HATTIESBURG, Miss. Boise States freshman class served notice against Southern Miss not only about the distant future, but about the rest of this season.
Those players will be a factor.
True freshman linebacker Tyler Gray (interception, four tackles), redshirt freshman safety Darian Thompson (interception, three tackles), redshirt freshman safety Dillon Lukehart (four tackles, onside-kick recovery) and redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu (forced fumble, fumble recovery, three tackles, 1.5 sacks) made an impact on defense and special teams.
Redshirt freshman tailback Jay Ajayi (40 yards), true freshman tailback Jack Fields (12 yards) and true freshman wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (two catches, 15 yards) contributed on offense.
That just tells us, weve got some great players who are ready to play no matter what class theyre in, sophomore cornerback Bryan Douglas said. Thats how we are at Boise State you never know what weve got. Its great to see those guys step up and make big plays like that.
Gray was the biggest surprise in the 40-14 win. He has been listed as the backup weak-side linebacker but has played almost exclusively on special teams. He had played a series or two with the first-team defense before Saturday.
He was in the game early and often against the Southern Miss spread attack, which fits the rangy, athletic Grays skill set. He also had been practicing well, and linebackers coach Bob Gregory wanted to prevent his players from wearing down in the heat.
Gray responded with a first-quarter interception that set up the Broncos first touchdown.
Hes a great kid, Douglas said. Hes really been stepping it up in practice and making really good strides on special teams.
Ukwuachus performance was not at all surprising. Petersen said last week that he could feel the effect Ukwuachu was having, even without a sack.
On Saturday, Ukwuachu delivered one of the games key plays with a fumble-forcing sack the first of his career.
Hes awkward, in some ways, to block, Petersen said. He keeps showing up. We need (the freshmen). Theyre going to play and if theyre out there, they need to make something happen. Its nice to get those guys confidence.
Said Ukwuachu: We know our futures bright, but we have to focus on right now. We have to keep building on that and keep playing, keep grinding.