HATTIESBURG, Miss. The Boise State football teams defense set up the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on Saturday at Roberts Stadium.
The offense knocked them down.
The Broncos used five takeaways and four ensuing touchdowns to whip the Golden Eagles 40-14. Their fourth straight victory set the stage for what could be the game of the year in Bronco Stadium, next Saturday against high-scoring Fresno State.
Fresno State, in fact, led the nation in takeaways going into Saturdays play with 16.
Boise State, in the same number of games, now has 17.
I dont know how and why we keep getting them, but it sure makes things different for us, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. If I actually had the secret, I wouldnt tell anybody. They kind of come in bunches, and thats kind of whats happening right now.
The Broncos (4-1) have forced at least three turnovers their goal in every practice and game in four of five games this season. They have forced five twice (BYU and Southern Miss).
The difference Saturday was what happened after the defense swiped the ball.
The offense scored touchdowns.
I think the offense is really feeding off us right now, sophomore cornerback Bryan Douglas said, and its a great feeling.
Boise States first four touchdown drives all after turnovers covered 11, 35, 44 and 27 yards and required a combined total of nine snaps. That gave the Broncos a 30-0 advantage early in the third quarter.
In the first four games, Boise States offense had produced two touchdowns and two field goals off 10 turnovers (the other two were defensive touchdowns).
The defense did an outstanding job getting them, and we capitalized well, junior quarterback Joe Southwick said. A short field, the pressures on (to score), and we did a good job.
Southern Miss, which won 12 games and finished No. 20 last year, dropped to 0-5. The Golden Eagles threw two interceptions and lost three fumbles in the first 32 minutes.
Boise States only giveaway was a Southwick interception on the Broncos first drive.
Five turnovers to one, first-year Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said. Thats field position. Thats points. Thats everything.
Boise State true freshman linebacker Tyler Gray, who played more on defense than he had all season, gave the Broncos the early momentum with an interception and 34-yard return to the Southern Miss 11-yard line. Southwick hit sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller on a slant on the next play for a 7-0 lead.
Junior defensive end Kharyee Marshall forced a fumble to set up the next touchdown, an 11-yard run by senior tailback D.J. Harper, and redshirt freshman safety Darian Thompson stopped a promising Southern Miss drive with an interception later in the second quarter.
Still, the Eagles were clinging to life down 17-0 late in the second quarter when the turnover bug turned fatal.
On first-and-10 at midfield, quarterback Ricky Lloyd dropped to pass. Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, who had played well in the first four games of his career but didnt have a sack, took teammate Demarcus Lawrences advice and used an inside-outside move to beat left tackle Jason Weaver.
Ukwuachu darted toward Lloyds back, knocked the ball out of his hand and fell on the fumble. It was Ukwuachus third fumble recovery of the season.
I faked like I was going to go inside, (Weavers) feet stopped and I just clubbed outside and ripped and got the corner, Ukwuachu said. All I remember was the ball being right there and I tried to recover it.
The Broncos had 22 seconds to go 44 yards and that was plenty. Southwick tossed a 33-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Chris Potter for a 23-0 lead.
We wanted to see if we could possibly get into field-goal range, Petersen said, and Joe made a couple plays with good looks and Chris Potter again makes somebody miss and away we go.
The Broncos went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, another glimmer of hope for the Eagles until star return man Tracy Lampley muffed the punt. Boise State cornerback Josh Borgman recovered and Harper capitalized with a 19-yard touchdown run.
A week earlier, the Broncos fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half to spark a New Mexico rally that fell just short.
Thats a back-breaker for them we lived that last week, Petersen said. Thats crushing. But hey, I cant worry about their side. Were trying to worry about our side and get turnovers.
With 17 takeaways in five games, the Broncos are on pace for 44 nine more than their recent best of 35 in 2009.
The Broncos always emphasize turnovers, but first-year defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake has taken it to another level with his score or get the ball back mantra. Theres even an intrasquad competition between the linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.
All of us coaches have really drilled it into the players, Lake said, and the players, theyre responding.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat