Boise State vs. UT Martin: Game breakdown

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 7, 2013 

Boise State had trouble keeping up with Washington’s up-tempo approach last week, giving up 324 passing yards. Nineteen of those came when Kasen Williams beat Donte Deayon, right, for a third-quarter touchdown. Chattanooga chose to take away the pass against UT Martin, but the Skyhawks, who the Broncos must stop Saturday, gained 289 yards on the ground.

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

BRONCOS WITH THE BALL

Time to bounce back: The Broncos are coming off their third game in the past 14 without scoring an offensive touchdown. For the second straight year, they enter the home opener with offensive coordinator Robert Prince and quarterback Joe Southwick under fire from fans. Adding to the angst this year — the move to a no-huddle, spread offense. “We are 100 percent confident that this will work,” Prince said.

A 3-3-5 for UT Martin: The Skyhawks operate a 3-3-5 defensive scheme — a defense that in the past has been difficult for the Broncos to throw against but easy to run against. Defensive end DJ Roberts, who had a sack in the opener, and free safety Thad Williams could cause problems.

SKYHAWKS WITH THE BALL

Another up-tempo attack: The Skyhawks, like many teams now, run an up-tempo, spread offense. They take a balanced approach but ran for 289 yards last week because Chattanooga sat back on defense and took away the pass. Two UT Martin running backs contributed 100-yard games — DJ McNeil (134 yards) and Trent Garland (116). Garland began college at Middle Tennessee, where he didn’t play football. He transferred to UT Martin as a walk-on and coach Jason Simpson has said he made a mistake not offering him a scholarship out of high school.

Turnovers: UT Martin committed three turnovers last week — an interception and two fumbles. It can’t afford those mistakes Saturday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicking with confidence: Boise State needed to shore up its kicking game and junior kicker Dan Goodale and senior punter Trevor Harman performed well in the opener. Goodale made two field goals after his first attempt was blocked; Harman, who struggled last year and is fighting for his job, averaged 47.3 yards on three punts. “I’ve been working extremely hard,” Harman said. “It’s a good feeling when it pays off for sure.”

A special teams test: The Skyhawks boast a strong special teams resume. They were eighth in the FCS in punting and eighth in punt returns last season. Punter James Satterfield returns — he averaged 45.5 yards last week. Kickoff returner Corey Jordan contributed a 68-yard return.

Key matchup

BOISE STATE’S DEFENSE VS. UT MARTIN’S SPREAD OFFENSE

The Broncos endured one of the worst defensive games in school history last week, giving up 592 yards and 11 third-down conversions in 15 tries.

Much of the problems stemmed from their inability to get lined up properly against a fast-paced offense. BSU should be more comfortable at home, but the defense might have to deal with more noise this week.

“We need to make sure we’re going to be in the right gaps,” junior linebacker Corey Bell said.

It’s not just about winning this game.

The Broncos’ next two games are Mountain West showdowns with Air Force, one of the top contenders in Boise State’s Mountain Division, and Fresno State, the favorite in the West Division. Both of those teams run offensive schemes that force defenses to be assignment-sound and tackle well — so this game should serve as valuable preparation for the weeks ahead.

In addition to the alignment errors, Boise State missed more than 30 tackles against Washington.

“We got our first game out of the way,” redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Weaver said. “I think all the jitters will be out. We’ll be able to come back and just play.”

BSU PLAYERS TO WATCH

JAY AJAYI AND AARON BALTAZAR

Tailbacks

Ajayi and Baltazar thrived in the revamped run game out of the pistol formation. They combined for 142 yards on 33 carries against Washington. The pistol favors power backs because they’re able to hit the line of scrimmage with momentum.

“You’re downhill faster,” Ajayi said.

Ajayi (6-foot, 220 pounds), as he did last year as the backup, showed a rugged running style that makes him difficult to tackle. Coach Chris Petersen even suggested that at times he needs to go down easier.

“I understand there are times I need to cut my losses,” Ajayi said. “There is that part of me where I need to understand where we’re at on the field, what the situation is and maybe cut my losses a little bit, but at the same time I’m still going to run as hard as I can.”

Baltazar (5-10, 215) stepped into the No. 2 role as a true freshman, jumping ahead of sophomore Jack Fields and junior Derrick Thomas.

GERALDO BOLDEWIJN & CO.

Wide receivers

Petersen suggested the receivers need to do more to spark the offense. Boldewijn made a team-high eight catches last week. He also had the longest reception — a mere 16 yards. “Obviously they’re not going to give us any explosive plays,” senior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. “We need to go out and create them.”

DONTE DEAYON

Cornerback

Deayon started the season with an interception on the second play, but he and the other cornerbacks struggled in coverage at times. Deayon bit on a slant-and-go in the second half, giving up an easy touchdown. This is his first year as a starter. “We’ve got a big chip on our shoulder now,” he said. “We should’ve started off with it. Some guys did, but we’ll definitely be ready to come out this week.”

UT Martin players to watch

JAROD NEAL AND DYLAN FAVRE

Quarterbacks

The Skyhawks plan to play two quarterbacks for the second straight game while they search for the heir apparent to one of the school’s all-time greats.

Neal (6-foot-1, 191 pounds), a redshirt sophomore, started the opener against Chattanooga and completed his first seven passes. He was 10-of-15 for 79 yards with an interception.

Favre (5-10, 195) led three of the team’s four touchdown drives. He was 9-for-12 for 83 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards and a TD and lost a fumble.

“They both did well,” UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. “They both made one crucial mistake. … They both made plays, they both handled themselves well and they’ll both play this week.”

The quarterbacks are trying to replace three-year starter Derek Carr (not the Fresno State one), the school’s career leader in TD passes, total offense and passing yards.

BEN JOHNSON

Linebacker

Johnson went to UTM as a walk-on safety. He quit football at one point but has developed into one of the top playmakers in the Ohio Valley Conference. He led the OVC and ranked sixth in the nation with 131 tackles last season. He added four sacks and two forced fumbles. He made five preseason All-America teams this year.

JEREMY BUTLER

Wide receiver

Butler is the Skyhawks’ best offensive player. He opened the season with 10 catches for 91 yards. He’s trying to build upon a terrific junior season, his first in the program, when he made 10 touchdown catches and averaged 14.7 yards per catch. The College of the Sequoias transfer grabbed four TD passes in one game.

“He’s big and fast, and he makes tough catches, and he can stretch the field,” Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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