The 300th game at Mackay Stadium. Homecoming week for the Wolf Pack. The 41st meeting between the Broncos and the Wolf Pack. Facing the possibility of their first back to back conference losses since 1997, the Boise State Broncos went into Reno with their backs against the wall and came out victorious with a 51-46 win over the Wolf Pack.
This was exactly the type of victory the Broncos needed as they head into their bye week. Not only will it provide the Broncos with much needed confidence, the victory will provide the team with valuable momentum. These factors will help propel the Broncos into an all important second half of the season.
Through six games, senior quarterback Grant Hedrick has experienced his ups and downs. Turnovers still followed Hedrick in the Nevada game, but he managed to move past them in key situations. Hedrick completed 26 passes in 31 attempts for 346 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.
On the year, Hedrick has completed 72.1% of his passes for 1,641 yards. If he continues at this rate, there is a slight chance Hedrick could beat Kellen Moore’s single season completion record of 74.3%. Hedrick, of course, will need to have more games like last night (and less games like Air Force) to have a chance to break that record and more importantly, lead the Broncos to victories.
The running game has basically been a one man show. Jay Ajayi has run for 709 yards and eight touchdowns this year and has contributed heavily in the passing game. Coming into the Nevada game, he led the nation in touches. Depth will be a key moving forward and it may have arrived in true freshman Jeremy McNichols. He carried once for 28 yards and had four catches for 54 yards in the Nevada game.
While Devan Demas has shown flashes of talent, inconsistency has followed him around this year. It appears that moving forward McNichols may be the one to successfully give Ajayi periodic moments of rest as the season wears on.
Speaking of depth, the wide receivers and tight ends took full advantage of Matt Miller’s absence on Saturday night. Nine different players caught passes. It was refreshing to see the offense open up a bit and not just rely on bubble screens to Shane Williams-Rhodes.
If Hedrick can continue to spread the ball around and the receivers/ends continue to get open, opposing defenses will be in for long nights during the next six games. Especially when Miller gets healthy and as Thomas Sperbeck continues to impress.
The offensive line had one of its better games last night. They have struggled with pass protection and the run game at times this season. Hopefully the bye week allows for Rees Odhiambo to return to full health and return to his spot protecting Hedrick’s blind side. That position has seen its fair share of troubles this year, most notably in the Air Force game. The unit is young, though, and big things are expected as they continue to gel.
The defense was mentioned in an article last week so I won’t go too in depth about them today. Injuries continue to mount up, as safety Chanceller James and linebacker Blake Renaud missed the Nevada game. Darian Thompson and Donte Deayon both returned and combined for three interceptions.
While the team allowed over four hundred yards against Nevada, they stepped up and made plays when the game was on the line. A healthy defense and it’s ever growing depth can only lead to things as we approach these last six games.
The heart of the Mountain West Conference remains in front of the Broncos. Fresno State is young, but after a rough start they have settled into a groove. Wyoming has unexpectedly impressed early, Utah State is gaining steam after an upset over BYU, and San Diego State has been a thorn in our side the past few seasons. Throw in a New Mexico team with a dangerous ground game and the Broncos will certainly have their work cut out for them.
There will be no resting on the laurels of a great win against Nevada. Taking care of business, limiting turnovers, playing up their potential, and having fun will take this team down the path to the one place they seek: A winning season and a date in December with the Mountain West Championship. If the first six games are any indication, it’s going to be a wild ride.