What Could’ve Been: Boise State’s whirlwind 2022 football season

mountain west championship game bsu vs. fresno state 2022
Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

After a season of drama, change and unexpected success, the Broncos’ poetic 2022 season ended in heart-wrenching fashion.

Gone was the Broncos’ eight-game regular-season winning streak. Gone was their quest to be 2022 Mountain West Champions after a 28-16 loss to Fresno State.

After a whirlwind season of low-lows and high-highs, their high-stakes season and all-in roster changes culminated with a heartbreaking loss on one of the grandest stages. 

“I am very proud,” head coach Andy Avalos said. “We obviously did not accomplish what we set out to do … but we accomplished a lot this year.”

The Downfall

At the start of the 2022 season, there wasn’t anything to suggest this team would end contending for the Mountain West title. 

The Broncos finished third in the Mountain division with a 5-3 record a year earlier. 

One of the most formidable players Boise State has seen, Khalil Shakir, graduated. The offensive juggernaut had an impressive 2021 season with 1,247 total yards.  

In a 2022 preseason poll, Boise State was ranked fourth in the Mountain West conference, behind San Diego State (3), Air Force (2) and Fresno State (1).

After Boise State football assured fans that their team will have a strong performance this season, the team got blown out by Oregon State 34-17.

[Tweet from @MightyBeaver07.]

The team then proceeded to lose to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) three weeks later. 

The Broncos had gone 6-0 against UTEP prior and beat them 54-13 during the 2021 season. The detrimental 10-27 loss was unprecedented. 

This loss led to Boise State’s starting quarterback, Hank Bachmeier, entering the transfer portal four weeks into the 2022 season after being chastised for his performance

Then, Boise State fired offensive coordinator Tim Plough due to poor offensive production early in the season and replaced him with Dirk Koetter.

All the Broncos had was an unknown first-year backup quarterback, a roster filled with a number of experienced veterans and a head coach who was coming into his own.

“We accomplished a whole lot in terms of growing our program and growing our family,” Avalos said. 

The Uprise

The Broncos, led by the true freshman quarterback Taylen Green, were resilient all season. 

Before being named the starting quarterback against San Diego State on Sept. 30, Green was just another backup.

Green had little experience, having 19 pass attempts for 155 yards, no passing touchdowns and one interception on the season. 

From backup to star, the Mountain West conference freshman of the year helped turn the seemingly devastating start into a triumphant regular season finale. 

“How [Green] practices and the type of person he is, not only his skillset and his abilities, and the excitement that he brings, but who he is as a person,” said head coach Andy Avalos when asked about Greens’ attributes. “He has the biggest heart, and that is huge for our team.” 

Avalos, named Mountain West head coach of the year, assisted in the complete season turnaround. 

After the tragic 2-2 start of the season, Boise State strung together an impressive 7-1 run to finish out the regular season. 

Redshirt junior running back George Holani had 1,059 yards on 201 attempts and 10 touchdowns in the regular season. 

Holani accounted for more than 40% of the Broncos offensive yards and nearly doubled his production from last season. 

An impressive season for junior kicker Jonah Dalmas added to the Broncos’ offense as he made 100% of his extra point attempts and was 81.8% from field goal range.

mountain west championship game bsu vs. fresno state 2022
[The Boise State Broncos compete against the Fresno State Bulldogs for the Mountain West Championship title.]
Taya Thornton | The Arbiter

On the defensive side, senior safety JL Skinner led the Broncos in interceptions, with four, and redshirt senior outside linebacker DJ Schramm led in tackles, with 93. 

Senior defensive backs Caleb Biggers and Tyreque Jones both had themselves a great final farewell season. Both players notched one interception each, while Jones had 34 tackles and Biggers had 36. 

Though many team veterans held much of the spotlight, some new names were on display during the 2022 season. 

Freshman running back Ashton Jeanty played a pivotal role for the offense. 

With 643 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards and six touchdowns, the Mountain West all-team honorable mention was a key player for the Broncos.

After seeing no action throughout his career, redshirt sophomore edge rusher Gabe Hunter made a name for himself after racking up two game-sealing interceptions in the 2022 season. 

Finishing with a 9-3 overall record and 8-0 in conference play, the Broncos landed a spot in the Mountain West Championship game with home-field advantage. 

The Heartbreaking End

Turns out, that wasn’t enough. The 2022 Broncos team — a squad that defined itself in a season that was scarred by drama — lost in the end.

“I feel bad for Bronco Nation,” sixth-year wide receiver Davis Koetter said as he struggled to hold back tears after the conference championship loss. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough.”

Though the Broncos were favored by three points in the Mountain West Championship game, it didn’t mean a thing. 

After defeating Fresno State 40-20 earlier in the season, the Broncos were unable to notch another win against the Bulldogs to secure the 2022 Mountain West Championship.

The 28-16 loss ended the Broncos’ seemingly poetic season.

“Our goal is to win a conference championship,” Green said. “You have to look at it from both views. We lost, but the experience and camaraderie that we built in the locker room … we really came together.”

In the team room wall, the saying, “Our goal is to win the MWC championship and a bowl game with class, integrity and academic excellence,” is written in all caps. 

With yearly aspirations of a conference championship, the Broncos’ determination is unwavering. 

“There’s a lot of commitment,” Avalos said. “There’s a lot of passion. There’s guys that care about the things that we are doing. I am so blessed to be a part of that.”

What’s Next

As Boise State football looks to the future, there is much to be hopeful about. 

As a plethora of graduates will leave the Boise State football program, there is continuous hope as new stars emerge. 

The star-studded freshman quarterback, Taylen Green, hopes to come back stronger than before. 

With teammates around him that have nothing but high praise, Bronco Nation is encouraged to feel the same. 

“Don’t let this go to your head,” Davis Koetter joked as he smiled at Green. “This kid right here, is a special kid. Boise State is in a really good spot with him at the helm … Bronco Nation has a lot to look forward to with 10 (Taylen’s number) at quarterback.”

With a history of true freshman quarterbacks, Green follows in the footsteps of some of the Broncos’ greats. 

With ten games under his belt, including the Mountain West championship loss, the true freshman will return next season for redemption. 

“I’ll remember this feeling,” Green said. “This feeling really sucks, but you just have to learn from it.”

After a season full of learning, Green has honed in on his quarterback skills and made adjustments to be as successful as possible.

“Everything I’m doing, I’m learning from it,” Green said. “Trying not to make the same mistakes … trying to learn from each and every play, especially in the championship game.” 

On top of newly budding star, Green, new hopes are emerging with stadium renovations and Power Five hopes, Boise State has plans for more. 

“We are the front porch of this state, and I do see a lot of value in the things that we’re doing and have done over the past year and a half,” said athletic director Jeremiah Dickey. “We want to be elite and we very much have a Power Five mentality.”

Boise State is seeking more competition in a bigger market as rumors and discussions about them entering a Power Five conference — Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12 — continue to emerge.

Of the five conferences, the Broncos have been kicking it into high gear with hopes of joining the Pac-12 or Big 12 for the past few seasons.

Although Boise State Athletics is looking ahead to future opportunities, the Broncos’ football season is not yet over. 

The team will head to Frisco, Texas, to play in the Frisco Bowl against North Texas on Dec. 17.

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