Usually, you will find successful teams at both ends of the national penalty rankings.
Some succeed with discipline, others with aggression.
That doesn’t mean coaches at the bottom are willing to let it go.
Boise State ranks 106th in the nation in penalties per game (7.8) and 105th in penalty yards per game (67.6) — an issue coaches have confronted with physical consequences at practice.
Commit a false start in a game and you will have an extra task to complete at Sunday’s practice. Commit one during practice and the entire offense will run after practice.
“We have N.O.S. on Sunday — Not Our Standard — and penalties are included,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “If a guy gets a holding call, that can go both ways. Sometimes the player had a legitimate argument. Then there’s false starts, there’s illegal formations, offsides on defense. Those are things that we can control that have happened to us. That’s what frustrates us.
“ I don’t think penalties are the keys to any win or loss but at the same time it’s painful when it’s third down and you have an offsides and they get a first down because of it. We talk about being a disciplined football team. We haven’t shown that in the penalty department.”
During the Broncos’ three-game winning streak, they committed five penalties for 63 yards against Nevada, six for 30 against Fresno State and eight for 70 against BYU. In each game, Boise State was the more-penalized team.
In fact, the only time this year that Boise State hasn’t been more-penalized than its opponent was in the season opener against Ole Miss. And that wasn’t for lack of trying — the Broncos had nine penalties for 72 yards, but the Rebels racked up 14 for 78.
“That has been a big point of emphasis the past two games,” junior left tackle Rees Odhiambo said. “It’s just really about attention to detail and making sure you don’t mess up. It’s hard to really coach something like that. It’s something you just have to think about and be ready for during the game.”
(Of note: Only two of the seven least-penalized teams have six wins this season; five of the eight most-penalized teams have six wins.)
Boise State junior safety Darian Thompson said this week the same thing several defenders have said this year. They want this defense to dominate.
The players are running out of time, though, to make that type of statement.
The Broncos rank fourth in the Mountain West in total defense (360.4 yards per game), seventh in scoring defense (27.5 points per game), fourth in pass efficiency defense (121.30) and second in rushing defense (113.3 yards per game).
Seven of eight opponents have scored at least 21 points. The exception was Louisiana (nine).
“I want to see us jump up the rankings in the Mountain West Conference,” Thompson said. “We’re on a great path. Throughout the season, you’ve seen glimpses of us being dominant.”
All that talk about tight ends in the preseason was not wasted breath.
Redshirt freshman Jake Roh has 22 catches for 257 yards and two touchdowns this season. The tight ends as a group have 30 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns.
The tight ends already have more catches than in 2013 (20) or 2012 (24). The group made 60 catches in 2011.
“I think we’ve gotten a lot better,” Roh said. “(Tight ends coach Eliah) Drinkwitz has mentioned that. We’re just trying to do our part, our role, whatever that is, and be consistent.”
The tight ends have performed so well that coaches have expanded use of sets with multiple tight ends.
Roh said his role changes from week to week.
“It develops as the week goes on,” he said. “It is exciting — they’re always coming up with new ways to do stuff.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, showing that they believe in us.”
One of the biggest surprises on the Broncos’ team this year is junior linebacker Tyler Gray, who is second with 44 tackles and tied for first with five pass breakups. He also has forced two fumbles, grabbed two interceptions and scored a touchdown.
He began the season as the co-starter at weak-side linebacker with Ben Weaver, who started the games. Gray started against Fresno State when Weaver was out and kept that spot against BYU even though Weaver returned.
“That work I’ve been putting into it is starting to show a little bit,” Gray said. “The coaches are doing a great job coaching me, getting me into a place to be successful, and I’m taking advantage of it. It’s been pretty exciting, how successful I’ve been able to be the last few weeks.”
New Mexico coach Bob Davie on Boise State tailback Jay Ajayi, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in both career games against New Mexico and had 100 yards receiving in last year’s game, too: “He's done pretty well against us, I'd say. You can get him the ball a lot of different ways. He's a big, strong, slasher type of running back. We need that execution and tackling to step up if we want to slow him down.”
BOISE STATE AT NEW MEXICO
When: 5:04 p.m. Saturday
Where: University Stadium (39,224, FieldTurf)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Adam Archuleta, Cassie Gallo)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 6-2 overall, 3-1 Mountain West; New Mexico is 3-5, 1-3.
Series: Boise State leads 5-0 (Boise State won 45-17 last year in Boise)
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