BOISE – It’s not often a college football team gets in the same sentence as Alabama, but with their 42-20 win against Air Force, the Broncos won their 14th straight conference opener. Only the Crimson Tide has a longer streak – 21.
Each Tuesday, the Times-News will look at 10 issues that occurred over the previous weekend which could affect Boise State’s upcoming game.
A few topics the Times-News will investigate this week as Boise State prepares for Fresno State.
One: Bulldogs Breather
Fresno State’s game against resurgent Pac-12 Colorado was postponed due to flooding. The accidental bye week could have Fresno State rested or rusty.
Broncos head coach sees this Friday’s opponent in the former.
“I can tell you this, I wish they had played,” Petersen said.
Two: Defensive Discipline
Petersen was none too happy with linebacker Corey Bell and lineman Tyler Horn’s personal foul penalties which extended Air Force drives in the competitive portion of Friday’s game.
“The two personal fouls were poor football, poor judgment,” Petersen said. “We have smarter guys than that. We talk about it, we work on those situations, and they are going to learn the hard way when we come back to practice.”
Three: Ajayi and the Pickled Pigskin
Broncos star running back Jay Ajayi had four touchdowns Friday, but fumbled twice on the same rain-soaked possession, once with his gloves on and off.
“It was a great night, but at the same time those fumbles are unacceptable and bad,” Ajayi said.
Ajayi, who hadn’t fumbled all season previous to his two-fumble drive, couldn’t remember the last time he played in the rain.
He said Friday night was a “learning experience” for proper wet ball mechanics.
“It was a mental thing where I just had to have a short term memory and bounce back,” Petersen said.
Ajay was temporarily pulled out of the game for Aaron Baltazar before returning into two-back formations, later scoring his fourth touchdown.
“I will say this, if he does it again though, we have a bunch of other backs, and he won’t come back,” Petersen said. “You better hang on to that football. That is game-changing.”
The power/speed ‘back with six touchdowns and 5.3 yards per carry average knows to heed Petersen’s warning.
“I knew right away I was going to get benched,” Ajayi said. “We always harp on it in the running back room that we have to hold on to the ball.”
Ajay later added in jest that he was happy Petersen didn’t double as the running backs coach.
Four: Slow Defensive Starts
Through three games the Broncos defense has given up 34 points in the first half, while largely shutting out Air Force and Tennessee-Martin in the second halves.
Next week, Boise State can’t wait a half to re-calibrate to an explosive Bulldogs passing offense.
“(The first half) was very frustrating,” linebacker Ben Weaver said. “We came back inside; we made a little bit of changes and corrected a few different things. But mainly just swarmed to the ball, everyone did their assignments.”
Added defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe: “The first half we were feeling (Air Force) out a little bit to see how they play.”
Five: Prodigious Passing = Bad Secondary Play?
Boise State’s offensive production under quarterback Joe Southwick the last two weeks has been off the charts, comparing favorably to any of the units the last 13 years.
But have the numbers been largely inflated due to porous secondaries?
Southwick has had lots of cushion to make completions. Against the Skyhawks, he underthrew receivers downfield, resulting in pass interference penalties. Last Friday he was bailed on a few his intermediate and deep throws by his receivers.
“I’m sure there is still some stuff we won’t be proud of and we have to get ready for Fresno,” Southwick said.
Six: Beaten at the Point of Attack
The Broncos defense has not been befuddled by misdirection this year. When things have gone bad, it’s been because the unit’s been out-manned around the line of scrimmage. Coach Petersen said the tackling issues of the first two games related to offensive players getting Broncos defenders in space. That only happens if they get there first.
“In the second half (the defensive line) started to show up and exert themselves a little bit and that is when things change,” Petersen said. “Our guys just settled down and inside got a little (stouter) and a little more knock-off,”
Seven: Tight-End Depletion
In three games, Boise State tight-ends have three receptions. Long a staple of a coach Petersen led offense, Broncos tight-ends have struggled to find a niche in the new offense.
Now, No.2 tight-end Holden Huff will be out at least a week with a foot injury. At times against Air Force, the Broncos lined up in three tight-ends. Don’t expect that against the Bulldogs. Junior Connor Peters will take Huff’s place.
Eight: Shane Williams-Rhodes Watch
Against Washington, Shane Williams-Rhodes had a combined two rushes and receptions. Against the Falcons and Skyhawks, he had a total of 14. Coach Petersen said he doesn’t want to put a strict number on how many times Shane Williams-Rhodes touches the ball, but a repeat from week one seems unlikely after the last two showings. Will SWR get more?
Nine: Fresno’s Time?
With a week off, the Bulldogs have had plenty of time to consider the importance of Friday’s game. The Bulldogs haven’t won the Milk Can since 2005.
“There is one team people in this valley want to beat, and it’s (Boise State),” Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said Monday.
Many have predicted the Bulldogs to beat the Broncos this year and take the Mountain West Conference championship.
10: Secondary Un-Tested
The Broncos much-maligned secondary hasn’t faced a passing offense since they were torched by Washington. The Bulldogs passing offense is probably better than the Huskies. If Boise State is going to pull the upset, it will have to show improvement from week one. They haven’t had many live game repetitions to improve.