Boise State PreviewRichard Linde,
2 July 2007
The Washington Huskies host the Boise State
University Broncos on Saturday, September 8, at Husky Stadium. The game will
be televised by Fox Northwest.
Ranked fifth in the nation in the final AP
poll, the Broncos finished the 2006 season 13-0, capping it off with a 43-42
overtime win over Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. A newly married
tailback and the possibility of a trick play or two will add to the game’s
luster, as if the certainty of the media’s “David-versus-Goliath” fanfare
could not possibly be enough.
Give us a break, you scribes, columnists
and broadcasters out there. UW football fans, those who have been around the
block or two, know what to expect from the Broncos. The Huskies will need to
stop a potent running game, in addition to an imaginative passing attack
that plans to ramp up for this game.
Yet, since 1996, Boise State is 2-8 against
Pac-10 teams, its two wins coming at the expense of Oregon State in the 2004
and 2006 seasons.
Going into his second season with the
Broncos as head coach, 43-year old Chris Peterson (13-0) loses 6 players on
offense, 5 on defense and 2 specialists. No problem it would seem. The Broncos ability to
fully reload their arsenal is supported by the fact they have won five
consecutive conference championships in the tough Western Athletic
In this regard, offensively speaking, Boise
State has holes to fill at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and
fullback. Departing quarterback Jared Zabransky, who finished sixth in the
nation in passing efficiency with a 162.6 rating, will be tough to replace.
On defense, Boise State must replace losses at safety, linebacker and tackle; like Zabransky, linebacker
Korey Hall, the WAC defensive player of the year, will
be missed. In addition, two specialists, kicker Anthony Montgomery (92.9%
field goal average in 2006) and punter Kyle Stringer (44.6 yards per game average), have
Replacing Zabransky will be made easier by
four returning starters on the offensive line, a unit led by Junior Ryan Clady (6-foot-6, 319), a
first team all-WAC pick last season. Versatility and depth back up the four
starters. The Sporting News says Clady is the second best offensive
tackle in the nation, and it ranks the Broncos 22nd in its pre-season top 25.
Tailback Ian Johnson (5-foot-11, 195),
second in the nation in rushing last season (142.8 yards per game), returns
for his junior year and is an early Heisman Trophy candidate. On the field
after the Fiesta Bowl game, Johnson proposed marriage to cheerleader
Chrissy Popadics and, after
a bit of confusion on her part, she said yes.
Bronco coaches wisely cut off
media access to Johnson until the start of spring practice, and even then he
was held out of practices to rest his banged up body. Because of injuries last season, Johnson
says he wants to start this season “…more in the 200 (pound) range, 204 or
205. I'll be effective and I'll be sturdy."
RB Jeremy "Peanut" Avery (5-foot-9, 161)
accumulated 107 all-purpose yards in the spring game, and broke off a
63-yard run in the first spring scrimmage.
Jon Helmandollar (Sr., 5-11, 215), a
2-year letterman and a hell of a man who gets more bang for the buck (pun
on name), will replace bruiser Brad Lau at fullback.
Derek Schouman, a four-year starter at
tight end, has been lost to graduation. Either Ryan Putman (Sr., 6-foot-2,
242) and/or Richie Brockel (Sr., 6-foot-3, 247), primarily used as blockers
last year, need to replace Schouman's big-play ability.
A strong running attack in the early games
of the season should make it easier for the new quarterback, either senior
Taylor Tharp (6-foot-2, 210) or junior Bush Hamdan (6-foot-1, 196), to take
over the reins from Zabransky. Last season, Zabransky threw for
1,587 yards on 191 of 288
passing, with 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also rushed for 6
touchdowns. Over the last two seasons, Tharp has completed 32 of 50 passes
for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s likely an early favorite to take over
the starting job, though Johnson may be pulling for Hamdan in that regard. Hamdan
will be in Johnson’s wedding party on July 28.
Sophomore Nick Lomax (6-foot-6, 220), son
of former NFL quarterback Neil Lomax, makes up for his lack of experience
with some quality DNA and rugged size. Behind him redshirt freshman Mike
Coughlin (6-foot-5, 215) gives the Broncos some nice depth at quarterback.
(Tyrone Willingham, take notice).
In the spring game, Lomax posted the best
passing efficiency of the four quarterbacks (125.97). Behind him were Hamdan
(88.29), Tharp (79.93) and Coughlin (62.73).
Coach Peterson has lost his top three wide
receivers (Jerard Rabb, Drisan James, and Legedu Naanee), but returns a
talented group of young receivers. Four varsity letters are shared among
returning WRs Jeremy Childs, Vinny Perretta, and Tanyon Bissell. Childs is
expected to be Boise State’s next big-play receiver. WR Toshi Franklin (Jr.,
6-foot-1, 178) had a strong spring, and the coach said he might be the "most
improved guy since the winter."
