WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Chadd Cripe, who covers Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming. Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
Follow on Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat
Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.
Has this Boise State team lived up to expectations this season with a new coach in Bryan Harsin, and what are the biggest changes in the program and around the team compared with former coach Chris Petersen?
I’d say they’re about where people expected. The loss to Ole Miss was no surprise. The loss to Air Force was, but you have to expect a bump somewhere with a new staff. Otherwise, they’ve maybe been more inconsistent than expected but they’ve still put themselves in position to win the league. The changes are mostly cosmetic — Harsin and his staff are more promotion-oriented, using tools like Twitter and behind-the-scenes videos. In terms of the actual on-the-field product, it’s very similar, except this offense looks more like the old Boise State offense than the one Petersen installed last year.
Senior Grant Hedrick struggled and was benched in a loss at Air Force earlier this season, but since then has been the most accurate quarterback in the Mountain West. What changed with him, if anything, that has enabled him to be so effective?
Hedrick told me last week that he became more assertive, which helped fuel his hot streak. That said, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford has said the last two weeks weren’t his best in terms of the reads he’s been making. So there’s still some inconsistency there. Hedrick has a lot of talent — his issues have been turnovers and inconsistency in his career.
How good is running back Jay Ajayi, and in your opinion what makes him good?
Ajayi should be a very good pro. He’s a big, strong, fast, durable runner. In some ways, he might even be built more to succeed at the NFL level than college. The big thing he’s done this year is become a huge weapon in the pass game. He’s a terrific blocker and receiver.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Boise State’s defense, and what have teams done well to move the ball and score against it this season?
It’s hard to answer that question because the defense has been so inconsistent this year. The last two games, it’s been gutted in the first half and dominated in the second half. Early in the season, the defensive line was causing havoc. Lately, it hasn’t. Early in the season it forced a ton of turnovers, and that has dried up. The biggest weakness has been allowing big run plays — nine of 40-plus yards this year.
If Boise State wins out, do you think it will get in one of the New year’s Eve bowl games? With that said, how do you see Saturday’s game with Wyoming unfolding?
I’ve told fans here 50/50. I have put Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl in my bowl projections the past two weeks. I think the committee will be hesitant to reward a team that has played a horrible schedule in the first year of this system. That would set an ugly precedent. But given that Marshall is destroying its opponents and Boise State has fallen into double-digit deficits the last two weeks, I could make an argument against the Broncos, too. As for this game, Boise State has struggled on the road the past two seasons and this game could be played in some of the most extreme conditions in school history (high altitude, cold, windy), so it won’t surprise me if the game is close in the fourth quarter. But anyone would be foolish to try to make a prediction with this Broncos team — every week has looked a little different than the one before.
Cowboys game day
Game: Boise State (8-2 overall, 5-1 Mountain West) at Wyoming (4-6, 2-4)
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, Laramie
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KOWB (1290 AM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com