Boise travels to New Mexico to get some momentum going into our Mountain Worst schedule play. As usual, I will break down what Boise State must do in order to win the game. Lets get to it.
Boise State comes off a shaky game against a team that had a great defense. The team we are playing this Saturday does not bring the same defensive firepower, but has some things they can do offensively. New Mexico is in their first year of the Bob Davie experiment. Davie, a valued assistant under the great Lou Holtz at Notre Dame took the reigns after Holtz retired, and for 5 years under achieved as the tides turned in the college football realm. Davie is a good coach, I just think he wasn't ready for the burden of coaching at Notre Dame. In reality, who has been? Ever since Holtz stepped down Notre Dame has failed to keep a consistent winning coach on campus. I won't hold it against Davie, because I think he is a good coach and UNM got a good deal by landing him.
In the past New Mexico has run the ASAP offense. Meaning get us off the field as soon as possible. They haven't been very good in recent memory, but Davie is changing the mentality around Albuquerque by installing the pistol offense. As we have seen in the past, the pistol (and the large dose of option plays run out of it) have given Boise State problems. I'm not saying New Mexico has Collin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, but the system is in place and it can be tough to stop if we don't play assignment football.
First things first. In order for Boise State to win the game each player on defense must understand this week is about assignment football. Each player has a specific task. If a player thinks he needs to "help" his team mate make a play, that is when the break down occurs and we can get burnt for a big play. Out of the pistol UNM will run a variety of option plays. Our defense is a little un-traditional in terms of schemes. I have a pretty good idea who's assignment is what in regards to stopping the option but that can vary by the personnel on the field, the defensive formation, the offensive formation, and which side of the formation the play runs towards. That being said, our men need to make the play that they are supposed to make.
A few thing to remember about the option: The quarterback is to be hit every play. That is not to say that we need to have un-necessary roughness, but he must be hit every play. If the ref gives our guys crap they can simply respond, "I thought he had the ball." And in the option, if you are the player that is assigned to hit the quarterback you always assume he has the ball. It comes with the territory of being an option qb. Expect to be hit when you don't have the ball. Linebackers and tackles will take the dive man. The end can never help out. Linebackers have gap assignments and are responsible for the dive man. As soon as the end crashes down to help tackle the dive man we are exposed for a big play. Next play the qb will pull ball and we can put up 6 for the other team.
Linebackers have dive man, end had quarterback, and (this is where it gets a bit tricky in our defensive scheme) either the nickel or corner has pitchman. We have to trust the line backers wrap up the full back, the end smashes the quarterback, and then the corner/nickel back gets off the block and decapitates the pitch man as soon as he gets the ball. This is how to defend the option attack. I can hear many fans say, "Hatemay, this sounds too simple. Why do teams still run it then?" The answer is simple, because they count on us to make a mistake, or many mistakes on defense. It is tough to defend when players become selfish and want to "help a brother out," but when every person does their job this offense gets stalled quickly. Frank Stallone's coaching manual does not have anything written on the Pistol Formation because it was published years before the Pistol became popular, but he does have this to say about the option in general. "The option is easy to stop and tough to stop. It is easy to stop when guys buy into making the play and not the tackle. If the linebacker gets the dive he forces the quarterback to keep it, and if the end stays home and hits the quarterback he forces him to pitch it, and if the corner back fights the block and hits the pitch man the option is stopped in its tracks. The team must function with all 11 men on the same page..... Then, and only then is the option stopped." (Page 218) Thanks Coach.
UNM runs the ball well. They average 235 yards a game on the ground. We must cut that to 180 yards. That leaves room for only 180 yards to be had between the fullback, running back, and quarterback. If they get above the 200 yard mark that is entering the danger zone. Gotta have stops. We saw last year (with Air Force) what happens when an option team is constantly looking at 2nd down and 4 or 2nd down and 5. They almost always convert on 3rd down. If we want our offense to have the ball and work on improving then we must put UNM in 2nd and 9, or 2nd and 8. This offense is meant to get a lead, and keep it within one score. If we are able to get stops and push it to a two or three possession game, then we get them out of their game plan and force them to throw the ball.
We must force turnovers, at least two. One knock on the option offense is that it tends to put the ball on the ground with all the pitching, mesh points, and having quarterbacks run the ball. We must create turnovers on assignment football, bit hits, and precision execution.
On offense, we must get out to a good start. We need to get confidence in our offense. I anticipate us going at the running game to get things going. But we must get to play action right away. We can't put it on the shelf. We need to open the play book. If we want to be where we need to be as a team, we gotta start getting momentum. Harper will run well in space, but our team cannot have dropped passes on 3rd down (or any down for that matter), cannot have holding penalties, or chop block penalties.
Harper goes for over 100 yards, but as a team we must go for at least 175 yards. Look for Ajayi, Fields and Wright to help out. Southwick must complete 65 percent of his passes this game and he must go over 240 yards this game. And we cannot have any turnovers in the red zone.
I expect us to win this game. But I have high expectations for this offense against this opponent. Unless our team stops by Walter White's place for some blue sky before the game, I expect our team to come out focused and score at least 30 points. That would put us on par for what New Mexico gives up on average. But hatemay, you only think we will score 30 points? Look at what our team did the last few years against New Mexico and teams of it's caliber? Those games are exactly that, the last few years, in the past. This is this year. Gotta roll some one, gotta be mentally tough, gotta be focused, then we will worry about hanging a crooked number on lowly opponent. 35-7 Blue.