Dave Southorn covers Boise State football for Idaho Press-Tribune. We asked Southorn five questions to gain better insight into BYU's opponent this Thurs.
1. What has led to Boise State's amazing success over the last decade? What makes Chris Peterson such a great football coach?
It certainly has been a combination of a few things, but most namely support from the school, strong recruiting and continuity in the coaching staff. Chris Petersen has been here since 2001, so the offensive scheme has been the same, and he’s been able to keep his staff fairly consistent. Petersen is simply a great leader. He listens to his players, is relentless in learning all he can about his opponents and from other teams, and he knows how to adjust based on his personnel and where football is heading. All that, and he simply enjoys being in Boise, which means there is often little fear in the program he’ll bolt to somewhere “bigger.”
2. BYU and Boise State struck an amazing 12-year agreement to play each other in football. How do fans, players and coaches feel about a budding rivalry with BYU? The fans are very excited about Thursday’s game. Not only is it because a good opponent is coming into Bronco Stadium (sometimes a rarity), but it’s a team that has a pretty good following here with the sizeable LDS population in the Treasure Valley. The players get pretty excited about rivalry games — and especially with Idaho, Nevada and Fresno State off the schedule in the future — BYU is a great candidate for a rival. Coach Petersen has been less keen on it, but mainly because he’d prefer to have slightly less challenging nonconference games.
3. Boise State lost a lot of talent to the NFL draft following last season. How is it addressing those losses — particularly the losses of Doug Martin and Kellen Moore? That’s been the biggest overarching question mark on the team is how they’ll replace so much talent (six draft picks, plus Moore and their top receiver). They have a very capable back in sixth-year senior DJ Harper, who actually was named the starter over Martin in 2009 before a season-ending injury. Joe Southwick worked behind Moore for three years, and he knows the offense. He showed some nice glimpses Saturday (304 yards), but has been picked off in the end zone in both games. Petersen is confident with more in-game snaps his decision-making will improve.
4. Boise State has gone 75-3 at home since 2000. What makes Boise State such a difficult venue for opposing teams? For a stadium of its size (about 35,000), it gets pretty loud, for starters. It’s also by far the biggest game in town, so people really bring their A games each Saturday, or Thursday, or whatever day. Does the blue turf have an effect? A little, but it’s more of an intimidation factor. Boise State has to play on green fields away from home, something they’re not used to, but they still win.
5. Who are the primary playmakers on offense and on defense? What are Boise State's positions of strength this season? Harper is the type of guy who breaks tackles and takes great angles, making tacklers miss. When he gets room, he is a big-play threat. Matt Miller, a sophomore receiver, had 62 catches and scored nine TDs last season. He is a very consistent receiver with great hands who has made a lot of clutch grabs and is the top receiver thus far in 2012. The receiving corps is solid, with Miller, Kirby Moore (Kellen’s brother, who Petersen thinks is poised for a big year), seniors Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter, along with speedy true freshman Shane Williams-Rhodes. The defensive backfield is experienced, with all-conference caliber corners in seniors Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. Gavins had three INTs in three games last season before he tore his ACL. A fresh face this year, sophomore defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, has already made a big impact. He’s leading the team in tackles and sacks (16 and 2.5), and was a big pickup, turning down Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee after he had 10 sacks last season in junior college.