Broncos dealing with condensed schedule due to early bowl game
BOISE – Boise State’s matchup with Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl is about as good as the Broncos could have hoped for in terms of location, opponent, TV channel and start time.
The date is another story.
The Broncos and Ducks will play in just 11 days on Dec. 16, which is the first day allowable for bowl games. It’s the earliest date in December for a Boise State bowl game in program history, and the 14-day gap is also the shortest the Broncos have ever had between the end of the regular season and a bowl game.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You kind of have that bye week and then you are going to go play.”
There’s both positives and negatives about playing such an early bowl game, depending on who you ask.
In three of the past four years Boise State’s bowl game has been on or after Christmas Eve, which has caused for disruptions to the holiday season. That won’t be the case this year. Players and coaches will get the game finished in time to be home with family and friends for both Christmas and New Year’s, and players will also get a longer break than usual before returning to Boise for the start of the spring semester.
Also a positive is that coaches don’t have to worry about sending players home for a few days for Christmas and having to meet back up to continue practices for a later bowl game. They will have the next two weeks to stay and prepare, and then go their separate ways for a few weeks before meeting back in January.
Final exams are also early next week, but the Broncos have plans to finish them by Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 12) when the team is scheduled to depart for Las Vegas.
“The way it falls, the timing of it is perfect for our football team with finals,” Harsin said. “Keeping guys here to prepare and getting ourselves ready the way we need to, and then giving them a chance for a break on the back end.”
But the short turnaround also means less practices for the Broncos, and less time for coaches to recruit before the new early signing period on Dec. 20.
Teams are normally allowed 15 bowl practices, but Boise State will only have enough time to fit in eight practices prior to playing the Ducks. Losing nearly half the available practice time means redshirts and younger players won’t get the large increase in practice reps that is normally the case during bowl season.
“Those are really for the younger guys who have not played much and you get a chance to spend more time with them and allow your guys who have been playing all season a little bit more time to rest, but that’s not going to be the case,” Harsin said.
“The guys that have been playing, we need to get them healthy and as fresh as we can. For the younger guys, how do we still maximize the practices and get them a couple more reps?”
The missed time recruiting may be the biggest concern for Harsin and his staff. Coaches already missed a week of recruiting while preparing for the Mountain West title game, and now will miss a full week from Dec. 12-16 while the Broncos are in Las Vegas.
Coaches are out recruiting this week, meaning Boise State won’t practice until Thursday. Some of the coaches won’t even be back at practice until the group gets set to depart for Las Vegas.
“You have this Dec. 20 signing period, and we don’t have a whole lot of time,” Harsin said.
Harsin will return in time for Thursday’s practice, but has a crazy schedule that will have him leaving to recruit and returning in time for practices Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some of the other coaches will have similar schedules.
At the same time the coaches will be needing to try and find time to formulate a game plan for Oregon’s high-powered offense, a task that will be tough enough by itself.
Boise State asks fans attending the Las Vegas Bowl to purchase tickets from the school’s required allotment so they aren’t on the hook for any unsold tickets.
MATTISON’S STATUS UNKNOWN: Starting running back Alexander Mattison was seen with a big boot on his left foot and lower leg Sunday when the team was honored at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Portland. Mattison was injured early in the fourth quarter of the Mountain West title game and didn’t put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the field.
Harsin hadn’t been told of any official diagnosis on Mattison as of late Sunday afternoon, but admitted concern as to whether or not his 1,000-yard rusher would be able to return by Dec. 16.
“I know at that position, you have to be almost full speed because you’re playing tailback and the cuts and how you want to run,” Harsin said. “I don’t know. We still have time. I know he’s continued to battle through the year of getting himself (ready to play), whether it’s in the game or leading up to a game. That’s the nature of the position.
“He doesn’t have to do anything now, but by the end of the week we’ll see where he’s at. I’m not worried about him not being ready to play (mentally). If we can get him in that last week where he can have some practice reps, then we’ll find out if he’s ready to go.”
Asked if he knew of any bone breaks or official injury, Harsin said, “I haven’t heard that. I don’t know. If he’s done (for the season), I’ll let you guys know that, but I haven’t gotten that or heard that from anybody.”
Mattison leads the Broncos with 1,074 rushing yards and has 12 rushing touchdowns.
Ryan Wolpin, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter last Saturday against Fresno State, would step in as the starter should Mattison be out. Redshirt freshman Robert Mahone also likely would get an increased workload.