Suggest a 9-4 record to most schools across college football, and they would be more than happy to take it.
Of course, Boise State is not your typical program.
Last season’s overall mark represented the second-most losses in a decade, and the Broncos’ three conference losses were the most since 1998.
“Who wouldn’t have a chip on their shoulder after going 9-4? That’s not the standard we expect to hold,” senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey said.
Yet, there is plenty of optimism inside and outside Albertsons Stadium for Boise State.
The Broncos bring back their young, talented quarterback, do-it-all running back and record-breaking receiver on offense. The defense, though it has lost a lot of star power, has a hungry group of players eager for their shot at success.
The team helped use the bitter taste of the regular season, mixed with a dominating 55-7 win over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl, to propel it into the offseason.
“It was definitely kind of a disappointing season. There were some high notes, the last game was a huge high note,” senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said. “I think that’s where optimism is coming from, that kind of shows what we can do when we’re operating on all cylinders.”
On the schedule, the Broncos won’t have it easy. They open on the road for a hot, humid, early kickoff at Louisiana before hosting Pac-12 foe Washington State and playing at another Pac-12 school, Oregon State.
They’ll look for revenge in October home matchups with Utah State and BYU and will travel to face tricky option-based teams in Air Force and New Mexico, both of whom won on the blue last year.
“Losing at home was very bad,” senior linebacker Ben Weaver said. “Now that’s over, we can look at it as a thing that’s humbling for us as players, to know that we’re not immune to losing on the blue. It shows people it comes with work, too. We don’t just go out there and win.”
Be it the bad taste of seeing two teams celebrate back-to-back wins at Albertsons Stadium for the first time since 1997, the rash of turnovers in a 52-26 loss at Utah State or the Hail Mary loss at BYU, the misery gave the Broncos plenty to think about in the offseason.
“We understand where we fell short. We certainly understand our capabilities of what we can do,” said head coach Bryan Harsin, who is 21-6 after two seasons.
In the wake of that disappointment, Harsin took over offensive play-calling responsibilities after coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz left for North Carolina State. Ryan Finley, the quarterback who started the first three games before an injury last season, followed suit to Raleigh.
Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates took the same job at Arizona. Pass-rush extraordinaire Kamalei Correa declared for the NFL Draft soon after the bowl win.
So Harsin brought in co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Zak Hill, cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose and safeties coach Gabe Franklin. He promoted linebackers coach Andy Avalos to defensive coordinator and offensive line coach Scott Huff to co-offensive coordinator.
Once the season was digested, some suggested there were a few players who were not playing for the team. That, plus the overturn in staff and the roster, prompted Harsin to place an emphasis on leadership, naming four season-long captains after using two in his first two seasons.
“That’s been a big topic for this football team,” Harsin said. “We all have the same message, and that has to get to the team.”
Motivated by what is behind them, it could wind up being a good sign for the Broncos. The last four times they lost four or more games in a season, they followed with a combined 37-5 record, including a pair of Fiesta Bowl victories.
“I don’t think anyone is thinking about the past too much,” senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said with a slight smile.
Take that however you will.