Desert Swarm, The Blackshirts, Purple Haze — college football defenses have provided some pretty memorable nicknames. Perhaps Boise State’s Kings of Chaos are next.
It is a name to describe a simple goal, to frustrate opponents. There are props to reinforce the mantra, and one game in, the Broncos are living up to it.
Boise State forced four turnovers and had five sacks last Saturday in a 56-20 win at Troy.
“It’s someone that’s out there just causing mayhem, if it’s a sack, a force fumble, an interception, someone that’s causing disruption to the offense is somebody that’s a king of chaos,” senior cornerback Tyler Horton said.
Cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich is often credited for being the idea man behind helping develop the nickname, and also the guy behind the turnover bike (a fall camp reward) and the now-famous turnover throne.
Popovich has an additional focus outside of his position, just as the other defensive coaches do. He is in charge of finding ways to create turnovers, be it a drill, creating the rewards, or even teaching defensive linemen techniques on how to swat the ball from a quarterback.
“It starts with preparation … the better we prepare, the more confidence we have,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “The urgency to do that, the idea behind it provided the energy we need to do every single day … trying to keep things fresh, new ideas.”
Defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a is in charge of pursuit, safeties coach Gabe Franklin focuses on tackling and STUD ends coach Spencer Danielson’s focus is defeating blocks.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin showed the team this week how those things come together to create a big play. He showed a clip of safety Kekoa Nawahine in a tackling drill, and how he made a perfect form tackle against Troy in the third quarter.
Nawahine created a fumble, cornerback Tyler Horton was pursuing and was in the perfect spot, he then took off with it for a 55-yard touchdown. With the ball in his hands, Horton held the ball with the security running backs coach Lee Marks teaches the entire team in meetings.
“It was like all these coaching points showed up on this one play, made the emphasis of how you practice is how you play,” Harsin said.
Of course, no king can be without a little bling.
The turnover throne is a representation of those talking points, a reminder and reward for creating turnovers — the Broncos had 26 turnovers in 2017 after having nine in 2016. The prize last year was a turnover belt. The throne has gone over quite well.
“That’s been so fun. I think it reminded some of our young freshman that after all is said and done, this is a game,” junior nose tackle Sonatane Lui said. “It’s a game we love, it’s a game we’re going to play passionately … I think that calmed a lot of nerves.”
Senior linebacker Tony Lashley was the first to sit on it, getting his first career interception on one of his first plays as a Bronco after transferring from Idaho. He said “it felt pretty good, a nice little intro to the season.” The guys that get the turnover are the ones that have sat upon it so far, though the ones that create it might have a case to sit on it, too.
“Might have to make it a little bigger,” senior defensive end Durrant Miles said.
BUTLER RELISHES FIRST TD SINCE 2015
Nearly a year after his junior season was cut short, lying on the turf in the end zone at Washington State with a torn ACL, Akilian Butler found the end zone Saturday at Troy.
This time, it was a reason to celebrate.
Butler hauled in a 3-yard touchdown catch from Brett Rypien in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard drive for a 28-7 lead. It was the first career touchdown catch for Butler, as he had a rushing score as a true freshman in 2015.
“It meant a lot — honestly, just to be back out there, that was enough for me,” Butler said.
Butler redshirted last season since the season-ending injury happened in the Broncos’ second game. He has eight catches for 48 yards in his career, six catches for 46 yards and 17 punt returns for 28 yards.
“I think you could feel there was a lot of emotion on that, it wasn’t just a score, it was ‘I’m back,’” Harsin said.
NOT OVERLOOKING UCONN
Boise State is more than four-touchdown favorites over UConn, which lost its opener by 39 to UCF. In theory, it’s a cakewalk, but stranger things have happened — remember New Mexico in 2015? Add in the Broncos’ following game, a potential top 25 matchup with Oklahoma State, and focus is paramount.
“We are a poor football team when we get ahead of ourselves ... we’ve done that before, and it doesn’t work out for us,” Harsin said.
Lui said last season Virginia was being slightly overlooked after Boise State had hammered them 56-14 on the road two years prior and a bye week coming afterward.
“The circumstances are similar to Virginia last year, a lot of guys on the team, some of the older guys thought ‘we’ll look past this game because we whooped them a while ago,’” Lui said. “We don’t want to make that mistake again because they are a good football team.”
The Broncos’ No. 20 ranking in the AP poll entering the second game is tied for their highest since 2011. ... Boise State has won 16 straight home openers. ... If the Broncos scored 63 or more points, they will set a new mark for most points in the first two games of the season. ... Horton (two touchdowns) was named the Bronko Nagurski Trophy National Defensive Player of the Week. ... Boise State reported nearly 31,300 tickets were sold for Saturday’s game as of Thursday afternoon.
UCONN AT No. 20 BOISE STATE
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Mike Couzens, Kirk Morrison); Cable One ch. 136/1136, DirecTV ch. 208, Dish Network ch. 141
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 1-0 (beat Troy 56-20 on Saturday); UConn 0-1 (lost 56-17 to UCF on Thursday)
Series: Boise State 1-0 (Broncos beat Huskies 38-21 on Sept. 13, 2014, in East Hartford, Conn.)
Vegas line: Boise State by 31
Weather: Upper 70s, clear skies
Tickets: Stop by the ticket office on the west side of Albertsons Stadium, visit BroncoSports.com/tickets or call 208-426-4737.
What to wear: Tri-color. White in North End Zone and sections 6, 10, 25, 29, 33, 102, 106, 110, 125, 129 and 133; orange in 8, 20-23, 27, 31, 35, 108, 120-123, 127, 131 and 135; blue in all other sections and Stueckle Sky Club