Boise State at Tulsa 10-14-09

October 14, 2009

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(5) Boise State (5-0) at Tulsa (4-1)


Wednesday, October 14th, 8:00 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: Two of the most explosive offenses in college football collide in Oklahoma on Wednesday night, as the fifth-ranked Boise State Broncos drop in on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane for a non-conference bout at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

Boise State, which sports the top winning percentage of any team in college football since 2000 with a record of 103-17 (.858), last took the field on October 3rd and allowed UC Davis to remain a bit too close in a 34-16 decision. The victory was the fifth in a row for the Broncos and the 59th in the last 61 home games dating back to 2000.

This meeting marks the final non-conference outing for the Broncos before they get serious about defending their Western Athletic Conference crown. BSU is 1-0 in league play following a 51-34 defeat of Fresno State in the third game of the season. With that victory, the Broncos moved to an impressive 66-4 in their last 70 conference contests, the best mark of any program in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

As for the Golden Hurricane, it currently stands at 4-1 on the season, but was somewhat exposed by Rice in what became just a 27-10 win back on October 3rd in Houston. In the team’s previous three victories they had scored no less than 37 points, but perhaps crushing submissive opponents did little to prepare Tulsa for an unsightly 45-0 loss to in-state rival Oklahoma in the middle of September.

Before moving to Conference USA, the Golden Hurricane was a member of the WAC, so these two teams shared a common thread previously. Unfortunately for Tulsa, playing against the Broncos has never been easy and the team is still searching for its first-ever win versus BSU. The most recent meeting took place in 2004 with the Broncos capturing a thrilling 45-42 victory to move to a perfect 4-0 all-time versus Tulsa.

Surprisingly, the Broncos didn’t exactly run all over UC Davis in their last outing, something that wasn’t at all a revelation for Boise State head coach Chris Petersen.

“I know this; every team on our schedule can beat us. No one wants to hear that, maybe even some guys in that locker room. If we don’t show up with our ‘A’ game we are not going to be very good.”

Without their ‘A’ game, the Broncos instead had to lean more heavily on quarterback Kellen Moore who threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Austin Pettis reeled in 10 balls for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Titus Young finished with six catches for 83 yards and a TD. The surprising part of the game was the inability of the Broncos to come up with a sound and worthwhile rushing attack against a lesser opponent. BSU posted just 101 yards on the ground, a far cry from the 214 ypg the squad was averaging heading into the contest.

Permitting 16 points may not sound like a big deal, but for a Boise State program that was at home and is clearly the cream of the crop in the WAC again this season, it was not exactly what the defense had in mind. Not having Kyle Wilson on the field because of an injury suffered earlier in the week didn’t help matters either.

“I don’t know if it was exactly missing Kyle (Wilson),” defensive end Ryan Winterswyk said after a game in which he logged a blocked field goal attempt. “We just weren’t clicking on all levels. He is a great player and leader of our defense. When he isn’t out there, we kind of take a step back, but no matter what we need to play better.”

Listed as probable this time around with his strained shoulder, Wilson could play an important role in this week’s game if needed. Not only is he an option for kick returns, he is also the sort of impact player who sets the overall tone for the defense and his presence, or lack of, can be felt.

With Wilson in the lineup the Broncos are much more apt to perform like a group that is 13th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 14.4 ppg and 14th in overall defense, permitting 273.8 ypg.

Offensively, Boise is again getting the job done with a two-prong attack that can’t be easily defended. The running game is humming along with 191.6 ypg, averaging better than five yards per attempt while players like Jeremy Avery (441 yards) and Doug Martin (192 yards, four touchdowns) try yo fill the gap left by an injured D.J. Harper (284 yards, three TDs). Moore is now second in the country in pass efficiency rating at 176.61, rather impressive given that he is only a sophomore and has stepped into some big shoes in a growing program that is trying to set a new standard among non-BCS schools.

Over on the other side of the field, Tulsa also had an offense that sputtered the last time out, needing 17 unanswered points in the second half to secure the win over Rice in a rain-soaked meeting earlier this month. A year earlier the meeting between these teams approached 100 points and more than 1,000 yards of total offense, so G.J. Kinne’s 251 yards and one touchdown through the air ended up being more crucial than originally thought. Kinne also carried the ball 16 times for a net of just seven yards and a TD, while Jamad Williams picked up a team-best 72 yards and a score on 14 attempts.

In the second half Rice had just six possessions, the first five resulting in punts and the last going over to the Golden Hurricane on an interception by John Destin. Kaipo Sarkissian also had a strong game for the squad with his four tackles for loss and a sack, keeping the Owls’ offense from mounting any real comeback bid.

At this point in the season the Tulsa defense has permitted a mere 95.0 ypg on the ground, but more importantly from the team’s perspective, it has yet to surrender a single rushing score. However, much of that stat might have to do with the fact that the opposition has trailed Tulsa in most games and has had to resort to passing the ball in an effort to catch up.

Tulsa Head coach Todd Graham, who a few years ago had the BSU coaching staff over and shared ideas with coach Petersen, knows that this is going to be a very tough game.

“They’re very good. They’re very explosive on offense. Their quarterback makes everything work. He’s a tremendous operator. He operates very well in the pocket and manages the offense very well. He does a lot of checks and things like that. They also move him out of the pocket. He can run with the football as well.”

Kinne has similar numbers to those put up by Moore to this point in the season, converting 64.1 percent of his pass attempts for 228.4 ypg and 10 touchdowns, having just two of his 128 attempts picked off. Damaris Johnson stands as the most dangerous offensive weapon and special teams performer for the Golden Hurricane, recently being named the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week as he recorded his third game of the season with at least 200 all- purpose yards. Heading into play last week Johnson was ranked fifth in the nation with an average of 198.8 ypg in all-purpose production.

Tulsa is averaging 32.8 ppg this season, but throwing out the shutout loss to Oklahoma and a 56-3 thumping of tiny Sam Houston State might provide a better indication of just where these team stands when being compared to the other programs in the conference, and the nation.

“It’s going to be big and we’re going to need them (the fans) out here,” coach Graham said of the support he expects to get from the hometown crowd for this contest. “There needs to be a very loud and adverse place for Boise to come to. We’ve guarded our field very well in the last two-plus years that I’ve been here. We’re 12-2 out here. We’re going to need a great home field advantage and that’s one of the things I’m excited about…It’s the highest ranked team that we’ve played since I’ve been associated with the program. It’s the biggest game that we’ve played.”

But as enthusiastic as coach Graham and the fans might be for this game, trying to lock down the Broncos for four quarters is a task that no one has been able to accomplish this season, or for all of the 2008 regular-season for that matter. Expect BSU to continue to pile up the victories as they win a high-scoring affair this week on the road.

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