BOISE — Boise State tailback Jay Ajayis hard-charging running style and penchant for dragging defenders has earned the sophomore more than 1,000 yards this season and the admiration of many Broncos fans.
It has also led to three lost fumbles and some criticism from coach Chris Petersen.
I dont think they should be fighting for extra yards, Petersen said of his playmakers last month. They (should) hit creases and go forward and try to fall forward. I dont think guys should be dancing and pulling and spinning because bad things are going to happen.
Ajayi said Wednesday that he is aware of the problems his style creates and is taking steps to cut down on the fumbles.
I want to be able to fight for every yard I can for this team. ... Im not going to change the way I play because I know that its going to help the team win, said Ajayi, who has a Mountain West-high 1,008 yards on the season. When I fight for those extra yards, I get put in those positions where the ball is susceptible to coming out. Ive just been working on that, keeping the ball high and tight, keeping two hands on the ball in the contact zone.
Boise State has had a 1,000-yard back in five consecutive seasons as Ajayi joined D.J. Harper (1,137 yards in 2012), Doug Martin (1,299 yards in 2011 and 1,260 yards in 2010) and Jeremy Avery (1,150 yards in 2009) in passing the milestone as the Broncos feature back.
Its a credit to the offensive line and how great theyve been doing all year. Theyve been opening up big holes for me and Ive been taking advantage, he said.
Ajayi injured his ribs in the Broncos 42-30 victory against Colorado State. He left the game briefly in the fourth quarter after landing on his side. With the offense designed to feature him and backup Aaron Baltazar out for the season, Ajayi is carrying a heavy load.
His 171 carries are tied for seventh in the nation.
Im definitely glad we got a bye week this week. Its been a long season, but weve still got some more games to go, said Ajayi, who said he has been spending more time in the training room taking care of his body.
Petersen highest-paid non-BCS coach
Petersen ranked No. 44 in USA Todays annual ranking of college football coaches salaries. The newspaper pegged Petersens salary at $2.151 million, tops among all head coaches at non-BCS schools.
The paper collected data on 119 of 126 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Idahos Paul Petrino ($400,011) was 105th among all coaches. Colorado States Jim McElwain ($1.35 million) was No. 2 in the Mountain West.
Alabamas Nick Saban ($5.545 million), Texas Mack Brown ($5.453 million) and Arkansas Bret Bielema ($5.158 million) are the highest-paid coaches.
A newfound respect
Senior defensive end Kharyee Marshall earned a new appreciation for some of his teammates after being pressed into action at defensive tackle in the Broncos victory at Colorado State.
I have a lot of respect for the 3-techniques now, Marshall said of the teams defensive tackles. It was very weird, just being that close to the ball and taking on double teams a little bit more.
Three-technique refers to lining up on the outside shoulder of the offenses guard in the gap between him and the offensive tackle. At defensive end, Marshall is accustomed to lining up to the outside of the offensive tackle with more space to operate.
Marshall, at 240 pounds, said the last time he played defensive tackle was in Pop Warner football. But with injuries depleting the Broncos numbers at defensive tackle, he was put in the game in the middle.
I was explaining to one guy how to play 3-technique and (coach) was like, matter of fact, you know it, youre going 3-technique, Marshall said. It was kind of fun, but at the same time it was different.
Southwick itching to play again
Senior starting quarterback Joe Southwick, who broke his ankle in the Broncos victory against Nevada on Oct. 19, is eager to get back on the field.
Southwick underwent surgery on Oct. 21, and Petersen indicated that it would be at least five weeks before the quarterback could possibly return.
Hes been nudging the trainers: 'Let me come back.' Hes got heart. Hes a fighter and he wants to get back and help this team, Ajayi said.
Southwick has been attending every practice and every meeting.
Its his senior year. He definitely doesnt want to end it just like that. I know hes going to fight to come back and do whatever he can to help us win, Ajayi said. Its awesome. Hes our leader on offense. To see him that passionate about wanting to come back and help this team win, it just makes me feel good.
Bye week relief
To outsiders, Boise States bye week felt like it came at the perfect time for a team with injury issues at nearly every position. To insiders, it felt the same.
Its a consensus around the team. Were all glad its a bye week, Ajayi said. Were just excited to get all of our bodies back together.
He said that wide receiver Kirby Moore and right tackle Rees Odhiambo could return for the Broncos game against Wyoming.
Boise State lost another member of its 2014 recruiting class Wednesday when Dimitri Flowers withdrew his commitment and instead pledged to Oklahoma, according to the The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City.
Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 219 pound-tight end from San Antonio, committed to Boise State in June.
Flowers is the Broncos latest commitment to change his mind, joining running back Squally Canada, defensive lineman Hawkins Mann (who committed to San Diego State) and wide receiver Shay Fields (USC).
He said it
This is the year of the burnt redshirt, offensive guard Marcus Henry said about the injured Broncos reliance on younger players.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph