With hopes of being a BCS buster all but ranked Boise State Broncos now turn their attention to San Diego State as they aim to take out their frustrations against the Aztecs in Mountain West Conference play this Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium.
Last weekend, the Broncos had a bout of deja vu as they watched their dreams of a possible shot at the national title hinge on the foot of their kicker for the second straight year, and for the second straight time they were let down as they suffered a 36-35 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs at home. Billed as the game of the year in the Mountain West Conference, Boise State saw its 35-game home win streak come to an end as well as any chance of taking on a major program in the postseason.
"We'll see what these guys are made of," Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said of dealing with the loss. "This is real-life football. You don't win all of your games all the time -- as much as we've done that around here. So, we'll see. We have some pretty mature guys, a lot of seniors that do a good job and so we have to go down to a good San Diego State team on the road and come back against Wyoming, who's doing a heck of a job. We've got a lot of football left to play, so we have to do is just clean up the things that aren't where we want to be right now."
As for the Aztecs, they may not be playing in the same stratosphere as Boise State and TCU in the MWC, but the team did make itself bowl eligible last Saturday with an 18-15 win over the Colorado State Rams. San Diego State now has the wins needed in order to be invited to take part in the postseason for the second straight year, and should they get the call it will be the first time since 1967-68 that SDSU has played beyond the regular season in back-to- back campaigns.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the football field.
Against the Horned Frogs at home Kellen Moore, who was recently named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Award and is also a semifinalist for both the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards, connected on 28-of-38 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, extending his streak of consecutive games with multiple TD tosses to 22 games in a row. Moore, who is just the eighth player in NCAA history to pass for at least 13,000 yards (13,416), now needs just two more TD passes to move into third place all-time on the NCAA passing TD list as he currently has 130 and is one behind Hawaii's Colt Brennan.
But more than just Moore, the offense for the Broncos is also quite strong on the ground as D.J. Harper ran for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the game with TCU. However, BSU was playing without Doug Martin last weekend and now it appears as though Harper might not be 100 percent this week due to a sprained ankle, so once again it might fall on Moore to take on the majority of the burden for the squad.
Even though they suffered their first loss of the season, the Broncos still have one of the top scoring offenses in the country, ranked first in the MWC and seventh nationally with 42.9 ppg. A big key to that success has been an offensive line that is allowed just 0.67 sacks per game, tops in the league and fifth in the country.
In terms of total defense, BSU has taken a few steps back from recent years and is currently giving up 325.4 ypg which, while it is best in the conference, it is just 20th nationally and something that will be put to the test by a San Diego State program that operates equally as well on the ground as it does through the air.
Dealing with winds that prevented either side from truly mounting an aerial attack in Fort Collins last week, the Aztecs instead leaned heavily on a running game which produced 173 yards and a touchdown in the three-point win against Colorado State. Ronnie Hillman, who now ranks second in the nation in rushing with 142.0 ypg, gained just 80 yards on 24 carries and deferred to Walter Kazee when it came to the lone rushing score of the day for the visitors.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley hit on 19-of-35 passes for 154 yards and a score, while also being intercepted once, and along the way he became the school and MWC all-time leading passer with 11,494 yards.
"He is an excellent quarterback and I think he is going to be in the NFL," says head coach Rocky Long of his signal-caller. "His leadership qualities on our team are as important as his ability as a quarterback. He deserves the record (all-time Mountain West passing leader). He probably would've thrown for another 100-and-something yards if we didn't drop any passes."
Lindley certainly has the career numbers to prove he's one of the best ever to come out of the MWC, but this season he has been rather average by his own standards. In fact, if not for throwing four TDs in the season opener against Cal Poly, he'd have just 11 TDs over the course of eight games and that's just not good enough when you talk about taking on a powerhouse like Boise State.
Hillman might be able to find some holes to crawl through if Lindley has trouble finding receivers, but now you're asking your primary running back to expose himself to excessive hits from an angry Broncos defense.