If you want to tell the story of Boise State football in the 21st century a great place to start is nearly 600 miles away in the small town of Davis, California. The Northern California town is home to UC Davis, and like Boise State, UC Davis is an unlikely breeding ground for football excellence.
The University groomed two Boise State luminaries in Dan Hawkins and Chris Petersen, and under new Boise State head coach Andy Avalos, the Broncos are again tapping UC Davis to reinvigorate the Boise State offense.
On Sunday evening Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel announced that Boise State is hiring UC Davis associate head coach Tim Plough to head the Broncos offense. Plough has spent the last four seasons captaining the offense at UC Davis. The recent success of the program, particularly on offense, has earned the team the moniker of Shredville from students, fans and the Davis community.
Plough, a former UC Davis quarterback, began his coaching career immediately after his playing days ended. He coached at UC Davis as a graduate assistant in 2008 and was promoted to quarterback coach and passing game coordinator before leaving home to become the wide receiver coach at Northern Arizona.
As has been the case throughout his coaching career, Plough’s tenure at Northern Arizona was successful. Leaving the comforts of home at UC Davis, Plough created an offense based on the tried and true Aggies system mixed with his own style and flair. The result was a playbook unlike any in the country. He would prove that it was devastatingly effective, too.
After two years at Northern Arizona, Plough was promoted to offensive coordinator and immediately propelled the Lumberjacks to the number one offense in the country. The following year, even after his starting quarterback went down with injuries, the results were more of the same.
His pass heavy system, with an emphasis on applying pressure vertically on a defense, was humming along. Northern Arizona’s offense under Tim Plough was showing up in the record books at the school in both the passing and running game.
After his second season as offensive coordinator with the Lumberjacks, Plough received interest from several colleges looking to tap into his offensive mind. Plough decided to go home.
His decision wasn’t about money or prestige, he chose to return to UC Davis over more lucrative offers, it was about relationships. In particular, his relationship with two UC Davis legends cemented his decision to take the offensive coordinator position at his alma mater.
The first relationship that brought him home was with Dan Hawkins. Hawkins, after a head coaching career which includes stops at Boise State, Colorado, and USA Football had returned home himself, taking the head coaching position at UC Davis. His first call when putting his staff together was to Tim Plough. Plough’s admiration for Hawkins might have been enough to lure him back to UC Davis by itself, but if not, his relationship with former-UC Davis head coach Jim Sochor easily sealed the deal.
Jim Sochor is the godfather of UC Davis football. He was the head coach of the Aggies from 1970 to 1988 and remarkably won his conference in each season. He went 156-41-5 and a mind-blowing 92-5 in conference play. Along the way he coached and mentored thousands of student athletes including Boise State stalwarts Chris Petersen and Dan Hawkins. He also, rather uniquely, mentored incoming Bronco offensive coordinator Tim Plough.
Although he was an immediate success as a football coach, Plough’s transition from player to coach was a rough one for him personally. His playing days were cut short due to injury, and in interviews Plough has discussed that those injuries led to a dependency on prescription pain medication.
Even while proving himself to the football coaching world, Plough describes himself as depressed, overweight, and out of shape. Jim Sochor took notice and reached out to the young and struggling coach.
This began a mentorship and friendship that would last for the rest of Sochor’s life. The two developed a routine. Every Monday at 6am they would meet at a local coffeehouse called Pete’s Coffee. They didn’t talk much football, instead focusing on life and developing a teaching mentality. This continued every Monday for four years until Plough left Davis for Northern Arizona.
Plough credits Sochor with changing his life. Two of the biggest lessons that Plough took away from those meetings became a philosophy in his coaching career. First, detaching yourself from results. Don’t define yourself with the scoreboard, define yourself with how you perform. Second, find joy. Sochor would repeatedly ask Plough if he found his joy, if he was joyful for his opportunities every day. It was the answer to that question that led Plough back to UC Davis.
Sochor was sick and at the end of his life when Plough was at Northern Arizona. One day Plough received a letter from his friend and mentor. The letter expressed how proud Sochor was of Plough and asked the all-important question: have you found joy. Sochor went on to say that if ever given the opportunity to return to UC Davis, he believes Plough will find his joy with his alma mater. A week later Sochor passed away.. A month after that, Plough was offered the offensive coordinator position at Davis.
There is no question that UC Davis is a special place to Plough. He wasn’t looking to leave the Aggies anytime soon. His relationship with his late mentor provides a spiritual attachment to the school, and his working relationship with Dan Hawkins and UC Davis AD Kevin Blue is a special one.
When he returned to UC Davis, he told local publication Davis Enterprise, “Choosing to be here is more about us choosing to stay home. For us to leave home one day is going to have to be me, Kevin and Hawkins agreeing that it’s a good move down the road.”
On Sunday, Plough did leave home for the Boise State Broncos. It’s a good bet that it will be a good move down the road.
What to Expect from Tim Plough and the Offense?
Tim Plough describes himself in interviews as someone who will never get outworked. He’s early to rise, and soaks up film of his team, his opponents, and offenses around college football and the NFL. His coaching philosophy preaches family, film study, and relationships with coaches and players with an emphasis on mental health. To this day he lives by the words of Sochor, detach from the results and find your joy.
On the field, Plough’s offenses have always been explosive. The offense is described as a fast-paced west coast style attack. Plough has been the primary game-planner and play-caller in five separate seasons. His teams have been among the leaders in the FCS in passing in all five seasons and averaged 35 points per game (this number would be higher if it only included games against fellow FCS teams).
Of note for Boise State fans, Plough’s offense does not allow sacks. In his three years at UC Davis, their quarterbacks dropped back to pass over 1,500 times and were sacked just 48 times. The rate was one sack for every 33 passes. For reference, Bronco quarterbacks were sacked once every 15 pass attempts in 2020.
According to Plough, the thing that makes his offense go is quarterback play. Elite quarterback play is non-negotiable to the 35-year-old offensive coordinator. The quarterback doesn’t just play in the offense, he must participate in the offense. He must make blocking adjustments, get the team into the correct play based on the pre-snap read, and make post-snap reads in the passing and RPO game.
Plough’s quarterbacks must be leaders on and off the field. His ideal quarterback must be, as he describes it, the thermostat not the thermometer. He should be the one who sets the temperature in the room not the one reacting to it. He also emphasizes toughness and displaying that toughness to teammates. Lastly, his quarterbacks must be responsible. Plough describes a great quarterback as one who understands their responsibility and lives it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
Ultimately, Plough’s success speaks for itself. Wherever he has coached, the offense has racked up points and yards. Now he is bringing his homecooked offensive philosophy to the FBS level. He is bringing Shredville to the Blue Turf.