In Boise State’s 2014 season opener, the Broncos trailed 7-6 going into the fourth quarter. They lost 35-13 — and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates explained later that his players didn’t believe they could win a defensive struggle.
In the 2015 opener, the Broncos watched a 16-0 halftime lead over Washington shrink to 16-13 because of an ineffective offense and three mistakes by the punt team.
But while everything else was going wrong, the defense stayed strong this year. The Broncos won 16-13 because the defense never allowed the Huskies to drive more than 36 yards and recorded two sacks to thwart the final drive.
“When we were struggling on offense and we were struggling on special teams — a lot of times the third unit, if that happens, they start to struggle, too,” Harsin said. “It gets frustrating for them. And that didn’t happen. That defense ran out there with great energy and they got it done. ... They were able to step up and rise to the occasion in that moment and they did a very nice job.”
The defense continued the momentum it built late last season by holding Washington to 12 first downs, 29 rushing yards and 179 total yards. The 13 points came off a bad punt (4-yard drive for a field goal), a punt return for a TD and a blocked punt (17-yard drive for a field goal).
“I always compare it to ... when we played against Ole Miss,” Yates said. “I don’t think that defense thought they could win the Ole Miss game on defense. I think this team this year felt like they actually could. Same players, but just a year later, just a different mentality within the group.”
The dominant performance came as no surprise to the Broncos’ offense, which faced that defense nearly every day for a month.
“It’s annoying for us to go against them in practice,” senior left tackle Rees Odhiambo said. “It’s nice to see them doing really well out there against somebody else.”
DEMAS: MORE REPS
Expect to see more of Boise State junior tailback Devan Demas at BYU.
Demas finished with 20 yards on four carries against Washington. His 5.0-yards-per-carry average led the team — and that number was damaged by a 2-yard loss on which he lost a shoe. He gained 22 yards on his other three attempts (7.3 per carry).
Demas was the No. 3 tailback in the game. Starter Jeremy McNichols had 24 carries for 89 yards and two TDs and three catches for 24 yards. Backup Kelsey Young carried 13 times for 48 yards and had three catches for 26 yards.
“Devan, to me, showed some really good ability when it came to game time of just making things happen,” Harsin said. “Because of that, there’s probably more opportunities.”
Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz understood the criticism of the Broncos for not scoring in the second half, but also tried to push the focus on the game’s end result.
“Nobody wanted to win that game 100 to nothing worse than me,” he said. “Games never go the way you want them to go. Coach Harsin talked to our team about having grit, and that’s what I think we showed. You’ve got to put all the pieces together. There were spots in that first half we were pretty good and there were parts in the second half we were pretty bad. So you’ve got to be consistent. ...
“You have to find a way to win football games, and especially early, and once you do that you get confidence. It’s not like we were playing a bad football team or a team a level below us. We were playing a Pac-12 team. Nobody is sitting here patting ourselves on the back, but you’ve got to tell those guys that the goal of the game was to win it and they did. The manner in which we did it wasn’t pretty at times, but we had (254) yards at halftime — that’s a pretty good sign. The second half, we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to do better. The players have got to do better. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
MILLER JOINS COACHING STAFF
“He didn’t hesitate,” Harsin said. “He wanted to be back here. He wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to contribute. ... Going into his senior year (in 2014), you’ve got a guy that’s like a coach on the football field.”
Former Boise State WR Matt Miller has been hired as an offensive quality control assistant, a non-coaching position. ... The Broncos didn’t make any changes to the depth chart this week. ... Junior DE Gabe Perez didn’t play against Washington because of an injury. He is questionable this week. ... The players of the game were McNichols (offense), end Kamalei Correa (defense), guard Mario Yakoo (offensive line) and tackle Justin Taimatuia (defensive line).