Throughout the 2009 Frog football season, anyone asking wide receiver Jeremy Kerley about one of his many highlight reel plays would receive a confident answer in a calm, quiet voice about how he enjoyed changing the landscape of a game. The same calm, quiet voice struggled through relaying the emotion felt by the Frogs after their only loss of the season in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl 17-10 at the hands of the Boise State Broncos.
“Myself, I felt like I had a lot of mistakes,” Kerley said. “I feel like I hurt the team a lot instead of bringing them up. You got to respect a team like Boise, you can’t make many mistakes. This hurts.”
Despite his regrets, Kerley actually led the Frogs in receiving, tallying 65 yards on six receptions. The Broncos forced Frog quarterback Andy Dalton into throwing three interceptions, including the game clincher with 48 seconds remaining, after TCU marched 70 yards in 58 seconds. The pass deflected off a helmet, into the air and down into the arms of Bronco safety Winston Venable. A kneel by Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore sealed the second Boise State Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory.
“Well, first of all, I think you have to give Boise all the credit,” Frog head coach Gary Patterson said. “They made plays we didn’t, the difference in the ball game.”
In keeping with Fiesta Bowl tradition, the Broncos made one signature play with a fake punt on fourth and nine on their own 33 yard line to take the game’s momentum and didn’t hand it back. Punter Kyle Brotzman completed a 29-yard pass to Kyle Efaw out of punt formation to extend a Bronco drive that would lead to the game winning touchdown, a 2-yard rush by Bronco halfback Doug Martin.
“So they outcoached us on that play,” Patterson said. “It was a good call. They made an adjustment. We had a guy on him, but they fanned and he came inside. We had worked on the play. They had actually called it off once in the first half.”
Boise opened up the scoring in the first on a 51-yard interception return by cornerback Brandyn Thompson. Dalton credited a great play by Thompson along with some miscommunication.
“They were just in man coverage,” Dalton said. “We had a slant called. The receiver kind of slowed down an, you know, gave him a chance to undercut it. I mean, it was a little miscommunication on our part, but the guy made a great play.”
Boise continued to shut down the Frog offense for the majority of the first, allowing them 132 yards and no trips into the red-zone in the first half. In the waning minutes of the second quarter, Boise State would tack on a 40-yard field goal by Brotzman and the Frogs would score their first points on a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Curtis Clay. The Frogs would tie the score in the third on a 29 -yard field goal from kicker Ross Evans.
Dalton went 25 for 44 with three picks and one touchdown pass. He was also sacked twice; one hard hit forced him out of the game for a play. Changes in the Broncos defense caused confusion amongst the Frog offense, Dalton said.
“Early on in the game they were doing stuff we hadn’t seen,” Dalton said. “You know, all the looks in practice we were getting, that’s not what we saw out there. You know, I think early on we didn’t really know what exactly they were doing out there.”
To add to this early confusion, the coach’s communication with the coach’s booth went out in the first half, forcing the offensive coordinator to race down to the field to call offensive plays, Patterson said.
Nerves played a role in the Frog’s lack of offense, Dalton said.
“I think nerves had something to do with it, but you know, they were doing some different things, especially with the phones going out, the communication and everything coming in,” Dalton said. “I think that really had something to do with it.”
With a loss in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, the opportunity for prime BCS position at the start of the next season might be farther on the horizon than the Frogs would have liked, but Patterson was confident this would not hinder the Frogs in their future pursuits.
“Nobody would even have thought we should be sitting in this room,” Patterson said. “We proved ourselves. We played 11 bowl games in 12 years. We finally got to a BCS game. And there are a lot of teams that lose BCS games that have won National Championships. And so for us, you know, we’re not going to take any backseat (now). We are going to keep trying to move forward and do the things we need to do.”