Win seven straight games, and life is good.
Lose one, and some people want you gone.
So goes the life of a college football program.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin reflected on that Monday, two days after the Broncos lost 28-17 at Fresno State. The criticism that they were outcoached, lacked effort, you name it — Harsin swears he doesn’t hear it, but it trickles in.
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“I’ve coached undefeated seasons and you get criticized for that,” Harsin said. “ ‘You won by 40, not 50. How disappointing is that? Unbelievable. What were you doing all week?’
“I pay zero attention to that, I really do. Unfortunately, I know other people in this program do, but it hasn’t affected me from that standpoint. It’s not just us, it’s everywhere.”
Debates can, and have been, had about the future of the program under Harsin, but he has the Broncos in position to win a second Mountain West title in four years Saturday.
It’s a tough business. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (51-26) and Arizona State’s Todd Graham (46-31) were fired this past weekend despite many more wins than losses.
Harsin definitely is aware of the critical voices — he even said this summer he at times keeps an eye on what fans are saying.
But even with the positive comments, he prefers his team doesn’t pay much attention.
“I hope the phones, all the different things, the distractions you want to read about when everything’s going well, I hope that’s put away and we’re focused on the task at hand,” Harsin said.
Alabama coach Nick Saban recently used the term “rat poison” to describe players paying too much attention to outside voices saying how good they are. Harsin has mentioned that sort of phenomenon multiple times in recent weeks.
And it may have been more than your typical paranoia so common in the sport.
“When you lose, you’ve always got to go back and look at what went wrong, what was the mentality change we didn’t have from previous weeks,” junior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “I think there probably is a little bit of that. ... You see all the stuff written about you, everyone’s saying good things, but it’s a wake-up call when you lose.”
Harsin said part of keeping out the “noise,” whether it’s good or bad, is only focusing on what is spoken in the facility or on the field.
“The guy that’s sitting there eating Doritos at 3 in the afternoon and talking about you, who cares? It doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with whether you’re successful in practice or not,” Harsin said.
That doesn’t come easily. Even if it isn’t bulletin board material, chatter can permeate. Sophomore running back Alexander Mattison remembers guys in the locker room having laughs watching ESPN’s Not Top 10 last November when offensive tackle Archie Lewis accidentally sacked Rypien.
“We don’t like to hear that outside noise to pump up our heads or bring us down, because we can only control what’s inside this building and inside this family,” Mattison said. “... Nobody can determine our future beside us.
“We’re pretty good at disciplining ourselves and not bringing that in.”
Rarely will Harsin be too publicly critical of his team, saving those true emotions for team meetings or practices. Coming off a loss, it isn’t time to mope, but time to get back to the good feelings that win streak brought. Even though there is a hope to keep all those distractions out, maybe the ones that build confidence aren’t so bad.
“If you’re negative, negative things happen to you,” Harsin said. “I’d suggest people be positive and positive things happen to you, but nobody’s going to listen to that.
“There will probably be a negative comment about what I just said.”
Mountain West Football Championship
When: 5:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Adam Amin, Dusty Dvoracek, Molly McGrath)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 9-3, 7-1 MW; Fresno State 9-3, 7-1 (Fresno State beat Boise State 28-17 last Saturday in Fresno)
Series: Boise State leads 13-6
Vegas line: Boise State by 9
Kickoff weather: Low 40s, rain