Broncos drop the ball — often — against BYU

Four turnovers, other mistakes doom Boise State in Petersen’s 100th game.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 26, 2013 

— The Boise State football team committed four turnovers Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

It forced zero from BYU.

“You might just be able to start and stop right there,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.

That, of course, would ignore a litany of other mistakes that contributed to the Broncos’ 37-20 loss and the worst first half by a Boise State team in Petersen’s 100-game career.

The Broncos were 2-for-5 on fourth down. They missed a slew of tackles while digging a 24-3 halftime deficit. Their receivers missed a couple of deep balls that could have been caught. Their defensive backs got beat on several deep balls that could have been broken up.

As poorly as they played, they were down 10-3 late in the first half before a 14-point barrage from the Cougars and were giving indications they might make the second half exciting before losing the ball on three straight possessions.

“We had a lot of chances,” said junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who made his first start in place of senior Joe Southwick (broken ankle). “We could have swung the game in a totally different direction if we capitalize on some of those things. If we don’t, that’s what happens — we get beat by a good team. But if we make some of those plays, I think we’re right in it.”

The Broncos fell to 5-3 for the first time since 2001. They suffered a third loss for the first time since 2007, lost to a Utah team for the first time since 1997 (21 straight wins) and lost in October for the first time since 2001 (50 straight wins).

They’re 1-3 on the road, where they will be again Nov. 2 at Colorado State.

The Broncos still are 3-1 and in control of their destiny in the Mountain West’s Mountain Division race, but they likely won’t extend their five-year run of Top 25 finishes.

“We’re still playing for all our goals,” junior linebacker Corey Bell said. “This loss hurts, but our goals are still in place.”

BYU improved to 6-2 and accepted a bid to the Fight Hunger Bowl. The Cougars have won five straight behind the improving play of sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill (Highland High), who threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown without a turnover.

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall called it the best half the Cougars have played in his nine years at the helm.

“Against a quality opponent, that was really strong football,” Mendenhall said.

The Cougars outgained the Broncos 376-202 in the first half and seemed to make every critical play.

They batted down Hedrick’s pass at the line on fourth-and-3 on the Broncos’ first drive and Hill ran for a 20-yard touchdown on third-and-2 as the Cougars took a 10-0 lead.

The Broncos were on the verge of a breakthrough early in the second quarter when they faced a fourth-and-1 at the BYU 12. Hedrick ran a sneak and appeared to surge ahead, but was marked down at the line of scrimmage.

“Grant felt like he got it,” Petersen said. “That’s all I know.”

Said Hedrick: “I felt like we moved a little bit. There’s a lot of stuff going on in there.”

The Broncos were on the wrong side of a string of momentum plays late in the half.

Junior wide receiver Dallas Burroughs was interfered with on a deep ball in the end zone. He still had a chance to catch the ball, but instead the Broncos settled for a field goal that made it 10-3.

Moments later, Boise State cornerback Bryan Douglas misjudged a deep ball thrown by Hill. The ball soared over his fingertips to wide receiver Ross Apo for a touchdown and 17-3 lead.

The Broncos needed a score to take a good vibe into the locker room. Instead, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes tried to slither through several defenders and lost the ball.

“They tell us the person who knocks the ball out is behind you,” Williams-Rhodes said. “I got careless trying to make a play.”

The Cougars scored six plays later — on another jump ball, with wide receiver Cody Hoffman beating cornerback Donte Deayon to the ball.

“They made the plays when we didn’t,” Petersen said. “You talk about tackling, turnovers, the 50/50 balls. Their receivers made the plays and we made one.”

Defensively, the Broncos’ problem from the Washington and Fresno State games re-appeared: missed tackles.

“That’s the same thing we’ve been working on all year,” sophomore safety Darian Thompson said. “It seems like we haven’t quite got it figured out yet.”

The Broncos played much better in the second half — outgaining the Cougars 297-192 and outscoring them 17-13.

But a missed block forced the Broncos to kick a field goal when they needed more early in the half and a flurry of turnovers — a fumble by wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn, an interception by Hedrick and a fumble by tailback Jay Ajayi (151 rushing yards) in a span of eight offensive snaps — short-circuited any comeback attempt.

“We’re putting our defense in too much harm’s way,” Petersen said. “There’s no way they can hold up that long against a good BYU team. Four turnovers, we had no chance. We can’t convert fourth-and-1s when we get some momentum going? We’re not going to win. We have no chance.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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