BOISE - The emotion was evident on Scott Huff's face when he spoke about a group of seniors who will play their last regular season home game on Friday.
"I might be the saddest guy in the stadium on Senior Night," said Huff, Boise State's co-offensive coordinator and O-line coach.
With their families present, 19 seniors will be honored before the game against UNLV. The group includes household names for fans - Thomas Sperbeck, Tanner Vallejo, Jonathan Moxey and Tyler Rausa, just to name a few - as well as lesser known, but still important contributors to the Boise State program.
Coach Bryan Harsin, Huff and defensive coordinator Andy Avalos each spoke at length during their Tuesday press conference about the group of players and the impact they've had on the program.
"It'll be an emotional evening, it always is, when your seniors are kinda thinking about playing their last game out there," Harsin said. "And I'm sure it'll hit them as they run out there, and then you flip the switch and go back to playing."
The offensive line will lose five players to graduation, including three starters (Mario Yakoo, Steven Baggett, Travis Averill) and two backups (Will Adams, Kellen Buhr). Huff spoke about each of them with the kind of proud affection that a father shows for his own kids.
"I don't know if you'll find five finer human beings in college football," he said. "They're great students, they're great people, there's no doubt they're going to be successful, they're tough as nails, they're smart. I mean, it's everything you'd want in an offensive lineman. And then to have five of them, yeah, we've been very fortunate."
"You'd be proud to have any one of those guys as your kids, I promise you that," he added.
GAME DAY GUIDE: Boise State vs. UNLV
Most of players in the senior class were about to begin their sophomore season when Harsin took over the program three years ago. He says they quickly embraced the coaching transition.
"I think they've done a great job of buying into what we're doing and the blue collar mentality and working hard and what it takes, and what it means to be a Bronco," Harsin said.
Using senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck as an example, Harsin added that this senior class is full of leaders.
"These guys represent what I think Boise State is all about," he said "So their mission is to finish out their season the right way, but they're also trying to leave this place better than they found it."
According to Avalos, the seniors have been passing along their invaluable experience to the younger players.
"The older guys that have been playing for the last three or four years and got a lot of experience, they've done a heck of a job helping bring the younger guys along," he said.
Here are the 19 seniors who will be honored on Friday night:
- Will Adams (OL)
- Chaz Anderson (WR)
- Travis Averill (OL)
- Steven Baggett (OL)
- Kellen Buhr (OL)
- Devan Demas (RB)
- Raymond Ford (CB)
- Elliot Hoyte (DT)
- Chanceller James (S)
- Darren Lee (LB)Sam McCaskill (DE)
- Jonathan Moxey (CB)
- Taylor Pope (WR)
- Tyler Rausa (K)
- Thomas Sperbeck (WR)
- Tanner Vallejo (LB)
- Sean Wale (P)
- Ben Weaver (LB)
- Mario Yakoo (OL)
Boise State's 2016 senior class
BACK TO THE BLUE?
While Friday's game will be the seniors' last regular season home game, there is a scenario in which they could get one more chance to play on the Blue in front of a home crowd. It requires Boise State making the conference championship game.
The Broncos are currently in a three-way tie at the top of the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. In order to make the title game, Boise State will need to win their final two games, while hoping Wyoming loses at least one of its final two games.
If that happens, the Broncos will face San Diego State (9-1, 6-0), which has already clinched the West Division.
Here's the kicker - The location of the conference championship game is determined by whichever team is ranked highest in the College Football Playoff Rankings at the end of the regular season. Right now, Boise State is ranked No. 20, while the Aztecs are not ranked. It is unlikely that SDSU will jump the Broncos if both teams win their next two games. That would place the Mountain West Championship Game at Albertsons Stadium, giving the seniors one final game on the Blue.
With two more wins this season, the 2016 senior class will be 15th consecutive senior class to have won at least 40 games during their careers. That's an average of 10 victories per season. This year's class won eight games in 2013, 12 games in 2014 and have nine wins so far this season. They need 11 to crack the 40-mark, and will have at least three (including a bowl game) to do it.