Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin emerged from the Broncos’ locker room on Oct. 4 in Reno splattered with water.
His players had just rushed the field to celebrate their 51-46 win against Nevada — a rare burst of emotion from a team accustomed to winning. The party continued in the locker room.
“This game, it’s got to be emotional and it’s got to be personal,” Harsin said that night. “That was the most fun tonight, to be honest with you, to see that. The sideline was alive.”
Harsin re-emphasized during Nevada week the need to extract joy from the grueling, weekly process his team goes through to get to each game. The Broncos had showed up flat the week before in a 28-14 loss at Air Force.
Since then, the Broncos have beaten two rivals — Nevada and Fresno State (37-27 on Friday) — and videos were released from both locker room celebrations that show players have embraced Harsin’s message.
“With the youth of this team, of the coaching staff and the team as a whole, we get really excited in the locker room and I think we deserve it,” junior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes said. “ When we get to that locker room, as you see, we’re different creatures in there.”
In Reno, players danced and hummed “Seven Nation Army” — the song that is played as they take the field at home — and sang the fight song. The fight song is a new tradition after wins implemented by Harsin.
After Fresno State, junior tailback Jay Ajayi posted a video on Twitter of assistant strength coach Brandon Pringle doing the Nae Nae dance surrounded by the players.
Harsin said the emotional release was lacking earlier in the year. His Arkansas State team partied in the locker room last year, he said.
“There’s a process. There’s an approach (to the week),” Harsin said. “It doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It doesn’t mean it’s not exciting when you go out there and actually accomplish it. The emphasis has been, ‘Hey guys, your prep throughout the week. When we go out there and do our job and win the game, you ought to be so excited about all the work you’ve put in that you just let go.’ And that’s really what the locker room has been all about.
“ There’s no other place in the world that you can celebrate like that with your teammates and do it that way. That’s how it should be. They’re having fun.”
Said Ajayi: “Coach Hars really preaches on really enjoying the moment. He’s been telling us to have more fun out there and to celebrate the wins. These past two games, the Nevada and the Fresno State games, those were key games for us for our goal, for winning the Mountain West championship. Nevada is a rival, a great team. To go into their house and win that was amazing for us and we were excited about that. Fresno State is the reigning champ and they beat us last year and we had a lot to prove to ourselves. We got the (Milk Can) back. There was a lot of emotion.
“When we have those moments like that, those are moments we’ll cherish forever.”
Former coach Chris Petersen at times expressed concern that winning had been taken for granted around his program. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford sensed the same thing when he returned this year.
“A little bit the nature of this town and the success that’s happened for so many years, you’ve really almost fallen into a funk of taking winning for granted,” Sanford said. “Winning is hard. We play a tough schedule. We’ve played some really good teams. You have to celebrate all the victories. We have to celebrate every victory in practice. We have to celebrate every victory that we have on the field. There’s nothing better than to be able to cut it loose with a bunch of guys who you’ve battled with all week. We saw what happens when you don’t have tremendous energy and don’t have tremendous execution in the Air Force game (on Sept. 27). Anybody can beat you and can beat you soundly if you don’t show up with your best stuff. We have to celebrate those victories. And that’s something coach Harsin has brought back to this program is enjoying the victories.”
Harsin was not in the locker room when Pringle let loose his dance last week but he saw Ajayi’s video.
Is Harsin next?
“I’m not doing that,” he said. “He took the Nae Nae already. He did my dance. I didn’t know what it was. I had to ask. I still don’t know what it is.”
BYU at Boise State
When: 7:01 p.m. Friday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387 , FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN (Dave Flemming, David Diaz-Infante, Allison Williams)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 5-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West; BYU is 4-3.
Series: Boise State leads 3-1 (BYU won 37-20 last year in Provo, Utah)
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