BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 20: Michael Atkinson #99, Demarcus Lawrence #8, and Bryan Douglas #1 of the Boise State Broncos celebrate after a play against the BYU Cougars at Bronco Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
We learned that winning ugly is still winning.
Can you imagine being a Boise State fan today if the Broncos had lost?
We are a conflicted fanbase, not an inconsolable one - and that, only by J.C. Percy's fingertips.
We learned that the defense can win a game all by its lonesome.
If you had let the Bronco defense play every snap against Riley Nelson's Offense 'o Flubs last night, what would the final score have been? 14-0? 28-0?
Technically speaking, the Bronco offense did contribute. Its contribution was an occasional flip in field position and some sustained drives that allowed the defense to rest (which is more than the BYU defense got. But beyond that, this win belonged to the Boise State D. In theory, the Bronco defense is tied for fourth in the Mountain West standings going into the weekend.
We learned that Mike Atkinson is a stud.
Other studs include: Demarcus Lawrence, Jamar Taylor, Jeremy Ioane, et al.
Atkinson's studliness was evident in the game's two biggest plays. On the first, he dropped into a short zone, picked off a pass, and returned it for Boise State's only touchdown, channeling his Candian high school fullback agility on his way into the end zone. Big Play No. 2 came on BYU's two-point conversion attempt. His early pressure on Taysom Hill forced Hill away from the line of scrimmage (taking away his option to run) and kept him from zipping the ball into his receiver who, as I saw it, was very open for a moment.
(While we're on the subject, I do not disagree with Bronco Mendenhall's decision to go for two. He had an opportunity to steal a win with one play, his offense was rolling, and he probably wasn't interested in seeing what other original ways the Cougars could invent to turn the ball over. He had one play to win the game from two yards out, and he took it. You may have heard the old adage: Go for the win on the road and the tie at home. I'm sure there are reasons for that being the case, but I don't think that a mantra is reason enough for a coach like Mendenhall to make a decision like that. More factors go into it, like the momentum of the game, time remaining, etc. I do believe that any criticism of Mendenhall's decision is fair, too. The reasons to kick the tying extra point are almost equal with the reasons for going for two. A tie game will probably end up in overtime where you (BYU) have the clear advantage in the kicking game and an offense that was finally starting to click.)
(If I were to blame Mendenhall for anything, it would be the way he used his timeouts willy-nilly in the second half, as if he didn't think those might be important later in a one possession game.)
We learned that it takes more than D.J. Harper and Matt Miller to have a successful offense.
This is kind of a bummer since before the season I would have bet money (blogger investment strategy) that if both Miller and Martin had a good day that Boise State would win easily. Well, Harper had 100 yards, and Miller had 7 catches for 75 yards. And still the Boise State offense looked rough.
We learned that teams might as well not bother passing against the Broncos.
Riley Nelson led the Cougar offense to 19 yards passing - one, nine - which is just an incredibly low number when you think of all the ways that teams can move the ball through the air nowadays. Nelson's contemporaries, Andrew Maxwell and Zac Dysert, had similar rough goes of it against the Broncos. Can Boise State finish the year allowing less than 150 yards per game through the air? Bears monitoring.
We learned that you can throw turnover margin out the window with this team.
Boise State was plus-five in turnovers on the night and won by a single point and did so only because one of the five turnovers was returned for a touchdown by Mike Atkinson. Turnovers are no doubt important/costly, but Boise State has proven so far this year that they can win and lose with or without turnovers thankyouverymuch.
We learned that Joe Southwick is not out of the woods.
I expect the natives to be very restless this week. Fortunately, New Mexico is on the schedule.
We learned what the symbol for Boise State offensive ineptitude will be.
The four-and-out from the BYU one-yard line is going to be a hard one to live down.
We learned that Coach Pete does not trust his kicking game.
Boise State was 0-for-5 on fourth down, at least two failures which were predicated by Chris Petersen's desire to never kick a field goal again as long as he lives. Michael Frisina's first quarter from 33 yards went wide right, seeming to confirm Petersen's feelings on the matter. I can't say I blame him. I'm not sure I would have kicked the 33-yarder in the first place.
We learned to let go and have fun.
Well, at least that's what I hope we learned because living any other way this season is only going to result in ulcers - big, crusty ulcers. This offense is a far cry from what we grew accustomed to with Kellen Moore, but that isn't to say that watching Boise State football has to be an exercise in frustration. Watch the defense. See D.J. Harper trying real hard. Most importantly, don't expect perfection and just enjoy the ride.
But probably buckle up. There are still some good teams left on the schedule.