Improved tackling, more big plays and a productive run game top the to-do list for the Boise State football team as it prepares for the home opener Saturday afternoon against Miami (Ohio).
The Broncos practiced three times last week during their bye, focusing mostly on fixing the issues that arose in their season-opening 17-13 loss at Michigan State.
It feels like its been forever since weve played, coach Chris Petersen said. It really does. It feels to me like we still have just so many questions to get answered.
Coaches generally were pleased with the defensive effort against the Spartans. The Broncos forced four turnovers and the Spartans needed 90 plays to gain their 461 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per play less than the defense allowed last season (5.2) with all that NFL talent.
The flaw: missed tackles that helped Michigan State convert 10-of-19 third downs.
(The bye focus) was definitely tackling, communicating, senior cornerback Jamar Taylor said. We went back to the basics. If you go back and look at the tape, when we lost to Michigan State, thats what it was all about.
The offensive performance contained fewer bright spots. The Broncos failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in 15 years and generated 206 yards, the lowest output since Petersen arrived as offensive coordinator in 2001.
We need to have some more big plays and really make an emphasis of that and really execute on Saturday, junior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. Its been a long week, but weve really been embracing it and really trying to improve as an offense.
That starts with the run game, which was abysmal in the opener. The Broncos rushed 24 times for 37 yards behind an offensive line that started three juniors and two seniors. Senior tailback D.J. Harper finished with 8 yards on 15 carries and a long run of 4.
We were not nearly good enough in the O-line, Petersen said. We couldnt get anything started. D.J. never had a chance. Some guys in there who have played a lot of football didnt play particularly well and need to play better.
SOUTHWICKS NEXT STEP
Junior starting quarterback Joe Southwick will make his second career start, and first at home, Saturday. He was 15-of-31 for 169 yards with no touchdowns and one interception against Michigan State.
Southwicks mistakes were more about decision-making than accuracy, Petersen said.
Hes just got to get better, Petersen said. There are a handful of plays that if we can make at that position, well win the game. Ive been around a lot of pretty good players. Some can make them and some cant. You dont expect to make them all; guys have to help him out. But it was just one of those games that the margin for error is so slim that youve got to make a couple plays.
TRUE FRESHMEN TO PLAY MORE
The four who definitely wont redshirt will play more in the weeks ahead, Petersen said. The group includes tailback Jack Fields, tight end Hayden Plinke, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes and linebacker Tyler Gray.
Their role will grow as long as they stay into it, stay focused, Petersen said. When youre going to play a freshman, you dont want to play him one play or three plays.
Fields had one carry for 2 yards in the opener. Petersen saw him immediately after the game.
Weve got to get you the ball more than that, Petersen told him.
Coach, Fields responded, dont worry about it.
Third-string quarterback Jimmy Laughrea, tailback Jay Ajayi, long snapper Chris Roberson and wide receiver Dallas Burroughs are eligible to play Saturday, Petersen said. They served one-game suspensions for violating team rules.
Petersen said Laughreas availability for the opener did not factor into the starting quarterback race. Not one iota, he said.
NO MAJOR CHANGES
The depth chart didnt change much for this weeks game. Most notable: sophomore Demarcus Lawrence and redshirt freshman Sam Ukwuachu are listed as the starting defensive ends. They were co-starters with Tyler Horn and Beau Martin for the opener.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat