Expect this scene to be repeated a few times this bowl season.
Due to a significant lack of interesting things to do at work today, you get a double dose of previews! /recession’d. Following the quarterback theme from earlier, we’ll now take a look at the basis of a QB’s success, the receivers. Now, given Boise’s advantage in the QB department, you can pretty much draw the conclusion that the Broncos are going to win this battle as well, right? WRONG!
Titus Young-JR, 5-11, 170. 2nd Team All-WAC.
71 receptions, 969 yards, 13.6 YPR, 10 TDs
Austin Pettis* - JR, 6-3, 201. 1st Team All-WAC.
62 receptions, 850 yards, 13.7 YPR, 14 TDs
Kyle Efaw-SO, 6-4, 229.
27 receptions, 369 yards, 13.7 YRP, 1 TD
Tyler Shoemaker - SO, 6-1, 207.
21 receptions, 345 yards, 16.4 YRP, 2 TDs
Kirby Moore - FR, 6-2, 196.
17 receptions, 214 yards, 12.6 YRP, 2 TDs
Jeremy Kerley- JR, 5-10, 192.
38 receptions, 467 yards, 12.3 YPR, 2 TDs
Jimmy Young - JR, 6-1, 204.
29 receptions, 449 yards, 15.5 YPR, 3 TDs
Antoine Hicks - SO, 6-2, 200.
19 receptions, 443 yards, 22.8 YPR, 6 TDs
Bart Johnson - JR, 6-0, 195.
30 receptions, 398 yards, 13.3 YPR, 2 TDs
Ryan Christian - SR, 5-11, 188.
19 receptions, 244 yards, 12.8 YPR, 3 TDs
Curtis Clay - JR, 6-1, 185.
16 receptions, 202 yards, 12.6 YPR, 2 TDs
Alright, so on the surface, Boise has more prolific receivers at the top two positions, which is mostly due to the offensive system. If you’ll notice though, these guys catch twice as many passes as our guys, and see the ball in the end zone a lot more, but pick up nearly the same amount of yards when they do touch the ball, and less in some cases. That’s not to say these guys haven’t gone deep – three Boise receivers have TD catches over 50 yards vs our one – but it’s not like they’re blasting down the field play after play and getting behind defenders for easy scores.
You’ll notice I put an asterisk by Austin Pettis’ name, and this is because they have no idea if he will play in the game. Before he went down with a broken ankle in the third to last game of the season, it’s pretty obvious that he was the man for this offense. 14 TDs on 62 receptions is great no matter how you try and spin it. However, even if he does play, how effective will he be coming off such a major injury? Will he or won’t he is arguably going to be the biggest determining factor in this game, although losing a starting tackle isn’t going to make matters any simpler. With Pettis, this Boise passing attack is much more damaging than anything we’ve seen this year. Without him it’s Titus Young and Kip Dynamite (Kirby Moore – Nap’s younger brother). Their third leading receiver, Kyle Efaw, is a tight end and, based on how more recognized tight ends such as Dennis Pitta fared against us this year, I wouldn’t expect a huge night out of him as long as Tank has something to say about it. Now, to be fair, in his two games without Pettis, Moore didn’t exactly fall into a rut, tossing 6 TDs and 0 INTs with over 500 yards of passing. To also be fair, those two games came against Nevada and New Mexico State who feature two of the worst defenses in the world. It’s going to be interesting to see how Pettis’ injury situation shapes up over the next two weeks because that will go a long way in determining this game.
For the Frogs, we all know exactly what we have. Jeremy Kerley is as explosive a playmaker as there is and is a threat to take the ball to the house just about every time he touches it. Jimmy Young, while having a down year in comparison to the last one, has a sneaky way of finding the seams in the middle of the field and picking up big gains. Antoine Hicks, while he only has 19 catches this year, has turned six of them into TDs and we all know that he’s the best receiver we have. When your best receiver is listed as a third starter, that’s going to create a LOT of favorable matchups. Even when he’s been covered by great backs, he’s found ways to slip past defenders and I have no doubt he can outrun just about any corner in college football.
Continuing, Bart Johnson is as sure handed as they come and Ryan Christian, despite the haircut, showed some serious moves in the latter half of the season, none better than his sideline catch against Utah that went for six. None of their numbers will dazzle you, but Dalton hit eight or nine different receivers in many games this year which didn’t allow defenses to key in on one single guy to shut him down. I don’t think anyone is going to complain about Dalton lacking a true “go to” receiver when you look at the overall offensive numbers.
One of the biggest differences between our two passing games is that Boise frequently involves a running back or a tight end – something that the Frogs almost completely shied away from this season. Boise starting RB Jeremy Avery and TE Kyle Efaw combined for 59 catches this season; Evan Frosch, Joseph Turner, Ed Wesley, Tanner Brock and Matthew Tucker, by comparison, combined for 21. You can look at this one of two ways. First, Boise’s passing game is going to be more difficult to defend because you have to defend the TE, RB and WRs on any given play whereas TCU is going to look out wide more often than not on passing downs. The other way is that TCU isn’t throwing to TEs and RBs because they’re running the ball down your throat to the tune of 256 yards per game. So what would you rather have?
As I mentioned earlier, the main determining factor is Boise’s gameplan, as well as that of deciding this matchup, is going to be the availability of Austin Pettis. Last year, Pettis had four receptions for 64 yards against our defense and overall, Boise had 222 yards, although most of those contributors are now gone. With Pettis, you can’t really make the comparison between us – we don’t have two guys who come close to combining for 133 receptions and 24 TDs and, with the healthy group of running backs we have for the next several years, we may never see anything like that. Could Antoine Hicks put up 75+ receptions and 10+ TDs if made the focal point of our offense? Honestly, I think the guy could win the Heisman if we let him. But, like I said, that’s neither here nor there given our offense, and I wouldn’t expect any big changes for such a big game.
Honestly though, without Pettis, I really would put our passing game up against the Broncos. The most recent bit of information I’ve read is that Pettis is going to be a game time decision but that he really wants to play – natch. However, a broken ankle occurring less than two months before this game really casts some doubts in my mind. I’m no doctor, and I’ve never had a broken ankle, but that just doesn’t sound like something you can recover from 100% in less than two months, even as a high caliber athlete. In that case, the biggest thing we will have to worry about is shutting down Titus Young and I have faith that the front seven isn’t going to let anything develop from the backfield or tight end positions. Besides, after giving Boise the QB edge earlier, do you guys really think I’m going to surrender two picks in the same day? You should know me better than that. This one’s for you, Buff.
Edge – Frogs*
*-assuming Pettis does not play. If he does, I’ll have to do some soul searching.