It's been 3 years since Oregon St. visited Boise St., and a lot has changed on the "Smurf Turf", especially this season, and afterwards, when Bronco head coach Chris Peterson decided to hire on with the Huskies.
To get caught up, we got with Jeremy Mauss of the Mt. West Connection (which is all over all the bowls involving the Mt. West conference, several of which are against Pac-12 teams) to get the inside info. on what Oregon St. fans can expect in a week when the Beavers take on the Broncos in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Thanks, Jeremy, for taking time to talk bowl season football.
BTD: With the coaching staff upheaval, and coaches leaving as well as coming, what do you expect the approach to be for the bowl game? Obviously, the players know the play book, but are there changes we should expect to see on either side of the ball?
MWC: Assistant head coach and linebackers coach Bob Gregory is the interim coach for the bowl game. This is a well-oiled machine and there is no point in doing anything drastically different then what has been done. The only real thing to look at is who will start at quarterback for Boise State in either Joe Southwick or Grant Hedrick. The approach to the game should also be the same since Gregory has been at the school for the past three years, plus it would be smart to keep things as close to the same as possible to get the best result in this bowl game.
BTD: In that vein, for those who maybe haven't seen that much of the Broncos since the Beavers paid that visit to Boise back in 2010, what's the base offense, and the typical variations?
MWC: The offense has started to use the pistol this year as a wrinkle which has had varied results. Also, the play calling has been inconsistent all year. Normally, Boise State likes to run a lot of pre-snap motion but there were games specifically the Washington game that saw none of that and the Broncos were embarrassed. That changed the following week with some motion to find a good mismatch and let the defense expose what they are going to do.
They are balanced at running and throwing the ball but there will be multiple sets with at least three wide receivers and shotgun formation. They run the ball well with Jay Ajayi and if the passing game opens up then Ajayi is likely to have a big game. The big difference could be who starts at quarterback, and that could be Joe Southwick who has recovered from a broken ankle or his replacement over the second half of the season in Grant Hedrick. They are not that different except that Southwick is a little bit better of a passer and Hedrick is more mobile.
BTD: And the same scouting report for the defense?
MWC: The defense has been a strong area for Boise State over the past few years. The players to watch in the 3-4 defense are Demarcus Lawrence and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. Lawrence is going to be a NFL defensive end pretty soon. He attacks the line of scrimmage and can get to the backfield quickly which is why he has 19.5 tackler for a loss and 10.5 sacks; that includes missing a game too.
Tjong-A-Tjoe is a 300-pound nose tackle that takes up a lot of space and usually requires some help from more than one offensive line to slow him down. HIs stats are not great, just 50 tackles on the year, but he opens up space for other defenders to get to the ball. The secondary is just average and going up against Sean Mannion who is a very good quarterback for Oregon State could prove to be troublesome for the Broncos.
BTD: We saw that Southwick returned from his broken ankle in the last game of the regular season against New Mexico. Should we expect to see him in the bowl game, other than in relief or an emergency?
MWC: There is no word yet on Southwick's status and the week leading up to the New Mexico game. coach Petersen said he was likely to start, so that leads me to believe that he was capable. However, he only had a pair of throws yet one was a touchdown. With the extra three weeks to recover and get back practicing he will be more than an emergency option. As for starting that will be up to interim head coach Gregory.
BTD: Hedrick, who is a local boy familiar to a lot of Oregon St. fans, has posted similar overall numbers filling in, but before Southwick got hurt, Hedrick was playing in packages as the "mobile quarterback". What difference in the approach of the Boise St. offense should we expect when Southwick is in instead of Hedrick?
MWC: The offense only changes slightly with either quarterback. Hedrick is a more mobile quarterback so there will be more read option, traditional option, play action, bootlegs and various roll outs to take advantage of that; but probably very few designed quarterback runs. The plays for Southwick will likely be the same just minus moving the pocket on passing plays. There might be a little more pistol formation with Southwick in the game, but the difference will be some wrinkles and no overhauling changes.
