Thompson leads way for Broncos' D
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Boise State cornerback Brandyn Thompson said he still thinks about the dropped interception against TCU in last season's Poinsettia Bowl that helped the Horned Frogs to their win.
It's a thought Thompson carried with him into Monday's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against the Horned Frogs, and it's what he was thinking about when he stepped in front of an Andy Dalton pass and took it 51 yards to the end zone for the first score of the game.
"Last year's dropped pick kind of sits with you and stays with you, and I'm constantly reminded about it," Thompson said. "It was great to get a chance to kind of get the same type of play. It was a slant route, and luckily this time I was on top of it, I was there. As I was running, I was just thinking, 'Get to the end zone and don't do anything stupid.'"
The interception was the first of two for Thompson, who also had seven tackles and tipped the final pass of the game, which was intercepted by safety Winston Venable to seal the 17-10 win over TCU and the Broncos' first perfect season since 2006.
Thompson was named the Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP for his efforts.
His first interception was the catalyst for the Broncos' best defensive effort of the season. They limited TCU to 308 yards of total offense, the Horned Frogs' lowest output since totaling 291 against New Mexico in last season's opener, and forced Dalton into three interceptions, the most he's had in a game since throwing four against Utah in 2007.
The biggest problem for TCU was Boise State's multiple defensive looks that continually changed even while Dalton was calling the play. At times, the Broncos had three down linemen and six defensive backs. Sometimes, when Dalton would get into his cadence, the looks would shift.
"They were really on their game and they were doing stuff we hadn't seen," Dalton said. "All the looks that we saw in practice, that's not what we saw out there. You know, they had a good game plan coming in. It is hard to win the game when you lose the turnover battle."
TCU coach Gary Patterson, who said earlier in the week that he'd watched five years' worth of film on the Broncos, said he'd seen some of what they did, but not the way they did it against the Horned Frogs.
"They moved their defensive linemen around," Patterson said. "Key to it is, good programs, you get a month to prepare; you know that they are going to come in and do something that you're not ready for. I mean, that's what good programs do."
Boise State coach Chris Petersen said the defensive fronts were something Boise State had tinkered with all year, but the different blitzes and the different looks were added in at the beginning of the month leading up to the bowl game. Petersen even played All-American cornerback Kyle Wilson at safety to confuse the TCU defense even more.
Patterson lamented the fact that moving Wilson from cornerback took away what he thought was a favorable matchup for his team.
It also didn't help that for nine minutes in the first quarter, both TCU and Boise State were without their headset communication to the coordinators upstairs. TCU's offensive coordinator had to call the first quarter of the game from the ground, where he didn't have a good vantage point, and with all of Boise State's switching, the Horned Frogs were having a tough time figuring out what to call.
All of Boise State's preparation worked. The Horned Frogs' running offense, which came into the game ranked fifth in the country with 256.5 yards per game, was held to just 36 yards on 20 carries, it's lowest output as a member of the Mountain West Conference. Because of the limited running game, Dalton was forced to throw a season-high 44 passes; he completed 56 percent.
The 10 points the Horned Frogs scored was their lowest point total since Utah held them to 10 in 2008. TCU came into the game averaging more than 40 points.
"We put as much speed on the field as we could get to match to try to match theirs," Petersen said. "I think the guys competed so well. I mean, that was kind of the message and the mission going into this game. We knew we would have a good scheme. I think there are a lot of good schemes. We thought it might throw a little bit of a curveball because some of the things they hadn't seen before. And then just play your heart out. That was it. Just keep competing."
Graham Watson covers non-BCS college football for ESPN.com.