UConn kicks off against Boise State tomorrow at Noon on ABC regionally and ESPN 2 in other parts of the country. Time to take a look at the newest visitors to Rentschler Field.
Boise State started off as a junior college program in 1936, but once the school made the jump to four-year status they found themselves in NCAA's Division II in the Big Sky conference, starting a successful run for the program under head coach Tony Knap.
In 1978, they moved up to the newly-created Division 1-AA (now known as FCS) and quickly reached its summit-- winning a national championship two years later. The rest of the eighties brought mixed results but by the early-90's the Broncos were again established as a 1-AA power, making a trip to the national semi-final and national championship in 1990 and 1994, respectively.
In 1996, Boise State moved its football program to the Big West and into Division 1-A football. Under head coach Dirk Koetter they won two Big West championships and received an invite to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in 2001, but Koetter left to accept the head coaching position at Arizona State.
They promoted offensive coordinator Dan Hawkins to fill the vacancy and the program continued its dominance of the mid-major conference-- winning four straight WAC titles and going 53-11. Unfortunately, Hawkins left for Colorado in 2005. Are you noticing a pattern here?
The Broncos again tabbed their offensive coordinator, hiring Chris Petersen replace the departed head coach. Petersen's tenure was extremely successful: multiple Fiesta Bowl wins, two undefeated seasons, moving up to the Mountain West Conference, and a three-year run of bowl wins over a Pac-12 opponent that ended last year.
Oh yeah and he just left to go coach at Washington.
Not including the coaches I just mentioned, Boise State has lost coaches to Arkansas and Iowa State in their earlier years. This blurb would be incomplete if I didn't mention that certified loon Houston Nutt was their head coach for one year, leaving for Arkansas in 1997.
Boise State was able to take advantage of another program continuously burned by their coach's success, poaching Bryan Harsin from Arkansas State to be Petersen's successor. Harsin is a Boise man though, he went to school there and was a coordinator from 2001-2010.
- This is the first meeting between UConn and Boise State, a trait which all three of UConn's opponents so far have in common. Later this year the Huskies will be playing Tulane and ECU for the first time as well.
- The Broncos' 676-yard performance last week against Colorado State was their fifth-best total in school history.
- Boise State currently has the third-highest winning percentage among FBS schools, trailing only Michigan and Notre Dame. Even though their sample size is much smaller than others on that list, it is still quite impressive.
- In two games, their defense has forced six turnovers. That's good for ninth in the country.
Players to Watch
- QB Grant Hedrick - an explosive playmaker, Hedrick threw for over 300 yards per game last year and scored 22 total touchdowns. In last week's win over Colorado State, the redshirt senior threw for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns while also gaining 80 yards and a third touchdown on the ground.
- RB Jay Ajayi - the redshirt junior rushed for over 1400 yards last year, scoring 18 touchdowns with another 222 yards and one more touchdown receiving. After two games, he's already over 300 rushing yards this year.
- CB Donte Deayon - led the Broncos with six interceptions last season and was a second-team All-Mountain West selection.
- WR Matt Miller - Caught a (school-record) 88 balls for 1140 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. The big, athletic receiver has 235 yards and a touchdown so far this season.
From the Eye of the Opponent:
Bob from SB Nation's Ole Miss outlet, Red Cup Rebellion, was kind enough to share some thoughts with us after watching his Rebels beat the Broncos two weeks ago:
They run a multi-set offense and gave us looks out of single back formations, some offset-I, and a fair bit of shotgun, and they can do this because of how versatile quarterback Grant Hedrick and halfback Jay Ajayi are.
Hedrick had a bit of a rough go of it against Ole Miss, but when he's given time to make the right throw, he normally does, and when he's given space to slip past the line of scrimmage for a few yards, he does. He's a generally good decision-maker in a passing offense built around eating up the field in 5-10 yard chunks.
Matt Miller is a big, physical receiver who runs routes well and can usually come down with the ball in space. Jay Ajayi is a big halfback who runs hard and is surprisingly nimble. He also has great hands and is a legit threat in their passing game. Both of those guys would see legitimate playing time on a lot of power five conference teams.
Their defensive backs had trouble against our receivers in one-on-one situations, but they were incredibly opportunistic. They also did a good job of bottling up our run game, keeping the game close until the fourth quarter when their lack of depth in the secondary was exposed by our receivers.
They could hang with us four 3 quarters, but not 4. The final score of 35-13 is really misleading, as the game was pretty close until the beginning of the fourth when a Bo Wallace pass to Laquon Treadwell allowed us to turn a 7-6 game into a 14-6 game.
So I guess then that my takeaways from their defense is that they are talented and effective at stopping the run, but don't have the depth or pass rush to really slow down a well-run passing game.