On defense, the Broncos return defensive
ends Nick Schelkeway (Sr., 6-foot-4, 262) and Mike T.Williams (Jr.,
6-foot-4, 238). Inside tackles Andrew Browning (All-WAC defensive tackle)
and Dennis Ellis have departed. College of the Siskiyous DE Jeff Lowe
(6-foot-2, 235) has agreed to walk-on for the Broncos. He needs permission
from the NCAA clearing house to participate in summer conditioning and to
join the team in the fall. Last season, Lowe had 14 tackles for a loss.
At linebacker, the Broncos believe they
have enough talent to replace Korey Hall (WAC defensive player of the year)
and Colt Brooks (second team All-WAC).
Returning safety Marty Tadman (Sr.,
5-foot-11, 182), the defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, heads into the season
as the national active leader with 12 career interception returns for
touchdowns. He intercepted 2 passes in the Fiesta Bowl, one for a touchdown.
Austin Smith (Sr., 5-foot-9, 173) is expected to start at the other safety
position. He played backup corner last season and was a starter at safety
two years ago.
Both cornerbacks return: Orlando Scandrick
(Jr., 5-foot-11, 187) and Kyle Wilson (5-foot-10, 186). Scandrick finished
fourth on the team in tackles, registering 52.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Brotzman boomed a
49-yard field goal during the spring game and is a contender to do the
punting if incoming freshman Brad Elkin (Tacoma, WA) should come a cropper
in fall camp.
Coach Peterson won the 2006 Paul “Bear”
Bryant Coach of the Year Award, and he’ll come to Seattle riding a 14-game
winning streak. Peterson recently signed a seven-figure contract with the
Broncos and there is talk of a movie deal. Take note, Tyrone, the heat is on.
Injuries, inexperience and a tough schedule, taken as an aggregate or
singularly, will be unacceptable excuses for a fourth-consecutive losing
season in the minds of many Husky fans.
Media ballyhoo and what to
It would be nice for the
Huskies to ride the Broncos' hoopla into some fanfare of their own, but on a
much smaller scale so it won't make heads swell into the need for new
helmets. Since 1999, the Broncos are the winningest team in Division I-A
football, winning 86 games and losing 16. Even so, they will be the darlings
of the media going into the game, assuming an underdog’s role in the hearts
of the scribes, along with TV guys and girls, because they are a non-BCS team going
up against a legendary team that plays in the BCS. According to the media,
it will be David versus Goliath. Forget the fact that Goliath hasn’t been to
a bowl game since 2002 and is 14-33 over the last four years.
You would think that the last thing long-time suffering Husky fans need to
bear is to watch the media gush all over their own self-proclaimed
"underdog" – a Broncos team, ironically, that will be favored to win, that
will be in the top 25 going into the game, and that wants to win on the home field of a BCS
team for the first time in their short, but glorious history. The misplaced
bias of the media will make a Husky victory, should it happen, all the
sweeter, as well as emboldening UW for the rest of the season.
Coach Peterson must rebuild
his offense. Having a strong offensive line (ranked fourth-best in the
nation by Athlon Sports) and a proven runner in Ian Johnson will make that
task much easier. Failing to plug the holes up the defensive middle could
prove vulnerable to a strong running attack. However, Peterson likes his line-backing corps. Having
to replace his punter and place kicker may give him a queasy feeling.
Wanting to win on the home field of a BCS opponent for the first time in
Bronco history should provide plenty of motivation, ironically, for both
Despite the statistics
below, we believe that UW, as a whole, has better personnel and should win
the game, providing it can handcuff Ian Johnson -- though Ian will have been
chained to a marriage contract this summer.
2006 Six-stat comparator: Boise State: 14.08; Washington: 77.08, where the
lowest national number wins. [#]
Statistics: If you believe
the stats above and below, the Dawgs have little chance to win, assuming the
meaning of the stats aren’t roiled by graduation losses. The Huskies’
numbers from 2006 appear in the first column, while the Broncos’ stats are
listed in the second column. Do the figures below need some sort of Pac-10/WAC
normalization, considering the Broncos 2-8 record against Pac-10 teams? Yes,
so take these stats with a grain of salt.
BLOCKING AND TACKLING
Passing Defense: 242.2;
Pass Efficiency Defense:
Pass Efficiency Offense: 108.6;
Turnover Margin: -.67;
4. FIELD POSITION
Punt Returns: 6.5;
Punting (Net Per Punt): 33.9;
Field Goals: 83.3%;
Points Against: 25.9;
[#] SSC = ((TO+TD)/2 + (RO+RD)/2
+ (PEO+PED)/2 + (SO+SD)/2 + (SF + SA)/2 + TM)/6, where TO=Total Offense,
TD=Total Defense, RO=Rushing Offense, RD=Rushing Defense, PEO=Pass
Efficiency Offense, PED=Pass Efficiency Defense, SO=Scoring Offense,
SD=Scoring Defense, SF=Sacks For, SA=Sacks against, and TM=Turnover Margin.
The variables consist of the numbers for the team’s national ranking in a
certain category. For example, the Huskies ranked seventy-fourth in the
nation in Total Offense last season.