Murphy: Broncos need to get better fast after big loss

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comSeptember 7, 2013 

— The shock in Bronco Nation is just beginning to wear off.

In Boise State head coach Chris Petersen’s first eight seasons, the Broncos lost eight games by a combined 40 points.

The Broncos had not suffered a loss by more than four points since the final game of the 2007 regular season. In fact, Boise State had not trailed by double digits — at any point in any game — since Nov. 23, 2007, at Hawaii.

Those numbers and that history help explain why the Broncos’ 38-6 loss at Washington in the season opener felt so different around these parts.

“It was a pretty foreign feeling,” senior tight end Gabe Linehan said. “… Most of my losses have been crushing losses, really down to the wire nail-biters. That’s why this was kind of surreal.”

The offense failed to score a touchdown. The defense couldn’t get a third-down stop. The Broncos had a kick blocked. The failure was complete.

And stunning.

Not that the Broncos lost, but how — and how completely — they were beaten.

“It’s definitely a wake-up call,” linebacker Blake Renaud said.

“You realize what it takes to be a winning Division I team in college football and we’ve got to be better.”

The alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear in the Bleymaier Football Complex. The dismantling in Seattle raised many more questions than answers. Questions that, from the outside at least, appear to need more than a week to correct — in all phases of the game.

Can the revamped offense reach the end zone? Can it do so consistently? Can it find the explosive plays that have been missing for more than a year?

Can the inexperienced defense cut down on the misalignments and the missed tackles? Can the defense contend with another spread team?

And, perhaps the biggest, can Boise State get back to looking like Boise State?

Put simply, the Broncos have to get better.

“We have a standard,” Linehan said. “That wasn’t up to it, and we know how to fix it.”

The Broncos get their first chance to see how far they have come against Football Championship Subdivision program UT Martin on Saturday at Bronco Stadium.

It is the type of game Petersen would prefer to open the season with. Instead, it will be the first chance for the Broncos to see what they are made of and how much they have learned in a week.

The meeting suggests a blowout. That’s why these games exist. They are filler for Football Bowl Subdivision teams looking to complete a home schedule.

But don’t discount the Skyhawks. Eastern Illinois, a fellow member of the Ohio Valley Conference, beat up San Diego State 40-19 last week in San Diego — one of seven victories by FCS teams over FBS teams. UT Martin defeated Eastern Illinois last year.

The Broncos certainly are in no position to be taking opponents lightly. Not after last week’s debacle.

“Grow up,” Renaud said of the lessons learned against Washington. “It’s college football now. Anyone can be beat. Teams can have a great season with two losses, one loss.”

Boise State lost its first game last season — 17-13 at Michigan State — and still nearly qualified for the Bowl Championship Series at 11-2.

It is a path the current Broncos hope to follow. They have no choice really.

Petersen preaches from a book of improvement, emphasizing getting better week to week. At no point in his tenure has that lesson been more important or the need for improvement so great.

“It’s a lot of stuff to fix,” senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn admitted.

Getting it all fixed this week might be too much to ask. But getting most of it fixed will go a long way to erasing the foreign feeling that has hung around the Broncos this week.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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