The 2018 football season ended in an unexpected fashion for Boise State, as the First Responders Bowl was canceled due to a terrible storm that went through Dallas. It seemed like a fitting end to a season filled with question marks. The Broncos entered the 2018 season with lofty expectations, as they were considered by many experts to be the top team in the Group of Five. However, the Broncos did finish the season with double digit wins and look to return a formidable defensive unit in 2019. Let’s take a look at each unit for the Broncos and how they graded out at the end of the season.
The offense was boom or bust the majority of the season. They started out looking like an air raid team that struggled to run the ball, and finished the season looking like a run first team. Brett Rypien looked like a legitimate, Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing for nearly 1400 yards in his first four contests. It all came crashing down in game five when the Broncos had a head scratching performance in an afternoon contest against San Diego State. Rypien threw for only 170 yards and two interceptions. Five of Rypien’s seven interceptions came in a two game span against the Aztecs and Wolf Pack. With the terrible offensive line play at the beginning of the season, one has to wonder if that impacted his performance. After the Nevada game, Rypien rebounded well and had one of the best seasons in school history with 3705 yards and 30 touchdown passes.
The running game was similar to 2017. It was tough sledding the first half of the season, but it was the team’s strength by the end of the year. Junior running back, Alexander Mattison, was a workhorse the last four games of the year and finished with an impressive stat line of 1415 yards on 302 carries and 17 touchdowns. Mattison has now officially announced his decision and is headed to the NFL.
Wide receiver was the biggest question mark for the offense entering the season. The Broncos lost their most explosive play maker in Cedrick Wilson to the NFL and had no clear cut number one receiver. This unit turned out to be a major surprise. While there was no obvious number one guy, they put up some solid numbers. However, they were plagued by injuries, including projected number one receiver, Octavius Evans, and late season injuries to their most dynamic receivers, Khalil Shakir and Johm Hightower.
The offensive line was the hardest unit to understand on this team. They were considered a strength headed into the season, but they struggled mightily early on. The coaches were forced to make changes on the offensive line. After replacing Andres Preciado with John Ojukwu at right tackle, the Broncos started playing much better. The offensive line will return every starter in 2019. Can they avoid another slow start?
Final Grade: B
Offensive MVP: Alexander Mattison
Not a single team in the country was decimated by injuries on defense like the Broncos were. Deandre Pierce, David Moa, and Riley Whimpey all suffered season ending injuries, while other important defensive players like Chase Hatada, Sontane Lui, Kekoa Nawahine, Zeke Noa, Tyreque Jones, and Evan Tyler all missed games with injuries. Considering the circumstances, this unit had a solid year.
The strongest unit for the Broncos was easily the defensive line. This group overcame significant injuries to put up great numbers. Jabril Frazier played like a legit NFL prospect, and Curtis Weaver followed a great freshman season with an equally impressive sophomore campaign. True freshman Scale Igheion showed a ton of promise on the inside and will be a force to reckon with in the future. There are few question marks for this unit entering the 2019 campaign.
The secondary encountered plenty of problems this season. The loss of Deandre Pierce was noticeable, and Kekoa Nawahine did not have the strong, junior season that many expected. Tyler Horton had a great senior season and will be missed in 2019. Keep an eye on Chris Mitchell; he red-shirted for the Broncos this year and seems poised to make an impact next season.
Linebacker was also an interesting position for the Broncos; there were plenty of question marks entering the season after Leighton Vander Esch declared early for the draft. I’m not sure if anyone truly understood how good LVE was until the 2018 team took the field. Riley Whimpey had big shoes to fill and struggled early in the season, but he was showing improvement until he suffered a season-ending injury. Tyson Maeva had a solid season, but his future is uncertain after being sent home from the bowl game. Zeke Noa finished the season with some great performances and looks like a future stud at that position.
Final Grade: B
Defensive MVP: Curtis Weaver
Where do I begin? Kickoff and punt coverage units were solid, but outside of that, there aren’t many positive to take away. The kicking game was miserable from the beginning of the year. Haden Hoggarth completed only 12 of 20 field goal attempts and missed some crucial kicks, none more important than the blocked PAT that cost the Broncos the Mountain West Championship. With Hoggarth graduating, the Broncos will still have plenty of questions to answer in this category.
As bad as the kicking game was, the punting unit was not much better. This unit may have cost the Broncos a chance at a major victory over Oklahoma State; two blocked punts resulted in 14 points for the Cowboys. Quinn Skillin is also a senior, and it appears as if the Broncos are looking to recruit a kicker that can compete right away.
Final Grade: F
Special Teams MVP: Avery Williams
Stay tuned, I will be looking ahead to the 2019 season and analyzing the legacy of Bronco quarterback, Brett Rypien. I will also have a piece that breaks down the 2019 quarterback competition.