UConn football heads west this weekend for their longest road trip in the program’s regular season history to the smurf turf of Boise State. The Broncos are projected to be one of the best Group-of-Five teams in the nation and the Huskies are, well, not great.
We talked to Russ Wood from SB Nation’s Boise State blog, OBNUG to get a Rocky Mountain perspective on the game.
1) All of my cursory research points to Boise State being pretty solid on both sides of the ball, does this team have any weaknesses? Anything you were worried about before the season?
With one game under our belts, it seems like the team is a lot stronger than it was last season, but time, and the stupid triple option, will tell. I’ll be honest; I was pleased with what I saw last weekend!
If I had to pick out a weakness, it probably is a carryover from last season that I saw rearing its ugly head again, and that’s our tendency to “play not to lose” in the second half. I realize teams make adjustments at halftime according to what they saw, but when the play-calling becomes as predictable as “run, run, pass,” I start to have flashbacks of last season’s meltdown against the Washington State Fightin’ Leaches.
Another place we looked a little vulnerable in was special teams. Punting and protecting the ball need some brushing up.
2) How is the Bronco defense shaping up this year?
Probably a do-deca-penta-hedra-gon cubed, if I were to go with one shape (I was told there would be no math). As you’ve probably heard, our workhorse linebacker, Leighton Vander-Esch took his neck to the greener pastures of the Dallas Cowboys in the draft, so there were questions about replacing our leading tackler in the offseason.
So far, I’ve been impressed with his replacements. Riley Whimpey, Tyson Maeva, and Kekaula Kaniho seem to fill the middle of the field just fine. Our pass rush looked complete in the last game, and the secondary is experienced (with hungry backups). One player that I was impressed with whose contributions seemed to be overshadowed by Tyler Horton’s two(!) scoop ‘n’ scores was DeAndre Pierce. That guy seemed to be everywhere.
3) How would you describe Boise State’s offensive style?
Not as many ESPN announcers might. They use words like “Razzle Dazzle” and “Trickeration,” because they haven’t watched a Boise State game since the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl™. Sure, Boise State will use the occasional trick play, but for the most part, they rely on reading the defense and attacking the weak spots.
I noticed in the first game, when our 1000-yard rusher Mattison couldn’t seem to break free, the Broncos went to the air and it worked (really well with Sean Modster’s 167-yard 2 TD night). So they kept doing that until the second half, when we had a comfortable enough lead to try to run out the clock a little. (Arrgh!) One thing you probably won’t see a lot of is the read option. Rypien runs like he’s wading in the kiddie pool.
4) Would you prefer being in the AAC or Mountain West?
At one point in life (about ten minutes), I would have said AAC (or Big East), if it meant having a shot at a national title. Then there was a mass exodus of “quality” teams, and the potential “Power” conference was labeled a “Group.” (What a slap in the face, amirite?)
I actually prefer BSU playing teams nearby, that way I can attend more games (Utah State is closer to me than Boise State). Plus, I think the MWC is improving in quality, with the exception of San Jose. Like Hawai’i…Where did they come from (besides a volcano)?
5) What is the worst-case scenario of events that would lead to a UConn upset?
Oh, geez, you’re asking me to play out my greatest fears. I always come into a game thinking, “They might just be tougher than they look,” and end up emptying a bottle of Tums leading up to the game.
I watched the UConn/UCF game (rooting for the Huskies the whole time), and two things went through my head: “Man, UCF looks good!” and “Man, what if they really are National Champions, and UConn is really good too!” That’s the way my brain works.
So here’s my worst-case scenario, and I’m knocking on a lot of wood—including myself—here: A repeat of Boise State vs. Utah State in 2015. We get sloppy with the ball and everything is a turnover leading to points and UConn blows us out at home on the Blue™.
I mean, there are worser-case scenarios like Rypien getting his arms bit off by a shark or Bryan Harsin turning into a swearwolf at halftime, but if I let my brain go there, I might need a Valium drip put in.