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Boise State Football: Avalos Has Boise State Defense Thinking Big

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Defense has proven to be just as valuable as offense

NCAA Football: Boise State at Oregon State Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Rocky Balboa had quite the test in Rocky III.

He had been the top dog for a number of years, knocking off every opponent in his sight. However, he had met a tough challenge in the form of Clubber Lang, played by 80’s icon and master of the mohawk, Mr. T. Lang was the hungry challenger, telling Balboa that “he doesn’t fight real men”, and spurting out the classic line to Rocky’s wife, “Hey woman.”

Clubber Lang had definitely got in Balboa’s head.

In their first confrontation, Lang’s mixture of nasty attitude, power and skill was too much for the champion to overcome, and he beat Balboa rather convincingly to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. It wasn’t until Rocky hooked up with Apollo Creed and grabbed the “Eye of the Tiger” (which included the very odd scene of Rocky & Apollo running and jumping on the beach in victory) that Balboa realized he needed to recapture the hunger of his early days fighting in the clubs of Philadelphia.

Andy Avalos is Boise State’s Apollo Creed.

Before the season began, Defensive Coordinator Marcel Yates decided to take his talents to the Pac-12 and join Rich Rodriguez’s staff at the University of Arizona. Combine that with the losses of Kamalei Correa, Darian Thompson and Dontae Deayon to the NFL, and there were many people wondering how this team would respond with so much turnover.

They have responded as well as any team could have.

Utah State v Boise State
Defensive Tackle David Moa has had some big moments this year for a resurgent Boise State defense.
Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Avalos was promoted to DC, while former NFL cornerback Ashley Ambrose was brought in from Texas State to be the team’s new corners coach, and former Bronco Gabe Franklin was hired to be in charge of the team’s safeties. Some fans thought that this new defensive staff might be a work in progress.

It hasn’t.

Right now, the team is ranked 21st in the nation, giving up only 18.6 points per game. One statement game took place last night against New Mexico, who beat the Broncos on the famous Blue Turf last year, 31-24. It was a definite upset that had many in Bronco Nation scratching their heads, going “why did that happen?”

So, of course it’s no wonder so many eyes were tuned into this game, to see if the Broncos could stop the Lobos’ lethal triple option running attack that sometimes can get them over 400 rushing yards a game. If there were two games that ached Bronco fans’ hearts last year, it was New Mexico and Air Force.

Did New Mexico get their share of rushing yards? Absolutely. 382 to be exact. But most of those yards were in the second half, and their passing game was non-existent. What I noticed about the Broncos defense last night was when they tackled New Mexico, they tackled with anger, not forgetting about what happened last year at Albertson’s Stadium. They wanted to send a message to Bob Davie and company, saying, “Yeah, good effort last year. You got us. But we are still Boise State. We are still a darn good football team.”

NCAA Football: Boise State at New Mexico
Despite 382 rushing yards, New Mexico’s offense had a tough time with a rock solid Boise State defense.
Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos are not only getting major production from guys like Tanner Vallejo, Chanceller James and Sam McCaskill, but they are having other guys step up like Darren Lee, David Moa, Jabril Frazier and Cameron Hartsfield. When it comes to tackles, this 2016 Broncos team share the load, rather than let one individual take all the glory.

Take David Moa, for example. He’s been a great influence on both the linebackers and defensive lineman, and has made an impact in a number of games. So far this year, he has 14 total tackles to go along with 5.5 sacks. He’s a gentle giant off the field, but when it comes to game time, he could rip off an opposing quarterback’s head.

Sam McCaskill has been a terror for many Bronco opponents this year. Through five games, the senior defensive end has 23 total tackles, and 5 sacks. He, along with Tanner Vallejo, have been two reasons why Boise State has a great defense thus far in 2016.

Wyoming v Boise State
Sam McCaskill has been one of the reasons why Boise State is 5-0 this year.
Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Avalos knows what it means to be a Bronco. During his days with Boise State in the Dan Hawkins era, he was one of the most feared linebackers in the WAC. Opposing offenses knew that they wouldn’t have much luck going up against him, because they knew they were going to get tackled. Facing Andy Avalos was like facing a hurricane. You can try and protect your house and valuables against that hurricane, but good luck with that.

In his final two years at Boise State, Avalos earned All-WAC for his role as an outside linebacker. Sure, Boise State’s offense got most of the glory, but it was guys like Avalos, Korey Hall and Gerald Alexander that made teams like Fresno State, Tulsa, Nevada and Hawaii fearful of Boise State’s underrated defense.

Former Boise State running back and Avalos teammate Ian Johnson knows this firsthand.

“When I played with Andy, he exemplified what it meant to be a Bronco,” Johnson said. “Boise State always preaches that blue-collar mentality among their players. They always had a certain kind of player they were looking for. Andy always gave his all, and had an intensity only matched by a few players. If there was anyone in practice I dreaded going up against, it was Andy and Korey Hall.”

So now, with Avalos at the helm of this defensive unit, mixed in with the contributions of defensive live coach Steve Caldwell, Ambrose and Franklin, it’s no wonder that Boise State is once again a force to be reckoned with in college football. If this team can win out, and beat BYU and Air Force, there’s a great chance they will be in a New Year’s 6 bowl game.

Former Boise State defensive lineman and Avalos teammate Alex Guerrero knows that his fellow Bronco always had the smarts to be a coach.

“If anyone can stop the triple option, it’s him (Avalos). He’s got a great football IQ. Credit to Coach Harsin for bringing him on as DC.”

Boise State just might have their most complete team they’ve had since the Chris Petersen era. And Andy Avalos deserves some of the credit.

After all, he knows what it means to bleed blue and orange.