BRONCO BREAKDOWN! Boise State vs. Oregon
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Been there. Done that.
That seems to be the mind-set of Boise State defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski and at least one of his players when someone mentions the daunting challenge the Broncos face this weekend as they prepare for Oregon and their first road game of the season.
It’s not that Kwiatkowski is dissin’ the 3-0 Ducks, but if his thoughts tell him BSU’s defensive line will be overmatched when it takes on Oregon’s offense at Autzen Stadium Saturday afternoon, his words say otherwise.
After all, the Boise State defense has given up just one touchdown in each of its first two games a 49-7 win over Idaho State in its season opener and a 20-7 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday.
“I think our defensive line is playing extremely hard,” said Kwiatkowski, “I’m encouraged by the guys who are returning and how well they’re playing and by the progress of the young guys.”
Yeah, but Coach, that was against teams from the Big Sky and the Mid-American Conference. This week you’re playing the Ducks of Oregon. You know ... they play in the Pac-10! They killed Washington 44-10, annihilated Utah State 66-24 and beat Purdue 32-26 in overtime on the road! They’re ranked 12th in the coaches’ poll and 17th in the media poll! They’re fourth among Division 1-A teams in rushing (323.3 yards per game) and 10th in scoring (47.3 points per game)! Plus, Boise State has never beaten a Pac-10 team on the road!
Kwiatkowski shrugs off the suggestion that his players are in for a long afternoon in Eugene. “If everybody can get 1 percent better this week and I’m not talking about effort, I’m talking about detail to playing the positions we’ll be fine,” he said. “Nobody has to be superman. They [the Ducks] are 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-old guys, just like the guys we have. We just need to do what we’ve been doing playing hard, running to the ball, and improving on our consistency and execution.”
Granted, Kwiatkowski knows a thing or two about playing defense. After all, he’s in his 20th year as a college coach and was one of the best defensive linemen to ever play for Boise State. But c’mon, facing Oregon in Eugene has got to be a heckuva lot more intimidating than playing host to Idaho State.
“I’m sure some individuals will have some jitters,” said Kwiatkowski, a member of the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame, the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American his senior year (1987) as well as an honorable mention All-American as a junior. “But those guys put their pants on the same way we do. You don’t need to read more into it than it is. I mean, sure they’re a Pac-10 school, but a lot of our guys played against Oklahoma and went toe-to-toe with them.”
Joe Bozikovich did exactly that, starting at defensive tackle as a sophomore in Boise State’s epic 43-42 overtime win over the Sooners in the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. And like his coach, he doesn’t see the need to hyperventilate over Saturday’s game. “I think the biggest thing when you’re preparing for a team and it doesn’t matter if it’s a JV team or the No. 1 seed in the nation is you’ve got to prepare the same way,” he said.
So Bozikovich doesn’t think he and his teammates will have that deer-in-headlights look when they take the field against Oregon?
“I don’t have time to have a deer-in-the-headlights look,” he responded. “We had a game on Saturday and have a week to prepare for our next opponent. We’ve got to be ready to roll. We don’t have time to get freaked out thinking about where we’re going to play and things like that. Besides, I’ve been to their stadium before. I’ve seen those guys before, and I played with a few of them in high school. I’m not too worried about it. The biggest thing is just to prepare and get ready. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
A 6-foot, 280-pound senior from Portland, Bozikovich is eager to take on a team from his home state. “I’m not going to say it hasn’t crossed my mind,” he said when asked if the game against the Duck provides him with a bit more motivation than usual. “I’ve been wanting to play against an Oregon team since I got here, but when we played the Beavers my first three years, I never got the chance (Bozikovich redshirted in 2004 and was hurt or inactive in 2005 and ’06 when BSU met OSU). When I found out a couple years back that we were going to get at shot at Oregon my senior year, I was pretty excited about it.”
Bozikovich incentive? “Oregon passed on me and Oregon State passed on me,” he said, “and I ended up coming here and never looked back.”
Not that he has any regrets about choosing Boise State. “Coming here was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I’ve made friends for life and have some of the best memories a guy could ever ask for."
One of his fondest memories will probably be this Saturday’s game if the Broncos can pull off the upset, which is just added incentive for Bozikovich and his fellow D-linemen.
“Some people are kind of naysayer; some people don’t think we can do it,” he said. “Let them think what they want. The defensive line was one of the questionable positions coming into this year. Because of that we’ve got a chip on our shoulder. We know we can do it. We just need everybody else to believe.”