Monday Morning Report Card: Boise State 45, New Mexico 17

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comDecember 2, 2013 

Brian Murphy hands out the grades for Boise State’s 45-17 win over New Mexico.

OFFENSE

Without wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, who was scheduled to undergo ankle surgery Sunday after being injured against San Diego State, Boise State turned the offense over to its two most consistent playmakers — running back Jay Ajayi and wide receiver Matt Miller. With 147 yards rushing and 105 yards receiving, Ajayi became just the fourth Boise State player to eclipse 100 yards in both rushing and receiving and the first since 1995. Ajayi had two touchdowns. Miller had nine catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns. Miller moved past Titus Young into second on Boise State’s all-time catch list. “(Ajayi) and Matt Miller are the guys who have been making plays, so they’re going to get the ball,” coach Chris Petersen said.

Quarterback Joe Southwick started on senior day and led the Broncos to a touchdown on his only drive. Southwick hit Miller for a 1-yard touchdown, giving the Broncos a rare fast start this season. Grant Hedrick played the majority of the game as Southwick continues to recover from a broken right ankle. Hedrick completed 13-of-21 passes for 175 yards. Hedrick led the Broncos on a pivotal 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that changed the game. The Broncos were just 4-of-13 on third-down, but scored on all five trips (four touchdowns) inside the New Mexico 20. Grade: B

DEFENSE

The Broncos’ young defense continued its late-season surge against the run-heavy Lobos. Safety Darian Thompson made a huge stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the second quarter with Boise State leading 14-7. The Broncos’ offense took off from there, and the defense did not allow another score until late in the fourth quarter, long after the starters had hit the bench. Thompson added an interception and a pass breakup. New Mexico rushed for 300 yards, but that’s what the Lobos do. Boise State held the option attack in check as New Mexico had six drives of fewer than 10 yards. The Broncos had 11 tackles for loss. The unit holds a lot of promise. The Broncos’ top 10 tacklers from the New Mexico game have eligibility remaining. “We’re excited about the fact that we’ve got a lot of young guys that have gotten a lot of experience this year and they’re going to get a lot more experience in the off-season,” said linebacker Corey Bell, who led the team with seven tackles. “We’re going to be excited going into next year with some experienced guys. It’s not going to be everybody talking about how we have this young defense anymore. It’s going to be, ‘We’ve got this experienced defense coming back. All these guys have been around.’ ” Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter Trevor Harman showed off his spectacular passing arm with a terrific pass on a successful fake punt. Punt returner Donte Deayon, filling in for Williams-Rhodes, showed solid skills, including a 33-yard return. Bryan Douglas, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against San Diego State, had a 76-yard return against New Mexico. Punter Sean Wale had two punts downed inside the 20 and averaged 41 yards per punt on five attempts. The Broncos were able to keep New Mexico kickoff returner Carlos Wiggins, who has three return touchdowns this season, in check. Grade: A

COACHING

For one of the few times in their decade-plus of dominance, the Broncos played a game devoid of meaning in the conference-title race. Boise State was eliminated from the Mountain West conference championship game with Utah State’s victory earlier in the day. The Broncos very clearly were not satisfied with an 8-4 regular season, something that was a theme of the seniors’ speeches to the team Friday night. Despite the disappointment, the coaches had the Broncos ready to play Saturday night. The defense continues to show improvement, and the offense’s focus on the guys who are actually making plays was welcome. It has been four seasons since Boise State won an outright conference championship — the program’s top goal. It will be an interesting offseason for Petersen and his staff. Grade: B

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