Cowboys corralled: Offense, defense click as Boise State rolls past Wyoming

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 17, 2013 

The Boise State football team on Saturday night at Bronco Stadium played the style of defense that fueled all those Bowl Championship Series runs.

The type of defense that has been missing this season.

The Broncos allowed a season-low 265 yards and collected four turnovers en route to a 48-7 victory over the Wyoming Cowboys.

“That’s what it’s supposed to look like,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “That’s what we’re used to.”

The Broncos (7-3 overall, 5-1 Mountain West) allowed a touchdown on a blown coverage on the Cowboys’ second possession of the game. Of the other 14 drives, only three reached Boise State territory and five covered 20 yards or more.

The dominant effort came from an injury-plagued defense that allowed 626 yards Nov. 2 at Colorado State and 568 yards Oct. 25 at BYU while getting a total of two turnovers.

The Wyoming offense was ranked 16th in the nation with 491.8 yards per game and barely got half that on the blue turf.

“That was amazing,” sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon said. “It happened with the defense all flying around to the ball. … I feel like everyone’s energy was up. The bye week helped.”

The Broncos’ offense capitalized on the momentum provided by the defense with three touchdowns each from junior wide receiver Matt Miller (seven catches, 143 yards) and sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi (11 carries, 70 yards).

Three of those scores came after turnovers — including drives of 15 and 2 yards.

“They played awesome,” junior quarterback Grant Hedrick said of the defense. “We kind of played sloppy a little bit on offense at times. They had our back. We really needed that. They stepped up.”

Junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who led the team with seven tackles and two sacks (10.5 this season), provided the game’s turning point.

With the score tied at 7-7 in the first quarter, the Cowboys drove to the Boise State 21-yard line. On first down, Lawrence stripped quarterback Brett Smith and sophomore defensive tackle Armand Nance recovered.

The Broncos drove 69 yards for the go-ahead touchdown — the second of four straight TD drives.

“(Lawrence) is usually the guy on defense who is going to be around the ball and make something happen,” Petersen said. “It was good. We needed that.”

Petersen pledged after the Colorado State game to generate more passes to Miller, one of the most productive receivers in school history. Miller made two touchdown catches in that game after a scoreless October.

The emphasis showed on the drive after the Lawrence forced fumble. On third-and-6 at the Wyoming 25, Hedrick made a back-shoulder throw to Miller at the goal line that fell incomplete.

“It would have been a tough catch,” Miller said. “It’s one I’ve got to make.”

He made amends on the next play, an 11-yard completion in traffic on fourth-and-6. And on the next play, Hedrick hit Miller again — and watched his roommate drag cornerback Blair Burns for several yards to the end zone.

“No one likes a drop,” Miller said. “I just had to go make a play.”

He added a highlight-reel touchdown in the second quarter. Miller broke open on a deep ball against Burns, but the ball was woefully underthrown. Miller worked back to the ball and drew a pass-interference flag on Burns. The ball hit them as they battled for position. Miller grabbed the carom and scooted into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown and 28-7 lead.

“It was a terrible ball, but he went up and made a great play,” Hedrick said. “That’s the thing — you’ve got to trust him. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”

The Broncos added a field goal to open the second half and the defense set up Ajayi’s third touchdown run when defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe forced a fumble and linebacker Corey Bell returned it to the 2-yard line.

Miller tacked on his third touchdown with 4:24 left in the third quarter for a 45-7 lead — and the Broncos began emptying the bench.

“It’s a lot of fun when the whole team comes together and plays like that,” Hedrick said.

Wyoming (4-6, 2-4), meanwhile, suffered its fourth straight loss after a promising start.

“It is weighing on us. It sucks,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “We’re not very good right now.”

Boise State will see the other extreme next Saturday at San Diego State (6-4, 5-1). The Aztecs have won six of their past seven games, and the only loss was in overtime to Fresno State.

“We’ve got to continue this next week,” Deayon said.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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