The answers are more elusive than the end zone for the Boise State football teams offense.
Details, senior wide receiver Chris Potter said. I know it probably gets annoying because a lot of us say that.
It just comes down to more consistent play from everybody, senior left guard Joe Kellogg said.
If it was any one thing, wed fix it now, coach Chris Petersen said. I thought wed score more points, no question.
Since 2000, no team has scored as often as the Broncos at a rate of 41.2 points per game. The worst output during that time was 34.2 points per game in 2001.
This year, the Broncos have managed just 27.4 points per game to rank 66th in the nation. Theyre 88th in total offense (370.2 yards per game) and 67th in pass efficiency (10 touchdowns, seven interceptions).
The middling offensive attack is a key reason the Broncos have lost twice going into Saturdays game at Hawaii (5 p.m. MST, NBC Sports Network). They fell 17-13 in the opener at Michigan State and 21-19 last week at home against San Diego State.
Were going into week 16 of the season, if you include fall camp, offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. So were a long way into this to be waiting for that thing to take the next step. I know weve got the capability to take that next step. Weve had some games against some really good defenses where we havent played to the level that is expected around here.
The Broncos entered the season with an experienced, deep offensive line, all but one wide receiver returning, an intriguing group of tight ends and a sixth-year senior tailback making the subpar results all the more puzzling.
Fans have aimed their displeasure at first-year offensive coordinator Robert Prince and first-year starting quarterback Joe Southwick. The offense that produced 76 touchdowns last season has scored 27 this year.
Prince, Petersen and players acknowledged an early transition period for the new coordinator. He didnt call the plays quickly enough against Michigan State and it took a few weeks to refine the game plan to play to this groups strengths.
But just as the results hinted that the offense was peaking, the Broncos gained 26 yards on the first four drives (interception, three punts) of the second half last week to squander a 13-7 halftime lead. The Idaho Statesmans weekly online chat with fans was dominated by questions about Princes play calling.
I think hes doing a good job, a solid job, said Petersen, who was the Broncos coordinator from 2001 to 2005. Trust me, were not making any calls that dont look good on tape and on the blackboard and all those things. But weve got to execute better and play to our strengths.
Southwick, meanwhile, has thrown two touchdown passes over the past four games. His efficiency rating of 132.84 is the worst by a Boise State quarterback since Jared Zabranskys troubled 2005 season (130.00) and the Broncos are on pace to finish with their fewest touchdown passes since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1996.
Petersen and then-coach Dan Hawkins gave backup Taylor Tharp some playing time late in the 2005 season. Coaches arent thinking of a similar move this season but would like to use backup Grant Hedricks wildcat package more often, Petersen said.
At times, (Southwick) has played really well, Petersen said. Hes very smart. He does a lot of things that people dont realize (changing plays) what hes doing in the run game as well as the pass game. If you dont play really, really consistent all the time there, it shows up. Thats hard to do. Were still making progress there.
The Broncos likely will be tested twice more this season in the regular-season finale Dec. 1 at Nevada and in the bowl game, likely against a Pac-12 opponent.
That makes these next three weeks at Hawaii, home against Colorado State and a bye critical for development.
Weve got to start improving and being that high-powered offense I know we can be, Kellogg said.
Boise State has scored 148 points in the first half and 99 in the second half. The offense averages 209.4 yards in the first half and 160.8 in the second half.
Petersen dismissed the idea that the offense has faltered in the second half sometimes the Broncos are running the clock or using backups but its clear the offense has not performed well in the second half of big games. Against their four best opponents, the Broncos have scored zero (Michigan State), zero (BYU), three (Fresno State) and six (San Diego State) offensive points in the second half.
The offense scored a modest 36 points in the first half in those four games.
If the game is tight, certainly weve got to win the fourth quarter, Petersen said. We certainly didnt do that (last) week.
Before the season, we ran a story on the difficulty of succeeding in the first year after losing a quarterback who finished in the top five of Heisman Trophy voting during his career. Boise State is one of three teams in that category this year. The others are No. 16 Stanford (7-2) and Baylor (4-4).
That makes 25 teams since 2002 that have replaced a quarterback of that caliber and only one USC in 2003 has finished with fewer than two losses.
The past 13 teams on the list are a combined 99-57 (63.5 percent).
Boise State still has a direct path to its first Mountain West football championship. The conference doesnt break ties, so the Broncos will claim at least a share of the title and a trophy if they win their final three games even if they finish in a two-way tie with San Diego State, the team that beat them.
Fresno State (5-1) and San Diego State (5-1) are tied for first. Boise State (4-1) and Air Force (4-1) are tied for third.
For the Broncos to win the outright title, they need to win out and for something like this to happen: Air Force beats San Diego State and Nevada beats Fresno State on Saturday and Fresno State beats Air Force on Nov. 24.
The conference title is one of Boise States primary goals every year, but Petersen downplayed it this week.
Our goal should be all about Hawaii, period, and thats it, he said. The focus needs to be on ourselves and playing the best ball that weve played this season. If its on the Mountain West championship, its on the wrong stuff.
The Big East might want to rethink allowing Boise State to wear all-blue uniforms at home. The Broncos were 40-0 on the blue turf in the WAC, primarily wearing their traditional blues. They are 5-2 on the blue in the Mountain West, which requires the Broncos to wear a color that contrasts with the turf.
Boise State chartered directly from Boise to Honolulu for Thursdays journey to the islands. Hawaii helped offset the cost with a $175,000 travel subsidy paid to Boise State as part of the Warriors membership agreement with the conference.
Boise State senior linebacker J.C. Percy has been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team. Percy has a 3.67 cumulative GPA in finance and leads the team with 80 tackles. Hes now eligible for Academic All-America honors.
ESPN can wait until six days before the Boise State-Nevada game to set a kickoff time, but a decision could come sooner.
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.