The beginning of Week 5 looked like the end for head coach Andy Avalos at Boise State. In his first season with the Broncos, Avalos had won 7 games, which constitutes success at nearly every mid-major not named Boise State. Four games into year 2, he had gone 2-2, fired his offensive coordinator, and lost his three-year starting quarterback to the transfer portal.
Game 5 did not look any better. Through 30 minutes the Broncos had scored 0 points under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and gone through two quarterbacks. Down 13-0 to San Diego State, Avalos stood on rocky ground.
But then Boise State opened the second half with this play:
With one quarterback keeper, the entire offense changed. In 3+ years as Boise State’s quarterback, Hank Bachmeier had kept the read option only 18 times. He posed no threat running the football, and defenses gameplanned accordingly. But with Taylen Green now under center, the Broncos now had an effective runner at quarterback.
Following the success of this run, Koetter called the read option again, which Green pulled once more as he ran 17 yards for a touchdown. He would keep the option four more times this game for 61 additional yards, including this 39-yard scamper to put the Broncos up by two scores.
With the defense unable to focus on the base run and ill-prepared to defend the option, the rest of the running game flourished as well. The Broncos rushed for 276 yards on 30 carries in the second half, scoring 35 unanswered points en route to defeating the Aztecs.
While a simple offensive adjustment would not normally result in such a momentum shift, adding the quarterback keeper put the Aztec defense on skates, unsure of who had the ball and where. two runs in the middle of the 3rd quarter illustrate the conundrum San Diego State now faced.
On the first play, the defense swarmed to the running back, leading to an easy pull by Green for a gain of 12. The next play, the defense, afraid of the quarterback pulling the ball again, flew to Green, leaving six blockers for five defenders in the box. Green gave the ball to Ashton Jeanty, who found the open hole on the stretch and rushed for 24.
This massive rushing performance marked only the beginning. Since running over the Aztecs, Boise State has won 7 of 8 and will now host the Mountain West Championship game. With Green at the helm, the Broncos have averaged over 12 more points per game, 2 more yards per play, and jumped 103 spots in their Total Points Per Play ranking. With one play, as well as some simple adjustments and scheming around it, Green and Koetter have turned around not only this season, but Avalos’ tenure as well.
Before its offensive renaissance, Boise State passed slightly more than it ran, based its run game off of outside zone, and ran a variety of drop back passes designed to attack all parts of the field. With this philosophy the offense sputtered, ranking 114th in Total Points Per Play.
But with a new quarterback, Koetter adjusted the main scheme to take advantage of Green’s abilities. Boise State operates out of the gun 24% more than before, and runs the read option more than twice as often. With the read option, the Broncos normally run duo and inside zone out of the pistol and outside zone out of their regular shotgun sets. Boise State does also run outside zone out of the pistol, but with Green carrying out the bootleg he remains a threat to run.
With the passing game, Koetter has settled into a few concepts that Green throws well. With the running game’s increased efficacy, the play action game has drastically improved in turn. The Broncos gain .21 pass points per throw when dropping back from play action, up from -.35 before Green became the starter. Off of play action, the post and dig have done the most damage, including this strike to open the game against Nevada:
Green also excels when rolling out, as he throws flat and out routes quite well. Koetter mainly calls Cross and Flood with the bootleg, but no matter the concept the Broncos add .54 total points when Green rolls out without even faking the run, up from -.08 in their first four weeks of the season.
With the increase in rushing, play action, and rolling out comes a decrease in the dropback game the Broncos used a lot their first four games. Nevertheless, even Boise State’s Total Points when dropping back has gone up since the change in philosophy, with particular efficiency throwing the curl, fly, post, and out. Green reads defenses fairly well, but Koetter has also helped by simplifying some of the reads.
Against BYU, Koetter called two separate concepts, one to each side of the field. With two high safeties, Green would have looked to the wide side of the field, where either one safety covered two receivers or the running back ran free in the flat. Instead, Green saw one, so he threw the short side 5-step slant in between the curl and flat defenders for a gain of 24.
Green’s ability to run has fundamentally changed the Boise State offense. Working with the talent at hand, Koetter has adjusted the offense to emphasize those skills while calling constraints and counters to continually keep defenses on their heels. With this mixture of talent and scheme, Avalos and the Broncos have seen their prospects go from poor to promising as they shoot for their 10th win in the Mountain West Championship game.