The Boise State football team couldnt overcome a depleted secondary late in the 2007 season, when the Broncos allowed a total of 80 points in season-ending losses to Hawaii and East Carolina.
It lost a Mountain West title and almost-certain Bowl Championship Series berth when injuries sidelined three cornerbacks against TCU last fall.
And now the Broncos face a similar predicament this season.
No. 19 Boise State meets San Diego State on Saturday at Bronco Stadium (8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network) without starting free safety Lee Hightower (indefinite suspension) and No. 3 cornerback Bryan Douglas (season-ending knee injury).
Weve still got some good players there, coach Chris Petersen said. Those guys are playing well. Well keep our fingers crossed that we stay relatively healthy from here on out.
Redshirt freshman Darian Thompson, who started in place of Hightower last week at Wyoming, has played as the third safety all year. But there is no proven depth behind him.
Sophomore transfer Deontae Florence was the third cornerback last week. The depth is shaky enough at that position that Petersen might insert a true freshman who hasnt played all season into the rotation.
Players say first-year defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake has prepared for this moment by placing players at positions other than their own in practice to make sure they understand the entire secondarys role. They also rave about a teaching style that they say simplifies their assignments.
(Lake) goes with no excuses, no explanations, Taylor said. Theres no reason you shouldnt know your job.
Still, recent history suggests the Broncos could be in for a bumpy stretch run.
In 2007, they allowed 495 passing yards and lost to Hawaii in the WAC title game with starting safety Jeron Johnson out and starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick and No. 3 cornerback Rashaun Scott leaving with injuries. They allowed 476 yards in a 41-38 loss to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl with Johnson and Scandrick limited and Scott out.
Last year, starting cornerback Jerrell Gavins missed the final 10 games with a knee injury, Taylor tried to play through an injury against TCU but didnt last long and No. 3 cornerback Ebo Makinde left with a hamstring injury. TCU threw for 473 yards, five touchdowns and a two-point conversion to win 36-35.
The Broncos allowed 350 passing yards the next week at San Diego State before coaches moved safety George Iloka to cornerback to patch the hole.
What happened last year, Taylor said, was kind of rough.
Junior quarterback Joe Southwicks lengthy discussions with coaches on the sideline last week at Wyoming were the most public display of the input he has in the offense.
Southwick helps refine the game plan and sometimes chooses between two plays at the line of scrimmage.
Hes going up there (to the line) and he has a plan in mind and hes doing a nice job with it, offensive coordinator Robert Prince said. At the beginning of the season, he had to look at the defense a little bit longer. Now hes seeing it a lot faster.
Southwick, like the quarterbacks before him, is an important sounding board for coaches when they build game plans.
Any time a quarterback tells you, Hey, I really like this, that brings a lot to the table, Petersen said.
Southwick, Prince and quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith, who joined the team this year, all are in new roles. Thats one reason the offense didnt find its rhythm until October.
Each week, (Prince), myself and coach Smith feel a little more comfortable bouncing ideas off each other, Southwick said. Were working really well together.
Prince relies on Southwick to keep the Broncos out of plays that they know wont work based on the defensive formation. He can change a run to a pass, a pass to a run or a run to a different run in certain situations.
Against Wyoming, Prince said, Southwick made the right decision each time.
Hes got a very firm grasp of some things the defense is doing and what were trying to do and what certain players on our side need to do to make that happen, Petersen said. Hes got a real good sense of that. Thats where some of the discussions come from on the sideline.
Boise State has scored six rushing touchdowns of 10 yards or less in the past two games. It had two of those in the first six games as drives frequently stalled in the red zone.
One of the things we told the running backs is its not always going to be clean, Prince said. Sometimes youre going to have to make one, two or three guys miss.
Thats what senior tailback D.J. Harper did last week on his 9-yard scoring run.
A lot of runs look pretty good when you break three tackles, Petersen said.
Boise State has 15 rushing touchdowns and nine passing touchdowns this season. That was the norm from 2002 to 2007, but the Broncos scored more through the air than on the ground in each of Kellen Moores four seasons at quarterback.
Eight wide receivers have accumulated at least 90 receiving yards. Sophomore Matt Miller (42 catches) and junior Kirby Moore (25) are the primary targets, but coaches have found roles for the other six. Junior Geraldo Boldewijn has taken most of the playing time opened by the injury to starter Mitch Burroughs and has eight catches in the past three games.
Weve had to fight a little adversity with Mitch getting hurt, Miller said. We had some guys step up, which is really nice to see.
Senior punt returner Chris Potter has gotten hot. He has six returns for 106 yards during the past four games an average of 17.7 yards per attempt.
Potter has climbed to 19th in the nation and second in the Mountain West with a 12.4-yard average for the season.
Sophomore defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is on the updated watch list for the Hendricks Award, which goes to the nations top defensive end. Hes one of 33 players on the list.
Lawrence, in his first year at the FBS level, has 33 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal.
The Big Easts exclusive negotiating period with ESPN for its football TV rights has been extended until Monday, the Big East says. The deadline originally was extended one day because of the fallout from Hurricane Sandy.
Petersen, who is 80-7 in seven seasons, gets a one-year contract extension with Boise States next win. His pay for 2017 would be $2,848,000. He makes $1,956,333 this year.
Boise State hasnt lost a game in October since 2001 winning 48 straight.
Boise State has 1,500 tickets for the general public and 400 student tickets left for Saturdays game.
The school offered two free tickets to each employee from a pool of about 1,300 tickets and is selling two-for-one tickets in the north end zone through dealsaver.com.
This is the latest home kickoff in recent Boise State history.
Chadd Cripe is in his 11th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also is a voter in The Associated Press Top 25. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 377-6398. His Twitter account is @IDS_BroncoBeat.