Monday Morning Report Card: Boise State 63, UT Martin 14

September 9, 2013 

Brian Murphy hands out the grades for Boise State’s 63-14 victory over UT Martin.

OFFENSE

After failing to score a touchdown against Washington, the Broncos responded with nine touchdowns (eight offensive) against UT Martin. Quarterback Joe Southwick threw five touchdowns, running back Jay Ajayi ran for two and dynamic receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes caught two. The Skyhawks, from the Football Championship Subdivision, weren’t the biggest test for the Boise State offense, but it had to be encouraging for the Broncos to see their new offense get in the end zone over and over again. The Broncos averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the ground despite UTM’s insistence on playing lots of defenders around the line of scrimmage. That freed things up for the receivers. Southwick connected with Aaron Burks for a 54-yard touchdown and the Broncos drew some pass interference penalties, but the downfield passing game still needs work. “Our receivers had some opportunities to win some 1-on-1s, and we did. We didn’t win them all, but we won enough,” offensive coordinator Robert Prince said. Grade: B

DEFENSE

The good news: Boise State forced six turnovers (five by the defense), including four interceptions. Cornerback Bryan Douglas had two interceptions, including a 33-yard return for a touchdown in a 35-point second quarter for the Broncos. The bad news: Boise State still had way too many missed tackles. Poor tackling was a problem against Washington, and it persisted. The Broncos are also down two of their top six linebackers already with Travis Saxton (knee, likely out for the season) joining Jonathan Brown (knee, expected to miss six weeks) on the injured list. Boise State was without standout defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who missed his third game due to suspension. Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams coach Scott Huff noticed a hole in the UTM kickoff return plan. Kicker Dan Goodale exploited it perfectly — and the Broncos recovered an onside kick that led to the rout. It was 14-7 at the time of Huff’s call, Goodale’s kick and Ebo Makinde’s recovery. Williams-Rhodes showed that he can be a weapon in the punt return game, taking one return 43 yards. He had three returns for 71 yards in the game. Both punters (Trevor Harman and Sean Wale) were extremely effective. Harman averaged 43.8 yards per punt with two inside the 20 on four punts. Wale averaged 43.5 per punt, with both his punts inside the 20. Taylor Loffler recovered a fumble by UTM on a kickoff return. Grade: A

COACHING

There were no outward signs of panic after the Broncos’ poor effort at Washington. And Boise State bounced back as well as it could with a solid all-around performance in the home opener. The competition, however, made it difficult to know how much Boise State has improved. But things get tougher quickly, with back-to-back conference games against Air Force and Fresno State. “It’s always, always a work in progress. We have not arrived. We haven’t anything,” coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s two weeks. We took a step forward and I think we learned a lot of things from the last game we played. We’ll learn a lot from this game.” The Broncos will need to be better in the next two weeks. Grade: B

IN THE POLLS

Boise State retained its three points in The Associated Press Top 25 and dropped from five points to two in the USA Today Coaches’ poll, both released Sunday. Boise State’s poll performance (five total points) is its worst since getting two points Nov. 13, 2005.

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