Brian Murphy hands out the grades for Boise States 34-17 victory over Nevada.
The Broncos lost their offensive leader on their first play from scrimmage when quarterback Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle while scrambling. Without Southwick, who was 15-4 as the starter, Boise State turned to junior Grant Hedrick. Hedricks first possession ended with an interception on a tipped ball. After consecutive punts, the Boise State offense and Hedrick took control. It was his 49-yard run on third-and-4 that led to the Broncos first point. Hedrick finished 18-of-21 passing for 150 yards and rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Jay Ajayi rushed for a career-high 222 yards (the fifth most in BSU history) and three touchdowns.
The Broncos scored touchdowns on four of five second-half possessions. The offensive line obviously deserves credit as the Broncos 407 rushing yards were the fifth most in school history. Without Southwick, a fifth-year senior with a great command of the offense, the Broncos may have to alter their attack slightly using Hedricks legs and a less vertical passing game. The longest completion of the game was 23 yards to Matt Miller (five catches, 55 yards). Grade: B+
Nevada had three scoring drives in the first half, each going for more at least 12 plays, 60 yards and consuming five minutes. The Broncos defensive line was being knocked off the ball consistently as Nevada scored 17 first-half points. Boise State changed its schemes slightly in the second half, but players and coaches attributed the Broncos second-half shutout to simply better effort on the line of scrimmage. Defenders were able to shed Nevada blockers and corral the Wolf Pack attack. Nevada punted on its first four second-half drives, and the final one ended on a failed fourth-down try.
Freshman linebacker Ben Weaver again led the Broncos in tackles with 14, including 2.5 for loss. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was disruptive, finishing with 3.5 sacks for minus-29 yards. Freshman linebacker Tanner Vallejo also showed up consistently. Cornerback Bryan Douglas continued his solid season, racking up nine tackles (seven solo) and a pass breakup. Grade: B+
Kicker Dan Goodale had five touchbacks on six kickoffs, continuing a season-long trend. His missed extra point seemed big at the time, but the Broncos made sure it was just a footnote on this night. Nevada had few return opportunities against Goodale and punter Trevor Harman. Grade: B
It has been more than a decade since Boise State was forced to use its backup quarterback in an emergency injury situation. But the coaches (along with Hedrick) deserve credit for having the backup prepared and ready to go. Not every team can make that transition in the middle of a game. The offensive staff leaned toward calls that played to Hedricks strengths. The defensive staffs tweaks contributed to the second-half shutout. And, perhaps most importantly, the coaches were able to keep the Broncos focused even as players said they were shaken by Southwicks injury. Petersen is widely considered one of the best coaches in the college game. Saturday night proved once again why so many feel that way. Grade: A
IN THE POLLS
Fresno State is No. 17 in the initial Bowl Championship Series standings of 2013, giving the Mountain West a chance to place a team in a big-money BCS bowl. Boise State is No. 37 in the expanded BCS standings. BYU, which hosts Boise State on Friday, is No. 36. The Broncos received one point in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris poll and none in the Associated Press Top 25.