Boise State football seeks a November to remember

The Broncos hope to get through this year’s 11th month without another critical defeat.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 23, 2013 

Boise State running backs D.J. Harper, left, and Jay Ajayi bow their heads after losing to San Diego State 21-19 last year at Bronco Stadium. The Broncos are 26-4 in November under Chris Petersen, with losses each of the past three years to Nevada, TCU and SDSU while ranked third, fifth and 14th respectively in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Idaho Statesman file

  • Expect late-night theatrics

    The Boise State football team’s first 10 games have included precious little drama. In only one game — the Broncos’ 41-40 loss at Fresno State — has the trailing team gotten the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or take the lead.

    San Diego State’s season has been just the opposite. The Aztecs have played six straight games decided by seven points or fewer — the longest streak in the nation this year — including three overtime decisions.

    In that six-game stretch, the Aztecs have blown a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter (beat Nevada in overtime), overcome a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter twice (beat Air Force in regulation, lost to Fresno State in overtime), overcome an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter by scoring 22 points (beat San Jose State) and overcome a seven-point deficit in the final 3 minutes (beat Hawaii in overtime).

    In all, the Aztecs have scored 96 fourth-quarter points — 35 more than in any other quarter.

    The Broncos, by contrast, often have shut down their offense by then. They’ve scored 65 points in the fourth quarter — the fewest they’ve managed in any period.

    Boise State, which lost 21-19 to San Diego State last year in Boise by getting outscored 14-6 in the second half, has taken note of the Aztecs’ cardiac-kid quality.

    “They come out way better in the second half,” Boise State wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn said. “They keep swinging at their opponent. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. You can’t get comfortable with those guys.”

    — Chadd Cripe

  • BSU in November under Petersen

    2013 (2-0): def. Colorado State 42-30, Wyoming 48-7.

    2012 (2-1): lost to San Diego State 21-19; def. Hawaii 49-14, Colorado State 42-14.

    2011 (3-1): def. UNLV 48-21; lost to TCU 36-35; def. San Diego State 52-35, Wyoming 36-14.

    2010 (3-1): def. Hawaii 42-7, Idaho 52-14, Fresno State 51-0; lost to Nevada 34-31 (OT).

    2009 (4-0): def. Louisiana Tech 45-35, Idaho 63-25, Utah State 52-21, Nevada 44-33.

    2008 (5-0): def. New Mexico State 49-0, Utah State 49-14, Idaho 45-10, Nevada 41-34, Fresno State 61-10.

    2007 (3-1): def. San Jose State 42-7, Utah State 52-0, Idaho 58-14; lost to Hawaii 39-27.

    2006 (4-0): def. Fresno State 45-21, San Jose State 23-20, Utah State 49-10, Nevada 38-7.

— Each of the past three years, the Boise State football team entered November with a chance to earn a Bowl Championship Series berth.

There was the infamous missed field goal in 2010 at Nevada. A string of mistakes in the final minutes in 2011 against TCU. And a special-teams meltdown in 2012 against San Diego State.

Those defeats overshadow the 35 wins collected by those three teams.

The 2013 Broncos are trying to flip that script.

This year, they entered November with a 5-3 record, the program’s worst eight-game start since 2001. But with a perfect November — two wins down, two to go — the Broncos can turn a once-disappointing season into a success.

“November is really important,” senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn said. “This is a time when a lot of players are dinged up. Players are going to have to play hurt. You’re going to have to make plays while being hurt. Coach (Chris Petersen) says if you want to be great, you’ve got to play great in November.

“We keep that in the back of our head. It’s all about finishing strong. We’ve been emphasizing that since I’ve been here at Boise State.”

To do that, the Broncos will have to reverse an ugly 2013 trend. The Broncos have lost their three most challenging games of the season — at Washington (3.5-point favorite), at Fresno State (3.5-point favorite) and at BYU (7-point favorite). It wasn’t the road that was the problem — the Broncos handled Utah State and Colorado State on the road to seize control of the Mountain West Mountain Division — but the quality of the opponents.

San Diego State nearly beat Fresno State, has won six of its past seven games and has won 12 of its past 13 Mountain West games. There’s little doubt this is Challenge No. 4.

“Hopefully we can come out and prove something,” senior left guard Spencer Gerke said.

The Broncos were derailed in their three losses by the same collection of faults, problems they can’t afford Saturday:

Turnovers: The Broncos were even on turnovers against Washington, but their lone giveaway came on the opening drive in Huskies territory; they were minus-2 against Fresno State and the defense did not force any; and they were minus-4 against BYU, when the defense again failed to force a miscue. So that’s minus-6 on turnovers in losses; plus-6 in wins.

Missed tackles: Washington gained 592 yards and converted 11-of-15 third downs. Fresno State gained 522 and converted 10-of-19 third or fourth downs. BYU gained 568 and converted 8-of-20 third and fourth downs. Sloppy tackling contributed heavily to those gaudy stats, and those three teams gained 200 more yards per game than the Broncos’ other seven opponents.

Fourth-down failures: The Broncos were 1-for-2 against Washington, 1-for-4 against Fresno State — including the game-sealing incompletion on their final drive — and 2-for-5 against BYU. That’s a 4-for-11 total. They’re 5-for-6 against everyone else.

And red-zone stumbles: The Broncos scored zero touchdowns on three red-zone visits against Washington, four on seven trips against Fresno State and two on five drives against BYU. That’s a success rate of 40 percent. Against everyone else, the Broncos reach the end zone on 80 percent of their red-zone visits.

“Most of (the problems) were little details that we need to take care of,” Boldewijn said. “We’ve been doing a lot better.”

How much better should be evident Saturday night.

With a win, the Broncos will just need to win their home finale against New Mexico or get a loss from Utah State, which plays Saturday afternoon against Colorado State, to secure a second shot at Fresno State in the Mountain West championship game. An encore of the September thriller would be the true test of this young team’s progress.

“We all want to be finishers around here, whether it’s on the football field or in school,” sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon said. “We want to finish the semester strong and finish football strong.”

Added junior linebacker Blake Renaud: “We’ve got a chance to make it a good season — the season we wanted to happen.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service