Around the Blue Turf 9/23/2011


Boise State’s blueprint

Many college football programs like Tulsa are trying to follow the “Boise blueprint.”

The blueprint is not the famed blue turf that Boise State tramples on during home games. Rather, it’s the model of success this Idaho university has built over the past 15 years.

There are numerous reasons why Boise State is the envy of many, including the majority of schools in conferences that don’t receive an automatic invitation to the Bowl Championship Series every year.

• Boise State has the nation’s highest winning percentage (147-32, .821) over the past 15 years;

• The football team is 69-2 at cozy Bronco Stadium (capacity: 33,500) since 2000;

• The Broncos have scored more points (averaging 41.2 ppg) than anyone since the turn of the century.

Tulsa plays at No. 4 Boise State on Saturday night. Coach Bill Blankenship

heaped praise on the Boise program earlier this week, saying the Mountain West Conference school has things “we are trying to mimic.”

Is it a sign of respect when schools say that?

“Sure,” said Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who has led the Broncos to 63 wins in the past 68 games. “I think we are one of those programs that gives others hope. Some may say if Boise can do it, we can do it too.”
One night in Arizona

Area fans may have known little about Boise State when it played Oklahoma on New Year’s Day 2007 in the Fiesta Bowl.

By Jan. 2, everyone in the state and across the country realized how good this program really was.

The Broncos grabbed headlines by stunning OU, nabbing a 43-42 overtime victory in the Arizona desert.

“It really cemented the idea that the little brother could compete instead of the prior arguments about those type of games happening,” said Aaron Taylor, a CBS College Sports studio and game analyst. “When you see it up close and personal, it takes the ‘what-if’ out of it. Now you know it can happen.”

That was Petersen’s first year as Boise State’s coach. Do Broncos fans still talk about the OU victory?

“Not that much,” Petersen said. “I don’t hear much about it.”

That’s because Boise State has had a number of other big triumphs. The Broncos are 7-3 against Top 25 competition since that victory and have won six of their last seven meetings against ranked opponents.
Total commitment

Tulsa, like Boise State, is a “non-AQ” school. Both play in non-automatic qualifying conferences in the Bowl Championship series.

While Boise State has become nationally known, TU is still trying to make a name for itself.

What were some of the factors that have played into Boise State not only building consistency, but maintaining it?

“There’s not just one thing, that’s for sure,” Petersen said. “It’s nothing in general, but everything in particular. That’s what we like to say around here. Everything matters.”

Petersen said the program’s players and coaches have bought in to the program. It’s getting the right players and winning games on a big stage. There’s luck involved, he added.

“Everything has all added up for us to work toward it,” Petersen said.

The equation to getting to a BCS bowl for a non-AQ is simple, June Jones said. The SMU coach guided Hawaii to the Sugar Bowl following the 2007 regular season.

“You have to be undefeated to get to a BCS bowl, and it’s been proved it can be done,” Jones said. “We always talked about it, and we talk about it here. That’s the only way SMU, Tulsa or any of those other schools can get to a BCS bowl.”

Maintaining success, however, isn’t easy. After Jones left Hawaii, the Warriors have played in two bowl games on their home field, losing both decisively.

Meanwhile, Boise State continues to shine.

“Boise State has had a lot of people get involved,” said Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson, whose league features Boise State as its newest member. “This is not a ‘just-happened’ deal. It has happened over the past 10-12 years with a lot of consistency.”
Why not Tulsa?

Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham would love for his football program to earn the type of respect thrust upon Boise State.

How can TU reach those heights?

“You do that by continuing to reinvest in the product that you have,” Cunningham said. “We have an outstanding coaching staff in place. We have invested in facilities and need to continue to grow the fan base.”

Blankenship pointed to the often sold-out Bronco Stadium. He knows that wins fill the seats, both in Boise and Tulsa.

“People get concerned about the size of your stadium,” Blankenship said. “I looked up Boise State and it’s 33,000. Is that a limiting factor? Apparently not. It matters what we do in that stadium and who comes to watch it.”

Cunningham said Boise State – like fellow non-AQ school TCU – has been driven by not only wins, but sustaining success over a long period of time.

Cunningham has watched the Tulsa program evolve since becoming AD in November 2005. Where does he want it to be six years from now?

“I’d love to see the program sold out and doing what we’ve done the past five years competitively,” Cunningham said. “If we can average nine, 10, 11 wins, it would be 10 consecutive years. I think then you get the national respect and visibility.

