In the Boise State football team’s first eight games, the Broncos outscored their opponents 166-94 in the first half — by an average of nine points per game.
They led at halftime in their six wins and trailed in their two losses (17-0 at Air Force, 7-3 vs. Ole Miss).
In the Broncos’ past two games, they have been outscored 62-45 in the first half and trailed at halftime in both.
Back to the first eight games — in that stretch, the Broncos were outscored 126-113 in the second half.
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And in the last two games, they have outscored their opponents 53-16 in the second half to post a pair of comeback wins. The Broncos overcame a 14-point deficit at New Mexico (largest comeback since 2006) and 20-point deficit at home against San Diego State (largest comeback in at least the past 30 seasons).
“It’s the tale of two halves in a season,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “Earlier we started fast and we didn’t finish strong. And now we’re not starting so fast and now we’re ending the game strong. I don’t know what it is. And it’s not my halftime speeches.”
Last week, though, Yates did have a halftime message for the defense after San Diego State took a 20-10 lead. The Broncos rallied to win 38-29.
“I just felt like the last two games, we weren’t very physical to start the game,” he said. “This week, I’m going to make sure I stress being physical. The last two weeks, we have not had that, starting up front.”
Coach Bryan Harsin said it’s not unusual for a team to stumble early in a game as it adjusts to what the opponent is doing. And he’s proud of the way his coaches and players have fixed issues at halftime.
“That’s where good coaches make a huge difference,” Harsin said. “They know exactly what to adjust. Don’t scrap everything. Tweak this and this or take this out, but it’s not a wholesale change.”
But he certainly would like to see a new trend start Saturday at Wyoming.
“Why have we started that way? I’m trying to work on that to figure that out so that doesn’t happen,” Harsin said. “I like the finish, but we want to start fast and put it all together.”
Other highlights from Monday’s press conference, which got overshadowed by a whole bunch of news during the day:
— While naming the players of the game, Harsin often mentions a few other players who caught the coaches’ attention. A certain defensive tackle got a mention Monday. “Shout-out to Armand Nance, who played very well in that game and did some extreme dancing in between timeouts,” Harsin said to laughs. “He was having fun. Got me going.” The players of the game were tailback Jay Ajayi (offense), linebacker Ben Weaver (defense), linebacker Chris Santini (special teams), guard Travis Averill (offensive line) and end Gabe Perez (defensive line).
— Harsin said there was a psychological impact to losing to San Diego State the previous two years. “Sometimes when you haven’t beaten a team for a couple years you need to get over that hurdle and I think there might have been some psychological in that first half. To come back and win it says a lot about the team and maybe where we are as far as facing that opponent.”
— On overcoming 14- and 20-point deficits in the past two weeks: “We’ve proven that we’re going to keep fighting in these games.”
OC Mike Sanford
— On early struggles against San Diego State: “One thing with San Diego State that is unique to them, they do really game plan each specific offense and the coverages are different. They had our number for a couple years. It was headed in that same direction. I think there was a little bit of a performance-anxiety piece. Once we got some confidence, I think we felt like we could get rolling.”
— On QB Grant Hedrick: “Progression-wise, he probably didn’t have one of his better games. He didn’t let some adversity early on get him in the tank. It’s about battling. His start wasn’t very good. When you’re in week 10 and having a good season, there are still things you can learn from and grow from. Also, hats off to San Diego State. There’s a reason they were the No. 1 statistical defense in our conference.”
— On the comeback: “Learning from the experience at Air Force, there was a little bit of panic that set in that game and we learned from that. We talked about it. Everyone involved in the entire organization needs to demonstrate poise. We talked about coming through in the clutch at New Mexico. Now there’s a belief. We know we can win games in a variety of ways. If you want to win a championship in a good conference, one that is very equal from top to bottom — at least in the schedule we play — you’re going to have to win games in different ways.”
