If Boise States season opener against Michigan State was a reminder of what the Broncos have lost in the past two offseasons, then Saturdays home opener against Miami (Ohio) offered Bronco Nation its first in-person, in-season glimpse of the talent that is on hand to lead the program forward.
Yes, it was sixth-year senior running back D.J. Harper that scored four touchdowns and a two-point conversion for good measure in the 39-12 rout of the RedHawks and rightfully earned another moment in the spotlight.
But there were new, fresh faces everywhere else for Boise State and signs that, while the Broncos may experience some growing pains, the program is in good hands for the foreseeable future.
The whole rebuilding vs. reloading debate is silly semantics. But Boise State is not going to face a period of diminished results, if that is what anyone was worried about following the loss to Michigan State.
More losses may come, perhaps as soon as Thursdays showdown with rival-in-the-making BYU. But Boise State is only going to get better as the season wears on, a combination of good coaching and developing talent.
Thats who we are. Thats where we are and thats who we are, Petersen said of his teams youth. I think those guys are all very talented guys, they just need game reps.
Theyre getting them.
Quarterback Joe Southwick, in just his second career start, looked far more comfortable Saturday, throwing for 304 yards and completing 24-of-31 passes.
True freshman running back Jack Fields rushed for 49 yards on 13 carries and had a touchdown called back on a holding penalty.
True freshman playmaker Shane Williams-Rhodes had 32 yards on five touches. True freshman tight end Hayden Plinke had his first career catch. Aaron Burks showed he might be the deep threat that the Broncos have been looking for.
True freshman Armand Nance was thrown into duty at defensive tackle and had four tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence had a team-high seven tackles, including 2.5 sacks.
Yes, there were mistakes. Southwicks interception in the end zone on the Broncos first possession marked his second end zone INT in two games, not a streak any quarterback wants to extend. Yes, Fields fumble inside the Broncos 10 led to Miamis lone TD.
Such mistakes are going to be part of the process. Theres going to be a lot of on-field learning taking place in 2012. Its unavoidable when a program endures the type of personnel losses the Broncos have in the past two years 21 seniors in 2011, including 20 who had started a game, and 18 seniors in 2010.
Those numbers dont tell the whole story.
Among those losses were two first-round NFL Draft picks, one second-round pick, two third-round picks, a fifth-rounder, a sixth-rounder and, oh by the way, the winningest quarterback in school history.
And a slew of really, really good college players, record-holders and program guys.
And two offensive coordinators.
Each week weve got to keep getting better. Theres 12, 13 games in a season, so Week 2 to Week 3 weve got to see some improvement and same thing down the road. I think we got some things done, Southwick said after the Broncos amassed 599 yards of total offense against Miami.
They wont all come that easy. The progress wont be linear. It wont be a straight line from here to there, there being some magical destination in the future like, say, a Big East championship game in Bronco Stadium, perhaps.
There will be stops and starts. Fumbles like Williams-Rhodes had in the opener or Fields had against Miami. Interceptions and bad decisions for Southwick. Missed tackles and blown assignments on defense. Things that leave fans scratching their heads and coaches fuming.
But the new players will also do things that amaze and astonish and send Bronco Nation scurrying to find a new jersey for the collection.
Forget about rebuilding or reloading. Its what programs must do in college football. The good ones turn their teams over with minimal disruption and few painful losses. The bad ones take a while to replace the departed stars or never do.
Two weeks of promising glimpses leave little doubt the Broncos fresh faces are up to the challenge.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444