Instead, the Broncos have dominated the second half: They have outscored their opponents 24-0 and outgained them 523-68.
They need to turn that level of game control into more points on the scoreboard — particularly if they get into a perception battle with UCF for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. The Broncos will be back in action Saturday at Albertsons Stadium against Portland State (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
“We know we can execute better, and we need to execute better in the future,” sophomore wide receiver Khalil Shakir said.
The Broncos moved up to No. 22 in the Top 25 polls Sunday. The school also revealed its season-ticket sales number of 16,580, the lowest since 2003.
Here are our grades for the Broncos’ performance in the 14-7 win against Marshall:
The Broncos assembled touchdown drives on both sides of halftime, scoring their 14 points in a span of 1 minute, 43 seconds of game time. They didn’t score the rest of the game — and it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. A host of mistakes that included turnovers, penalties, a botched snap and a missed throw to a wide-open receiver prevented the Broncos from scoring 30, or maybe even 40, points.
That’s a trend this year, after the Broncos settled for five field goals in the win at Florida State. A team with 1,058 yards (18th nationally) should have a lot more than 50 points (84th).
“We’re not finishing, but we’re moving the ball,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “Now we’ve got to figure out how to finish.”
The Broncos have received promising play from a pair of true freshmen in the backfield. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier was more efficient against Marshall (22-for-34, 282 yards, TD, interception) and he ran more (26 yards, TD). Tailback George Holani, getting extra work with starter Robert Mahone injured, rushed for 103 yards. Holani has 200 yards from scrimmage already this season.
But the youngsters also have played a big role in the turnover bug: Bachmeier has four plus a fumble recovered by a teammate, while Holani fumbled against Florida State (also recovered by a teammate). Bachmeier narrowly avoided a lost fumble at the end of the Marshall game because he was down. The Broncos also have had two fumbles by true sophomore tailback Andrew Van Buren, one lost.
“Major, major concern,” Harsin said. “... (Ball security) is not showing up and we’ve got to go back and re-create ourselves in that area.”
For the second straight game, the Broncos opened with some sloppy play and closed the door with shut-down defense. Marshall gained 172 yards in the first half, including 18 carries for 119 yards (6.6 per carry). Every first-half drive included a first down — and the shortest possession was the touchdown drive of 1:55.
In the second half, the Thundering Herd only ran 14 plays and netted zero yards. After penalties, they actually moved the ball a total of minus-10 yards. And Boise State safety Kekoa Nawahine grabbed an interception with 7:36 left in the game that sealed the Broncos’ win because the offense ran out the clock.
The Herd’s second-half time of possession was 6:52.
“The defense played extremely well in the second half, as good as you can play,” Harsin said. “... They made some adjustments on the field and got us out of some bad situations just by communicating, seeing something the offense was doing and pointing it out.”
Nawahine also forced a fumble, giving him a role in two turnovers in the game and three already this season. Last year, he had one forced fumble, two recoveries and no interceptions.
“Just a change of mindset, of going out and being a playmaker,” he said.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicker Eric Sachse came up way short on a 49-yard field-goal attempt and the Broncos were outpunted by the Herd, who pinned them inside the 20-yard line four times (Boise State did this once).
The Broncos did get a 38-yard kickoff return from wide receiver John Hightower but they lost an impressive punt return by Avery Williams to a penalty for an illegal block.