“You’re not a bad loss, but a good win. We’re going to continue to invest in the program and strive for 10-win seasons.”

Games like Boise State can help Tulsa’s exposure.

“We always try to find good games, and Boise is a great national brand right now,” Cunningham said. “We’re aspiring to be a national brand, and it’s a good association for us.”

Does Petersen think a school like Tulsa can make that type of leap?

“Absolutely. It’s not one thing or two things or three things,” the Boise State coach said. “You need support by everyone involved. You have to get the right people in the right places and have some luck along the way.

“If you can do that, there’s no reason anyone can’t do it.”
Boise State’s big wins

Boise State has gone 147-32 in games dating back to 1997, which is the highest winning percentage (.822) in the country during the past 15 seasons. The Broncos also have won 28 of their last 29 games.

A look back at five of their biggest victories:

Boise State 35, Fresno State 30 (Oct. 19, 2001): The Broncos capture their first win over a ranked and Top 10 opponent on the road.

Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT (Jan. 1, 2007): The Fiesta Bowl victory over the No. 7 Sooners will not be forgotten by Bronco fans or OU faithful.

Boise State 37, Oregon 32 (Sept. 20, 2008): Boise State became road warriors and defeated the Ducks, who finished the season ranked in the top 10.

Boise State 17, TCU 10 (Jan. 4, 2010): The No. 6 Broncos beat fourth-ranked TCU in a Fiesta Bowl battle of unbeatens, capping a 14-0 season.

Boise State 33, Virginia Tech 30 (Sept. 6, 2010): Kellen Moore’s touchdown pass with 69 seconds left secured victory over the No. 10 Hokies at the “neutral” site of Landover, Md.
Four musts that non-AQ schools must do to succeed like Boise State

Commitment from above: Boise State’s administration has played a key role in the football program’s success.

“We are all in the same boat where budgets are so stinkin’ tight and it’s hard to get anything done. But our administration has been awesome of having vision … they get it. They know the situation we’re up against. … It’s always about what’s the next thing we can afford and how do we get it done.” – Boise State coach Chris Petersen.

Maintain consistency: Boise State has had three head coaches over the past 14 years, with current coach Chris Petersen leading the program for the past six seasons and serving as offensive coordinator for five years.

“People were concerned when Dirk Koetter left and Dan Hawkins came in and built it more. Then Hawk left and Chris Petersen has been the best of them. That’s consistency in a coaching staff.” – Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson

Recruiting: The Broncos have been attracting under-the-radar prospects as well as high-caliber athletes, especially lately when recruits are looking to play for an elite program.

“The coaches do great with their projections and get some guys that the big schools overlook.” – SMU coach June Jones said.

Just win: Boise State has won six of its past seven games against Top 25 competition. It also has won 28 of its last 29 contests.

“They will play anybody, anywhere. If you give them time to prepare, they can ruin your afternoon.” – CBS Sports Network analyst Aaron Taylor.

ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Boise State sends letter to boosters reminding them of NCAA rules

Here is the full text of the letter:

The start of the 2011 fall sports season brings with it a great deal of excitement and anticipation. This time of year also serves as an appropriate time to remind supporters for Boise State athletics of the collective effort required to ensure that we are compliant with NCAA and Mountain West Conference rules and regulations. As a supporter of Boise State, you are a “representative of the university’s athletic interests,” or more commonly known as a “booster,” and are thereby bound by the same NCAA rules and regulations as the athletic program. It is essential, therefore, that you recognize the role that you play in maintaining the integrity of our program.

Who is a Booster?

A “booster” is a representative of Boise State’s athletic interests. You become a booster if: (1) You have ever been a member of any organization promoting Boise State Athletics; (2) Made any type of donation to the Bronco Athletic Association, Boise State Athletics or any other Boise State booster organization; (3) Assisted in evaluating or recruiting prospective student-athletes; (4) Assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or (5) Promoted Boise State Athletics in any other manner. NCAA Bylaw mandates that when you become a booster, you retain that identity for life and are bound by NCAA rules. Boise State is responsible for your actions.

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Petersen’s creative drills test Broncos’ returners

There’s only one job requirement that really matters if you want to return punts for Boise State football coach Chris Petersen.

Catch the ball.

And if you want him to trust you enough to get into the game, you have to survive a battery of drills that look silly from a distance but build the consistency and confidence a punt returner needs.

Last month, Petersen topped all previous drills when he showed up for practice with a bucket full of water, two giant squirt guns and a crew of two coaches’ sons to refill them.

