Baffling. Flabbergasting. Mystifying.
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 13, 2011
Many, many people echoed the same point even when Boise State was rolling through the first eight games of 2011 unopposed: at some point, the Broncos’ lack of a kicking game would be the deciding factor in a loss. Extra points are like pulling teeth. Field goals? Not outside of 30 yards. Yet with a perfect record on the line — with everything in the balance — Boise relied on its kicking game to beat T.C.U. and keep the team’s national title hopes alive. This was the worst decision of Chris Petersen’s coaching career.
Boise State had the ball at the T.C.U. 20-yard line with 29 seconds left. Wait: let’s back up a bit. The Horned Frogs, after retaking the lead, 36-35, thanks to yet another Casey Pachall touchdown pass complete with a two-point conversion, put the ensuing kickoff out of bounds.
The Broncos were bailed out by a questionable pass interference call against T.C.U. on fourth down. Questionable, yes; nevertheless, it’s a call that, in such a spot, you expect the home team to receive. That pushed Boise to the T.C.U. 35 with 50 seconds left: an eternity, especially for this offense.
Even without timeouts, that’s more than enough time to push the ball down field several times, whether in an effort to get in line for an easy field goal try or, better yet, for a touchdown. These are moments when Boise excels: with a senior under center, seniors along the offensive line and tested options dotting the offensive side of the ball, the Broncos are built for success in moments that flummox lesser teams.
You saw this experience on Boise’s play from the T.C.U. 35, when Moore found Tyler Shoemaker for a 10-yard gain. Now, with 44 seconds left, the Broncos were at the T.C.U. 25. Two plays later, the Broncos were the T.C.U. 20.
Here’s where you stand with time: with 20 seconds left, with players who know how to handle the clock, you have time to attempt several tries into the end zone, if not dink and dunk a few passes to get your kicker a little closer.
Instead, Moore scrambled into the middle of the field and slid down; after calling timeout with three seconds left, Boise called on Dan Goodale from the T.C.U. 22.
This was baffling. Flabbergasting. Completely and utterly baffling. This was not the Boise we’ve seen since Petersen took over in 2006: the Boise we know is cutthroat, a team that takes the pulse of the opposition early but goes for the jugular late. This was passive, and being passive doesn’t become Boise State.
Goodale’s 39-yard try went far wide right, as expected. Boise has no kicking game. I mean, the Broncos have a kicking game, but it’s utterly unreliable. To rely on your kicker to win this game is one of the strangest coaching decisions of the 2011 season. Petersen could have relied on Goodale, but not from 39 yards — Petersen could have called his number from 30 yards, but 39 yards is far out of Goodale’s range.
Boise State’s Chris Petersen wins games at a ridiculous clip. He’s nearly universally praised as one of the finest coaches in the country. But this was nonsensical, and it’s likely the first black mark on his otherwise sterling coaching career.
For the second year in a row, Boise State’s national title hopes end thanks to poor kicking. Last fall, Kyle Brotzman missed a field goal and an extra point in an overtime loss to Nevada. Today’s loss, like last year’s, knocks Boise out of the national title picture and into a secondary bowl. That’s where the similarities end: while last year’s team may have been better, this loss hurts Boise far worse.
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