Boise needs to find another Zabransky or Moore

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Well, suffice to say the last time Boise State had a coaching change, it went a little better.

That year was 2006, and Chris Petersen was the new guy in charge. What ended up ensuing was the zenith of Boise State football to this date: an unbeaten year and a dramatic win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Of course, Bryan Harsin didn’t start out playing Sacramento State, either.

Thursday was a tough night for Boise State in a way that was similar to 2013, when the Broncos were eviscerated by Washington. The year might change, but the script does not: Boise State needs better quarterback play to get back to where it was.

In fairness, cause for concern over a four-loss season and then a season-opening beating by a top 20 team sort of shows how far the Boise State program has come. Yet, none of that really makes the Broncos or anyone around them feel better about getting bull whipped in a season opener when frankly, they had a shot.

The BSU defense hung around as long as it could, partially because Ole Miss kept tripping over its own shoelaces, and partially because the Broncos kept making plays when they abso-freaking-lutely had to.

But that only lasts so long. Eventually, quarterback Bo Wallace of the Rebels figured out he had a bunch of tall, fast guys to throw to and BSU had a bunch of short, fast guys covering them. Boise State’s offense couldn’t finish multiple drives inside the Ole Miss 10 and failed to score touchdowns. As soon as Wallace learned how to attack the Broncos’ secondary, it was all she wrote.

Eventually, BSU defenders showed signs of the fuel pump blowing and were arm tackling or simply not getting there in time, en route to 28 fourth-quarter points from the Rebels and a 35-13 caning. Boise looked like it had been holding the tide back with sand bags until that second Ole Miss touchdown, and then the Broncos just saw the flood waters begin to pour in, as if to say, “We did all we could to keep this thing close.”

Boise’s blueprint hasn’t changed. The Broncos are still the team that lines up with mostly unheralded, lower “star” rated recruits saying they’re going to punch you in the mouth and figure out a way to get it done. Only one thing has changed: Jared Zabransky and Kellen Moore aren’t a-walking through that door.

The Broncos’ defensive line played admirably, harassing Wallace and stunting the run game as long as it could. Harsin, aside from two “cover your eyes” bouts of play calling inside the 10-yard-line of Ole Miss in the first half, called an inventive enough game to get some points before the game was out of hand.

But they couldn’t score touchdowns, and the game did get out of hand. Grant Hedrick, though I don’t know the guy, will probably be the first to suggest he needs to play better. He’ll probably be the first through 10th, honestly, and Harsin the 11th.

Just as Joe Southwick never really was able to carry on the tradition of elite signal calling in Boise, Hedrick takes on the impossible task of having to do what Zabranksy and Moore did. He doesn’t need to be perfect, but he needs to be appreciably better.

Boise will be fine. Harsin seems like he’s in it for the long haul and looks to have the chops to make it there. And really, Ole Miss is awfully good. The Rebels are loaded with elite talent on defense and guys that Alabama will have trouble covering down the field on offense. There’s no shame in losing to a good football team, especially when you hit them punch for punch for over half of it.

Yet Boise has been so good for so long that you always expect some sort of miracle win out of the Broncos, with some sort of cliche “play you draw up in the sand” helping to get them there.

Zabransky and Moore aren’t walking through that door, correct. Yet, the Broncos, perhaps more than any other program, need elite quarterback play. The sky is the limit, as we’ve seen. The last two openers? The floor.