Bronco Beat: Demas in lineup gives Boise State new speedy options

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 22, 2013 

Boise State freshman running back Devan Demas addresses the media on Nov. 21, 2013.

BRIAN MURPHY — bmurphy@idahostatesman.com

Devan Demas calls it the fastest backfield in the nation.

Boise State unveiled a specialty configuration last week that featured junior quarterback Grant Hedrick, who teammates say might be the fastest Bronco in pads; sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, the shiftiest Bronco; and Demas, a redshirt freshman tailback who made the team’s top three with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash in the spring.

The previously little-used Demas sparked the go-ahead TD drive against Wyoming with three carries for 28 yards.

“Devan has done a great job of being consistent the past couple weeks,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. “When you are consistent, opportunities will come. He just has to stay on that path in order to make sure he has a solid slate in the game plan.”

For years, one of the endearing quirks to the offense was coaches’ ability to find roles for players like Demas — low on the depth chart, but grinding in practice.

The switch to a fast-paced offense has made that more difficult because the Broncos don’t sub every play as they did before.

For Demas, they created a package of plays that keeps him on the field for an extended period.

“It was unbelievable,” Demas said. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a very long time.”

Demas has spent most of this season on the scout team, running the opponents’ plays against the Broncos’ defense. That can be difficult to take for a second-year player. His mom helped him handle the disappointment.

“Keep working hard,” she told him. “Keep driving.”

“Every opportunity I get over there I try to make something happen,” Demas said. “Basically try to get the defense better. As good a look as I give, it’s going to show up on Saturday. If I do bad, they’re going to do bad.”

It was that effort on the scout team that got him noticed. Defensive coaches told offensive coaches what they were seeing.

Demas still is splitting time between the scout team and the offense. But if he continues to produce, he likely will continue to show up on game day.

“Hearing the consistency (from defensive coaches) day after day, that’s how you knew it was time for him to get a break,” Bhonapha said.

•••

The Broncos have turned the ball over on their first possession in three of the past four games and have allowed the opponent to score first in four straight games and seven of 10 overall.

“It’s one thing to punt the ball,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s another thing to turn the ball over. That’s got to change. That’s frustrating.”

On the Broncos’ first two drives of the game this season (20 total drives), they have:

• Eight three-and-outs, six of them on the second drive.

• Five turnovers, all on the opening drive.

• Four touchdowns, with just one on the opening drive (vs. Air Force).

• A punt after a first down, for a total of nine punts.

• A blocked field goal.

• And a failed fourth down.

Those 20 drives have netted a total of 443 yards — or 22.2 per drive.

What makes those numbers particularly difficult to digest is the Broncos’ history of fast starts. Even with last year’s struggling offense, the Broncos scored first in 11 of 13 games.

“Everybody always talks about you have to be a good finisher, but we have to be good starters, too,” senior left guard Spencer Gerke said. “… You can’t ever ease into it. It’s kind of a knock on yourself if you can’t come out and score that first drive.”

•••

A dozen Broncos from Southern California are expected to play Saturday at San Diego State. It’s the Broncos’ first game in Southern California since a 2011 visit to Qualcomm Stadium and the last scheduled trip to Southern California until 2017.

The group includes cornerbacks Chaz Anderson (Los Angeles), Donte Deayon (Rialto), Mercy Maston (Bakersfield), Cleshawn Page (Los Angeles) and Bryan Douglas (Los Angeles), offensive linemen Travis Averill (Anaheim) and Mario Yakoo (San Diego), wide receiver Troy Ware (Oceanside), long snapper Kevin Keane (Moorpark), defensive lineman Gabe Perez (Placentia), safety Darian Thompson (Lancaster) and punter Sean Wale (La Habra).

“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting,” Deayon said. “My mom gets to come see me play. … A lot of the SoCal guys have a lot of family coming. It’s going to give a little extra hype. Of course, everyone wants to perform well in front of their family.”

Bhonapha is one of the coaches who recruits Southern California. He said he likely will try to visit schools Friday afternoon but won’t have time to attend games. The Broncos can’t provide tickets to recruits on the road.

•••

Senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn on senior quarterback Joe Southwick returning to practice less than a month after surgery on his broken ankle: “He’s a fighter. I saw him out there and I was thinking, ‘He broke his ankle when? And now he’s already out there running?’ He’s out there and he’s actually looking pretty good.”

•••

San Diego State beat Boise State last year in Boise, something only two other teams have done since mid-September 2001. Now the Aztecs will try to do something even more rare — beat the Broncos twice in a row. The last team to do that: Oregon State, in 1989 and 2003. The last team to do it somewhat close together: Arkansas, in 2000 and 2002. And the last team to do it in consecutive seasons: Washington State, in 2000 and 2001.

Chadd Cripe is in his 12th year as the Idaho Statesman beat writer for Boise State football. He also is a voter for The Associated Press Top 25. You can contact him at ccripe@idahostatesman.com, follow him on Twitter at @IDS_BroncoBeat and read his blog at blogs.idahostatesman.com/broncobeat.


STATESMAN BOWL PROJECTIONS

BCS Championship (Jan. 6): Alabama vs. Florida State

Fiesta (Jan. 1): Baylor vs. Fresno State

Rose (Jan. 1): Oregon vs. Ohio State

Sugar (Jan. 2): Texas A&M vs. UCF

Orange (Jan. 3): Stanford vs. Clemson

Las Vegas (Dec. 21): Boise State (MW No. 1) vs. Oregon State (Pac-12 No. 5)

Poinsettia (Dec. 26): Utah State (MW No. 2) vs. Bowling Green (MAC)

New Mexico (Dec. 21): Colorado State (MW) vs. Arizona (Pac-12 No. 7)

Hawaii (Dec. 24): UNLV (MW) vs. Rice (C-USA)

Armed Forces (Dec. 30): San Diego State (MW) vs. Navy

Famous Idaho Potato (Dec. 21): San Jose State (MW) vs. Ball State (MAC No. 3)

OUR COVERAGE

Monday blog: Southwick practices — and press conference videos Tuesday story: Weekly Boise State football notes Tuesday blog: How the MW championship game works Tuesday blog: Mountain West Football Report Wednesday story: Walk-on QB sparks San Diego State Wednesday story: Scouting San Diego State Wednesday blog: Two rules that irk Petersen Thursday story: LB Tanner Vallejo’s historic true freshman season Thursday blog: Q&A with San Diego State beat writer Stefanie Loh Friday story: Devan Demas provides a spark, breaking down the slow starts, and more notes Name the Score Contest

Live chat: You can read a replay of our live chat below.

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