FORT COLLINS, Colo. – If the Boise State Broncos (5-3) wish to beat Colorado State (4-4) on the road today and remain in the hunt for a Mountain West Conference championship, their defense needs to recognize that big victories are found in small areas.
“It’s up to the little details,” said senior nose guard Ricky Tjong-A-Joe.
Foremost among those details: sure tackling. The Broncos had at least nine missed tackles last week in their 37-20 loss to Brigham Young.
“We missed a lot of tackles. If we would have not missed obvious tackles we would have won that game,” said Tjong-A-Joe.
Of course, it’s impossible to make a tackle unless the player is in the right spot.
“Like the one run (BYU quarterback Taysom Hill) had, there was nobody outside. There was supposed to be, (but) somebody messed up on their assignment,” Tjong-A-Joe said. “… I mean, we had some big plays that we really messed up on. But, you know, just clean up the little details and make sure we keep them contained.”
Some of those details will come with more experience. BSU has had 16 players make their starting de-buts this season. On the defensive side, Tjong-A-Joe and stud end Kharyee Marshall are the only seniors. Six of the 11 defensive starters are sophomores or freshmen.
It’s helped BSU’s defense this season that the Bronco offense has sustained drives and not put the de-fense in bad situations. The Broncos rank first in the Mountain West in third-down converstions (52.8 percent).
However, with junior quarterback Grant Hedrick making his first-ever start last week against BYU, the Boise State offense struggled to convert, going 8-of-18 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth down.
“I think if the offense gets three-and-outs, it’s hard for us as a defense to catch our breath and like make adjustments,” Tjong-A-Tjoe said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the quarterback. I think if we as an offense make more plays and be on the field longer we’re going to be alright as a defense.”
The Bronco defense leads the Mountain West in interceptions (10) and is second in quarterback sacks (20).
However, Boise State has slipped from its lofty NCAA defensive rankings of 2012. The Broncos have dropped from eighth to 55th in the nation in scoring defense (15.7 points per game to 24.6), and from 12th to 79th in total defense (315.6 yards to 414.8).
“I don’t think we really think about being a top 25 defense like everyone is talking about,” Tjong-A-Joe said. “I feel like if we do our job we’re going to be where we want to be.”