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How can you tell that Boise State has become a superpower? Instead of, “yippee, we went 11-2,” it’s “oh well, we went 11-2.”
Head coach: Chris Petersen
8th year: 84-8
Off. 24, Def. 20, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Boise State Players
1. DE Demarcus Lawrence, Jr.
2. S Jeremy Ioane, Jr.
3. OT Charles Leno, Sr.
4. WR Matt Miller, Jr.
5. RB Jay Ajayi, Soph.
6. C Matt Paradis, Sr.
7. NT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Sr.
8. S Darian Thompson, Soph.
9. LB Blake Renaud, Jr.
10. QB Joe Southwick, Sr.
8/31 at Washington
9/7 UT Martin
9/13 Air Force
9/20 at Fresno State
9/28 Southern Miss
10/5 OPEN DATE
10/12 at Utah State
10/25 at BYU
11/2 at Colorado State
11/9 OPEN DATE
11/23 at San Diego State
11/30 New Mexico
Head coach Chris Petersen has things in the proper perspective and realizes that it’s really, really, really hard to come up with an 11-win season, much less come up with seven straight double-digit win seasons, much less come up with ten in the last 11 years, much less go 84-8 – let that one sink in for a moment – in seven years of work. But it’s not a negative to always be shooting for more, and at Boise State, it’s not unrealistic each and every season to be shooting for perfection, even if the talent and the players don’t appear to be in place to do it.
Last season the Broncos had to replace nine starters on defense, lost all-time star quarterback Kellen Moore, had to live without NFL rookie sensation Doug Martin at running back, and had to replace several other key parts, and still the lost two games – Michigan State and San Diego State – by a grand total of six points in hard-fought battles that could’ve gone either way. In many ways, 2012 was Chris Petersen’s best coaching performance, but at the same time, after setting such an impossibly high standard for his players and his program, yeah, 11-2 is a disappointment.
As good as last season was record-wise, there were some problems. The offense didn’t have anywhere near the same pop or explosion it enjoyed when players like Moore, Martin, Austin Pettis and Titus Young were around in previous seasons.
While the killer instinct was still there, the Broncos didn’t bury teams like they did in the past, scoring just 393 points on the year after cranking up 575 in 2011, 586 in 2010 and 591 in 2009. The last time the program scored fewer than 400 points in a season was 1998 when it was fighting its way through the Big West, however, the defense picked up the slack allowing more than 20 points just four times and never giving up more than 29. It was a different Boise State, but it was still effective. Now, can Petersen and company crank up the machine and get back to being BCS worthy?
Once again, there’s work to do on both sides of the ball with six starters needing to be replaced on each side, and some big holes to patch up on the defensive front six and the offensive line, but compared to last season, there’s nothing this coaching staff can’t handle.
So for now, when Boise State goes 11-2 again, or better, because that’s what Boise State does, enjoy it. This ride is going to slow down at some point, Petersen will be given an offer he can’t refuse, and 11-2 will be a destination and in no way a disappointment.
What to watch for on offense: The play of the running backs has to take the pressure off of Joe Southwick. While he came up with a good, efficient, effective year, Southwick didn’t crank up the big Kellen Moore-like passing numbers, helped by a terrific season from the line and a huge year from D.J. Harper, who came up with 1,137 yards and 15 scores. Jay Ajayi and Derrick Thomas have to combine forces to balance out the offense, because if the Broncos need Southwick to dominate, there will be problems. The offense can move with the passing game, and Southwick will get the job done, but to go from great to BCS, the attack needs to do more.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers rise up and become major factors. Blake Renaud is back, but he was a bit of a disappointment making just 46 sacks with no sacks and few big plays. J.C. Percy dominated on the weakside, making 118 tackles, but now he’s gone, meaning Renaud has to become an all-star who everything works around, and sophomore Tyler Gray, junior Travis Saxton and senior Dustin Kamper have to become terrific. If the defense ever wants to run a 4-3 instead of the 4-2-5, it needs the linebackers to be as strong as the line and secondary will be.
The team will be far better if … There’s always steady pressure into the backfield. Demarcus Lawrence came in from the JUCO ranks and was outstanding from the start, finishing up with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He’s back on the outside and should be a terror again, but he loses running mate Sam Ukwuachu, who came up with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss but was booted off the team this offseason. The defense as a whole was fantastic, helped mostly by the pressure up front, and it showed with no sacks and just three tackles for loss in the loss to Michigan State, no sacks and three tackles for loss in the dogfight against New Mexico, and just two sacks in the loss to San Diego State.
The schedule: As always, there’s a BCS test right away with a rematch of the bowl game against Washington, but the Mountain West slate kicks in fast with a Mountain division showdown against Air Force up after a breather against UT Martin. And then comes the real fight with an interdivisional battle and possible championship preview against Fresno State. If going to Fresno wasn’t a bad enough break, the Broncos also have to face the West’s other loaded team, San Diego State, on the road while also dealing with a strong Nevada squad, meaning they miss lightweights Hawaii and UNLV. Three of the final five games are on the road, but getting home dates against Wyoming and New Mexico in November will help.
Best offensive player: Senior OT Charles Leno Jr. The Broncos have several different offensive stars in the mix. Matt Miller has been the team’s best receiver over the last two seasons, and Matt Paradis is one of the Mountain West’s best centers. Quarterback Joe Southwick will be the straw that stirs the drink, and running back Jay Ajayi could end up being the star of the show. However, Leno is the best offensive player on the lot with elite pass protection skills and great all-around athleticism. It’s not a stretch to call him the team’s most indispensable offensive player.
Best defensive player: Junior DE Demarcus Lawrence. Talk about paying off right away, the JUCO transfer came up with nine tackles and two good pressures on the quarterback in the season-opening loss to Michigan State, and he followed it up with a dominant seven tackle, 2.5 sack day against Miami University. He owned Fresno State in the key win, and he was steady throughout the rest of the season cranking up at least one sack over a four game stretch. He’s the team’s most disruptive force, but now he’ll be keyed on even more.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore RB Jay Ajayi. It’s not just that Boise State needs a running game to help out Southwick, but there’s a problem with the options. JUCO transfer Derrick Thomas needs to play a big role in the rotation, but it’s Ajayi who has to be able to handle the role of a new star for the attack. If he gets hurt, or if he stumbles, it’ll be new recruit or bust with plenty of concerns behind him.
The season will be a success if … Boise State wins the Mountain West title. It’ll be a fight to come up with a truly special season with road games at Washington, San Diego State and Fresno State, but as long as the Broncos can get to double-digit wins again and come up with a championship in the new two-division format, it’ll be a successful campaign, even if the goal every year is the BCS.
Key game: Sept. 13 vs. Air Force. Boise State has to change up its focus a little bit. Of course the dream is the BCS and of course the program will never plan for losses, but it’s all about winning a Mountain West title. The road games at San Diego State and Fresno State are the biggest on the lot, but they’re interdivisional battles. The Utah State showdown will be vital for the Mountain race, but there’s a week off to prepare. The conference opener against Air Force will be one of the biggest keys to the conference title chase, and it’ll be a shot to make a huge statement right out of the box.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Passing Touchdowns: Boise State 20 – Opponents 4
- 1st half scoring: Boise State 253 – Opponents 57
- Sacks: Boise State 38 for 254 yards – Opponents 10 for 46 yards
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Boise State Offense
2013 Boise State Defense |
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