Losses are rare around here, each one carrying plenty of weight considering Boise State’s tenuous place in seeking a spot in another New Year’s Six bowl game.
The Broncos’ Mountain Division hopes are out of their hands with Wyoming now in the driver’s seat. A few dominoes have to fall their way to even be back in the Cotton Bowl discussion.
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In a way, the pressure is off the Broncos’ shoulders, and any thought of thinking beyond the task at hand is pointless.
“We’re just trying to go out there and play a great game, one of the best games we’ve played, just to forget about that,” Boise State junior linebacker Joe Martarano said.
Boise State entered Saturday’s game at Wyoming with a 7-0 record, but the 30-28 loss altered plenty. It was the latest the Broncos have been handed their first loss since losing the ninth game of the 2011 season and the third in the past calendar year when favored by double digits.
After the sting subsided, the team tried to forget about it, but at the same time let it motivate. And since the Broncos have won time and again this season by slim margins, thanks mostly to their own errors, they saw up close just how close they were to losing those games.
“I guess you’d say (there’s) a sense of urgency maybe, not that we didn’t have it before. ... But that night, we weren’t the best team on the field. We maybe were the best team, but didn’t come out with the best score,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said.
For the most part, in the two-plus years of the Harsin era, the team has responded well after losses. It is 5-1 coming off the previous six losses, averaging 40.7 points per game.
“You’re not in the driver’s seat until the end of the year anyway; it all has to play out,” Harsin said. “We go back and look at it, say, ‘This is our mission, here’s our blueprint, here’s our goals, here’s how we’re going to accomplish it.’ Nothing’s really changed that way.
“When things go bad, now you get to really find out who’s all in.”
Harsin said there wasn’t necessarily a renewed vigor, but the attitude around the team wasn’t doom and gloom.
“Our guys are competitors. We could play Sunday morning at 2 a.m. or we could go out right now,” co-offensive coordinator Scott Huff said Tuesday. “I know our guys would have loved to get right back out there on Saturday and started all over. I know they would have loved to.”
Said sophomore defensive end Durrant Miles: “Obviously we can’t go back and change it, as much as we’d love to, but all we can do is move forward.”
A loss, surprising not necessarily because of the opponent, but in the fashion it happened — with poor field position, another lost turnover battle and a game-winning safety — helped snap attention to even the seemingly mundane parts of the week.
“The focus on two-point opportunities ... when you’re working on turnovers, when you’re working on jump balls in end-of-game situations,” Harsin said. “All those things you do every single week, it’s really important now, isn’t it? Now it’s showed up.”
If the Broncos have anything to do with it, they’ll avoid their fifth one-possession game of the season and look to put together a complete game for the first time since the season opener Sept. 3 against Louisiana.
“All we can do at this point is focus on ourselves,” senior defensive end Sam McCaskill said.
Reflecting on the Wyoming game, sophomore wide receiver Sean Modster said, “It’s definitely upsetting.”
Boise State is letting that fuel them in the final month of the season, trying to use its well-worn “1-0 mentality” each week. Perhaps the edge the team has played with so often was rediscovered. It will be seen for certain against the Spartans.
“There’s no excuse to why we lost or how we lost,” Modster said. “Looking forward, we’ve just got to put it behind us and learn from it.”
It’s a lot more motivation going into this week. We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder now. We want to come out this week and be on top.
Sean Modster, Boise State sophomore wide receiver
San Jose State at No. 24 Boise State
When: 8:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Lamont, Ray Bentley)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State 7-1, 3-1; San Jose State 3-6, 2-3 Mountain West
Series: Boise State leads 12-0 (won last season 40-23 in San Jose)
Coaches: San Jose State, Ron Caragher (18-28, fourth year; 62-50 overall, 10th year) ; Boise State, Bryan Harsin (28-7, third year; 35-12, fourth year overall)
Vegas line: Boise State by 29
Kickoff weather: 50s, with light winds
Tickets: Boise State reported 5,500 tickets were still remaining Thursday afternoon. Tickets are available at the Boise State ticket office, at broncosports.com/tickets or 208-426-4737. Online, $25 tickets are available using promo code TREAT.
Boise State has lost before under Bryan Harsin, but the Broncos have only had one losing streak in his tenure:
at San Jose St.