As the returners waited for the ball, Petersen squirted them in the face.

Not surprisingly, most of the balls hit the ground.

“That’s just a distraction drill to irritate them and let me have some fun,” said Petersen, whose team faces Tulsa on Saturday at Bronco Stadium.

But veteran returners like Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs, the junior wide receivers who share the starting job, make Petersen’s other drills look easy.

Sometimes, they catch the punt with a football or softball in each hand. Other times, they lie flat on the ground, wait for the sound of the punt, pop up, find the ball and catch it.

“We’re used to it now,” Potter said, “but it’s funny when some of the younger guys get out there. They’re like, ‘I’m supposed to do what?’ ”

Petersen coaches the punt returners and kickoff returners, a rare chance for him to enjoy the hands-on coaching he left behind when he was promoted from offensive coordinator in 2006.

Kickoff returners, he says, need little instruction.

Catching punts is a much more technique-driven endeavor.

“One of the things with returners is how much they want to be a returner,” Petersen said. “I don’t select them. What I really do is get rid of them. Everyone thinks they want to be a returner.”

Winning Petersen’s confidence isn’t easy.

Potter, who is tied for 15th in the nation with a 13.0-yard average, has figured out one of the secrets.

“The biggest thing that Coach Pete always wants with us is security of the ball,” he said. “That’s my biggest goal. As much as I’d like to say I want a big return every time, I just want to get the ball back to the offense.”

His favorite drill?

“It’s definitely not the squirt gun,” Potter said. “When we have to hold two footballs in our hands and we have to catch the third one, to me that’s the most fun because if you don’t catch it right it will hit you in the face.”

Petersen long has pushed the envelope with drills. As an assistant at Oregon in the late 1990s, he decided to put eye patches on his wide receivers to limit their field of vision. An eye doctor told him he was going to get somebody hurt.

His punt-return drills haven’t crossed that line yet. Petersen says there’s “a method to the madness” — and his players agree.

“Everything that we do, that he makes us do, serves a purpose,” said Burroughs, who has a 13.6-yard career average. “It might be fun and kind of weird at the same time, but you understand why he’s doing it. I like it.”

Said Potter: “You go into the game and you have that comfort out there knowing that you’ve just got to catch the ball clean. You have both your hands. There’s no squirt gun coming at you.”

The Broncos haven’t attempted a field goal this season — and that fact has nothing to do with the struggles they’ve had making PATs. Boise State has entered the red zone — inside the opponent’s 20-yard line — nine times in the first two games. The Broncos have scored touchdowns all nine times.

Statistically they’re credited with one failed red-zone drive, but that was when they took over on the Georgia 3-yard line and took a knee at the end of the game.

Petersen placed a heavy emphasis on the red zone during fall camp and it seems to be paying off — on both sides of the ball. The defense forced two red-zone turnovers last week at Toledo.

“There’s probably nothing more important on either side of the ball than turnovers in the red zone,” Petersen said. “… The guys have done a great job responding.”

Some of the Broncos’ best play this season has come on the special teams units, where they are dominating the hidden yardage.

In fact, Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said the Broncos might have the best special teams in the country.

“You turn the film on, I wouldn’t want to play us in the kicking game,” Boise State special teams coach Jeff Choate said. “There’s a lot of dudes that are playing really fast and hard out there. We’re very close to being extremely dangerous in the kickoff-return game and if they punt us the ball we’re going to do something with it.”

Former Boise State defensive coordinator and Utah State head coach Brent Guy is the defensive coordinator at Tulsa. Guy was the Broncos’ coordinator from 1998 to 2000, the Arizona State coordinator from 2001 to 2004 and the Utah State coach from 2005 to 2008.

The Broncos’ offense is based on the scheme installed by Dirk Koetter in 1998, so Guy is quite familiar with it.

“They’ve always played us tough,” said Huff, who was a graduate assistant on Koetter’s Arizona State staff. “I know coach Guy’s mentality and he’s a tough guy. He demands a lot out of his players. We’re going to get their best shot.”

Boise State senior defensive tackle Chase Baker was credited with a block on Toledo’s missed PAT after video review.

Boise State coaches will wear patches to support the Coach to Cure MD effort Saturday. The program raises money and awareness for Duchenne Muscular Dsytrophy research.

Chadd Cripe is in his 10th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also is a voter in The AP Top 25. Contact him at ccripe@idaho or 377-6398.

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