Stevens: High-Octane Boise State Is Leaning On Defense, Waiting For Offense

Sept. 26, 2012

New Mexico Lobos vs. Boise State Broncos

When/Where: 4:06 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Branch Field - University Stadium

On The Air: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network; Comcast 77 GameTracker, Game Story, Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

There are several different avenues of perspective to place on the Boise State Broncos. Some are encouraging for Lobos and Lobo fans. Others - not so much.

1. The Broncos no longer have quarterback Kellen Moore and in two of their three games Boise State did not score an offensive touchdown.
2. Boise barely scratched out a 7-6 win over Brigham Young.
3. Lobo Coach Bob Davie says the Broncos might be better defensively than the Texas Longhorns or the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
4. The Broncos have won their first league game of the season by an average score of 50-14 with Chris Peterson as the Broncos coach. He is still their coach.
5. Boise State is the highest scoring team in the country since 2000, averaging 41.3 points per game over that span.
6. But they are not the highest scoring team in 2012.

Of course, sometimes you have to put some perspective on your perspective. Boise didn't score a TD vs. then-No. 13 Michigan State or Brigham Young, two very good teams. The Broncos are taking some heat about their soft scoring punch and have been working on it.

The Lobos will see that work at 4:06 p.m., Saturday on Branch Field. The bottom line on the Broncos is that they are still very good. They also are ranked No. 24 in the nation and although this team might not be as explosive as the Kellen Moore-led Broncos, it's no pushover.

Coach Davie knows this. Heck, everybody knows this.

"You really appreciate the Boise States of the world for what they've done," said Davie. "You get a little bit of a misconception of Boise. You kind of associate them with the trick play, the smartest kid in the class. They have all that.

"But what they are is they are tough, and they are well-coached."

The Boise State of Saturday's world in University Stadium isn't much different than the Boise State that has produced a 75-7 record for Coach Peterson. They are precise, well-disciplined and do the right things a whole lot more often than they do the wrong things. They know how to win. They play defense. They play physical smash-mouth ball.

They are what the Lobos want to be. Coach Davie calls the Broncos a "model," for other programs to look at and takes notes on how you succeed at a high level.

"Certainly that is the model," said Davie. "I'm just talking about how they've implemented their systems, stayed in their systems, recruited the kinds of kids they can coach hard, and developed consistency. They're impressive. I've got great respect for them."

The Broncos also are an inspiration for non-BCS programs trying to crack the big time in smaller markets and smaller conferences. Boise State is in Boise, Idaho. That's not L.A., Austin or South Bend. The Broncos were ranked No. 2 in the nation. They have played in 10 consecutive bowls.

The Broncos are ranked No. 24 this week and surely looking to put up big numbers on the Lobos because big numbers help you climb the polls and the Broncos need to do some climbing.

Their loss to Michigan State hurt them and they fell out of the Top 25 in the next poll.

The Broncos still want to play in a big bowl game in January and they not only need to try and run the table, they need to look impressive whenever they can.

The most impressive thing about Boise State so far in 2012 is the Broncos' defense. They lost nine starters from 2011, but the 2012 unit has allowed only 11.7 points a game for the 2-1 Broncos. Boise State has forced nine turnovers and has given up four. They have seven sacks and 17 tackles for a loss.

They like to attack and control the line of scrimmage. So far, they do it well. They yield an average of 296 yards per game, good for No. 18 in total defense. Their top tackler is linebacker J.C. Perry with 25 stops. He'll be a key Bronco in trying to stop UNM's "pistol" offense which leans heavily to option football.

"On defense they're not going to be in the wrong gap," said Davie. "They're not going to bust a coverage. They're not going to line up wrong. They're going to make you earn every single thing you get. They've got a good mix of physical guys and athletic guys. And they don't make a mistake."

On offense, the Broncos have yet to explode. That's a sore point with Boise State fans, who have been spoiled over the years with high-octane offenses. These fans don't simply expect to win. They expect to win big.

The Boise State offense averages 355.3 yards per game and only 19.7 points. They have a solid running back in senior D.J. Harper, who has 282 yards for a 94-yard average per game at 4.5 yards per carry. Not bad. He had 112 rushing yards against BYU.

Junior Joe Southwick has taken over the huddle from Moore. He has gone 54-of-87 for 206 yards per game and completes 62 percent of his passes. Those numbers aren't awful, but those numbers also are why the Broncos are averaging 19.7 points per game.

Southwick averages only 7.1 yards per attempt and the Boise State defense has as many touchdowns (2) as Southwick has passing. The junior does have quick feet and is mobile in and out of the pocket.

Southwick needs to pick it up. His efficiency rating as a passing quarterback has him sitting in the No. 60 hole. That's not good. Boise State's offense is rated below UNM's.

Southwick's top receiver is Matt Miller with 16 grabs, averaging 66.7 yards per game. Boise also has two return threats in Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter. Burroughs led the Mountain in punt returns last season and is the league's preseason Special Team Player of The Year.

To simplify Boise State, they are a talented team that typically reloads quickly and well. They are leaning on defense early, but expect Southwick to improve as he gets confidence and adjusts to the offensive system. They expect to be in a bowl in 2012 and expect to leave University Stadium with a win.

A last bit of perspective: Boise State is 79-9 when playing games while ranked in the Top 25.