By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Broncos were again expected to be one of the leaders in the Western Athletic Conference in 2009, yet even they had to be somewhat surprised by their level of success again.
The season opener against Oregon provided for a 19-8 win at home against a
nationally-ranked foe, but the end of the meeting was marred by an ugly
incident with the Ducks player that put the Broncos in the spotlight for the
wrong reasons. Nevertheless, Boise State was poised for great things with
sophomore quarterback Kellen Moore who was more than ready to assume control
of one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Moore, who finished seventh
in the Heisman Trophy voting, was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year
as he placed second in the nation in passing efficiency and set the NCAA
single-season record for lowest percentage of passes intercepted. Moore
completed better than 64 percent of his passes, leading to more than 3,500
yards and 39 touchdowns as he earned All-America Third Team recognition.
The offensive line had everything to do with keeping Moore pumping out the
completions as BSU ranked tops in the FBS with a mere five sacks allowed. Only
one other school in the country gave up single-digit sacks (Stanford, seven)
and since the Cardinal leaned so heavily on running the ball in 2009, it
showed just how impressive BSU's efforts were. With the passing attack hitting
on all cylinders, the run game for the Broncos was set for big results as well
as Jeremy Avery accounted for 1,150 yards and six TDs and Doug Martin landed
in the end zone 15 times on 129 attempts.
Head coach Chris Petersen, who now has a record of 49-4 in his four seasons at
the helm, balanced the nation's top-scoring offense (42.2 ppg) with a defense
that ranked 14th in the country with just 17.1 ppg allowed. With their 17-10
win over fourth-ranked TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos became just the
second team in NCAA history to put up a 14-0 mark, the other program being
Ohio State back in 2002.
The Broncos did it all in 2009, from finishing with yet another perfect
record, to winning their sixth outright title in the WAC as they ran the
table. Of the seven perfect WAC seasons since 2002, all but one have been
logged by Boise State, the other coming from Hawaii a few years back. BSU
enters 2010 tied with Alabama, the reigning national champs, with the longest
win streak at 14 games and is just the third team in NCAA history to go 14-0
in a single season (Alabama and Ohio State).
BSU will be entering 2010 with a 56-game regular-season home winning streak.
Perhaps the biggest news coming out of Boise during the down time was that the
school is making the move to the Mountain West Conference beginning in 2011,
in hopes of gaining more visibility on a national scale.
OFFENSE: Coach Petersen and his star quarterback have not talked about the
pressures that will be placed on the youngster after finishing so high in the
Heisman voting last year, but still the coach is aware of the added attention
and acknowledges that it has a lot to do with his offensive scheme to begin
"Our whole offense is set up, and always has been, to make our quarterback as
successful as anybody in the country and if we can do that, those other 10
guys can do that, then it's going to bode well for our program. There's going
to be one guy who gets a lot of headlines because other guys are playing well
around him and Kellen gets that."
Some may think that Moore is just another in a long line of quarterbacks that
have achieved greatness due to the system, and part of that may be true, but
still it takes a special player to rank second in the nation in pass
efficiency (161.65) while throwing the second-most touchdowns (39) in the
country. Even more impressive is the fact that Moore attempted 431 passes a
year ago and had just three intercepted, setting a new NCAA record for the
lowest percentage of passes (0.69) picked off.
It certainly doesn't hurt that Moore and the Broncos have both Titus Young and
Austin Pettis slated to return, seeing as how those two were the top receivers
on the team a year ago. Young was responsible for 79 receptions for 1,041
yards and 10 touchdowns and Pettis converted his 63 catches into 855 yards and
a team-best 14 scores.
Avery will again be the primary ball carrier, but the presence of Martin will
be just as important because he'll be there to grab much of the glory just as
he did in '09 for a team that averaged better than five yards per carry. After
having his season cut short a year ago, D.J. Harper's return will give the
Broncos another advantage that will surely frustrate defenders.
Add to the skill guys another solid offensive line that pretty much goes
unnoticed, and there's very little this group will not be able to do in 2010.
