There is no game like the first one of the season, with so many pieces finally fitting into place, months of preparation leading up to a few hours on the field, and perhaps justification for typical offseason optimism. Or more questions.
The opponent often isn’t familiar like a conference foe, and just about everything feels new.
“Expect the unexpected,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
Boise State has opened the season on the road three of the past four seasons, losing all three against Ole Miss, Washington and Michigan State. The season opener Saturday at Louisiana isn’t the same caliber, but it no doubt presents a few special challenges.
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The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 91 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday in Lafayette, La. The humidity has been around 80 percent, though it could dip into the 60s on game day. It’s been around 30 percent in Boise.
During fall camp, the Broncos have hosed down the field, turned up the heat and shut the doors at the Caven-Williams Indoor Complex. Senior linebacker Ben Weaver said players have been sprayed with the hose as they walk into practice.
“There’s only so much you can do. Mentally, it’s a huge aspect,” Weaver said.
Weaver said that, considering the team plays at times later in the season when the temperature is in single digits, it shouldn’t be an issue. But the Broncos aren’t taking chances, getting prepared with a hydration regimen, and even pickles.
“Every first game of the season, we tend to approach hydration a lot more” because of the adjustment from the practice field to game situations, senior offensive lineman Mario Yakoo said.
“It gets hot in there,” Yakoo added. “They’re trying to put you in uncomfortable situations. … From the first time to the third or fourth time we’ve done it, you can definitely see the difference.”
Instead of games kicking off when kids are going to bed, Saturday’s will be soon after they get up. Accustomed to 8 p.m. kickoffs, the Broncos draw the 10 a.m. MT slot.
“It’s kind of nice in the fact you don’t have to wait the entire day to kind of get things going,” senior defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte said. “Sitting in the hotel room for a few hours, waiting and raring to get going can be a little bit long sometimes.”
The Broncos moved a scrimmage initially scheduled for an evening start about 8 hours earlier to 11 a.m. Players said it will help with the acclimation, though getting up early won’t be an issue.
“For most of us, we have classes early in the morning,” senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said.
The Broncos have 39 true freshmen on their roster, plus four transfers in their first year with the program. Add in players who redshirted last fall, and more than half the roster has never played for the Broncos.
Louisiana will start senior Anthony Jennings at quarterback, who joined the program from LSU a month ago. Ten freshmen were on the Ragin’ Cajuns depth chart released Monday.
“It’s always a little bit difficult because you have an element of surprise. ... You always have a little more of a comfort factor in Week 2,” Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth said.
It could be a challenge for Boise State, with so many players seeing their first action. Then again, it could be a good thing in its own way: the element of surprise.
“There’s an unknown for them, too, so it goes both ways,” Vallejo said.
Louisiana went 4-8 last season but won nine games in each of the four preceding seasons. Harsin was at the helm when the Broncos beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 34-9 in Boise in 2014, but he lost 23-7 at home as Arkansas State’s coach in 2013. Louisiana is 21-7 at Cajun Field the past five seasons. The team placed one player (defensive back Savion Brown) on the preseason All-Sun Belt first team, and five on the second team.
“I know they’ve had success, and I know they know how to win,” Harsin said. “They’re going to play extremely hard. The environment’s going to be loud. It’s going to be hot.”
APSEY: SEASON TICKET SALES ‘A LITTLE BEHIND’
Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey spoke to the media Monday following the first Bronco Athletic Association luncheon of the fall and said between 19,500 and 19,600 season tickets have been sold. The Broncos’ first home game is Sept. 10 against Washington State.
“We’re about 93 percent of our goal ... we’ve still got 10 days or so (until the home opener),” Apsey said. “I’m not going to lie, we’re a little behind, but we’re not giving up and hopefully the excitement of this year, the first (home) game against Wazzu on the 10th, we’ll continue to generate sales and we can get there as close as we can.”
Apsey said late kickoffs have no doubt played a part, as has the fact there is some unknown with the team, with plenty of new faces on the roster. The Broncos will have at least three 8:15 p.m. kickoffs at Albertsons Stadium this season. Single-game tickets went on sale Monday.
Last season, the Broncos sold approximately 21,500 season tickets, the first increase since 2011 to 2012. The fewest in the last nine seasons were the 20,904 sold in 2007.
Apsey also said Boise State has yet to make its pitch to the Big 12 regarding expansion, though the Dallas Morning News reported Friday that 20 schools have already done so, saying “we have not been contacted to do that,” but that “we’re honored to be in the conversation.”
BSU at Louisiana
- When: 10 a.m. MT Saturday
- Where: Cajun Field (36,900, synthetic turf), Lafayette, La.
- Watch: ESPN3 (espn.com/watchespn; must have subscription with affiliated service provider)
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM)/KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
- Series: Boise State leads 1-0 (Won 34-9 in 2014 in Boise)
- Vegas line: Boise State by 20 1/2