Murphy: Don’t like BSU's new offense? Too bad, because it’s better

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comNovember 30, 2013 

— A year ago, Boise State’s offensive production was so average, so middling that head coach Chris Petersen decided it was time to revamp the Broncos’ signature style.

The results, contrary to popular opinion, have been just as the Broncos hoped — Boise State is gaining more yards and scoring more points.

In 2012, the Broncos averaged 391.3 yards per game (68th nationally) and 30.2 points per game (54th). Through 11 games, Boise State is averaging 474.4 yards per game (21st) and 38.2 points per game (18th).

Since 2000, Boise State is the nation’s highest-scoring team, averaging 40.3 points per game in 179 contests.

“We’re always trying to put the defense at a disadvantage and score as many points as you can. It’s not about looking like a style or anything like that,” Petersen said this week as the Broncos prepared for their regular-season finale against New Mexico, whose porous defense may allow the Broncos to inflate those numbers. “It’s about what do we think gives us the best chance to score the most points and not put our defense in harm’s way in the process.”

The new offense — operated primarily out of the pistol formation with a heavy dose of zone-read handoffs and quick passes to the outside —has been panned by fans and others, including in this space following a dismal effort in the season opener against Washington.

Some fans continue to complain about offensive coordinator Robert Prince’s play calls, lamenting their predictability and repetitiveness, when the Broncos’ offense is stalling.

My question was more philosophical: Why, after so many years of success with a unique and different style, would the Broncos go to an offense that so many other teams were employing? The answer, in part, was because of how dense the playbook was and how difficult it became for young quarterbacks to compete for the starting job.

The other part of the answer: It’s working. And the old offense wasn’t.

The shifts and motions and diverse formations were appealing. No doubt. They made the Broncos and their coaching staff look smarter than the opposition, as if they figured out a formula to beating all comers.

But the Broncos were a middling offensive team last season and, despite an injury to starting quarterback Joe Southwick, are averaging more than a touchdown more per game.

“It’s just as difficult (to prepare for), but in a different way. They have the ability right now to go up-tempo very fast on you because they’re not changing personnel and they’re not shifting,” said New Mexico coach Bob Davie, a long-time defensive coach. “While they may have given up a little bit of multiplicity, they gain with, No. 1, execution, and No. 2, the ability to go very fast. It’s still every bit of a challenge.

Davie credited Petersen for making the change, particularly because no one would have blamed him for sticking with the old “Boise State” offense.

“To have the foresight and confidence to make that type of change — we all know opinions will come with change, particularly when you’ve been that successful. I give them lot of credit.”

Despite the increased production, Petersen isn’t ready to call the new offense a complete success.

“Yes and no,” he said when asked if Boise State has gotten what it wants out of the system change.

“We’ve scored more points and so that’s the bottom line,” he said. “But I think you’ve got to look at everything. Look at how it affects your defense.”

The increased offensive production has not translated into more victories. Instead, it’s been the opposite. Boise State went 11-2 last year. The Broncos are 7-4 this year. Some of that is attributable to a tougher schedule. Some, however, is a much worse defense.

Boise State was No. 8 in the county in scoring defense in 2012. The Broncos are 48th this year. The scoring gains made on offense have been canceled out on the defensive side.

Is there something about running this offense that harms the defense, that renders it nearly impossible for the defense to play at a very high level?

Petersen promises more analysis in the offseason.

My sense is the tweaking hasn’t stopped. Points are great. Wins are better. Finding an offense that can help deliver both is the new goal.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @murphsturph

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