Bronco Beat

Boise State offense report: Broncos must finish drives

OC Eliah Drinkwitz, pre-Air Force

Boise State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz meets with the media in advance of the Air Force game.
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Boise State offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz meets with the media in advance of the Air Force game.

Each week, we’ll take a look at the Boise State football team’s offense and defense in separate posts. I’ll post the defense later today.

Looking back: The Broncos generated 638 yards of offense and ran 114 plays against New Mexico but only scored 24 points. The reasons were plentiful: dropped passes, errant passes, four turnovers (two in the red zone) and a missed 22-yard field goal.

The Broncos entered the New Mexico red zone on each of their first four drives and scored three points.

“Lack of execution in critical moments,” offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We learn from it and move one. There were an abundance of opportunities, and that’s the thing that keeps you up at night. For whatever reason, we didn’t make those plays. ... I really don’t want to dwell on it any more. It gets me upset.”

Quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 506 yards in the game (on a school-record 75 attempts), wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck set school records with 20 catches for 281 yards and tailback Jeremy McNichols tied a Mountain West record with his ninth straight game with a rushing TD (and 128 yards).

“The most important thing is for us to put points on the board,” Drinkwitz said. “All the yards in the world don’t mean much if we don’t score points. That’s our job. ... I felt like we were in a great rhythm offensively until we got into this tipped ball or that tipped ball or this fumble. As far as moving the ball from the 20 to the 15, it was as good as I’ve been around in a long time. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish.”

Highlights from the Boise State-New Mexico football game.

Looking forward: Air Force comes to Albertsons Stadium on Friday ranked 12th in the nation in total defense, allowing 305.6 yards per game. The Falcons allow 19.8 points per game.

Air Force likes to blitz and play man coverage, like New Mexico, UNLV and several other opponents the Broncos have faced with mixed results.

“This week is going to be kind of another test for the receivers and I think the whole offense to bounce back from the last game and kind of prove something,” Sperbeck said.

Coach Bryan Harsin hinted at some personnel changes to try to find more playmakers. The Broncos likely will be without senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes (ankle), which doesn’t help.

Last week, Sperbeck and McNichols accounted for 459 yards — or 72 percent of the offense.

“The key is we need to have more guys contributing and competing at a high level — not just the same guys making plays,” Harsin said. “We’ve got to have more.”

Player to watch: Sperbeck needs 6 yards to break Titus Young’s school record for receiving yards in a season from 2010. He needs 20 catches to break Matt Miller’s school record for receptions in a season from 2013.

Sperbeck has 69 catches for 1,210 yards. He leads the Mountain West in both categories and ranks fourth in the nation in yards.

In Rypien’s seven starts, Sperbeck has 57 catches for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns. He has accumulated at least 150 receiving yards in four of the past five games.

“He just has a really good understanding of the game, whether it’s adjusting a route against a certain coverage or just always (having) a good feel for getting open,” Rypien said. “Obviously he’s got great hands as well. You put the ball in the vicinity, he’s going to make a play. Just week by week we’ve been gaining more trust. I know he’s going to make a play in critical situations.”

Sperbeck’s season likely will go down as the greatest by a receiver in Boise State history, topping NFL Draft picks like Young and Austin Pettis and his mentor Miller.

“It’s definitely cool to just be in the same sentence as guys who set those records,” Sperbeck said. “That’s definitely the coolest part. But this is not really the right time to think about that.”

Sperbeck averages 17.5 yards per reception, in large part because of his ability to crank out yardage after the catch.

The three criteria for playing receiver at Boise State: explode off the ball, catch the ball and run after the catch.

“You can do a lot of stuff to work on the first two,” Sperbeck said. “The third part, it’s kind of how bad do you want it.”

Notes and quotes from OC Eliah Drinkwitz:

— On New Mexico’s blitzes: “Pressure really wasn’t an issue. I thought our offensive line did a really good job picking it up.”

— On trying to run the ball against teams loading the tackle box: “You’ve just got to be smart about it. You can’t beat your head against the wall. You have to take what the defense gives you. We’re throwing the ball at a high clip really because that’s what we have to do in order to have success offensively with the way the numbers are set up schematically.”

— On Rypien: “The thing is nobody is harder on Brett Rypien than Brett Rypien. There’s a fine line of teachable moments but not hurting his confidence. He makes decisions and it’s easy for people to criticize and judge, including me, after the fact. The guy is making decisions at a 90-mile-an-hour pace.”

— On the turnovers: “We talk about ball security every single day. That ball on the ground just can’t happen. For whatever reason, it did. If you want to blame anybody, ultimately I’m the offensive coordinator. These kids are playing hard. They make mistakes, they’ve owned up to them. We’ve talked to them about them and there’s nothing else we can do about them.”

— On Harsin saying the backup running backs need to step up: “We need to do a better job of creating competition. That’s really the best I’m going to say about it. We’re going to let some other guys have a shot at the competition but what they have or haven’t done, that’s not the reason, I don’t believe, that we didn’t get it done Saturday."

Notes and quotes from Sperbeck:

— On the pass game vs. New Mexico: “It definitely felt like something was a little off. It wasn’t one particular guy. ... It’s on us to change it.”

— On whether the pass game was clicking in practice: “We were on in practice. We had a good week of practice. It was one of those fluke games.”

— On defenses blitzing: “It’s definitely a great situation for wide receivers to be in, 1-on-1. It’s up to us to take advantage of that and kind of make the defense regret it.”

Rypien spoke to the media for the first time earlier this week. Here’s what he said.

Boise State true freshman quarterback Brett Rypien makes his first media appearance as a Bronco.

Boise State tailback Jeremy McNichols talks to the media in advance of the Air Force game.

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