Each week, the Times-News will look at the four factors most likely to decide the outcome in Boise State’s upcoming game. We’ll also see how it fared in the four factors from the previous week. On Friday, the Broncos host Air Force, which finished 6-7 last season. Last week it lost 52-20 to Utah State.

Last Week: Short Yardage Running

How did they fare? The Broncos’ prodigious downfield offense – 56 points in about 20 minutes of game time – helped them avoid short-yardage situations. Boise State had two run attempts on third and three or less. It converted both, one a three-yard run and the other a six-yard burst near the goal line.

Grade: A

This Week’s Assignment: Five Yards Per Attempt

Through two games, the Broncos are averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. Most of those yards have occurred after initial contact, as Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar have spent more time plowing through traffic than speeding in fast lanes. With backs as talented as this duo, and with a passing game finally on track, there is little excuse for not averaging more than five yards a carry. Sure, the Skyhawks had nine men in the box last weekend, and the Huskies swarmed to the ball in the opener, but the Bronco offensive line needs to pull its weight by throwing it around some.

Last Week’s Assignment: Take Away Something

How did they fare? The Broncos defense held Tennessee-Martin to 3.1 yards a carry last Saturday, including negative rushes that added to a total loss of 31 yards. D.J. McNeil broke a few long ones, like all talented backs will, but through three quarters and outside of a touchdown drive in the first quarter, the Broncos’ front (minus Demarcus Lawrence) was nasty.

Grade: B+

This Week’s Assignment: Assignment Football

The Falcons’ offense is multiple-formation – more so than in the past. But not many teams run the triple option as much or as well as Air Force. The easier-said-than-done key to defending it is for each defender to stick to his assignment while ignoring the temptation to levy big hits. One could say that every week, but defending the triple option necessitates the teaching and learning of new assignments for everyone. Imprinting them into the muscle memory is a tall task on a short week. Ends must hold the edge. Linebackers must quell their instincts to hunt the exposed quarterback running parallel to the line of scrimmage until he commits to keeping the football. The Falcons will run misdirection counters to the triple option, so the Broncos can’t commit too much.

Last Week’s Assignment: Bail Out Joe

How did they fare? Shane Williams-Rhodes said the receiving group had extra motivation to prove themselves last week after a poor performance in the opener. Facing single coverage much of the game, the Broncos’ receivers were virtually indefensible. Had quarterback Joe Southwick thrown a more consistent deep ball, the numbers could have popped stat-readers’ eyes completely out of their sockets. The unit had six catches of 15 yards or longer and drew four pass interference penalties.

Grade: A

This Week’s Assignment: Less Air, More Force

Quarterback Joe Southwick had the best quarterback rating of his career last week. But against a better secondary, a few of his deep throws could have been intercepted. Southwick needs to lead his receivers without giving the secondary so much time to catch-up. If Joe “Stachewick” is going for the Goose from Top Gun look, he’ll need to play a better fly boy.

Last Week’s Assignment: Paging Demarcus Lawrence, Please Pick up the Pass Rush

How did he fare? Not only did Lawrence not pick up the pass rush, or a white courtesy phone, he missed his flight, his ride home, curfew, something. There was no explanation given for his suspension last Saturday –- the third of his 15-game career with the Broncos. Boise State had three sacks and more pressures last weekend, but they can’t do that consistently without its on-paper best NFL prospect.

Grade: F

This Week’s Assignment: No Game Day Suspensions

Three were suspended on gameday in Seattle. Lawrence was suspended last week. It’s a downward trendline at least? Whatever Boise State players are doing, the suspensions are statements on their behalf. If the Broncos want to turn a season with an embarrassing loss in the beginning into one that’ll be remembered, they’ll need to start taking it more seriously. It would be a waste of quite the collection of talent.

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