Finishing games in the fall started this spring for the Boise State football team.
Granted, every team across the country has the same goals, to start fast and finish strong. For the Broncos, it took on an additional focus in the spring and will be as they head into the summer with finals wrapped up this past week.
That comes from one of the most glaring problems that the 2016 team faced — an inability to close out a handful of games that made the result way too close for comfort.
“I just felt like last year ... at the end of certain games, we didn’t play with our best technique, we didn’t play our best football,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’re going to be in the games. If we’re going to be a better team, if we’re going to win a couple more games, we’ve got to find ways to finish.”
Boise State was outscored 128-90 in the fourth quarter last season, a reversal of the 2015 campaign, when the Broncos had a 122-68 advantage over opponents in the last 15 minutes of games.
A key reason was the lack of depth at a handful of positions, as starters got worn down, the second units either struggled or were not put in much at all. Harsin said as the year progressed, he realized it was something that could start from the top down.
“(I thought) then we’re not coaching it well enough, emphasizing it well enough,” he said.
There was not a shortage of examples: seeing a 28-3 lead turn into a 28-23 lead against Colorado State in 85 seconds thanks to back-to-back onside kick recoveries, two fourth quarter touchdowns by Washington State in a 31-28 win, and a 21-7 lead against Wyoming with 16 minutes left turn into a 30-28 loss.
In practices, the staff has made sure that the last parts of practice are the most intense. Harsin said that mentality, along with getting into great shape in the summer will be key.
“It’s putting us in those situations as best we can,” senior tight end Jake Roh said. “What’s pushing is right now is that fourth quarter mentality.”
This spring, that manifested itself in the final portion of each practice.
“The energy changes ... it needs to be where we pop on those those last three periods of practice, and we’re watching your technique, that’s when you need to be at your best,” Harsin said.
After a spring in which the team was minus many of its playmakers who were recovering from offseason surgery, such as a senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, the Broncos should be close to full strength during the summer workouts. Pushing them will be avoiding those late lapses, and as usual, to win the Mountain West, which has escaped the Broncos the last two seasons.
“I haven’t won a ring on any level, so I have to get one this year,” Wilson said.
Eight Boise State football players graduate Saturday: snapper Matt Cota, receiver David McKinzie, cornerback Jonathan Moxey, STUD end Gabe Perez, kicker Tyler Rausa, receiver Tanner Shipley, receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and running back Ryan Wolpin. McKinzie, Perez and Wolpin will be seniors on the roster this fall. Shipley ended his playing career after the 2014 season because of medical reasons.