Monday Morning Report Card: Fresno State 41, Boise State 40

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Brian Murphy hands out the grades for Boise State’s 41-40 loss to Fresno State:

OFFENSE

Boise State rolled up 561 yards on 100 — yes, 100 — offensive plays. The concerns about the “new” offense, voiced in this space as well, seem to be overblown as the Broncos continue to put up yards and points. There was even some “old” Boise State offense thrown in, including a fake punt on fourth down deep in Boise State territory and a wide receiver pass for a two-point conversion. QB Joe Southwick, playing with a right shoulder injury suffered in the second quarter, delivered the gutsiest performance of his career, throwing for 313 yards and rushing for 54 (two total touchdowns). True freshman running back Aaron Baltazar had 92 yards and two touchdowns and may have won the starting job. Matt Miller (nine catches, 63 yards), Kirby Moore (nine catches, 72 yards) and Geraldo Boldewijn (six catches, 106 yards) all had big nights. But what will be remembered from such a tough loss are the mistakes — a bad Southwick interception in Fresno State territory, a Jay Ajayi fumble (his third in two games) after picking up a fourth down in deep in Fresno State territory and Moore’s drop/Southwick’s incompletion on fourth down on the game’s final drive. With a defense unable to get consistent stops, it was up to the offense to be a little bit better. It erased a 34-19 deficit, but it wasn’t enough. Grade: B

DEFENSE

The Broncos got just what they expected from Fresno State: lots of passes from senior QB Derek Carr and lots of catches from a quality set of wide receivers. The Broncos couldn’t find a way to stop it, particularly on the Bulldogs’ final possession when Carr drove his offense 87 yards for the game-winning score. Safety Dillon Lukehart, playing for the injured Jeremy Ioane, had a team-high nine tackles and made some solid plays in pass coverage. Beau Martin made several good plays in the second half. Ben Weaver, in his first start, had seven tackles. But the Broncos have to be better defensively. They aren’t doing one thing well right now — not tackling, not getting a consistent pass rush, not covering in man on the outside or in zone in the middle of the field. It is a very young group and the players are capable. But it may take some time for defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski to mold this unit. The Broncos did not force a single turnover. Grade: D

SPECIAL TEAMS

There has been a lot of talk about the Broncos’ attempt for a 2-point conversion after their first touchdown. That is a call made by the players on the field based on the alignment of the defense. Chris Petersen said it was “wide open,” but the execution was poor. The Broncos ended up chasing that point the rest of the game. Special teams were one of the reasons that point even mattered. Dallas Burroughs atoned for a silly decision to return the first kickoff with two long kickoff returns that helped set up BSU touchdowns. Punter Trevor Harman’s beautiful pass to Lukehart on a fake punt helped turn the field for the Broncos. A perfectly executed short kickoff resulted in an extra possession for the Broncos. The units weren’t perfect — Fresno State nearly broke a kickoff return — but they helped Boise State get back in the game. Grade: B

COACHING

Petersen showed crazy guts with several calls: the fake punt, the short kickoff, the wide receiver pass on a 2-point conversion. Some will complain about the early 2-point try, but when it works, no one ever says anything. Petersen himself wondered if backup QB Grant Hedrick, who threw an 18-yard touchdown pass in his lone attempt, should have seen more time with Southwick clearly ailing, but Southwick earned his spot on the field. The biggest questions are on defense, but it’s not as if the Broncos’ defensive coaches forgot how to coach in the last few years. Sometimes it’s about the players and the Broncos need to get better on that side of the ball. Grade: C

IN THE POLLS

Boise State did not receive a point in voting for The Associated Press Top 25 of USA Today Coaches’ Poll on Sunday. It is the first time since Oct. 16, 2005 that not a single AP voter or coach put the Broncos in the top 25. Boise State, 2-2 with losses at Washington and at Fresno State, also had two early losses in 2005 — at Georgia and at Oregon State. Fresno State is No. 25 in the AP poll and No. 23 in USA Today. Washington is No. 16 in AP and No. 20 in USA Today.

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