Looking back: The Broncos allowed 8.7 yards per play and 607 yards overall last week in a loss to Air Force. The pass defense was gutted for 31 yards per completion until personnel changes (junior Raymond Ford finished the game at cornerback) and adjustments led to better coverage and three interceptions.
“The easy way is to say it is guys not doing their job. Execution,” defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said. “I take it a step further. For that many guys to be wide open, I have to question what I did as a coordinator that week. The game plan needs to be cleaner. I think it needs to be more clear for the guys to understand their job.”
Looking forward: After three weeks of option work — the bye, New Mexico and Air Force weeks — the Broncos return to conventional football this week against San Jose State.
“It’s actually a lot more fun for us now,” junior defensive end Kamalei Correa said. “Now we can actually go out there and play some football. It’s your basic spread offense. It’s something that we look forward to on defense. They pass the ball a lot.”
But this might be a “careful what you wish for” situation. The Spartans boast one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the Mountain West. They rank fourth in yards (409.1 per game), seventh in rushing (185.7 yards per game) and third in passing (223.4 yards per game).
Perhaps more telling, the Spartans have the conference’s top rusher (running back Tyler Ervin, 128.8 yards per game) and second-ranked passer (Kenny Potter, 144.4 efficiency).
But the Broncos have fared well against traditional rushing attacks this season and have 20 interceptions. For players who say they need to focus on doing their specific job, this will be a more comfortable situation.
“We just went back to basics,” Correa said. “We just went back to the fundamentals. We’re not doing anything special. ... I feel like our game plan is not that complicated. It’s basic football for us.”
Player to watch: Correa will have a decision to make after the final regular-season game: Enter the 2016 NFL Draft or return for his senior year.
His production has dropped in half this year. This is his last chance to make a statement before potentially requesting an NFL evaluation of his draft stock.
“I really want to finish the season strong to see what bowl game we go to,” he said. “(The NFL) is really the last of my worries right now.”
Correa, whose tackles (59-29), tackles for loss (19-6.5) and sacks (12-4) have plummeted this year, spent the past two weeks as the designated dive defender.
“It wasn’t that fun,” he said. “I had one job and I feel like I did my job to the best of my ability. ... It was getting kind of monotonous.”
Much of the time, he was pursuing a guy who didn’t have the ball.
“I’m the imaginary tackler” vs. the option, he said.
Notes and quotes from DC Marcel Yates:
— On the Broncos playing Air Force without safety Darian Thompson, safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner and tackle Justin Taimatuia (played some in the second half): “It’s easy to sit here and always say injuries are hurting us, but it’s football. Everybody has injuries.”
— On execution errors: “It’s my job to get guys to execute. I won’t run away from that.”
— On junior Chanceller James playing different safety positions in the last three games: “The guy I want to give praise to is Chanceller James. ... For him to move around all those positions and still for him to have the game that he played is great.”
Notes and quotes from others:
— Linebackers coach Andy Avalos on the past two weeks: “The guys did a great job at practice. ... The first two drives, we started off pretty well. But it’s going to be more than those first two drives. It’s going to be series after series of staying focused and disciplined and execution.”
— Junior defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte on making his first start vs. Air Force: “It was cool to get out there and be with the first team. It would have been nicer if it was under better circumstances.”
— Hoyte on his season (12 tackles, one tackle for loss): “I’ve developed as a player more. I would like to get more production out of myself these last couple games. I had a few goals set out for myself that I haven’t quite achieved yet this season.”
— Hoyte on the team’s struggles: “It’s on the football field. We need to do our jobs. We’ve got great team chemistry. Everyone gets along. Everyone enjoys being coached by our coaches. We just need to fine-tune the on-field product and be consistent.”
— Ford on his interception return that turned around last week’s game: “I just did my job, what I’m coached to do, and just made a play for the team. When I got it, I was just thinking of making a big play.”
— On playing vs. option teams: “It’s not hard at all because all week through practice that’s all we practiced on.”
SAN JOSE STATE
Scoring (FBS rank)
SAN JOSE STATE
Scoring (FBS rank)