BTD: Ajayi has had a great year at running back for the Broncos. Describe his style and strengths for us.
MWC: He has a good combination of speed and power. He barely 6-feet tall but comes in at 220 pounds, so he can go up the middle or take a run outside. His strength is his speed to break a run around the tackles. Ajayi has a good second effort and rarely goes down on first impact and he keeps his legs moving until he is called down, which is why he averages 5.8 yards per carry. Over the last half of the season he has been more of a threat in the receiving game with Hedrick throwing him the ball, and has caught 10 passes for 163 yards with a score in his past three games.
Who else on the Boise St. roster should Oregon St. fans be watching for?
MWC: That would be wide receivers Shane Williams-Rhodes and Matt Miller as the two each have 77 receptions.Williams-Rhode is more of a slot receiver with a lot of speed as he is maybe 5-feet-6-inches. Look for him to have a lot quick passes his way, as well as some quick wide receiver screens. The receiving game really opens up, and can be dangerous, if Geraldo Boldewijn has a good game. He only has 37 receptions but there are games where he is heavily involved with five to eight receptions or he is non-existent and has had six games with two or less receptions.
BTD: Boise St., like Oregon St., is coming off a decent, but less successful season than they had hoped for. As such, the matchup in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl has to be about as good an outcome as could have been expected from bowl selection Sunday. How are the Broncos feeling about the game?
MWC: Boise State is liking this game since they are playing an Oregon State team that has played well for most of the year, and going to Hawaii doesn't hurt. The only other matchup they could have hoped for was playing Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl, but outside of that this is a great matchup. With the new coaching staff in place it probably gives them a different type of energy and wanting to prove themselves to interim coach and new head coach Bryan Harsin.
BTD: And for that matter, how about Bronco Nation? It's a pricey trip, which is going to keep a fair number of Oregon St. fans who would like to be there in front of their tv sets instead, but it is a nice vacation from wintery conditions we in the Northwest are all too familiar with. Will there be a lot of blue in Honolulu?
MWC: Probably not a ton, however one of the reasons Boise State went to this bowl game was because the basketball team is playing in a tournament over Christmas. With basketball team off that day so they might be at the game for some extra support. If there were 5,000 Boise State fans from Idaho, I would be surprised.
BTD: The unique thing about this trip is the Beavers and Broncos both have their basketball teams there for the Diamond Head Classic as well, though they won't meet before Christmas day, and then only if they manage to match wins and losses in the first 2 days. But there is a potential for a second showdown a day after the bowl game. Boise St. is off to a good start to the hoops season; in case the Beavers meet up with them, who should we be watching?
MWC: The two key players for Boise State are Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic, plus toss in three-point threat Jeff Elorriaga as the other top player for the Broncos. They played a soft non-conference schedule and when they were finally tested they snuck by Utah (who might be actually decent this year), but when they played Kentucky and St. Mary's they were no match for this team. Having said that, this team should be a contender for the Mountain West and be a NCAA Tournament.
BTD: Finally, it won't be that long before the Broncos and Beavers connect again, with Boise St. traveling to Corvallis in 2016. With new coach Harsin taking the reins, and the way college football is evolving, where do you see the Bronco program looking like after a couple of years?
MWC: It all depends on recruiting and developing players from Boise State. They are not likely to many, or any at all, three- four- or five-star players, so it comes down to developing talent for the Broncos. History shows us that Boise State will not be a bad team, and at worst will probably be what they are in 2013, or maybe slightly below. The high end they will be fighting for the Mountain West title, and being ranked in the lower part of the top 25. The years of them being in the top 12 or higher are probably over, because Kellen Moore is a once in a lifetime quarterback and he is a really big reason the Broncos had the stretch where they were having undefeated and one-loss seasons.
The rivalry between Boise St. and Oregon St. is one we wish had more meetings besides those on the wrestling mats, and its great to be able to get together this holiday/bowl season!