Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin is hoping for a large fan turnout Saturday night in Boise State's first hosting of the Mountain West Championship. In his weekly press conference Monday afternoon he acknowledged the fact that it might be tough to do considering that the Broncos have not had a sell out crowd this season. Compounding the situation is that the tickets to the championship game didn’t go on sale until late Saturday night following Utah State game.
Harsin is aware that Boise State could end up with its smallest crowd of the season. The small turnaround time to sell tickets and the fact everyone, including all the season ticket holders need to purchase tickets for the game. If past championship games are any indication of expectations, last year the Fresno State-Utah State game attracted just 31,362 fans and was the smallest crowd of the season to show up in Bulldog Stadium. That was about 10,000 fewer fans than showed up at Fresno State's three sold out games. Boise State will not be releasing an update on the number of tickets sold or the number still available for purchase until Tuesday night after the deadline for season ticket holders to repurchase their seats has passed.
"I’m hoping it’s packed, I really am," Harsin told the press corps. "Selling it from scratch and all that, I know it’s difficult, but at the same time my challenge would be that this is the first time we’ve ever been in this game. We’re doing something in Albertsons Stadium that’s never been done before, and I hope people want to be part of that and help us come out of there with a win."
Many people expect Saturday’s championship game to be a rehash of the meeting between the two team in October. Harsin was quick to point out that you can read too much into that previous meeting between the Broncos and Bulldogs this season. Boise State won that contest 37-27 also in Boise. He noted that Frenso State is not the same team he faced in week 8 and that they are a much improved program and like Boise State has had its ups and downs.
"You can take those records and throw them out," Harsin noted. Discussing the improved play from Fresno State, Harsin mentioned quarterback Brian Burrell and his recent strong showings. He also expected the Fresno State defense to have a polished up 3-4 scheme ready for the Bosie State offense.
"You can take that game and watch it, but the teams are both different from where we were," Harsin cautioned. Since the October loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs have won three straight games to reach the playoff spot in the championship game. That return to the championship game is the third time in as many years and they have won it twice, a stat not lost to Harsin. But Harsin is also quick to counter that Boise State is also a different team. Now with a recod of 10-2 after running off seven straight wins since the October game, they are also in contention for a whole new fight for the top. "You go back and look at our team five or six weeks ago," Harsin said , "we're a different football team. Guys are just executing and playing at a better level."
Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi was named the Mountain West offensive player of the week for the third time this season. Ajayi is also in the running to win the offensive player of the year. That results of that award will be announced today.
Safety Chanceller James and tight end Connor Peters will both miss Saturday’s game due to injuries. While James is gone for the year, Harsin says he hopes Peters can return to the lineup in time for a bowl game. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford was not selected as a finalist for the Broyles Award on Monday. Sanford was one of 40 nominees. The award is given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.
What is not on the line in Saturday‘s championship game: The Milk Can trophy. That subject came up and Harsin dispensed with the idea that it would be in the mix Saturday. The Milk Can has been circulating between Fresno State and Boise since 2005 and the trophy presented to the winner of the regular season rivalry match of the two schools. The Broncos just got that trophy back in October with the 37-27 win over the Bulldogs after Fresno State took it home in the 2013 matchup.
"No, that’s out of the picture," Harsin reaffirmed the media when questioned about it Monday. "That one we’re going to keep. We earned that one in the game. I’m sure that will get brought up. I know the dairymen on both sides are going be really excited about this game again, but no, we’re not talking about the Milk Can. We’re talking about the championship."
Check out the full interview here.