Looking back: Boise State produced its third least-efficient offensive performance of the season in the loss to Air Force on Friday. The Broncos averaged 4.7 yards per play, a number that was better than only their output against Washington (4.2) and Utah State (4.16).
The passing attack was mostly to blame. True freshman quarterback Brett Rypien was 23-for-48 and was sacked six times. Add in at least three completions that resulted in lost yardage and 34 of 54 passing plays resulted in an incompletion or negative play. That’s 63 percent.
Rypien has completed just 52 percent of his passes the past two weeks. Drops and receivers failing to gain separation have contributed but he also has been less accurate than earlier in the season.
“(Air Force) did a great job playing man-to-man coverage,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said. “In man-to-man coverage, you’ve got to win 1-on-1s. When we did that, it seemed like we missed the throw. When the throw was on time, there wasn’t separation.”
Looking forward: San Jose State leads the nation in passing yards allowed at 149.6 and ranks 35th in pass-efficiency defense. Opponents have completed 53.1 percent of their passes.
Some of the Spartans’ success stems from the lousy quarterback play in the West Division this year but the defense is much-improved.
The Spartans might not blitz as much as other recent opponents but they will play man coverage on the outside.
“We’re going to have to win 1-on-1s on the perimeter,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to have to do a better job creating separation in the pass game. Of course, we’ve got to run the football.”
Sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols opened the Air Force game with an 83-yard TD run. The Broncos didn’t find the end zone again until the final minute of the third quarter.
“We’ve got to sustain that rhythm,” Drinkwitz said. “Offensively, we started out pretty hot and then when the momentum turned we weren’t able to get it back for this football team. That’s where we have to be better. ... That’s where this young group has to grow up. If you look around the skill (positions), it’s a bunch of young guys.
“I don’t think the offense is broken by any means. We are the No. 1 offense in our conference. We’ve got to get it restarted (after momentum switches) and we’ve got to sustain it throughout the game.”
Player to watch: McNichols is coming off his sixth straight 100-yard rushing game (fourth-longest active streak in the nation) and holds a Mountain West record with 10 straight games with a touchdown run.
He has 1,376 yards from scrimmage (137.6 per game) and 20 touchdowns this season. He is tied for second in the nation in touchdowns.
Last year, tailback Jay Ajayi averaged 168.4 yards per game and scored 32 touchdowns, so McNichols has proven a worthy replacement for his mentor.
Notes/quotes from OC Eliah Drinkwitz
— The Broncos still don’t have a reliable playmaker other than McNichols and wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck. McNichols rushed for 151 yards last week; the team total was 141. Sperbeck accounted for 79 of the 237 receiving yards. McNichols had 22. “We really need some other guys to step up,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s where we’re going to continue to push. We targeted several other people during the game. For whatever reason, the plays weren’t made the way we would hope.”
— On Rypien’s inability to beat the blitz with his feet (minus-64 yards rushing): “That’s something in his game that we’re going to have to get better, something we’re really going to have to focus on in the offseason — increasing his overall strength, becoming faster, becoming more aware of when he can run. He did have two first-down conversions with his feet (vs. Air Force). He has the ability. He has to have more confidence in doing that.”
— On whether the hits on Rypien are affecting his accuracy: “Maybe. I don’t think that was why he was inaccurate two weeks ago. For whatever reason, we were not able to hit that ball past 20 yards. We have to make defenses pay when they play us like that. Some of his best throws of the night (against Air Force) were in the fourth quarter and he had been hit. The wheel route to JayMac was an incredible play by him. I don’t think Brett would make an excuse for that, and I certainly don’t want to either.”
— On using Rypien on occasional designed runs: “Just trying to keep people honest and not sit there and say he’s never going to run it. Let him have a chance to prove that he can.”
Notes/quotes from TE Jake Roh
— On the losses: “Everyone on the team knows it’s not our standard to be losing two games in a row, especially at home. Everyone is ready to get to work.”
— On the offense: “We need to execute better. We lost a little bit of our execution. The plays are drawn up right. They’re there. We’ve just got to make the play.”
SAN JOSE STATE
Scoring (FBS rank)
SAN JOSE STATE
Scoring (FBS rank)