It is a strange year when the Boise State football team is off to a 7-0 start, ranked in the top 15 in the nation, and yet none of those wins feel completely dominant.
Whether it’s offensive struggles in the second half, turnovers in bunches, special teams errors or momentum-killing penalties, it’s always something for the No. 14 Broncos.
“We’re a work in progress,” coach Bryan Harsin said after Thursday’s dramatic 28-27 win over BYU.
For many teams, those types of mistakes come back to haunt them. But every once in a while, there’s one team that just finds a way to win, no matter how many times it forces its fans to ponder a need for heart medication.
“All these sorts of things that really take a football team and find ways to lose games, we’re able to win it,” Harsin said. “We still have to understand we have a long ways to go.”
For the Broncos, if they can clean up those miscues, it could mean hitting their stride at the perfect time. They are seven games down, and should they reach the Mountain West championship game, there’s another seven left to play.
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After turning the ball over five times without a takeaway Thursday, the Broncos have 11 turnovers and three takeaways (tied for fewest in the nation), or a minus-1.14 average per game, tied for 120th nationally. The top two teams in that statistic, Washington and Western Michigan, are also undefeated.
The Broncos have recovered 1-of-4 onside kick attempts, have had a field goal blocked, had a kickoff returned for a touchdown against them and have fumbled a pair of punt returns.
“If we have to fix something by blowing it up, we’ll do that. We’ve got no problem with that. We just want to get better,” Harsin said.
Even the two personal foul penalties in the BYU game will be addressed, Harsin said. Both pushed the Broncos back when they had the ball at the 5-yard line or inside, and they did not score on either drive. Harsin said after the game, “That just doesn’t fly.’’
There’s no doubt sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner will get the message, be it from coaches or from his mom. He had a personal foul after spiking the ball when the Broncos would have got the ball at the BYU 2-yard line.
“Dylan I am going to beat ur (butt) No. 29!” his mother, Sedelia, tweeted after the penalty.
Being undefeated has everyone in the program riding high, but players and coaches know it may not be sustained if mistakes aren’t fixed soon.
“If we’re special, then we’re going to attack all these things we have to get better at,” Harsin said.
HAIL MARY CONJURES SCARY MEMORY
When BYU was attempting a Hail Mary at the end of the game, with the ball on the Broncos’ 42, the home team was hoping history didn’t repeat itself.
Last year, the Cougars took the lead on the Broncos in an eventual 35-24 win on a 35-yard desperation heave by quarterback Tanner Mangum to Mitchell Juergens on fourth-and-7 with 45 seconds left.
“I was praying, ‘Just please don’t let the other team catch the ball,’” Boise State junior running back Jeremy McNichols said.
Said sophomore nose tackle David Moa: “I was looking for No. 87 (Juergens). I told cornerback (Tyler) Horton to watch that guy.”
A RIVALRY NOW?
On Tuesday, when he was asked if he considered BYU a rivalry game, Harsin wasn’t keen on that idea. He changed his tune a bit after the game.
“I’ll say this: BYU week, it’s a tough week around here. It’s a tough year when you don’t beat BYU,” he said. “Probably after tonight ... you could probably say we have something going here.”
The teams began a 12-game series in 2012. In the five games played thus far, Boise State has a 3-2 edge, with all three wins coming in Boise. Those five games have been decided by a combined score of 135-134 in BYU’s favor.
BRONCOS’ McNICHOLS A MACHINE
Five days after he had 44 touches against Colorado State, including a school-record 40 carries, McNichols added another 35 on Thursday, with 30 carries and five receptions.
Harsin said he saw McNichols about a half-hour after the game.
“He was running down the hallway back to the locker room. I said, ‘Are you all right?’ He said, ‘I could carry it 40 more times,’” Harsin said.
McNichols has scored a touchdown in 19 straight games, the third-longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision in the past 10 seasons. Only Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (21) and Alabama’s Derrick Henry (20) had longer streaks.