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Boise State's Kyle Wilson won't say the loss to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl is the only reason the all-conference cornerback decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season, but it's definitely right up there.
The 17-16 loss to the Horned Frogs that broke up what would have been the Broncos' second undefeated season in the past three years is something that weighs on the minds of all of Boise State's defenders.
"I like to finish things that I've started and I would like to obviously leave on a good note, not saying that last year wouldn't have been," said Wilson, one of just five seniors on the Boise State roster. "The [TCU] loss did leave a bad taste in my mouth, but that can't take away from a good season. That would have been frosting on the cake, though. That would have made it all the better."
The loss to TCU is something that has fueled the Boise State defense during the spring and into player-led workouts this summer. It even prompted coach Chris Petersen to suggest the Broncos' theme for the 2009 season ought to be "One Point," signifying not only the loss but all the details that went into the loss.
"That was one that definitely put the chip back on our shoulder for the defense," defensive end Ryan Winterswyk said of the loss to TCU. "It makes it easier to work hard this summer and going into fall because that was such a close loss and we gave up a lot of rushing yards that game. If we would have kept them down, we would have won that game. It definitely is kind of a thorn in our side and it's something that we look to improve on."
The Broncos' defense focuses on that TCU game because it's the one blemish in what was one of the best defensive years since the Broncos joined the FBS. The Broncos ranked No. 2 in passing efficiency defense with a 94.43 rating, No. 3 in scoring defense (12.62) and No. 20 in total defense (308.15 yards per game). Only USC was better in passing efficiency defense and it was the highest passing efficiency defense ranking for the Broncos since they were ranked seventh in 2003.
"In the past at Boise State, we've outscored teams and the defense didn't have to worry about giving up too many points because the offense just scores 50 points," Winterswyk said. "We knew we were talented, but I don't think even we knew how good we were going to be going into the season until we got into fall came and things like that. Then the defense got a little bit of swagger and things like that. After we beat Oregon, we really started feeling pretty good about how our defense was looking."
The goal this year? Wilson said it's to be even better than last year. He said his goal is to strive for perfection and encourage his teammates to do the same by setting a positive example on the field.
He's watched hours of film from last season, picking out moments in games where he could have made that extra play to give the Broncos the edge. Although the minimal defensive mistakes accounted for just one loss, Wilson and the rest of his defensive teammates are hoping for no regrets at the end of the 2009 season.
"Since I came back, since last winter when we started working out again, it's been in my head," Wilson said of the TCU loss. "You know, that feeling of coming up short. It's something I haven't forgot and hopefully I won't have that feeling again."