Boise State Football

Boise State’s defense focuses on interception drought. ‘Those are game-changing plays.’

The Boise State football team used its bye week to reflect on what worked and what didn’t through the first seven games of the season. More than anything, the Broncos used the week to reload.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding said when the defense blew a coverage or someone dropped a sure interception, everything stopped, they reloaded the play and they ran it again.

“You have to emphasize closing the deal,” Schmedding told the media on Tuesday. “We’ve had our hands on the football and we’ve been in position to make plays. Those are game-changing plays.”

Taking advantage of the ones given to them will be especially important for No. 21 Boise State on Saturday (8:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network) against an offense that doesn’t give many away. San Jose State has turned the ball over just seven times this season, and the Spartans’ 1.50 turnover margin ranks No. 2 in the country.

“We’ve just got to finish the tough catches, whether it’s a contested ball with the receiver, where they end up knocking it out, or a diving catch that we can make,” Boise State nickel Kekaula Kaniho said. “It really is just finishing on those plays, and we’ve got five more games to go and get it back. So, we’ve just got to pick up the pace a little bit here.”

A year after tying the program low with seven interceptions, Boise State has just four through seven games this season. That ties the Broncos for ninth in the Mountain West Conference and 97th in the country.

“It’s a team effort,” Schmedding said. “The whole thing. The rush and the coverage and all those things work together and it’s something you constantly work on and you hope they start coming in bunches, but you can’t just hope, you’ve got to work it.”

Schmedding specifically pointed to the Hawaii game, in which the defense created three fumbles and one interception, but he said the Broncos had a chance at three more picks that were dropped. He’s cautious of letting his corners and safeties gamble by jumping too many routes, but he said sometimes you have to roll the dice.

“It’s a fine line because you don’t intercept a lot of balls you don’t see, but you’ve also got to cover your man,” Schmedding said. “It’s just that constant work on those things, and whatever the defense calls for, you have to play it. … And I think if you do your job, then you’ll have the opportunity to get the ball.”

Kekoa Nawahine, who was injured in the first half of the BYU game and did not return, leads the Broncos this season with two interceptions. The other two came from Kaniho and Khafari Buffalo, who ended the Hawaii game with his first pick as a Bronco.

One area where Boise State’s defense has excelled this year is on fourth down, when they’re holding opponents to 33.3 percent, which is tied for No. 15 in the nation. The Broncos look at fourth-down stops as turnovers. To them, it goes back to doing their job.

“Our job is to get off the field, so however we’re doing that, we’re happy with that,” linebacker Benton Wickersham told the media on Thursday.

WOMEN’S SOCCER: Utah State upset the Broncos 1-0 in both teams’ final game of the regular season Friday in Logan, Utah. The loss opens the door for San Diego State to win the Mountain West regular-season championship if the Aztecs can beat or tie New Mexico in a match scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MT on Friday in Albuquerque. Boise State (16-4-0, 8-3-0 MW) hosts the Mountain West Tournament next week at the Boas Soccer Complex.

CROSS COUNTRY: The Boise State women took third and the men fourth at the Mountain West Championships on Friday in Logan, Utah. The Broncos got a pair of seventh-place individual finishes from Yukino Parle (20:22.67) and Miler Haller (23:25.0), which was good enough for All-Mountain West First Team honors. The Utah State men and New Mexico women collected the team titles. Boise State returns to action Nov. 15 at the NCAA Regionals in Colfax, Washington.

Rachel Roberts of the Idaho Statesman contributed.

NO. 21 BOISE STATE AT SAN JOSE STATE

When: 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday

Where: CEFCU Stadium (30,456 grass), San Jose, California

TV: CBS Sports Network (Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor, Jenny Dell)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: Boise State is 6-1 overall, 3-0 Mountain West; San Jose State is 4-4, 1-3.

Series: Boise State leads 13-0 (last meeting: Boise State won 45-31 in 2016 in Boise)

Vegas line: Boise State by 17

Weather: 63 degrees, clear, 4 mph wind at kickoff

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Ron Counts is the Boise State beat writer for the Idaho Statesman. He’s a Virginia native and spent that past three years covering University of Virginia.
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