The Boise State football team’s season-long dance with the special teams devil left an indelible mark on the 2018 season Saturday night at Albertsons Stadium.
Fresno State’s Matt Boateng blocked Haden Hoggarth’s point-after attempt in the fourth quarter of the Mountain West championship game moments after the Broncos scored a game-tying touchdown. Boateng also pressured Hoggarth on a missed 43-yard field goal in the third quarter.
The missed kicks forced the Broncos to meet the Bulldogs in overtime, where Fresno State topped Boise State’s short field goal with a touchdown for a 19-16 win.
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Boise State entered the game ranked 121st in special teams out of 130 teams by Football Outsiders. Two blocked punts were significant factors in the September loss at Oklahoma State and a mess of botched kicks and snaps hampered the Broncos (10-3) all season.
“The offensive and defensive players get a series; the specialists get one shot, and that’s the reality of it,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “Now, that one shot, you’ve got to go out there and you need to execute it and it needs to be successful. And tonight, they weren’t.”
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The rain and snow that fell all night contributed to the Broncos’ kicking woes on Saturday, Harsin said. But Fresno State, faced with the same conditions, made two field goals (44 and 38 yards) and a PAT without a miss.
Harsin said the operation from snapper to holder to kicker was too slow. Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford credited Boateng’s jump coming off the edge of the formation and angle of attack but also said wet weather usually slows down kicking operations.
The Idaho Statesman timed the kick operation on the blocked PAT twice and got 1.35 and 1.38 seconds. That’s considered on the upper end of acceptable get-off times, according to a tweet from former Boise State kicker Dan Goodale.
“It was really more of our operation than anything that Fresno did — not to take any credit from them,” Harsin said. “We’ve got to be able to make those plays. Now, a (43)-yarder in this type of conditions, you’re asking a guy to go out there and really be excellent in that situation, and we didn’t get that done. The extra point part of it, we do that quite a bit. Unfortunately, at the end of the game, that becomes a big point.”
Hoggarth had been 57-of-57 on PATs this season but is now 12-for-20 on field goals. A week earlier against Utah State, the Broncos had a field goal and a PAT ruined by snap/hold issues.
The Broncos’ special teams also were poor in 2016 but had a great year in 2017.
“Special teams are the responsibility of our entire team,” Harsin said. “... How do we fix it? We tried a lot of different ways this year. I don’t really have an answer for you right now. Obviously, it hasn’t worked. What you do is in the offseason you go back and you tear it apart and you rework it.”