Posted: Thursday December 7, 2006 5:25PM; Updated: Thursday December 7, 2006 7:56PM
It's hard to accuse Petersen of poor coaching. The offensive coordinator for the Broncos from 2001 to '05, he choreographed an attack that averaged 41.6 points per game, the most in the country over that span. He took over the team when former coach Dan Hawkins left for Colorado after last season. "I was happy they kept coach Petersen," Zabransky said. "I knew I didn't want to lose him -- a lot of us felt that way."
Petersen kept three assistants from last year's coaching staff. They have enabled the offense to continue running smoothly. There has also been an infusion of sage newcomers, including offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who spent the previous five season working in the same capacity for the Detroit Lions.
If there's a key to the Broncos' explosiveness, it is the success of their running game. The consistent ground game not only helps Boise State control the ball, but also opens up the play-action passing game, as Bulldogs coach Mark Richt told me when I was out in Georgia in 2005.
Success with play-action depends on a reliable quarterback, and Zabransky has been just that, emerging as a steady leader this season. He attributes a measure of success to the adversity he went through against Georgia. Entering that contest, he had never lost a regular-season game as a starter. "I went 11-0 to start my career," he said. "Everybody was telling me I was great, that I was a Heisman candidate. I thought that's what college football was."
He regressed after the Georgia game. His interception total jumped from 12 in 2004 to 16 in '05, and his completion percentage fell from 63.0 to 59.1. This year, he's thrown 20 touchdowns and just seven picks, and his completion percentage is a healthy 66.4. "To his credit, he's learned from it," Petersen said. "Punting is okay. Every pass doesn't have to be complete."
Petersen is philosophical about that day in Athens. "As coaches, we see it as our job to keep things in perspective," he said. "There was so much hype going into that Georgia game-you can't look at things like that. A lot of guys on this team played in that game. I think our team is ready. I think our quarterback is ready. I definitely think this game is going to be different."
Boise State, long on the outside of the BCS, finally has its chance. I'm betting the Broncos don't let this opportunity get away from them. The Sooners better be ready.