Boise State notes: Broncos must build depth behind Ajayi

The backup platoon of Fields, Thomas is gaining fewer than 3 yards per carry.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 15, 2013 

The Boise State football team seemed to have some of its best depth at tailback coming into this season.

So far, it hasn’t materialized.

Sophomore starter Jay Ajayi has been as good as advertised, with 544 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in the first six games. And true freshman Aaron Baltazar was terrific with 234 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament to end his season.

But sophomore Jack Fields and junior college transfer Derrick Thomas, the two guys who were supposed to provide insurance behind Ajayi, have combined for 41 carries and 112 yards — just 2.7 yards per carry.

They had seven carries for 11 yards last week at Utah State — and that doesn’t include a 10-yard loss when Thomas was unable to handle a snap in the wildcat formation.

“I do think that our other backs can do some things as well (as Ajayi), but they’ve got to break tackles when we give them chances to earn a few more reps,” coach Chris Petersen said. “They’ll tell you they need more touches, and we’ll say, ‘Break a tackle.’ ”

Fields played as a true freshman last year. He rushed for 135 yards on 43 carries (3.1 per carry). He has 89 yards on 29 carries (3.1) this year.

“He’s got to maybe see things a little better,” Petersen said. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed, downhill runner. One of the things we’re working with him on is being a little more patient and seeing things.”

‘Unfortunate events' explained

Petersen on Monday explained the wild ending to the first half of Saturday’s victory at Utah State.

“A series of unfortunate events,” he said. “… It’s on me.”

Here’s what happened:

• The Broncos got the ball on their own 13-yard line with 51 seconds remaining in the half. Quarterback Joe Southwick took a knee at the 11. The Broncos could have run the clock down to single digits by using the 40-second play clock, but when the game clock dropped below 40 seconds the referee told Southwick to snap it, Petersen said. Southwick took a knee at the 9 — and both teams began heading to the locker rooms.

• Utah State coach Matt Wells, who had two timeouts remaining, used one with 23 seconds left. “It’s smart football by them,” Petersen said. “I would have done the exact same thing. We’ve got to play to get out of the hole and play till the final seconds are off the clock.”

• With staff trying to get some players out of the locker room and the coordinators walking down from the press box to the field, Ajayi rushed for 7 yards on third-and-14. Utah State called timeout with 18 seconds left to force a punt.

• The Broncos did not use their usual punt formation for this type of situation, with the opponent going all out for a block. Plus, they had a personnel issue — redshirt freshman defensive end Sam McCaskill ran onto the field late to replace a missing player and lined up at guard. “We shouldn’t have punted out of the formation we were in,” Petersen said.

• Utah State blocked the punt, which went out of bounds at the Boise State 12-yard line with 12 seconds left in the half.

• On first and second downs, quarterback Craig Harrison threw jump balls to the far corner of the end zone — one to 6-foot-4 wide receiver Brandon Swindall, the other to 6-5 linebacker/part-time goal-line receiver Kyler Fackrell. Junior cornerback Bryan Douglas, who is 5-9, broke up both passes.

“Those are the type of plays you have to make, especially if they’re going to throw at you twice in a row,” linebacker Corey Bell said. “We were all excited. That was a playmaker making a big couple plays there.”

• Utah State sent kicker Nick Diaz out for a 29-yard field goal. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. pushed up the middle and blocked the kick to finally end the half. The Broncos led 24-10.

“It was quite a momentum swing and really some good competing on both sides, to tell you the truth,” Petersen said. “I was really proud of our guys. They didn’t (say), ‘Uh-oh, now what?’ They were irritated. It started from Bryan Douglas, to go knock those fade balls down. He was all about it.

“And then Charles Leno and Demarcus (Lawrence) and Ricky (Tjong-A-Tjoe) and all those guys that pushed inside (on the field goal). It was great football. I think both sides were extremely fired up on it. It was a good exchange, except I felt bad because I was at the center of it to blame. We shouldn’t have been there.”

Injury updates

Receiver Kirby Moore and right tackle Rees Odhiambo, who traveled but didn’t play last week, are week to week, Petersen said. Redshirt freshman Steven Baggett, who started at right tackle, is listed as the starter this week and Odhiambo is not on the depth chart. Moore is listed as the co-starter at slot receiver with Shane Williams-Rhodes, who has thrived in Moore’s absence the past two games. Williams-Rhodes has 22 catches in that span — the most in two games for a Bronco since Tim Gilligan in 2003 (23).

Chadd Cripe, 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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