The Boise State football team has allowed 600 yards of offense nine times in the program’s 48-year history.
Two of those ugly performances have occurred in the past 13 months against the two Mountain West Mountain Division teams that run option-based offenses.
That will send second-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates into the offseason seeking answers for the second straight year.
The Broncos are 1-3 against those teams, New Mexico and Air Force, since Yates got the job, including back-to-back losses at home the past two weeks. The Broncos conclude the regular season Friday at San Jose State (1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
“We’re still a good defense,” Yates said Sunday. “We just struggle vs. the option. What I have to do, what we have to do as a staff, is after the season we need to go out and study how to stop the option.”
He did the same thing last year, after New Mexico racked up 627 yards in a Boise State win and Air Force rushed for 287 yards in a Boise State loss.
The Broncos faced the duo in consecutive weeks after a bye this year, which allowed the defense to work on option principles for three straight weeks. Yates expected that to help.
“But there was something missing, and that comes back to me,” he said. “The key thing is you can’t give up explosive passes.”
Air Force threw for a shocking 279 yards on Friday on just nine completions (31 yards per completion). New Mexico threw for 218 yards on nine completions the week before (24.2).
Players and coaches agree that the big pass plays happen when someone on defense takes his eyes off his assignment.
“I felt we had a great game plan throughout the week for both teams,” junior defensive end Sam McCaskill said. “We did a good job of bringing a lot of energy and really making it known what each person had to do so there was no question on game day.”
Yates complimented the linebackers, who had a playmaking set of games, and junior defensive back Chanceller James, who played nickel in September and October, strong safety against New Mexico and free safety against Air Force — a sign that the problems weren’t widespread.
Still, the plan didn’t work.
And Yates left little doubt where he places the blame.
“The easy way is to say it is guys not doing their job. Execution,” he 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. ... My job is to get them to execute.”
Lucero’s arrest followed DV training
Boise State, as has become customary around the country, brings in guest speakers to address players about domestic violence.
The Broncos heard from speakers on that topic during their bye week (Nov. 1-7) — and within two weeks, redshirt freshman tight end David Lucero was arrested on a charge of attempted strangulation of a fellow student-athlete he was dating.
Lucero has been suspended indefinitely from the football program. He will remain on the roster and on scholarship pending the outcome of his case, coach Bryan Harsin said Sunday, but Lucero won’t participate in team activities.
The domestic violence session during the bye lasted about 90 minutes, Harsin said.
“The folks that were in here speaking to our guys, they did a great job,” he said. “Getting their point across, with the activities that they did, that were interactive with our players, it was maybe one of the better learning environments when it came to interaction with young people and talking about real-world issues. ... It’s part of our Bronco family code. We obviously feel very strongly about that in this program. ... It’s being the best in football and it’s being the best in life. Those are the two things that our whole program is based on. That’s the mission.”
Harsin hopes safety Darian Thompson (concussion) and wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (ankle) will return this week. He doesn’t expect the other injured players to be ready. ... Cornerback Jonathan Moxey was benched during the Air Force game after allowing at least one long pass play. Yates said the starter at that spot this week hasn’t been determined. ... Middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo made 15 tackles vs. Air Force. Some fans thought he was to blame for the deep passes as he chased the wide-open receivers. “It wasn’t his fault on any of those,” Yates said. “That was just hustle. That kid played great.”
Boise State at San Jose State
▪ When: 1:30 p.m. MT Friday
▪ Where: Spartan Stadium (30,456, FieldTurf), San Jose, Calif.
▪ TV: CBS Sports Network (John Sadak, Sed Bonner, Melanie Collins)
▪ Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
▪ Records: Boise State is 7-4, 4-3 Mountain West; San Jose State is 5-6, 4-3.
▪ Series: Boise State leads 11-0 (Broncos won 48-0 in 2010 in San Jose)
▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 8 1/2