rid of the James Rodgers' punt return for a TD, and the Broncos numerous penalties that twice extended Beaver's touchdown drives, and this game should have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 49-13.
Unfortunately, the Broncos couldn't keep their emotions in check, and were twice called for unsportsmanlike conduct flags on third downs. They also saw terrible coverage and poor tackling lead to a 54-yard TD return, and a mistimed jump by safety Jeron Johnson lead to a big catch, AND a stroke of bad luck that kept a fumbled ball in the end-zone long enough for a Beaver to flop on it for a touchdown.
The Broncos special teams hasn't been terrible so far this season, but aside from the blocked punt against Virginia Tech in the season opener it hasn't really been that great either. No big plays, on kick or punt returns, tons of penalties, and now this Rodgers TD.
And the team has been killing themselves consistently with penalties. Eight for 58 yards in this game, and a staggering 11 for 105 yards against Tech. They even had eight for 70 yards against Wyoming. Put them all together and the Broncos are one of the most penalized squads in the country.
Definitely not indicative of a typical disciplined Boise State squad. And if they're going to want a shot at the National Championship, or even if they want to finish undefeated Coach Petersen is going to have some work to do.
Strike THREE: Normally a Master Of The Short Pass, Kellen Dazzled With The Bomb
ESPN pointed it out. Broncos QB Kellen Moore completed 70 percent of his passes over 15 yards, including all three of his touchdown passes.
Moore is normally a master of the short, five-to-10-yard pass. He has the weapons that can turn those short-to-intermediate plays into big gains, so it's pretty rare that Moore goes deep as often as he did on Saturday night.
ESPN also pointed out how well Moore performed off of play-action. Broncos QBs have always been masters of the play-action fake, and few have done it as well as Moore. He's in a league with Jared Zabransky.
Also of note, how fantastic was Moore's composure in the pocket? What other QB in the country looks as comfortable in the pocket, and as smooth evading pressure. Let's be honest, a barely six-feet tall, floppy-haired pocket QB with very little mobility looks like he'd be pretty easy to sack, and somehow Moore escaped the Beaver pressure all-night long, making the secondary pay for giving him just a few extra milliseconds.
Strike FOUR: This Is The Most Balanced Boise Offense In Years...Maybe Ever
In the past decade, Boise has gone back and forth, from run to pass, usually favoring one or the other.
First there was Bart Hendricks, who flung the ball around with some serious flair. Then Brock Forsey came along and established Boise State as a running back''s heaven. Then back to the pass with Ryan Dinwiddie. And then back to the run with Ian Johnson and his Heisman-worthy campaign. Then Kellen Moore came along.
Had to be a return to the passing ways of Boise State right? Not so fast!
With the running back stable of Doug Martin (thunder), D.J. Harper (lightning), and Jeremy Avery (tornado force wind), the Broncos have one of the deepest running back corps in the nation. They aren't Trent Richardson and defending trophy-winner Mark Ingram, but they serve the Broncos just fine.
This talented group of RBs have helped Boise State reinforce the fact that they are no longer just an underdog squad that has to resort to trickeration to take down the big boys. The Broncos ran over, through, and around Oregon State on Saturday night, proving that they were the more physical team. They did the same thing to Oregon last year, out-muscling the super-quick Ducks squad.
Add in Moore's ridiculous high-octane passing game with uber-weapons Austin Pettis and Titus Young, and the Broncos easily have one of the most balanced attacks in college football.
The 2007 squad that won the Fiesta Bowl might be perceived as the most talented squad in BSU history, but this 2010 version gets my vote.
Strike FIVE: The Broncos Are The Most Balanced Team In College Football
Mark it down...the Broncos have the most complete, talented, balanced squad in college football.
Yeah, they gave up 24 points to a team that struggled to beat an underwhelming Louisville squad, and yes they beat down a bottom-feeder the week before that, and barely snuck out of D.C. with a win over Virginia Tech. But, that doesn't even begin to show how talented this Broncos squad is.
Start with the offense.
Kellen Moore is the most talented QB in the country. He isn't fast, and he isn't huge. He won't be a top five, or heck, even a top-five round draft pick. But the Broncos sweet tossing lefty is second-to-none. He has better accuracy than Arkansas' Ryan Mallet, more experience than Florida's John Brantley, more pocket awareness than Michigan's Denard Robinson, and more weapons at his disposal that Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor.
Their three-headed RB corps ranks second to Alabama's duo of Ingram and Richardson, but that's it. Between the three of them they have power, speed, and elusiveness.
Their one-two wide receiver tandem is the best in the nation. Yes, Julio Jones or A.J. Green may be more talented than Pettis or Young, but no wideout in the country has a partner lining up opposite them that complements them as well as Austin or Titus.
Their offensive line, while still young and developing, has the potential to develop into one of the best and most experienced in the country. And with as many as 11 players rotating on the line over the past two years, they certainly have the deepest O-line in the nation.
No team has more talent at tight-end. Kyle Efaw has the size and speed to be a legit down-field threat (as you saw against TCU last year, and versus OSU on Saturday), and all Tommy Gallarda does is catch touchdowns. He's probably the best red-zone tight-end target in all of college football.
On defense, the Broncos boast one of the most impressive defensive lines west of the Mississippi River. Everybody knew that Ryan Winterswyk was all-conference, but he'll most certainly be joined on that list by Shea McClellin, who added another half-sack on Saturday night. And junior Tyrone Crawford and redshirt freshman Ricky Tjong-a-Tjoe provide welcomed energy. Chase Baker is a run-stuffer extraordinaire and Billy Winn has the biggest non-stop motor of them all.
This unit held Jacquizz Rodgers to 46 yards and a 2.6 yards per carry average. As a whole, they held OSU to only 78 yards on 33 carries. Against Virginia Tech, the Broncos stifled Heisman candidate Ryan Williams to 44 yards on 21 carries. And against Wyoming, the squad held the Cowboys to negative 21 yards.
The Broncos line-backing corps is one of the most underrated units in the country, but there's plenty of talent there. Aaron Tevis, Byron Hout, J.C. Percy, Hunter White, and Derrell Acrey have all made huge plays over the past few years, and when combined with the Broncos young, yet very deep secondary, the Broncos are almost impossible to pass on.
That secondary is led by safety Jeron Johnson, who is most certainly All-WAC, and possibly second-or-third team All-American. He can fly, has great hands and can lay some serious wood.
George Iloka has three passes defended, and has become a tackle machine, and we all saw what Jamar Taylor is capable of, forcing two fumbles and laying out OSU QB Ryan Katz on the second play of the game. Winston Venable makes play after play and is always around the ball as a linebacker-cornerback hybrid. And that doesn't even include Brandyn Thompson, the Broncos best all-around defensive back, who had key interceptions in the Fiesta Bowl last year, and a three-INT game against Hawaii the year before.
Moving on to special teams, Boise has an experienced kicker who has solved his problems with field goals from the left hash-mark, and now really shows no weaknesses. He's 8-for-9 on the season, and has nailed 11-of-12 PATs.
Kyle Brotzman is also the Broncos punter and he has used every kick imaginable to become one of the top punters in the country, even though he doesn't get the credit he deserves. Time and time again last year, he pinned teams inside their own five with 60- and 70-yard rugby kicks.
And to top it all off, they have one of the games most innovative thinkers in head coach Chris Petersen, and one of the top young offensive coordinators in Brian Harsin. And don't forget that their defensive coordinator was talented enough that he was lured (by the millions) away to Tennessee to restore their once proud defensive tradition.
Like I said, top all-around, balanced team in the country.
Eat your heart out Alabama.