Vintage Boise State, Nothing Less
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 5, 2011
Red. Everywhere: red. There was some blue, some here and there, but the overwhelming motif was red, in the parking lot and the stands, most noticeably. This was a home game, pure and simple, nothing less. This was Georgia’s backyard, almost as if Athens was rented out for the day, so the whole party packed up, loaded up the van and moved everything wholesale to Atlanta. And you could see the slight hints of the intimidating atmosphere in Boise State’s somewhat sloppy play in the first half: a few missed tackles — I counted three, maybe four — a few missed blocks and a few blown opportunities, all of which led one to question the thought that the Broncos were good enough to take on all comers.
And that thought lasted about 22 minutes, give or take a minute or two in either direction. It didn’t last 22 minutes of game time, to be exact, but the idea that Boise might be in for a dogfight — befitting the environment, the team and the conference in question — lasted until the Broncos’ second drive of the second quarter. Ironically, it was a drive that ended with a Kellen Moore interception.
But the drive was vintage to that point, even if we acknowledge that Moore’s read on that turnover was far from vintage: it was quite unlike the Heisman contender, who was clearly reading a different coverage package altogether right from the snap. Thinking it was man coverage, Moore lofted a pass towards the middle of the field that was easily intercepted by Georgia’s Branden Smith.
Make one mistake; don’t do it again. Like his team as a whole, Moore wasn’t playing up to his recent standard over the first quarter and change: a bit uncomfortable, it seemed, Moore was finding his receivers but not often in stride, limiting the yards-after-catch and making the Boise offense a bit station-to-station, not big-play.
There were two simple reasons for that. The first is Moore’s own developing rapport with his new batch of receivers: after losing two standouts to graduation, the Broncos are rebuilding on the fly. No Austin Pettis, no Titus Young, no problem; if Boise can get past Georgia without that pair, the rebuilding process at receiver is already complete.
The second factor behind Boise’s lack of big-play ability was Georgia’s defensive line, which did a fairly nice job all evening both getting pressure on the quarterback and limiting the running lanes for Boise’s backs, though the line seemed to cool off in the fourth quarter. By that point, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper — especially Harper, who seems 100 percent — were having more success running the ball against Georgia’s 3-4 defense.
The lack of a deep threat wasn’t an issue. Not in the least: instead, Boise went methodical on Georgia, going short, shorter and shortest in the passing game — Moore didn’t break a sweat — and continuing to try running at Georgia’s front, albeit with a twist. Seeing that Martin was struggling gaining traction out of a traditional formation, the Broncos loosened things up a bit with freshman quarterback Grant Hedrick, who may have only rushed for 18 yards on a pair of carries but certainly gave the Bulldogs another look to consider.
Not to paint a picture that this was entirely a vintage Boise State performance, as while the end result was vintage, the road to 35-21 was dotted with potholes. Take the offensive line, for example. Give Nate Potter and company credit for protecting Moore superbly after a spotty first quarter, but it was clear that Georgia’s front seven had the size to dictate the tempo in the running game.
The secondary played well against an athletic receiver corps, but there were a handful of mental lapses in coverage: the two second half touchdowns, of course, but also a few occasions where it was clear that a defender was a bit out of place, making things a little easier for Aaron Murray and Georgia.
That you nitpick a win over an SEC opponent, in SEC country, with an SEC crowd, says all you need to know about Boise State as a program and this specific team, which looks terrific. As long as the Broncos maintain the sense of composure that allowed them to weather an early storm, there’s no reason to think this team can’t make a run towards a national title. And as long as Moore is under center, there’s no reason to think this team won’t keep its cool.
Like clockwork, Moore delivered. There was no qualms with his showing, which fits in nicely with his long history of superb performances against, well, everybody: Moore hit on 28 of 34 attempts for 261 yards and 3 scores, with his only blemish that second quarter interception. Following that turnover, Moore was the best player in the country.
And Boise State may be the best team in the country. We’ll know more as two things occur — these are just two of many, but two vital factors nonetheless: we’ll know more as Georgia opens up SEC play next Saturday against South Carolina, and we’ll know more as the Broncos move towards the heart of a schedule that includes Air Force, T.C.U. and San Diego State. Today, Boise looks better than ever, nothing less.
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Tags: Boise State, D.J. Harper, Georgia, Kellen Moore
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