BOISE — OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE MIDYEAR: Joe Southwick, QB
A year ago, fans wanted him benched. This year, theyve started to appreciate his talent some of which is difficult to see, because it involves making decisions at the line of scrimmage to get the Broncos into the right plays. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes fourth-best in the nation and second-best in school history. He accounts for 58.3 percent of the yards and 45.2 percent of the offensive touchdowns for the Broncos, who have increased their midyear scoring average by 15.6 points per game.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE MIDYEAR: Demarcus Lawrence, DE
Hes the only defensive player the Broncos have who frequently destroys opponents plays. Hes third on the team with 31 tackles, first with six tackles for loss, second with three sacks and first with two blocked field goals despite missing one game with a suspension.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE MIDYEAR: Dan Goodale, K
He has helped the Broncos control field position (50 percent touchbacks, 19.2-yard average kickoff returns for opponents), swung momentum with two specialty kicks that the Broncos recovered and delivered rock-solid scoring kicks. He made a career-long, 39-yard field goal last week and has started trying longer kicks in practice. Ive been pretty money inside 40, so now we can back it up and see where I can get to, he said.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE MIDYEAR: Bryan Douglas, CB
Douglas tore an anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 27, 2012, at Wyoming so he still isnt a year into his recovery. He started slow, as youd expect, but lately has delivered the big plays and leadership the Broncos need in a young secondary. He tops the team with four interceptions and four pass breakups.
FRESHMAN OF THE MIDYEAR: Ben Weaver, LB
Weaver began the season as the backup weak-side linebacker in a job-sharing arrangement with Tyler Gray. Weaver has become the starter and receives most of the playing time because of his startling production. He leads the team with 49 tackles 16 more than anyone else. Hes definitely an accelerated player, junior linebacker Corey Bell said. Were all excited to see what hes going to do over the next few years. Linebacker Korey Hall made the most tackles by a Bronco freshman in the WAC/Mountain West era: 92 in 2003.
BREAKOUT PLAYER OF THE MIDYEAR (NON-FRESHMAN): Shane Williams-Rhodes, WR
Williams-Rhodes leads the team with 40 catches and four TD catches and ranks third with 356 receiving yards. He has 22 catches in the past two games the most by a Bronco in a two-game span since Tim Gilligan in 2003.
GAME OF THE MIDYEAR: Fresno State 41, Boise State 40 (Sept. 20 in Fresno, Calif.)
In a game packed with big plays (13 guys had a play from scrimmage of 20 yards or more) and strange happenings (the Broncos recovered a pooch kickoff and scored a two-point conversion on a scrambling throw by wide receiver Matt Miller), the defining moment came on a simple play. On fourth-and-6 at midfield with about a minute left, Southwick (playing through an injured shoulder) tossed a short pass to wide receiver Kirby Moore (playing with an undisclosed injury that has kept him out since) at the first-down marker. Moore couldnt hang on as he was hit by Jonathan Norton. Joe gave me a chance and Ive got to come down with that one, Moore said moments later. Its on me.
PLAY OF THE MIDYEAR: Shane Williams-Rhodes
Williams-Rhodes, who is 5-foot-6, made a diving, 14-yard touchdown catch in the front corner of the end zone against Southern Miss. Southwick threw on the run a scramble-drill combination that has become a huge weapon for the Broncos in the past two games. That was really a spectacular catch, coach Chris Petersen said. I didnt know if he caught it. Hes probably the only guy on the team who could have caught that thing. It was low and away. And thats the guy you want when its low and away.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MIDYEAR: Bronco TEs
The tight ends, who have been gashed by injuries for several years now, have not been much of a factor so far. Senior starter Gabe Linehan and sophomore backup Holden Huff each have missed three games. Huff returned last week and the tight ends had their best game of the season perhaps a hint of whats to come.
The Crystal Ball
GAME OF THE SECOND HALF: BSU at BYU
The Broncos beat BYU 7-6 last year in Boise without an offensive touchdown. Both teams are gaining momentum going into next weeks Friday night showdown in Provo. And we should see some scoring this year. Both teams rank in the top 30 in offensive yards per game and average more than 84 snaps per game.
GAME OF THE SECOND HALF II: Wyoming at BSU
It didnt get any attention when the schedule was released, but the Broncos most important game might be the Nov. 16 home date with Wyoming. The Cowboys (2-0) are the only Mountain Division team without a conference loss. That could be a make-or-break game for the Broncos division title hopes.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH: Gerardo Boldewijn, WR
Boldewijn leads the team with a 15.6-yard average per catch and has started to show the playmaking expected from the super athletic, 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Donte Deayon, CB; Beau Martin, DE
If Deayon can match Douglas and Martin (team-high four sacks) continues to emerge as a playmaker, the Broncos two biggest question marks when the season began cornerback and defensive line could become strengths. Thats what it will take for the Broncos to start looking like a Top 25 team again. To play a high-level defense, you always talk about some defensive ends and corners, Petersen said. Those guys can really change your life out there.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat