Bryan Harsin: Head Football Coach Boise State University, Flipping The Script


That’s how many loses Boise State had as an FBS school against Mountain Division teams prior to the Broncos dropping five out of nine contests entering this season.


That’s how many days the Baylor Bears had gone without a victory before taking a 31-6 lead into garbage time of their Cactus Bowl victory over the Broncos last year.

Point four percent.

That’s the likelihood ESPN’s win-probably model gave Boise State of losing it’s contest in Pullman last weekend with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Twenty-two percent.

That’s how much of Albertsons Stadium was empty on Thursday night. Fair or not, this figure is a direct result of the first three.

A lot of fans don’t want to admit it but Bryan Harsin and Boise State’s football program are in a very vulnerable spot right now. How they respond to adversity will determine how relevant they are in the future, if at all.

I’ve outspokenly supported Bryan Harsin in the past.

I’ve also been one of his biggest critics.

Last summer I tweeted that if Harsin and his team lost to Air Force three years in a row and failed to win the Mountain Division spoiled Boise State fans would be calling for the Boise-native’s job. Harsin wasn’t tagged in the tweet.

The tweet was accurate and I have no problem with those fans voicing their frustrations and opinions. I don’t however think Harsin needs to be fired. I think he needs to start figuring some things out quickly, namely how to not care about what others think of him or even better how to turn criticism into fuel that feeds his desire to improve and own the Mountain West like he should.

Last summer Harsin blocked me on Twitter. For defending him. Seriously.

No, really.

Harsin is young by couching standards at 40 years old. He’s not used to having the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of fans placed squarly on his shoulders. He hasn’t even been a head coach for five years. At the same time it is weird that he goes searching for people to feel slandered by, blocking them to keep the negativity out of his mind even if some of those people weren’t actually slandering him.

Here’s something that would serve Harsin well and it’s something I’m learning myself at 26 years old:

It’s OK to be vulnerable in the unknown. You don’t need to freak out and cling to the familiar, this won’t serve you anyhow.

When you’re on the road and blowing out a team you’re not supposed to beat with eight minutes left in the game: it’s OK to take a breath and relax.

It’s OK to be sure that you were born to lead if you consistently find others looking to follow you.

It’s OK to fail too, particularly in leadership. People are more likely to flock to humility in a leader than a leader who can’t admit when they are wrong and can’t learn from their mistakes.

Bryan Harsin learned from his mistakes on Thursday night.

In 2014 Harsin and Boise State out-gained Air Force by 132 yards but turned the ball over seven times and lost to the Falcon’s triple option 28-14.

Later that season they trailed New Mexico and their triple option for fifty-three minutes before storming back with twenty-two unanswered points to beat a 3-5 Lobo-squad in a shootout. They gave up 627 total yards in the contest.

The following season the Broncos completely dominated the stat sheet but never led in a 31-24 defeat to New Mexico that snapped an 18-game home winning streak.

Less than a week later Boise State was eliminated from Mountain Division contention when they gave up thirty-one unanswered points to Air Force after leading 13-3 entering the second quarter. This was also the program’s first loss in blue uniforms in 14 years.

Last season Bronco Nation may have thought Harsin had finally come into his own when the 19th-ranked Broncos entered their match-up with New Mexico at 5-0. After ten minutes of game action Harsin and his “Blue Man Group” were knotted at seven with the Lobos before running off forty-two unanswered points in less than two quarters of game-time and winning 49-21. When the Broncos scored their 49th point the Lobos had only mustered 215 total yards and seven points.

But a month and a half later Harsin lost for the third time in as many tries to the Falcons. Having entered the game again ranked 19th his team again out-gained the Falcons but only lead for less than five minutes in the first quarter and eliminated themselves from Mountain Division contention against Air Force for the second time in as many seasons.

Thursday night was different. Harsin flipped the script.

The Lobos only managed seven points before adding a garbage-time touchdown with less than two minutes remaining and Boise State lead for all but 9:39 of game action.

Prior to the final Lobo scoring drive Harsin’s defense held New Mexico to just 202 yards of total offense.

They knocked Lobo Senior starting quarterback Lamar Jordan out of the game just before halftime after he could only muster a 2.2 yards per carry average on nine attempts and one pass completion for 12 yards.

They never trailed against a triple option attack they would double up on the final scoreboard.

There was something different about Thursday night.

With 12:56 remaining in the game New Mexico was set to punt to Boise State with the Broncos leading 14-7.

Avery Williams returned the punt 29-yards to the New Mexico 17.

Three plays later Tight End Jake Roh took a hand off for a six yard score to give the Broncos a 21-7 edge.

On the next play from scrimmage Leighton Vander Esch intercepted New Mexico.

The Broncos would go backwards 14 yards on the next three plays but would force a New Mexico punt on their next possession.

Possessing the ball at their own 42, Bryan Harsin and his football team did something winning football teams do. They ran the ball seven straight times for 43 yards down to the New Mexico 15 and ate over four minutes off the game clock.

On a 2nd & 7 with just over three minutes remaining Boise State’s backup quarterback to begin the season found a tight end in the end zone for the second time on the night. It was 28-7 and it was vintage Boise State.

The Broncos quest for a Mountain West crown is alive and well and their Head Coach is doing what he was born to do. Lead.

Follow me on Twitter @RobertJPfeifer.