Josh Borgman, one of the smallest players on the Boise State roster, is having a big, big impact on the Broncos special teams units.
And special teams, often overlooked in favor of high-flying offense and run-stuffing defense, are playing a big role in the Broncos successs.
In the victory against Southern Miss, Borgman recovered a fumble on punt coverage. Against Fresno State, the 5-foot-7, 174-pound senior from Centennial High made a play on the first kickoff of the game and then downed a punt at the Fresno State 4.
It was nice to get that hit on the opening play. It set the tone for the game, Borgman said. That punt was a big play, too. It gave our defense a lot of room to work with.
Thanks to plays like that, Boise State has dominated field position in three of its past four games, holding an 18-yard edge in starting field position against Fresno State, a 23-yard difference against Southern Miss and an 11-yard edge against BYU.
The Broncos have started 19 drives in opposing territory this season, while foes have started six in Boise State territory (the breakdown is 10-1 in the past two games).
While turnovers (plus-11) have played a role, special teams have made an impact. Most people dont realize how big of a deal hidden yardage is, senior Hazen Moss said. We have been winning that battle.
The Broncos are allowing opponents 19.2 yards per kickoff return, 3.8 yards per punt return and 35.9 yards in opponents net punt average. By contrast, the Broncos are averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return, 7.2 yards per punt return and 37.1 yards in net punting. Those small yardage differences might not seem like much, but over the course of a game and a season they mean a lot.
Theres some solid, subtle football being played in there that I do think is helping the field position, defense situation, coach Chris Petersen said.
Its players such as Borgman who are making a difference by embracing their special teams role. A reserve cornerback, Borgman has played in 44 games without a defensive start.
We take pride in it. Special teams always starts the game. We kind of have a chip on our shoulder to go out there and get it done, Borgman said. Im a little guy. Defense might not be my thing, but special teams give me a shot and I know I can perform out there.
Special teams have long been a proving ground at Boise State, where players like Ia Falo have made a career for themselves.
The Broncos stress special teams in practice, devoting valuable time to drills and making sure everyone on the roster knows the importance of those units. Special teams are held to the same standards as offense and defense.
It didnt take Borgman long to stand out. As a freshman, he was the programs special teams scout player of the year. He has had a role on the units ever since.
Those guys are heroes in our team room. Those plays matter, they count, Petersen said. Everyone knows its not just lip service. We play our best guys on special teams.
Borgman is one of the Broncos best. He has 37 career tackles and even returned four punts in 2010. A warrior, is how special teams coach Scott Huff described him.
He always plays hard. You can tell hes really been working hard this year. Hes really dialed in with watching film. Hes going to make plays. Hes really a ballhawk, Moss said.
For Borgman, who will graduate in December with a degree in communications, the experience has been rewarding, even if he never fulfills his dream of returning a punt for a TD.
Growing up here and watching Boise State play, this is sort of a dream come true, he said.
Borgmans not done chasing dreams. A baseball standout in high school, he plans to pursue a professional career in that sport, chasing it the same way he has his football aspirations.
I dont want to have any regrets, Borgman said. I want the door to shut in my face rather than shut it myself.
LOSS OF SCHOLARSHIPS HITS SPECIAL TEAMERS The people most affected by the NCAAs decision to uphold scholarship reductions for Boise State were Borgman, Moss and running back Drew Wright. The three former walk-ons earned scholarships for the spring, but did not get them in the fall. Had BSU won the appeal to have 85 scholarships instead of 82, the players would have kept theirs.