Boise State's win over TCU in last night's Fiesta Bowl was one for the ages , and its impact on the school and the non-BCS landscape could be huge. Before we look ahead, let's spend some more time looking back as I hand out some game balls for the Fiesta Bowl victory.
After the jump, find out which players, plays, and performances earned game ball honors, and share your own winners in the comments.
Player of the game as voted upon by the OBNUG community
Boise State defensive line
The Broncos' front four won MVP honors in a landslide over Brandyn Thompson, Kyle Brotzman, Titus Young, and hasty deadline omissions Brenel Myers and Kyle Efaw. Whether your vote was a blow for solidarity in appreciation of the entire defensive performance or a show of genuine respect for the one of the greatest group efforts in Boise State history, I cannot argue. The Boise State defensive line was fantastic. Fistpumps all around.
I have tried to remain objective and keep things in perspective following this Fiesta Bowl win, which is why statements like "greatest effort in Boise State history" that I made above give me pause. Someone tell me it's okay ... because it is. Boise State held one of the nation's best running teams to 36 yards on the ground. They stopped TCU on 11 of 12 third downs. They kept the Horned Frogs 30 points below their season average. And after the game, they harnessed their collective energies to reverse engineer the human genome, thus ending disease as we know it.
It was a historical performance, and I do not feel regretful typing those words.
Strategy of the game
Whatever it was the Broncos were doing on defense
Dustin Lapray called it the "Spread Defense." Minimalists called it the "dime." But there was so much more going on that giving the defense a single name just doesn't do it justice.
Boise State played with six defensive backs. Jerrell Gavins joined the secondary for a significant portion of the game, providing an extra defender to counter the speed of TCU's receiving corps. Gavins is fast, in case you were wondering.
- Kyle Wilson shadowed Jeremy Kerley. TCU's most dangerous player did very little thanks to Boise State's most NFL-ready player. Wilson blanketed Kerley all night, which served two purposes: a) shutting down Kerley and b) confusing Andy Dalton who spent significant portions of the play clock wondering what Wilson was doing lining up in the slot and as deep as a safety.
- Jeron Johnson spent time in the box. Johnson came up in run support on many occasions, most often when a running back was in the backfield. His speed and athleticism proved an asset against TCU's ground game as he was able to track down any plays around the edge.
- Shea McClellin started at linebacker. Linemen playing linebacker is nothing new for the Boise State defense. But linemen replacing linebackers in the starting lineup? Now that's a twist. Instead of the normal Tevis-Acrey-White-Percy rotation that we expected, McClellin and his defensive line friends rotated at one linebacker spot to give the Broncos some added girth against the run. And on passing downs? There is nothing more terrifying than Billy Winn standing up and blitzing at full speed.
- The Broncos went with three linemen up front. With McClellin at LB and six DBs on the field, the line was left to work with three down linemen, which worked wonders. Big bodies Chase Baker, Billy Winn, Michael Atkinson, and J.P. Nisby were just a handful of the run stuffers up the middle for BSU. Ryan Winterswyk was his usual solid self, holding down the edge.
- Constant shifting proved too much for TCU. Andy Dalton was quoted as saying:
They were moving around a lot. They would be lined up in one thing and then shift their front. I think early on we just didn't really know exactly what they were doing out there.
Well, it showed.
Better coach of the game
TCU's Gary Patterson, the coach of the year for those of you keeping track at home, got outcoached. The biggest difference in last night's Fiesta Bowl may have very well been the matchup between Coach Pete and Coach Patterson. Boise State's head man had his team prepared, focused, and hungry. Coach Patterson had a vein pop in his neck sometime during the second quarter.
During the game, Chris Myers reported that Patterson may have worked his players too hard in practices leading up to the game. Maybe. But you cannot emphasize enough how well-prepared Boise State was for this game.
If you had asked anyone before the game, Bronco fans included, which team was better on paper, the answer would have undeniably been TCU. The Horned Frogs, in everyone's mind, were the better team. Well, there are only a few circumstances in which the better team does not win, and those include fluke plays, desire, and coaching. The Broncos did not have fluke plays go their way. You could argue that desire was a draw since both teams wanted it badly (you could also argue that Boise State wanted it more; I would listen to that). But coaching ended up providing the winning margin for the Broncos.
No matter what happens with personnel on the Boise State team, the Broncos will always be a factor so long as Coach Pete and his staff are around.
(Note: Justin Wilcox, I want to be just like you when I grow up, which is kind of strange because I think you're only five years older than I am.)
