Nobody at Boise State talks about what happened last season. What is there to say?
But the hurt of seeing their BCS chances and an undefeated season slip away in an overtime loss to Nevada linger and are being used to serve a purpose headed into 2011. The overriding lesson from that game, in which Boise State blew a 24-7 halftime lead: finish.
“It’s always in the back of our heads knowing we didn’t play our best game,” cornerback Jamar Taylor said in a recent phone interview. “We need to finish. We’re carrying that into this year, using it as motivation. Finish that’s our main thing, start fast and finish strong, never give in. Even if we’re up by 100 points, we have to keep our foot on the gas pedal.”
When asked whether this was something that was discussed among teammates, Taylor replied, “It doesn’t need to be said out loud. We know what we need to do. We know what we did last year and want to carry that motivation into this year, go out there and play every game hard for all four quarters.”
The 34-31 loss to the Wolf Pack knocked the Broncos out of BCS contention and into the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl against Utah, a consolation prize after being one of the biggest national stories for the entire season. As stunning as the implosion was to watch on television, it was worse for the players on the sideline. They were unaccustomed to losing, let alone losing after holding such a big lead.
“The sting is always there,” running back Doug Martin said. “You never like to lose. You always reminisce about it, but you have to face reality. For me, the hurt passed after the Utah game. You just have to move on. We need to focus on finishing.”
Boise State has plenty of players left on the team who went through that loss, but other new faces that are eager to make an impact in 2011. This will be a different team with a different identity, though the Broncos are expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 10 again -- largely because quarterback Kellen Moore returns, along with the bulk of their front seven.
As they wrap up spring practice Saturday, Boise State has gotten some answers at receiver -- its biggest question mark headed into the season. With Titus Young and Austin Pettis gone, several guys have showcased themselves, from Tyler Shoemaker to Chris Potter to Geraldo Hiwat to Kirby Moore. Newcomer Troy Ware could also have a big impact.
Boise State has a new offensive coordinator in Brent Pease as well, though he is anything but new. Pease served as receivers coach before leaving in late December to become Indiana offensive coordinator. He returned to Boise State a short time later as offensive coordinator when Bryan Harsin left for Texas.
Martin said the offense has welcomed Pease, who plans on adding a few new wrinkles to an offense that will remain relatively the same. Defensively, Boise State has to find replacements for Jeron Johnson, Winston Venable, Brandyn Thompson and Ryan Winterswyk.
Among those who have stood out this spring: Travis Stanaway, Jerrell Gavins, Jeremy Ioane, Hunter White and junior college transfer Dextrell Simmons.
The spring game Saturday is going to be a scrimmage because injuries have taken their toll on the team this season. There is plenty of work ahead, but players already have one valuable lesson they will take with them into a brand new season.