The injuries and suspensions that have plagued the Boise State football team the past three weeks also have contributed to its biggest performance issue: leaky kickoff coverage.
The Broncos have played without four starters on the kickoff team while allowing a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in each of the past two games.
They used high, short kicks and squib kicks Saturday at Hawaii to avoid any more damage.
We need to tackle better, coach Chris Petersen said. Guys need to get off blocks better. I think that the health of our team has showed up there. So its all those things. Weve got to get it fixed. There are excuses for everything and thats not what were about here. Its just interesting how in a couple weeks we can go from a great kickoff coverage team to all of a sudden were on our heels.
The Broncos will face another strong kickoff-return unit in Saturdays home finale against Colorado State (1:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network). The Rams rank 32nd in the nation at 23.6 yards per return.
The answer likely wont be major personnel changes. The Broncos already have put true freshman cornerback Donte Deayon on the kickoff unit in his first two college games.
Who do we have left? Petersen said.
The missing kickoff starters are sophomore safety Lee Hightower, true freshman tight end Hayden Plinke, senior safety Hazen Moss and senior nickel Dextrell Simmons. Hightower and Plinke have been suspended for the past three games and are still out, Petersen said. Moss has missed two games with an injury and is questionable this week. And Simmons has missed two games with an injury but Petersen hopes hell play some this week.
(Moss) is a guy were missing tremendously because hes a special teams demon, Petersen said. We feel that impact in a huge way.
Other personnel updates:
Senior long snapper Chris Roberson returns this week from a two-game suspension.
Freshman defensive back Eric Agbaroji returned from suspension last week but did not make the trip to Hawaii.
Junior tight end Gabe Linehan, the co-starter going into the season, will not play again this season. He left the Sept. 29 game at New Mexico with a lingering hamstring injury.
Senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs could return Dec. 1 at Nevada.
Sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller, who left Saturdays game early, is expected to play this week.
Junior offensive lineman Jake Broyles aggravated the injury that had sidelined him since a one-play appearance against New Mexico. Hes doubtful.
A THREE-TEAM RACE
The Mountain West championship race lost a contender last week when San Diego State beat Air Force. That leaves three one-loss teams in conference play San Diego State (6-1), Fresno State (6-1) and Boise State (5-1).
San Diego State and Fresno State both have this week off and finish the regular season Nov. 24. The Aztecs play at Wyoming; the Bulldogs get Air Force at home. Both teams can clinch a share of the title with a win.
Boise State needs to beat Colorado State on Saturday and Nevada on Dec. 1 to clinch a share of the title. The Broncos can win the title outright if San Diego State and Fresno State lose.
The Mountain West does not break ties when determining its champion.
DEAYON MAKES PLAYS
The freshman tied for the team lead with six tackles and grabbed his first career interception in his second college game Saturday. Deayon played extensively, particularly in the second half.
Hes a good cover guy right now and his best days are ahead, Petersen said.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Boise States internal players of the week were junior wide receiver Aaron Burks (offense), freshman defensive end Sam Ukwuachu (defense), sophomore defensive end/tackle Tyler Horn and junior offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. (lineman) and senior punt returner Chris Potter (special teams).
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat