BOISE — Each of the past three years, the Boise State football team entered November with a chance to earn a Bowl Championship Series berth.
There was the infamous missed field goal in 2010 at Nevada. A string of mistakes in the final minutes in 2011 against TCU. And a special-teams meltdown in 2012 against San Diego State.
Those defeats overshadow the 35 wins collected by those three teams.
The 2013 Broncos are trying to flip that script.
This year, they entered November with a 5-3 record, the programs worst eight-game start since 2001. But with a perfect November two wins down, two to go the Broncos can turn a once-disappointing season into a success.
November is really important, senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn said. This is a time when a lot of players are dinged up. Players are going to have to play hurt. Youre going to have to make plays while being hurt. Coach (Chris Petersen) says if you want to be great, youve got to play great in November.
We keep that in the back of our head. Its all about finishing strong. Weve been emphasizing that since Ive been here at Boise State.
To do that, the Broncos will have to reverse an ugly 2013 trend. The Broncos have lost their three most challenging games of the season at Washington (3.5-point favorite), at Fresno State (3.5-point favorite) and at BYU (7-point favorite). It wasnt the road that was the problem the Broncos handled Utah State and Colorado State on the road to seize control of the Mountain West Mountain Division but the quality of the opponents.
San Diego State nearly beat Fresno State, has won six of its past seven games and has won 12 of its past 13 Mountain West games. Theres little doubt this is Challenge No. 4.
Hopefully we can come out and prove something, senior left guard Spencer Gerke said.
The Broncos were derailed in their three losses by the same collection of faults, problems they cant afford Saturday:
Turnovers: The Broncos were even on turnovers against Washington, but their lone giveaway came on the opening drive in Huskies territory; they were minus-2 against Fresno State and the defense did not force any; and they were minus-4 against BYU, when the defense again failed to force a miscue. So thats minus-6 on turnovers in losses; plus-6 in wins.
Missed tackles: Washington gained 592 yards and converted 11-of-15 third downs. Fresno State gained 522 and converted 10-of-19 third or fourth downs. BYU gained 568 and converted 8-of-20 third and fourth downs. Sloppy tackling contributed heavily to those gaudy stats, and those three teams gained 200 more yards per game than the Broncos other seven opponents.
Fourth-down failures: The Broncos were 1-for-2 against Washington, 1-for-4 against Fresno State including the game-sealing incompletion on their final drive and 2-for-5 against BYU. Thats a 4-for-11 total. Theyre 5-for-6 against everyone else.
And red-zone stumbles: The Broncos scored zero touchdowns on three red-zone visits against Washington, four on seven trips against Fresno State and two on five drives against BYU. Thats a success rate of 40 percent. Against everyone else, the Broncos reach the end zone on 80 percent of their red-zone visits.
Most of (the problems) were little details that we need to take care of, Boldewijn said. Weve been doing a lot better.
How much better should be evident Saturday night.
With a win, the Broncos will just need to win their home finale against New Mexico or get a loss from Utah State, which plays Saturday afternoon against Colorado State, to secure a second shot at Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game. An encore of the September thriller would be the true test of this young teams progress.
We all want to be finishers around here, whether its on the football field or in school, sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon said. We want to finish the semester strong and finish football strong.
Added junior linebacker Blake Renaud: Weve got a chance to make it a good season the season we wanted to happen.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat