It’s win-or-else time for the Bron­cos so en­joy the drama – if you can

The Idaho Statesman - - Sports - BY CHADD CRIPE ccripe@ida­hostates­

The Boise State foot­ball team has won its past four games, two of them in places where bad things have been known to hap­pen.

Last week, the Bron­cos beat BYU in one of the most thrilling fin­ishes in Al­bert­sons Sta­dium his­tory.

The vibe com­ing from Bronco Na­tion: a mix of relief, frus­tra­tion anx­i­ety and, judg­ing by this week’s ticket sales, a lit­tle bit of ap­a­thy.

Maybe it’s time to ease those stan­dards just a bit — and en­joy what your team is do­ing. And this is the per­fect time for a new ap­proach, be­cause Novem­ber 2018 for Boise State is about wins, and only wins.

The Bron­cos (7-2 over­all, 4-1 Moun­tain West) face No. 16 Fresno State on Fri­day night. The Bull­dogs are tied for the high­est-ranked op­po­nent to play the Bron­cos on the Blue.

That des­ig­na­tion likely will change in two weeks, when No. 14 Utah State comes to town.

In be­tween, the Bron­cos play at New Mex­ico.

Win all three of those games, and the Bron­cos will play for the Moun­tain West ti­tle — and pos­si­bly a ma­jor bowl bid — at Al­bert­sons Sta­dium. Doesn’t mat­ter what the score is.

Doesn’t mat­ter how many missed tack­les they have. Doesn’t mat­ter if the of­fense runs hot and cold, as it does nearly every game.

Lose any one of those games, and the Bron­cos al­most cer­tainly will miss the cham­pi­onship game for the fourth time in six years of di­vi­sional play in the Moun­tain West. That’s just one of many re­minders that the jug­ger­naut of the WAC days that cre­ated the ex­pec­ta­tion of win­ning with style and ease has been suc­ceeded by a pro­gram that must scratch and claw its way through the more chal­leng­ing Moun­tain West.

Four weeks ago, coach Bryan Harsin seem­ingly had to re­mind ev­ery­one that the 31-27 win at Ne­vada was a pos­i­tive re­sult — even though it was a nail­biter to the end. San Diego State lost in Reno two weeks later.

Three weeks ago, frus­tra­tion crept into my Twit­ter feed and email in­box as the Bron­cos let off the gas with a 35-0 lead over Colorado State. They won 56-28.

Two weeks ago, I lis­tened on the air­plane ride home as fans ex­pressed hap­pi­ness with the pro­gram’s first vic­tory at Air Force’s Fal­con Sta­dium but voiced frus­tra­tion with the first half — which, at 28-28, was the most en­ter­tain­ing half in a Boise State game this sea­son.

And Satur­day night, re­porters were asked to rip the Bron­cos in print for their per­for­mance in the 21-16 win against BYU. Mis­takes were made, of course — but wasn’t the true story of that game an in­jury-rid­dled de­fense stop­ping BYU from scor­ing a touch­down on seven of its eight pos­ses­sions in­side the 30-yard line, in­clud­ing on the fi­nal snap of the game from the 2?

It’s good to have high stan­dards. Boise State coaches and play­ers of­ten point out that their stan­dards are the high­est of all.

It’s not as good to have high ex­pec­ta­tions. Be­cause

The in­cli­na­tion is to go with Boise State, be­cause that’s the way it al­most al­ways has gone. But Fresno State beat the Bron­cos once and was 5 min­utes away from beat­ing them again last sea­son, and their of­fense is bet­ter now. They have more pieces in play than they did for ei­ther of those games, so I’d ex­pect them to be in bet­ter po­si­tion to win this game. I don’t see Fresno State run­ning the ball with any suc­cess with its backs, but the Bull­dogs will use quar­ter­back Mar­cus McMaryion in the run game. McMaryion is much more com­fort­able with the of­fense, and that shows in the third-down and red-zone num­bers; both way up. I don’t see the game go­ing over that to­tal, but I think Fresno will win.

20. Fresno State 27, Boise State

when you start ex­pect­ing great­ness, it’s dif­fi­cult to ap­pre­ci­ate the very good.

That’s what this Boise State team is. As was last year’s, and the 2016 ver­sion, too.

None of those teams have been great. The in­con­sis­tency can be mad­den­ing — I get that, and men­tion it fre­quently.

But the Bron­cos’ record since the start of 2016 is 28-8 — an out­stand­ing mark at a time when many of col­lege foot­ball’s most-sto­ried pro­grams have been un­able to sus­tain their ex­pected level of suc­cess (Florida, Florida State, Mi­ami, Ne­braska, USC and Texas for starters). Boise State’s non-con­fer­ence and bowl matchups in that stretch in­clude seven Power Five op­po­nents, three games vs. BYU, two vs. Sun Belt power Troy, two against other Group of Five schools and none against FCS schools.

Have the Bron­cos been ca­pa­ble of ac­com­plish­ing more? Yes.

Did they win some games they prob­a­bly shouldn’t have? Also yes.

With three games to go, it’s time to ap­pre­ci­ate rather than nit­pick ... un­til the Bron­cos lose. Then have at it.

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