Major force


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

Since losing back-to-back games at Aloha Stadium to close out the 2007 season, the Boise State football team has regained its position as the WAC's unquestioned heavyweight.

The Broncos - who lost the WAC title game to Hawaii and the Hawaii Bowl to East Carolina with an inexperienced team two years ago - are 18-1 since and likely seven wins away from their second Bowl Championship Series appearance.

That stretch includes two wins against Oregon, the team's sixth WAC title in seven years and nine consecutive road victories. The only loss was a 17-16 squeaker to No. 11 TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl.

That stretch also coincided with the emergence of sophomore Kellen Moore, who last year became the first Broncos quarterback to start the season opener as a freshman. Moore has thrown 16 touchdown passes against two interceptions this season and completed 69.4 percent of his passes in his career.

Moore, a record-setting high school quarterback in Prosser, Wash., was almost universally shunned in recruiting because he's 6 feet tall. The Broncos, who thrived with 6-foot quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie from 2001 to 2003, scooped him up and have been reaping the benefits for a season and a half.

Moore, a coach's son, is smart, accurate and surprisingly adept at moving around behind the line of scrimmage to buy time for his receivers and find a window to deliver the ball.

The Broncos have surrounded Moore with top-notch talent, too.

Junior wide receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young might be the best tandem in the WAC. Pettis, a possession receiver who has added a big-play streak to his game this year, has 32 catches and seven touchdowns this season. Young, a burner with great agility, has 31 catches and seven touchdowns (three rushing).

In the backfield, the Broncos have used a two-headed tailback rotation all season - returning to their historical role as one of the WAC's best running teams after a down year in 2008.

Junior Jeremy Avery, who was the Broncos' Hawaii Bowl MVP as a freshman, leads the team with 614 yards from scrimmage and four plays of 60 yards or more.

Sophomore Doug Martin also has speed, but is known for his powerful, slashing style. Martin has rushed for 269 yards in the past three games since becoming a full member of the rotation. He replaced junior D.J. Harper, who had 284 yards in the first three games before blowing out his knee against Fresno State.

They run behind a deep offensive line that already has used nine different starters this year. The group doesn't have a senior but does have a budding star in sophomore center Thomas Byrd. That line, which often was criticized last year, has produced 191.8 rushing yards per game and allowed just four sacks.

Defensively, the Broncos have taken a major step forward since those two losses in Hawaii. They allowed a total of 1,050 yards in those two games.

Since then, the Broncos have been one of the nation's stingiest defenses. Only two of their six opponents have scored in the first half this year, and Tulsa last week became the first opponent in nine games to score in the first quarter.

The defense is particularly hard on passers, who have combined for 15 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions since the start of last season. However, the Broncos have been bitten by passing attacks in the past two games - allowing five touchdown passes without forcing a turnover.

The problem for Hawaii likely will be the defensive line, which might be the best Boise State has ever had. End Ryan Winterswyk, who was an All-WAC first-teamer last year as a sophomore, has five sacks and eight tackles for loss and almost single-handedly closed out Tulsa with one sack and two quarterback pressures on the final four downs. Tackle Billy Winn, a freshman All-American last year, blew up the Oregon offensive line and ranks second on the team with 25 tackles, 61/2 tackles for loss and two sacks. They're the headliners on a group that is eight deep.

The defensive star is senior cornerback Kyle Wilson, a four-year starter and preseason All-American. Wilson is considered a possible NFL first-round draft pick. He also is an All-America punt returner who scored three touchdowns last season.

The Boise State special teams, as usual, are sound. Young has been a big-play threat as a kick returner. Kicker Kyle Brotzman has rebounded from a rough start by making seven of his past eight field-goal attempts. He also punts, averaging 45.6 yards per punt and rarely gets one returned.

Put it all together and the Broncos don't really have a weakness.


Key Statistics (2009)



Other Stats

» Rushing5223
» Passing6343
» Penalty813
» Penalties-yards40-36441-316 
» Avg. per game60.752.7
» Total plays403360
» Avg. per play6.44.6
» Avg. per game429.5277.3
» Attempts229158
» Avg. per rush5.03.8
» Avg. per game191.899.7
» Att.-Comp.-Int.174-118-2202-111-9
» Avg. per pass8.25.3
» Avg. per catch12.19.6
» Avg. per game237.7177.7


2009 Individual Leaders

Jeremy Avery688539255145.817485.7
Kellen Moore6171.2114-164-269.51,4041667234.0
Austin Pettis63244113.876573.5
» Boise State 32856844-229
» Opponents 14174220-93