November 24, 2006

One more to go for the dough




Déjà vu all over again.
Nearly the same situation has shoved itself in front of the Boise State football team for the second time in three seasons.
In 2004, the Broncos were one win away from the first undefeated regular season in school history as a Division I program. That game was a Thanksgiving weekend contest in Reno against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
The Broncos dominated Nevada 58-21 in route to a berth into the Liberty Bowl.
Now, the Broncos are looking for the same result-but with much bigger implications and a much more seasoned team.
In 2004, the Broncos were the second youngest team in D-1 football.
This season, Boise State (11-0 overall, 7-0 Western Athletic Conference) will look to get an invitation to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game Saturday at 2:15 p.m. (MT) in Reno with a much more seasoned squad.
The Broncos 22 seniors played their last game at home with a 49-10 blowout against Utah State.
And it's those seniors that have been the focal point this time around at another undefeated season.
Led by quarterback Jared Zabransky, the passing offense has been senior dominated. Zabransky has shaken off every doubt about his junior season and has turned into an effective manager of the third highest scoring team in the nation.
Zabransky has limited the turnovers and made plays when needed, throwing for 2026 yards and 19 touchdowns with just six interceptions and an impressive 160.73 passing efficiency rating-his best of his career as a starter.
Was it mentioned that he is 31-5 as a starter for the Broncos?
No?
Well, that should be mentioned.
His core of receives may be the one area where the Broncos will be in desperate help in 2007.
The top four receivers are all seniors. Drisan James, Jerard Rabb and Legedu Naanee and tight end Derek Schouman have combined for 1571 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns. In all, seniors on offense have combined for 1688 yards receiving (80 percent for the team) and 16 of the 20 receiving touchdowns.
Sophomore Heisman hopeful Ian Johnson has dominated the running game. The San Dimas, Calif. native has rushed for 1466 yards and 21 touchdowns and is expected back at full strength against Nevada.
However, despite the workload Johnson has endured this season, Zabransky and fellow senior Brent Denton have added depth to what has become a dominant running game for the Broncos.
Denton and Zabransky have 509 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns-and the seniors have a combined 692 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns-the other coming from fullback Brad Lau.
The offensive line was shook up this season by injuries by a junior and a senior and the emergence of another senior.
Before the season began, the offensive lines depth was depleted by season ending injuries to senior Ryan Keating and junior Pete Cavender, forcing a shuffle of players. Only right guard Tad Miller started at the same position in 2005 and 2006 thanks in part to the need to get Jadon Dailey in the lineup at center. The senior from Phoenix, Ariz. replaced Jeff Cavender at center this season, and may be a front-runner for an All-WAC nod.
Defensively, the Broncos front seven has been lead by one of the best linebackers in school history.




Korey Hall is on his way to a third straight first-team All-WAC selection and his first defensive player of the year award. His 98 tackles and six interceptions lead the team. Fellow senior linebacker Colt Brooks leads the team with 6.5 sacks and has been the focal point for opposing quarterbacks all season.
Defensive tackle Andrew Browning has gone from walk-on to first-team All-WAC. Browning has been a clog in the middle of the line with fellow senior Dennis Ellis. The two have combined for 71 tackles and 9.5 sacks this season.
The move from cornerback to safety has been frustrating at times for Gerald Alexander, but the senior has been a playmaker when given the chance. Despite not being thrown against much this season, Alexander has 33 tackles, one interception-and the biggest hit of the season during the Utah game in September.
The kicking game has been a pleasant surprise by two seniors. After only attempting 10 field goals all of last season, Anthony Montgomery has made 12 of 13 this season-including 12 in a row and the game winner against San Jose State. He is the front-runner as the All-WAC first-team selection.
Punter Kyle Stringer has had a solid senior season now that he is no longer asked to do any of the kicking duties. His efficiency to get great hang time got him on the {dbRay Guy[/db] watch list.
But this is not the same Nevada team that the Broncos have dominated the last few years, including a 49-14 win at Bronco Stadium last season.
Nevada (8-3, 5-2 WAC) has a five-game winning streak by a combined score of 40-7 coming into Saturday's game.
A win for Boise State means a berth into a BCS bowl game and big money and attention on the school and the conference. A loss means another tie for the conference title and another game at 'home' in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Is this the biggest game in school history-for the second time in three seasons-you bet.
But this time around the stakes are bigger and the Broncos are wiser.



 

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