The Boise State football team has won four straight games away from home — a modest streak that looks far more impressive if you remember where the Broncos were a year ago.
At the end of September, they had slipped to 3-7 in their previous 10 road trips.
Coach Bryan Harsin made sure his players knew that stat. They won the next weekend at Nevada and partied in the locker room as the program embraced the idea of enjoying the experience of college football.
The Broncos also brought a little piece of home on that trip — a chunk of blue turf. They placed it on the wall in the locker room and players tapped it on their way to the field.
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They’ll make their 2015 road debut Saturday at BYU (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
“You have to have that mindset — it’s like we’re playing at home, it’s like we’re playing for our fans every time,” senior tight end Holden Huff said. “We take that blue just to keep the mindset that we’re at home. Protect the blue.”
The Broncos have won 15 straight games at Albertsons Stadium and are 93-4 there since the start of the 2000 season, so it’s no wonder they pack a reminder of home when they travel.
Harsin declined to comment on the new tradition.
Offensive line coach Scott Huff danced around the topic.
“I kind of feel like with all my surgeries that I’ve had that I have some blue with me my entire life,” said Huff, a former Boise State center. “I’ve got to get a knee replaced. I’ve got fingers that don’t straighten. So I feel like I live with the blue every day — even in Cabo for spring break.”
The Broncos will need all the good vibes they can find Saturday in Provo, where they were blown out two years ago. The Cougars are coming off an emotional opening win and are staging a whiteout for their home opener.
“It’s going to be a very difficult task going into that stadium,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to have to find a way to match their mindset.”
Harsin set the tone at Tuesday’s practice by wearing a SWAT team hat. The Broncos long have used the term “SWAT team mentality” for how to succeed on the road.
“Get in and get out,” junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said. “Do what you need to do to take care of business and come home.”
THE TROUBLE WITH NOISE
Boise State historically handles loud environments without a rash of false starts, but that’s only half the story, Huff says.
The more important test is whether the linemen can avoid communication breakdowns and a delayed response to the snap.
“We’re constantly working on it and trying to make it so it’s not as big of an advantage as it can be,” Huff said. “... The false start is the easy thing to see statistically, but you’ve got to watch the film to see how it’s really affecting the guys.”
FOOL ME ONCE ...
One of football coaches’ favorite sayings is “don’t make the same mistake twice.”
That applies to them, too.
The Broncos were unprepared for a slippery grass surface last year at Connecticut.
That won’t be the case Saturday at BYU, even though the Broncos are expecting a quality surface.
“Coach Harsin has put us in a situation where now we don’t make the same mistake twice with that situation,” junior cornerback Jonathan Moxey said.
The Broncos used their grass practice field three times this week — a change from last year’s Connecticut prep — and players will have multiple cleat options when they arrive at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Probably some guys will choose a little different cleat than they did last year at UConn,” Harsin said.
The Broncos also played on grass last year at the Fiesta Bowl. That surface didn’t cause problems.
They spent much of fall camp on the grass practice field this year, so the surface isn’t foreign.
Still, last year’s experience has players putting a little more thought into their shoes. They can change shoes or use screw-in cleats.
“I’ll bring two pairs and I’ll think about it as I warm up,” Moxey said.
SIX FOR FIVE ON O-LINE
Junior offensive lineman Travis Averill, a starter in every game last year, was suspended for the season opener. That made for an easy decision on the lineup, with junior Mario Yakoo flipping sides to replace Averill at left guard and junior tackle Steven Baggett sliding to right guard. Sophomore Archie Lewis was the new starter at right tackle.
Averill returns this week, which forces Huff to take a fresh look at his lineup.
“I’m trying to work through all that stuff right now,” Huff said Wednesday. “It’s not like anyone played poor in the game. ... It’s still kind of a work in progress.”
THERE WAS A FLAW
The Broncos’ fantastic defensive performance against Washington contained one significant flaw: They didn’t tackle well.
“Tackling wasn’t as good as you probably thought it was, but that’s because guys were running to the ball. It didn’t stand out,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said.
Junior nickel Chanceller James had two takeaways from the game: “We have grit. ... Also we can take from this, we need to work on tackling.”
The defense didn’t allow a scoring drive longer than 17 yards. It limited the Huskies to 29 rushing yards, 179 total yards and 12 first downs. Boise State won 16-13.
The Washington game marked the first time Boise State held an opponent without an offensive touchdown since October 2012 against UNLV. ... BYU is 6-14 against ranked teams under coach Bronco Mendenhall. ... The Cougars are 49-11 at home under Mendenhall.
Chadd Cripe is in his 14th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also votes in The Associated Press Top 25. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.