It is impressive enough to have an offense that can put up a bunch of points over the course of a season. But doing it year after year creates a reputation, an identity.
When No. 17 Boise State and No. 24 Oklahoma State face off Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., it will be a pairing of two such programs.
Since 2010, Oklahoma State’s 41.4 points per game ranks No. 2 in the FBS, and Boise State’s 38.1 ppg ranks No. 6. Two games into the season, they are No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in total yardage per game.
“I would think there are quite a few points scored in this game,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
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For the Broncos and the Cowboys, the question is often asked: Why is the offense good every year?
The answer is often just vague enough, but both schools have generally found forward-thinking coaches. Oklahoma State uses pace to wear out defenses and create confusion. Boise State’s array of shifts and motions creates mismatches and dozens of looks. Both schools were well ahead of the run-pass option trend, running those concepts years ago, and are known to take calculated risks for big plays.
For Oklahoma State, the offense took form in 2010, when Gundy hired Dana Holgorsen as his offensive coordinator. The “basketball on turf” concepts were immediately successful — current BSU head coach Bryan Harsin, then the offensive coordinator, and then-coach Chris Petersen visited Stillwater that spring on a professional development trip.
“We don’t really change what we do on offense. We’ve been consistent the last 6-8 years, we’ve run the same plays,” Gundy said.
Coaches at both schools use that popular football buzzword, consistency. Gundy has been the head coach since 2005, played quarterback for the Cowboys and was their offensive coordinator.
Boise State’s two most recent head coaches had served as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator previously. One who preceded them, Dirk Koetter, established the basis for the offense that has averaged the most points since 2000.
“You find that consistency where the guys, no matter who they are, have trust in what you’re doing ... it’s easy to be able to pare down what you do schematically, but have a lot of options off it depending on what you see,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.
Gundy compared Boise State’s offense this season to his own last season, with a veteran quarterback in Brett Rypien, an experienced line and talent at the skill positions. That’s high praise, as the Cowboys finished No. 1 in passing offense and No. 4 in scoring offense in 2017.
On the other side, Oklahoma State lost quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington to graduation (both were second-day picks of the Steelers). But against FCS Missouri State and South Alabama, the offense was once again potent, racking up 1,349 yards (595 rushing, 754 passing).
“They’ve done a nice job with their offensive game for a long time now,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “They have their foundation, through all their success, they stick to what they’re good at ... they know their adjustments within their offense. That’s attributed to a lot of their success, as well as having some pretty good players in that offense.”
Sure, Boise State and Oklahoma State’s defenses will have something to say about these potent offenses. Both are in the top 30 in scoring and total defense, but neither has seen offenses like they’ll face this week.
“They’re able to do about everything they want to do, run the ball, throw the ball,” Harsin said. He noted that it will be “a major challenge for our defense to try to slow them down.”
Gundy echoed those sentiments, and said he’s not surprised to face a potent Boise State offense: “(I’m) not shocked with all the success they’ve had for a long, long time, based on the execution and the limited amount of mistakes they make.”
No. 17 BOISE STATE AT No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE
When: 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,000; artificial turf)
TV: ESPN (Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 2-0 (beat UConn 62-7 on Saturday); Oklahoma State 2-0 (beat South Alabama 55-13 on Saturday)
Series: First meeting (first regular season game for BSU vs. Big 12, 2-1 in bowls)
Vegas line: Oklahoma State by 2 1/2
Weather: Mid 80s, mostly sunny, 60 percent humidity