The midway point of the 2017 college football season has arrived. Despite struggles, the Boise State Broncos are 4-2 and have won their first two Mountain West games.
Normally, when this time of year rolls around, it’s a perfect time to assess how the first six games of the season have played out. You know, hand a few fake awards and provide a true breakdown of the Boise State Broncos football team.
Proceeding like normal would go against the grain of this far-from-normal season.
Brett Rypien throws his first touchdown pass in game five. Boise State blows a three-score lead on the road to a team that eventually rose to a number eight ranking. A young defense is playing like they’ve been together for years.
The very team who suffered its worst defeat at home in nearly two decades–you could see the fans jumping ship mid-game–later went on the road to take down 19th-ranked San Diego State.
For these very reasons, the annual midseason awards spectacular is taking a hiatus for 2017. In staying true to form of the suddenly workmanlike, blue collar Boise State Broncos (with their underdog mentality and all), I will also return to my roots.
Foregoing the individual call outs, wacky plays or even the wide receiver pass (RIP 2016, apparently), focus will be placed on the team effort. There have been spectacular individual performances–which will be given brief mention–but for now the focus will be given rightfully to where it belongs: the team.
The team rises, the team falls
A properly motivated and seemingly humble Boise State Broncos team went into San Diego last Saturday night. And Boise State exited with a pretty convincing win.
A complete team effort took place on Saturday for the Broncos. The defense held court, holding Heisman hopeful Rashaad Penny to 53 yards and sacking Christian Chapman four times.
Special teams did their part, with Avery Williams finding the end zone off a punt return for the second time in 2017. Subsequently, he was named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time as well.
And the offense? They protected the ball and did enough to secure the game with long drives and scores when needed.
These long drives are thanks to a sudden shift to smash mouth football. After early struggles, the coaches have appeared to put the game into the hands of the offensive lineman.
They’ve responded in kind the past two games, as has sophomore running back Alexander Mattison. Mattison has put up back-to-back 100-yards and looks like the running back fans expected entering the season.
Meanwhile, Cedrick Wilson and Jake Roh are doing their best to finish their college careers in style. Wilson has 34 catches for 588 yards and three touchdowns.
Roh has given the Broncos a versatility likely never imagined with him prior to the season. The senior has 20 catches for 148 and four touchdowns and has also scored twice running the ball.
In the defense we trust
Question marks were abound for a unit with a lot of holes heading into 2107.
These young men have answered the questions ten fold and Coach Andy Avalos has them currently playing at a high-level.
The defensive line has delivered, rotating in as many as nine players in the Aztec game. They have contributed to many of the 16 sacks Boise State has collected in 2017.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become a tackling machine, at times seemingly making up for Tanner Vallejo, Ben Weaver, and Joe Martarano all at once. (To wit: He has 63 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles).
Vander Esch is not alone, as the linebackers have also found a nice rotation and are helping keep the opponent’s running game in check.
Throw in a hard-hitting secondary and having already forced 11 turnovers, the Broncos nearly have all the ingredients for a top-10 defense. (A few lapses and a few big plays have kept them from achieving such a designation. There’s still time.)
Three weeks ago, Boise State was spiraling towards the bottom. They’re climbing their way back, earning respect as each week passes. Wyoming is the next step on their climb as redemption is on the mind of Bronco Nation.
Let those thoughts stay with us. The team can focus on–yep–a 0-0 mentality. It might not be original, but for the “earning back our faith” Boise State Broncos, it’s exactly what’s needed.