BSU’s offense is no BS

By By Tony Pizza and By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

For years, J.R. Simplot has helped make Idaho famous for its potatoes. Since 1960, Simplot has been the major potato provider for those delicious golden fries that billions of people have enjoyed at McDonald’s.

Lately, it is the hard work of the Boise State Broncos that has made Idaho and the city of Boise synonymous with something else. Hailing from the Smurf-blue Astro-field of Bronco stadium, Boise State has now come to represent high-scoring, kick-the-opponent-in-the-teeth football.

The No. 22 Boise State Broncos, who have now been ranked at some point every year since 2002, are looking like a football powerhouse once again in 2006. Not only has BSU dominated the Western Athletic Conference with a 32-1 record and four straight conference titles since 2002, BSU has basically handled every team they have played with a combined 49-7 record over that same span.

This has not only made Boise State one of the best non-BCS schools in the country, but one of top five football programs in the west. The fact that last year’s 9-4 Boise State team is returning 20 starters, more than any other Division-I school, makes BSU a favorite to become the second school outside a BCS conference to play in a highly coveted BCS bowl game.

Over the past half-decade, Boise State has been the top scoring team in the country, averaging 42.1 points. There seems to be no change in that stat this year. Ian Johnson, the third-leading rusher in the nation, leads Boise State’s offense. Johnson, an exceptionally quick back, has already rushed for 626 yards this season in only four games, which is good for just more than 156 yards per game.

Johnson’s biggest output of the season came against BSU’s toughest opponent thus far. The sophomore tailback racked up 240 yards and five touchdowns in BSU’s 42-14 drilling over the Pac-10’s Beavers of Oregon State.

The Broncos’ offense also features veteran senior quarterback Jared Zabransky, who has been BSU’s starting quarterback since he was a sophomore. Zabransky is a multi-tooled quarterback who has the ability to torch teams with both his arm and his feet.

Since he took over starting duties at quarterback in 2003, Zabransky has passed for 6,164 yards and 40 touchdowns, while also rushing for 686 yards and a whopping 26 touchdown on the ground in just over two seasons.

Zabransky has three terrific receivers, two of which possess NFL-type size, to distribute the ball to. Seniors Jerard Rabb and Legedu Naanee are both 6-foot-2 and weigh 199 and 228 pounds, respectively. The other BSU receiver, Drisan James, led the team in receiving yards in 2005 with 518 yards en route to an all-WAC second team selection. Zabransky has a knack for spreading the receptions and yards to whichever receiver happens to be open, which allows BSU to spread the ball around.

Protecting the BSU offense has been entrusted to one of the deepest offensive lines in college football this year. Boise State has the potential to start a number of different offensive line combinations, with all 10 front guys possessing the ability to start.

With an offense like that, Boise State has notoriously been known to put up at least 35 points against almost any team it plays. This makes it hard for any opposing offense to match those numbers no matter how good or bad the Bronco defense might be.

This year, Boise State has solidified its defense, led by senior linebacker and preseason WAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Korey Hall. Hall will be assisted by two cornerback-turned-safeties in Gerald Alexander and Marty Tadman.

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has also made strides to help out Boise State’s defense against the pass. Wilcox has tweaked Boise State’s defensive approach into more of a zone defensive scheme to help BSU slow down the high-octane passing games that have always existed in the WAC. Even with the new conservative zone approach, offensive lines have had trouble slowing down defensive tackle Andrew Browning, who already has 3.5 sacks this year.

Although the defense has most of last year’s starters returning, it has always allowed offenses to get into a slugfest with BSU’s potent offense. BSU’s defense has routinely allowed teams spanning from Georgia to Hawaii and Louisiana Tech to rack up 35 points and more than 400 yards of offense, something opposing teams can exploit if they can kink the Boise State’s steady flow of offensive scores.

With a 49-7 record, it may not come as much of a surprise that Boise State has an incredible record at home. In fact, the Broncos have not lost a single game while wearing their field-matching blue home uniforms since 2002. The only game Boise State has lost at home during that stretch came in last year’s MPC Computers Bowl, in which the Broncos were the visiting team because of a worse record, even though they were playing on their home turf. This forced them to play in their white road uniforms against Boston College. The Golden Eagles then effectively beat BSU on their home field, snapping the Broncos’ 31-game home winning streak.

Though the Broncos have not been weak on the road by any means, the scores of BSU road matches are much lower and closer when the team matches up against higher caliber programs, especially those outside the WAC.