Boise State football players and coaches have used a three-word mantra this week to describe how they can get out of a two-game tailspin in Friday’s regular-season finale at San Jose State.
Do. Your. Job.
They repeated it over and over, in varying ways, as reporters probed for the elusive answer to the most popular question in Boise this week: What’s wrong with the Broncos?
“All it takes is one person to not do their job,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said, “and depending on who it is on what particular play, it can really make or break the play. We have to continually harp on that. And we’ve got to overcome it. It’s not like it’s one glaring thing. If that was the case, it would be very easy to fix.”
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When one player clearly fails to do his job, like on the big pass plays by Air Force last week, it would be easy for players to blame each other. That hasn’t happened, they say.
“That’s the first reaction of a human being — to blame someone else, to say, ‘It wasn’t my fault,’ ” junior defensive end Kamalei Correa said. “The coaching staff has done a good job of making us stick as one.”
Junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said the Broncos (7-4 overall, 4-3 Mountain West) still have great energy and feel like “we’ve got something to prove.” They’ve lost three conference games for the first time since 1998.
“There’s definitely no issues with culture or chemistry,” Sperbeck said. “Everyone is putting in the work, too. It’s more executing what we have in, making critical plays.
“... It’s definitely not our standard to lose this many games. From a culture standpoint and the team’s mentality, I think it’s as good as it’s ever been.”
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Correa will face a difficult decision after the Broncos’ regular season ends Friday.
Like tailback Jay Ajayi last year, Correa is a junior NFL prospect. He’ll be eligible to leave a year early, but with his production down this year and his tweener size (6-foot-3, 248 pounds), that leaves some question about what position he will play. Add in is his young age (he’s only two and a half years out of high school), and Correa isn’t a lock for the first two rounds of the draft.
Correa can submit paperwork to the NFL to request an evaluation. The report will tell him whether he’s a potential first-rounder, potential second-rounder or neither, which amounts to a “stay in school” recommendation.
Correa said he hasn’t talked to his coaches about his future.
“I’m really just trying to finish off this season right now,” he said. “We’ve been struggling these last two games. My main focus isn’t about that right now.”
Correa has 29 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles this season. He finished with 59 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles last year.
Among the Boise State seniors, left tackle Rees Odhiambo and safety Darian Thompson are considered draft prospects. Players who likely will get into training camps include cornerback Donte Deayon, linebacker Tyler Gray, defensive linemen Armand Nance, Justin Taimatuia and Tyler Horn and center Marcus Henry.
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The Mountain West awards will be announced Tuesday. Boise State’s leading contenders:
▪ Offensive Player of the Year: Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck leads the Mountain West with 1,289 receiving yards — 331 yards more than anyone else. He also leads in receptions (76) and is tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (eight). The favorite: San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey, who ranks third in the league in rushing (1,310 yards).
▪ Defensive Player of the Year: Safety Darian Thompson has recorded five interceptions for a Mountain West career record 19. He leads the team in tackles (63) and tackles for loss (7.5). The favorite: Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who has 13.5 tackles for loss and five fumble recoveries.
▪ Special Teams Player of the Year: Kicker Tyler Rausa is the highest-scoring kicker in the conference at 10.1 points per game. He missed a field goal and had one blocked over the past two weeks, which probably doomed his chances. The favorite: Colorado State punter Hayden Hunt, who averages 46.3 yards per punt and has placed 21-of-43 inside the 20-yard line. He and San Jose State’s Michael Carrizosa are Ray Guy Award finalists.
▪ Freshman of the Year: Quarterback Brett Rypien leads the Mountain West with 308.4 passing yards per game — 108 more than anyone else. He’s fourth in pass efficiency. The favorite: Rypien.
▪ Coach of the Year: Bryan Harsin isn’t a factor this year. The favorite: Tough call between San Diego State’s Rocky Long (8-3, 7-0) and Air Force’s Troy Calhoun (8-3, 6-1).
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Boise State addressed a significant need Tuesday with a commitment from junior college wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
Wilson has 66 catches for 1,045 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He also is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, which will add a big body to the Broncos’ smallish crew of receivers.
Wilson, who is from Memphis, Tenn., has two seasons of eligibility remaining. He played quarterback in high school. His dad, Cedrick Wilson Sr., played at Tennessee and spent seven years in the NFL with the 49ers and Steelers (2001-07).
Chadd Cripe is in his 14th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also votes in The AP Top 25. He can be reached at ccripe@ idahostatesman.com
Boise State at San Jose State
- When: 1:30 p.m. Friday
- Where: Spartan Stadium (30,456, FieldTurf), San Jose, Calif.
- TV: CBS Sports Network (John Sadak, Sed Bonner, Melanie Collins)
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
- Records: Boise State 7-4, 4-3 Mountain West; SJSU 5-6, 4-3
- Series: Boise State leads 11-0 (Broncos won 48-0 in 2010 in San Jose)
- Vegas line: Boise State favored by 7