It’s game time in Atlanta: Broncos seek return to glory, Rebels try to maintain success

Ole Miss players and coaches arrive at the team hotel in Atlanta on Wednesday. The Rebels open their season tonight against Boise State. (Joshua T. McCoy/Ole Miss)

Ole Miss players and coaches arrive at the team hotel in Atlanta on Wednesday. The Rebels open their season tonight against Boise State. (Joshua T. McCoy/Ole Miss)

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

ATLANTA – Boise State has reached into its past to try and chart its future.

It’s not as though the incredible run that entrenched Boise in America’s college football conscious is decades past.

Just two years ago the Broncos were 11-2. That was the last in a streak of seven-straight double-figure win seasons. Four times in that stretch Boise finished ranked in the top 10.

That’s the type of program that will try to “upset” No. 18 Ole Miss in tonight’s season opener at the Georgia Dome.

“Everyone is kind of looking at Boise State like, ‘Are they the team they were?’” sophomore linebacker Ben Weaver said. “If we can come out and beat a team like Ole Miss, like we have previous times, I think it could be really good for this program.”

Boise State's Ben Weaver, center, said a win over Ole Miss could herald a return to the Broncos' recent string of success. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Boise State’s Ben Weaver, center, said a win over Ole Miss could herald a return to the Broncos’ recent string of success. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Boise is unranked.

The Broncos were 8-5 last year, losing 38-23 to Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl in their final game.

As Ole Miss did in December of 2011, Boise reached into Jonesboro, Ark., to get its new coach. That wasn’t because Bryan Harsin went 7-5 and shared a Sun Belt Conference championship last year. It’s because of what he did as Boise’s offensive coordinator under Chris Petersen, who’s move to Washington created the vacancy at Boise.

Like the Rebels’ Hugh Freeze, Harsin was Arkansas State head coach for only one year.

“It’s going to be a fun offensive plan. We’re going to have a little bit of everything – a lot of different styles of offense thrown into one. We kind of have some old flavor in it and some stuff from last year we liked that.”

It’s that free style chef approach – a pinch of this and dash of that – that has made the Broncos difficult to prepare for on both sides of the ball, Freeze said.

The co-offensive coordinator at Texas before Arkansas State, Harsin himself is just 37 years old.

His new coordinators are also young and have not been coordinators before.

Figuring Harsin to be extremely involved in the offense there’s more a body of work for the Ole Miss defensive staff to consider.

“The whole defense is playing really good,” sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. “We have a really good team, and we can’t wait (for the opener).”

While the Boise shine has faded a bit these two teams are similar in many respects.

Ole Miss is beginning the season as a ranked team for the first time in five years.

While there’s a lot of preseason love right now the Rebels are trying to at least break even in SEC play for the first time since that same 2009 season.

While Boise players like wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes talk about regaining “swagger,” Ole Miss players respect the Boise brand name and are trying to create swagger of their own.

“We’re all just trying to stay focused,” sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said. “You can see it in everybody’s face, just waiting to show everybody what we’ve been working on. We’re staying humble about it, but we’re really ready to get out there.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com