Boise State notebook: Broncos’ defense has work cut out for it

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 2, 2013 

SEATTLE — The Boise State football team’s defense couldn’t figure out Washington’s up-tempo, spread offense Saturday night at Husky Stadium.

The Broncos allowed 38 points, 592 yards and 33 first downs — all the most they’ve allowed since 2007, the last time they finished a season unranked.

They also watched the Huskies produce an offensive trifecta — a 300-yard passer (Keith Price, 324 yards), 100-yard rusher (Bishop Sankey, 161) and 100-yard receiver (Jaydon Mickens, 109).

“We’ve got to get better at tackling, leveraging the ball, getting off blocks,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

And they need to get better fast.

The Broncos will see many versions of the offense Washington ran this season — from teams like Fresno State (537 yards vs. Rutgers), Southern Miss (400 vs. Texas State), Utah State (487 vs. Utah), Nevada (353 vs. UCLA) and Wyoming (602 vs. Nebraska).

Kwiatkowski didn’t have any easy solutions immediately following the Broncos’ 38-6 loss.

“One thing I do know is that we’ve got to do a better job in the front seven of getting off of blocks and finishing plays,” he said. “The guys competed, they played their tails off. I’m proud of them for that, but we’ve just got to get better at the fundamentals of each position.”

The Broncos’ rebuilt secondary struggled, too.

Despite all the passes to the outside, the top three cornerbacks combined for just nine tackles. Sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon grabbed an interception on the second play but also got burned on a slant and go for a touchdown.

“Going into the game, we knew that our outside guys and our perimeter guys were better than theirs, and we wanted to test that,” Washington junior wide receiver Kasen Williams said. “And we showed that was the case.”

Boise State opens its home schedule at 1 p.m. Saturday against Football Championship Subdivision member Tennessee-Martin (1-0).

BIG PLAYS GO MISSING

Quarterback Joe Southwick’s efficiency rating was 89.42 (it was 87.73 in last year’s opener at Michigan State). The biggest problem against Washington: 152 yards on 40 attempts. That’s 3.8 yards per attempt.

The Broncos’ longest pass play covered 16 yards. They tried to throw deep several times. Southwick missed open wide receiver Aaron Burks on one of them. A couple other times, the receivers weren’t able to gain separation.

“We had nothing going in the pass game,” coach Chris Petersen said. “… We missed a couple opportunities. They did a nice job of canceling our receivers out. We have to be able to get off press coverage. We didn’t get up the field fast enough, and when we did, we didn’t hit it. It’s a good football team we just played, without question, but I know we can play better than we did. I know we have to get a lot better, and we will.”

The Broncos’ no-huddle attack produced drives of 13, 13, 18 and 12 plays without scoring a touchdown because it couldn’t hit big plays.

“If you’re on the field at that pace, 13 plays, it’s hard to slug it out all the way down there,” Southwick said.

WILCOX WINS THIS TIME

Former Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (2006-09) beat his former boss, Petersen, in the second try. The Broncos beat the Huskies in the 2012 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

And Wilcox did it in a way familiar to Broncos fans. His defense allowed yards between the 20-yard lines but stiffened in the red zone to keep Boise State out of the end zone.

TCU, for example, gained a total of 780 yards in bowl meetings with Wilcox’s Boise State defenses in 2008-09, but the Horned Frogs settled for 17 and 10 points.

“One of the most impressive things from our defense was we kept the ball in front of us,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Said Petersen: “I think Washington will be one of the better defenses out there, I do think that, and we knew that going in.”

HOT START FOR HUSKIES?

Washington, which was a Top 25 team for parts of last season, could make another run this year. They could be 4-0 at the end of September with upcoming games against Illinois, Idaho State and Arizona. That leads into a brutal three-game stretch beginning Oct. 5: at Stanford, vs. Oregon, at Arizona State.

“We set the tone for the rest of the season, and we know what we’re capable of,” Williams said. “Any performance worse than what we just put out was not acceptable.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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