It’s Week 11 of our new feature: BSU Takes.
After each game, I post my top takeaways. During the game, I solicit takeaways from fans on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll run a select few — and a shorter version of my story — in the newspaper. But the full version will always be in the Bronco Beat blog with many contributions from fans.
Air Force beat Boise State 37-30 on Friday at Albertsons Stadium. You can find our comprehensive, multimedia coverage of the game here and Dave Southorn’s traditional game story here.
1. Boise State is broken. This goes far beyond coach Bryan Harsin’s one-word explanation: “execution.” The Broncos just lost two home games in the span of a week — and in both cases they trailed by at least 14 points in the second half. They hadn’t lost two home games in a row since 1997. They’re now 4-3 in the Mountain West, the first time they’ve lost that many conference games since 1998.
There isn’t a lack of talent on the roster, or experience, or veteran coaching. Yes, some key players are injured — but that’s the case for most football teams in November.
The Broncos spent the past two weeks playing like a bottom-half team in a bottom-half conference — far from the Fiesta Bowl champions they were just 11 months ago.
“There’s a problem in execution,” Harsin said. “There’s a problem in going out there and doing our jobs, is what it comes down to. There’s a simple answer and it’s on the tape and that’s really the key ingredient. If there was a chemistry or a culture problem, then that would be different. ... We just have to go out there and be more consistent.”
The Broncos’ lack of consistency has become the most consistent thing about them. QB Brett Rypien looks like a future star some nights and a true freshman in over his head others. The wide receivers not named Thomas Sperbeck have vanished. The veteran-laden defense can’t get through a game without a series of costly gaffes. Even the special teams are causing problems, with a missed field goal and a blocked field goal at key moments the last two weeks.
The Broncos need to play like a “blue-collar team,” junior safety Chanceller James said.
“Sitting up here right now, I’m about to be in tears, but we’ve got two more games,” James said. “We’re going to wake it up, we’re going to go out and win these two games and be a dominant team at the end of the day.”
2. The passing game has unraveled. Opponents have blitzed Rypien relentlessly since he became the starter, in part because he isn’t a run threat. He has to beat that scheme with throws down the field against man coverage, and he did that early in the season.
But the past two weeks, Rypien is 64-for-123 (52 percent) for 743 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions and nine sacks. That’s a rating of 105.94, which would rank outside the top 100 in the nation if done over an entire season.
“The consistency in the pass game — to me, it’s a combination of sometimes it’s not always a great throw but you’ve got to make the catch,” Harsin said. “Sometimes the guy’s not getting wide open and the quarterback gives you a great ball when it’s tight coverage. To me it’s truly just consistency that way. We had some protection in there, too — (Rypien) was having to move. They were going to bring pressure, we knew that, we felt like we had the concepts to beat that. You have to be able to make some of those catches, make some of those throws.”
3. Where were the defenders’ eyes? For nearly three quarters, Air Force’s receivers were running around like they were wearing invisibility cloaks. Quarterback Karson Roberts threw for 279 yards before the end of the third quarter in the Falcons’ option attack.
The Broncos finally started tracking the receivers and Roberts showed he couldn’t make contested throws. He was intercepted three times in the second half, which gave the Broncos a chance to rally.
“We have defenders to cover the wide receivers,” Harsin said. “We didn’t forget about them by any means. It looked like we did, but we didn’t. In the second half we made a couple changes. We did a better job that way. But you put yourself in a really bad situation when you’ve got a couple wide open and that doesn’t look good. That’s hard when you have somebody that wide open down the field.”
The Broncos fell to 1-3 against the Mountain West’s two option teams under Harsin and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates.
The players say the problem was that they made assignment errors.
“When you think of the triple option, you think about run, so it’s a high emphasis on practicing the run,” said junior linebacker Ben Weaver, who recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. “That’s what those teams are good at. They lull you to sleep by running, running, running, and then one play over the top it’s a 60-yard touchdown. It’s a very disciplined game and it humbles you very quickly and it really shows how disciplined you are. When you see there’s however many passing yards, it’s usually off of big plays. It’s not like they’re driving the field on us because of passing plays. There’s such a huge emphasis on the run that sometimes you forget to see your keys and just be disciplined.”
Rob Sanford: Two biggest problems: 1) WRs drop too many passes 2) DBs cant defend the deep ball. Both coaches for those areas should be on the hot seat. This is unacceptable.
Josh Waters: Rocky Long is correct when he says Boise doesn't think they can lose. To me that meant they feel all they need to do is show up and win. The three Mountain West losses looked that way to me.