DEFENSE: The scoring offense for the Broncos was ranked first in the nation
last year with 42.2 ppg, but by no means did the defense take a back seat. In
fact, the defense was first in the conference and 14th nationally with 17.1
ppg allowed, and coach Petersen thinks it can only get better given the
coaching staff he's got supporting him and the players.
"We're blessed to get Bob Gregory (Nickels/OLBs) back, with his history with
us and with our defense, he's as good as a coach as there is out there in the
country. For him to come back and be a part of our staff was huge. I think
Peter Kwiatkowski, our defensive coordinator...is a heck of a football mind.
I've said this earlier, if we're not as good on defense as we've been in the
past it's not because of our coaches, its because of some other things."
The action on defense begins with a defensive line that moves fast and hits
hard, disrupting offenses at every turn. Leading the big men in the trenches
is defensive end Ryan Winterswyk, a two-time First Team All-WAC selection who
made a total of 41 stops a year ago. Winterswyk finished second in the league
in both tackles for loss with 17 and sacks with nine, and now enters his final
season with 19.0 total sacks to tie for sixth on the school's all-time list in
While offensive linemen are trying to keep track of Winterswyk's every move,
fellow lineman Billy Winn will be free to cause his own havoc after he placed
second on the team with six sacks and 12.5 TFLs last year.
Returning linebackers JC Percy and Hunter White will be augmented by a strong
cast of returning starters in the secondary, players who have already made a
name for themselves in the WAC. One of those is Jeron Johnson who finished
first on the team in tackles in '09 with 91 stops, his 54 solo takedowns more
than all but two of his teammates had total tackles on the year. Johnson was
also second on the team with four interceptions, a significant part of the
team placing first in the league and third in the nation in turnover margin
with a positive 1.5 turnovers per outing.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Boise State roster and depth chart accounts for all aspects
of the game and even takes advantage of opposing team's kickoffs, having
averaged 26.6 yards per return in 2010 to rank first in the WAC and fourth in
college football as well. Refusing to leave their talents on the sidelines
when the offense is off the field, coach Petersen has both Titus Young and
Doug Martin slated as kick returners for his special teams, the former also
acting as the primary punt returner as well. One of the most explosive players
in football, Young not only averaged 26.9 yards per kick return in 2009, he
also came up with a pair of touchdowns for the group, with one of those
returns stretching a full 100 yards. Kyle Wilson, as all-conference performer
who was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, gave the Broncos some
excitement on punt returns, but now that will be the responsibility of Young.
Kyle Brotzman will again handle all kicking responsibilities, but you could
understand if the senior's leg gets weary, given how often he'll be expected
to kick off after countless scores by the BSU offense.
OUTLOOK: "I can honestly say, no," coach Petersen relates when asked whether
he's more excited about this season than others. "I'm as excited as I was last
season and I'll probably feel the exact same next season. We're always trying
to win all of our games anyway...every year you're going in thinking you can
do some good things."
With almost every starter from a year ago coming back in 2010, the Broncos are
easily the favorite to repeat as WAC champs. But again, the goals and
aspirations of everyone in Idaho are much higher these days and much will be
determined on Labor Day when the school faces off against Virginia Tech in
Washington, D.C. With both teams ranked high in the national polls entering
the season, this is a matchup that will make or break each team's season. Of
the other non-conference meetings for the Broncos, both Oregon State and
Toledo will be at home on the blue turf where BSU is virtually unbeatable,
while the battle against Wyoming on September 18th is slated for Laramie. Not
having to make the trek to Hawaii this year should help the Broncos, as will
catching conference foe Fresno State in Boise as well. Aside from the VaTech
meeting, the only other real test for the Broncos appears to be that versus
Nevada, on the road in Reno, at the end of November. Those two schools have
played some epic games in recent years and it could easily determine the
Bottom line here is that everything hinges on the game with the Hokies and if
that goes in favor of Boise the Broncos will again be in line for a BCS date
come the end of the season.