Honolulu, HI As Boise State coaches and players draw up the game plan for Sunday’s Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl (6:00 p.m. MT on ESPN), no doubt they’ve noticed several key statistics which tell the tale of East Carolina’s 7-5 season.
Offensively, the Pirates rank first in the nation in scoring drives of less than one minute at 19 different drives, showing an explosive offense. The all important turnover battle has been dominated by
In a nutshell, those things will end up being the keys that #22 Boise State (10-2) will focus on in working to win its sixth bowl game since 1999: Turnovers (a key to every game), tackling and limiting big plays by ECU’s versatile offensive skill players, and establishing the run to open up the rest of the Bronco playbook (ie downfield passing attack).
“When evenly matched teams play, many times it comes down to the obvious and that is where turnovers are critical,” said Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. “We also have to be good tacklers and not give up big plays. We did a little study and they score within five plays. Their scoring drives average about five plays are less. They are very explosive.”
The Bronco defense will contend with a running back that many consider to be a sure fire NFL prospect, if not a potential first rounder in Chris Johnson. The senior tailback has put up very similar numbers to his Bronco counterpart, Ian Johnson. The Pirates’ Johnson has ran for 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging nearly six yards per carry.
“Their running back is as good a back as we’ve seen all year,” said Petersen. “As fast as anybody we’ve seen this season, and we’ve faced some good backs”
A two quarterback tandem runs the
“They have an offense for both quarterbacks,” said
Sophomore wideout Jamar Bryant is the team’s go to receiver, with a touchdown reception in six of the last seven games. Bryant leads the Pirate team with 42 catches and six touchdowns. He’s a field stretcher, gathering in at least three passes this season of 50 yards or more.
“They’re very good athletically and with their schemes. They present a lot of challenges,” added Wilcox. “We need to stop the run and not allow explosion plays. They look for big pass plays, big screens and big runs to score fast. They’ve done that this year, so those explosion plays are key. It’s going to come down to tackling in one-on-one situations and working to contain the tailback.”
Defensively, it’s been a good news, bad news story for
Opponents did damage through the air against ECU, as the Pirates allowed an average of 290 yards per game to rank among the bottom five in the country in passing yards given up and passing touchdowns allowed (24).
Pettis emerged late in the season, making 25 of his 37 receptions in the final four regular season games, including a three touchdown, 139 yard performance against Idaho. Young is the deep threat, averaging a team best 16.0 yards per catch, including catches of 53 and 43 yards during the season.
While some may immediately think the Broncos will attack through the air,
“We have to run the ball to be effective,” said BSU offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “That will help establish the rest of the game plan. If we can get that done up front and handle their defensive line, it will help us out overall in the game.”
“They’re one of those defensive teams that the more you watch, the more you are impressed,” added Petersen. “They’ve done a good job of keeping teams out of the end zone. They’re not real star studded, but play hard and are well coached. Like all good teams, they make you earn things.”
This is a bowl game where both teams played well at the end of the year.
A game with some intriguing storylines: Explosive offenses on both sides and defensive units that will feel the pressure to match-up against those offensive units; A star duel of Johnson tailbacks in either backfield (Ian for BSU and Chris for ECU); And, of course, a bowl championship for the winner, something every bowl team thirsts to do in building momentum for 2008.
For East Carolina, a chance to take a major step forward by winning a bowl game against a program that every non-BCS school works to be compared to in Boise State. For the Broncos, a win would all but secure another end of season top 25 ranking, the school’s fifth in a six year span. An impressive run that will only help solidify their position as one of college football’s premier programs.