Boise State’s defense bounces back big

The Broncos yield 357 yards, but allow only 14 points and create six turnovers.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comSeptember 8, 2013 

As much as Boise State’s offense struggled in its 38-6 season-opening loss at Washington, the defense took just as much of the blame.

On Saturday during a 63-14 win over UT Martin, the defense’s six takeaways and much-improved result on the scoreboard was cathartic.

“Basically, all of it was motivation — we never want to give Bronco Nation that image of us,” cornerback Bryan Douglas said. “We came out to make a point today.”

After creating one turnover against Washington — on the second play of the game — the Broncos got four interceptions and recovered two fumbles against the Skyhawks. Boise State scored 21 points off those turnovers.

“The turnovers, that we were able to finish plays, going up and getting the ball, that was huge,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

The biggest play off one of those turnovers was Douglas’ 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5 minutes, 3 seconds to go in the first half. The junior missed the last five games of 2012 with a torn ACL. He added a second interception in the third quarter at the Boise State 9-yard line.

“It felt good, just coming from rehab, it felt good to let everybody know I’m back,” Douglas said.

Though there were plenty of smiles on the sideline for the defense, the unit was quick to acknowledge the need for further improvement.

UT Martin picked up 357 yards of offense, converted 11-of-20 third downs and allowed two sacks. After missing more than 30 tackles against Washington, the Broncos still had quite a few misses Saturday.

“I think we did take a step, but we’ve got to tackle better, we get tired, take a lot of snaps,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “We had the quarterback a couple times and couldn’t tackle him, we’ve got to be better about that.”

Kwiatkowski said “tackling is on the top of the list” for needed improvements, especially with games against Air Force and Fresno State the next two Friday nights.

“It’s shown up in the first and second games, so it’s something we know has to improve quickly — if you miss one tackle or 20, there’s room to improve,” safety Ebo Makinde said.

The Broncos have a short week to prepare for Air Force’s option, which was held to 162 rushing yards Saturday by Utah State.

“They’re a good team, it’ll need to be a good week of prep,” Kwiatkowski said. “Those things we are trying to focus are on going to be big against them — it’s all about leveraging the ball, having your eyes in the right place, having that first guy make a tackle.”

Armand Nance and Dillon Lukehart, both sophomores, led the Broncos with eight tackles apiece. Douglas said the defense’s youngsters “got all the early-season jitters out and they were ready to play today.” Trying to temper the enthusiasm, Douglas noted that a real test of improvement lies right around the corner.

“It’s very good,” Douglas said. “We’ve got to keep rolling from here, but we can’t get too high on this. We’ve got to start grinding on Air Force.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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