Best drive most nearly resembling offense
Boise State's touchdown drive following the fake punt
The fake punt was a huge turning point in the game, but it wouldn't have meant anything if the Bronco offense did not get points. Kellen Moore looked as sharp as he did all game in finding Kyle Efaw, Titus Young, and Tommy Gallarda in quick succession to get the ball to the 2, and Doug Martin did the rest. If the Broncos had settled for a field goal, the game would have been completely different. The same is true if they didn't score at all. Let's move on; I don't want to think about it.
Theme of the game
Brandyn Thompson redeemed himself time and time again by coming up with big picks or big plays after allowing TCU receivers to get free. Kyle Brotzman was an easy target after a first-half miss from the left hash, but his fourth quarter fake punt and punt to the 1-yard-line were two of the biggest plays of the game.
Boise State's players are mentally tough, and there is no better example of that than the performances of Thompson and Brotzman. Lesser men would have folded in those situations. And by "lesser men," I mean me. I would have folded like a blanket.
FOX's subtle reminder that FOX does not deserve to broadcast BCS games
Seriously, take your pick. Whether it was an inordinate amount of crowd/band/cheerleader shots or the jayvee announcing team, FOX reminded the country why it is never a good idea to give a sport's most important games to a network that does not regularly broadcast that sports' games. If I had to pick a favorite FOX moment from last night's broadcast, it would be this one.
But I would hear arguments for crying TCU cheerleader.
(Note: In case you missed it, there has been an Internet meme making its way around the web courtesy of the Blue Thunder marching band's cowbell player. She appeared uniquely ambivalent to her cowbell playing, which was funny. However, we now know she is blind, which is not so funny. Here's the picture. She's the one on the right. I don't know what her xylophone-player friend's excuse is. Edit: Never mind.)
Commercial of the bowl season
The one that trashes the BCS
I would prefer that FOX run this on its cutaway scenes between plays in tonight's Orange Bowl.
It wouldn't be a game balls post without a game ball for Kellen Moore
It was not his best game as a Bronco. In fact, it was probably one of his worst. But when you compare it to the meltdown of Andy Dalton courtesy of the Bronco defense, Moore comes out looking like a young Johnny Unitas ... or at least a Chadd Pennington.
(Note: What was eating Moore? He was oddly erratic for much of the game. I blame it on a talented TCU defense and some tough coverage in the secondary. He missed some open throws, but other times, the coverage was too good for him to put the ball anywhere else. The one thing that might have factored in was the size of the TCU defensive line. Moore is not a tall QB, so he may have had trouble seeing the passing lanes and stepping into his throws. I cringe a cringe of joy to think about how he might improve next year.)
Have I given an award to the defense yet? award
Boise State's defense
Oh. What's that? I've given them two. Well, here's another.
The least appreciated group of the game
Boise State's offensive line
Brenel Myers received some well-deserved praise after the game for his role in keeping Jerry Hughes at bay. His four linemen friends didn't do too shabby either.
Kellen Moore was not sacked for the 100th consecutive game (pending research), and Boise State rushed for nearly three times as many yards on TCU as the Broncos did the year prior. It was not a tour de force, but it was as good or better than any other team has done against the Horned Frogs this year. Of note, Boise State returns every single offensive lineman on its roster next year. Give me a high five, really excited little girl.
Honesty is his best policy award: Kyle Efaw. When asked after the game if he thought Boise State should be ranked No. 1, Efaw answered, "Probably not." I think we have a new title for the commemorative 2009 season DVD.
Most sore loser: Andy Dalton. In addition to blaming the offense's weak first quarter output on failing headsets, Dalton also came out with this gem about Thompson's pick-six.
"The receiver kind of slowed down and gave him a chance to undercut it," Dalton said. "I mean, it was a little miscommunication on our part, but the guy made a good play."
1,000-yard rusher I have yet to mention: Jeremy Avery. He only had two fourth quarter touches, which magnifies Doug Martin's importance to the running game. However, Avery made his share of positive gains throughout, Someone has to be the
My new least favorite play: The Kellen Moore option to the short side of the field. Congratulations, Mitch Burroughs flare pass. You're off the hook.
Best backup wide receiver award: Chris Potter. I was impressed with Potter. His blocking has always been good, except when he's diving at people's knees. But his pass receiving was better than I remembered last night. I should also point out that Kirby Moore and Mitch Burroughs played well.
Largest kicker: TCU's punter. He was big, and he was good. Is heft directly proportional to kicking distance? If so, I have some Carl's Jr. coupons for Brad Elkin.
Yay, Doug Martin: Doug Martin. Cool touchdown run. Hard running. And not even Lou Ferrigno and Denise Austin's lovechild could have avoided that fumble. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.