HATTIESBURG, Miss. Another week, another win and another step from Boise State toward becoming a team that just might be a factor in November and December.
These Broncos are far from perfect, far from what they want to be, far from celebrating anything. But Saturdays 40-14 victory against overmatched Southern Miss in sticky conditions demonstrated more progress, more movement toward those goals.
Its like youre climbing up a mountain these first five games. They were pretty good, cornerback Bryan Douglas said. Now we have to take it to the next level and win the Mountain West, like no Boise State team has.
Thats the ultimate goal, of course. End the short-lived Mountain West era with a conference title. Add some more hardware to the trophy cases. Perhaps pick up some Bowl Championship Series steam along the way.
Thats not laughable. Not anymore, at least, because the Broncos keep getting better. Keep fixing the things that need fixing. Keep looking more like the team they want to become and less like the unfinished product they started as.
After nearly squandering a 25-point lead in a sloppy second half against New Mexico, coach Chris Petersen halted practice this week and made his team restart. Made players get revved back up to simulate a halftime experience. Faced with a similar 23-0 edge against Southern Miss, the Broncos outscored their foes in the second half Saturday.
Its a small thing, sure.
But the Broncos have preached and practiced and harped on turnovers, even turning them into a defense-wide competition, and now they have 17 takeaways in 20 quarters.
The Broncos went to work on their red-zone inefficiency after the BYU game and in two games since have scored seven red-zone touchdowns in 11 scoring chances inside the opponents 20.
Were getting there. I dont know exactly where we are, said Petersen, who improved to 77-7 as the top Bronco. It always just comes back to us. We put on the tape and, well, if we can do this, if we can clean that up. We have some decent experience under our belt and things weve learned. I do think were where we want to be if we can continue to practice with the same intensity weve been practicing with.
If you want to find reasons, five games in, why the Broncos wont reach their goals, you dont have to look far. Boise State converted on just 2-of-11 third-down tries against Southern Miss, a step back in that department.
The run game just isnt producing. Consistent. Good enough. Insert your own descriptor here.
Weve got to get a little more rhythm to our offense. Theres no question. Were making strides, but its still at times, its smooth and at times, its clunky, Petersen said. Weve got to run the ball a little bit better and cleaner. If we can establish our run just a little more, I think its going to take a lot of pressure off everything else.
Maybe those turnovers Boise State forced five more on Saturday dry up and disappear. Maybe the lingering tackling problems end up costing the Broncos like they did in the season opener against Michigan State. Maybe quarterback Joe Southwick, who threw three touchdowns against Southern Miss, plateaus after his steady improvement.
But not likely. Not for such young players with areas to grow. Not for a coaching staff that is finding ways to draw out that improvement. Not for a team that can see where it has come from and where it wants to go.
We still need to get a lot better. I think we have a lot of things to build on but theres going to be some good passing attacks, starting with Fresno State, defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said.
Said defensive end Sam Ukwuachu: Every team, it doesnt matter how far you are, we still have some progress to make.
The Broncos made some Saturday. Theyll need to make more to navigate the Mountain West unblemished. They know it. But the Broncos have shown they are capable of improving, of getting better. Another game. Another step.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444