Boise State has no time to relax during bye week

Boise State wants to improve during the prelude to a grueling October schedule.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 1, 2013 

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Boise State Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick (16) throws a pass during the second half of the game against Southern Miss at Bronco Stadium. Boise State defeated Southern Miss 60-7. Saturday September 28, 2013

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

— Boise State football coach Chris Petersen and his players weren’t talking about a break when they were asked about this week’s bye.

“We’ve definitely got to get better,” Petersen said after Saturday’s 60-7 win against Southern Miss. “We’ve got a really good team in Utah State that’s going to be staring at us. If we don’t play our best football of the year, we won’t win.”

The Broncos (3-2) will return from the bye to face a challenging four-week stretch, beginning Oct. 12 at Utah State (3-2) in a game that could decide the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. The Broncos also play Nevada (3-2) on Oct. 19 in Boise, at BYU (2-2) on Oct. 25 and at Colorado State (2-3) on Nov. 2 before their second bye.

That’s two division games (Utah State, Colorado State), an old rival (Nevada), a new rival (BYU), a short preparation week (BYU) and three road trips crammed into 23 days — from the time the Broncos leave for Logan until they return from Fort Collins.

“October is going to be a big month for us,” senior quarterback Joe Southwick said. “We’ve got some big games coming up for us. … This bye week, we have to practice and get better.”

The inexperienced Broncos have improved since their season-opening loss at Washington, and even since their one-point loss at Fresno State 11 days ago. But there’s still a lot of work to do — the defense allows 405.8 yards per game, and the offense has been depleted by injuries.

A loss to Utah State, which is 2-0 in the Mountain West and doesn’t play Fresno State or Nevada, likely would doom the Broncos’ championship hopes.

“We’re making progress, I think that,” Petersen said of what he’s learned about his team. “If we can get some guys back healthy, we can take another step. … Because we’re so young and inexperienced, I’m still not exactly sure, but I do like them. They work hard, they go hard, they care about what they’re doing.”

If you want to do some scouting, BYU visits Utah State at 6 p.m. Friday (CBS Sports Network). Nevada plays at San Diego State at 7 p.m. that night (ESPN).

Offense on the rise

The Broncos climbed to 18th in the nation in scoring at 42.2 points per game, despite not scoring a touchdown in the opener. They have scored 40-plus points in four straight games for the first time in three years, and 60-plus twice in a season for the first time in nine years.

The Broncos also are second in the nation in first downs with 141 — 28.2 per game.

One concern remains: slow starts. The Broncos have failed to score on their first two possessions in all but one game (three straight TDs vs. Air Force). They have scored a touchdown on their third possession in all but the opener.

“We’ll work on that,” Petersen said. “We definitely need to come out faster than that.”

No injury updates

Petersen isn’t available to the local media this week, so there is nothing to report on the mounting injuries — wide receivers Aaron Burks and Kirby Moore, tight ends Gabe Linehan and Holden Huff and defensive tackle Tyler Horn missed the Southern Miss game. Tailback Aaron Baltazar and right tackle Rees Odhiambo left the game with injuries.

Petersen’s next scheduled press conference is Monday.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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