— On the Mountain West: “We play a lot of junk-ball defenses in this league. That’s one thing I’m not used to. There is a lot of stuff going on. The Pac-12 resembles the NFL more so. The SEC as well. The defenses in this league are all over the place. There are a lot of big-play defenses in our league — big plays for us and big plays for them.”
— On the final drive against San Diego State: “There’s something about finishing a team off in I-formation football. That’s really what it came down to the last two games. That’s a lot of growth of our team. A lot of people think we’re a spread team. We think we’re a multiple offense.”
— The coaches in the press box weren’t protected from the cold weather last week. They had condensation on the window, which froze. Then they had to stand up to see. Eventually, they opened the window. Sanford was wearing a short-sleeve shirt. “It was a little chilly up there,” he said. “I made a halftime adjustment myself.”
— On playing in the wind in Laramie: “It’s a factor for sure. I like our quarterback in terms of being a guy who can cut the wind. I didn’t love going through pregame warm-ups in a 40 mph wind, but I didn’t throw the spiral that Grant does. He doesn’t throw a whole lot of balls that aren’t a tight spiral.”
— On wide receiver Chaz Anderson’s blocking: “He had two critical blocks on touchdowns in the red zone for us. He understands leverage because he had to defeat leverage as a corner. The last thing you can do (as a corner) is give up the outside. He understands to slide his body into that position to take away the outside from the defensive back.”
— On Wyoming: “They’re the hardest-playing, fastest pursuit-to-the-ball team that I’ve seen on tape this year. They play really hard. My dad coaches in the same league coach (Craig Bohl) comes from. Talking to my dad about playing (North Dakota State), they just play and sell out like no other.”
DC Marcel Yates
— On this team: “This is a gritty football team. We’ve been spoiled around here — before I left (after the 2011 season), the team came out and beat people up and it was over. This isn’t 2006 or 2009 or ’10. This is a different football team and different players. These guys are gritty. They never quit. We still haven’t put together a complete game as a team yet. That’s still the quest for us as a coaching staff.”
— On tackling: “We work on it. We work on it. The problem is the only guy we can tackle to give us the speed of the game is Jay Ajayi, and we can’t tackle him live in practice. Or our second running back, either. You can work on it all you want. You get into the game, full speed, that running back is one of the best in the conference that’s kind of hard to show every day.”
— On the competition between Cleshawn Page and Jonathan Moxey at cornerback: “I’m rooting for a leader in that race.” So far, coaches have been using both and playing the one who’s doing better as the game wears on.
— “The most consistent guys for us have been Tanner Vallejo and Darian Thompson. They’ve been the most consistent throughout the season.”
— On trying to create a “dominant” defense: “I don’t know if this team is that type of team. We’re trying to get them there. One thing I do know is they’re gritty.”
— On Sanford not having warm clothes in the press box: “I was ready. He fell for that box trick. I was good. I had to stand up so I could see (because of the condensation). With the first half, the way it was going, I was hiding anyway.”
Paul Myerberg of USA Today does a weekly re-rank of the entire Football Bowl Subdivision.
This week, he has four Mountain West Mountain Division teams in the top 40 — No. 18 Colorado State, No. 27 Boise State, No. 30 Utah State and No. 37 Air Force.
He also has five Boise State opponents in the top 40 — No. 8 Ole Miss, No. 18 Colorado State, No. 30 Utah State, No. 37 Air Force and No. 39 Louisiana.
He has Marshall at 20 but the highest-ranked Marshall opponent on his list is No. 76 Rice. Louisiana Tech, Marshall’s potential opponent in the Conference USA championship game, checks in at No. 38.
The latest College Football Playoff Top 25 will be announced at 5 p.m. today on ESPN2.
Boise State at Wyoming
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: War Memorial Stadium (29,181, FieldTurf), Laramie, Wyo.
TV: ESPN2 (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra). Channel 209 on DirecTV, 144 on Dish, 25 and 492 (HD) on Cable One.
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 8-2 overall, 5-1 Mountain West; Wyoming is 4-6, 2-4
Series: Boise State leads 8-0 (Boise State won 48-7 last year in Boise)
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