Bronco Beat

Boise State O-line ‘hitting a stride’; Vallejo’s hustle misled fans

Boise State line backer Tanner Vallejo sacked Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts Friday Nov. 20, 2015 at Albertsons Stadium.
Boise State line backer Tanner Vallejo sacked Air Force quarterback Karson Roberts Friday Nov. 20, 2015 at Albertsons Stadium. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

The Boise State football team’s two-game losing streak has highlighted the disconnect between what fans see and what really is happening on the field.

One of the top complaints from fans is that the offensive line isn’t good enough to protect quarterback Brett Rypien or open consistent holes for tailback Jeremy McNichols.

That complaint has been going on for weeks. And coaches say that isn’t what’s ailing the Broncos’ offense.

“They’re hitting a stride here,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “The last four games, they’ve played well. ... They’ve done a good job handling movement, picking up pressures in the run game and passing game. Unfortunately, in some of those things, they’re bringing more guys than we have to block.”

Several times per quarter, Huff said, teams are blitzing with more defenders than the Broncos have blockers. In those cases, the only answer is to throw the ball quickly.

“Everything’s tight,” Huff said. “They’re trying to get you to throw the ball laterally.”

Huff was surprised to hear that the offensive line has been the subject of so much criticism. But the position is known for getting little praise in good times and heated critiques in bad times.

“That’s why it’s the tightest group on the team,” Huff said.

We’ll have a profile of junior right guard Steven Baggett in Wednesday’s paper. He’s been the most consistent lineman, Huff said.

“I feel like we’ve been playing pretty well,” Baggett said. “There’s disappointing plays and disappointing games, but it’s being able to play well every single play and being consistent week in and week out.”

On the other side of the ball, many fans thought junior middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo was to blame for Air Force’s success getting receivers wide open last week. The reason: Vallejo several times could be seen sprinting down the field in pursuit of the receiver.

The reality, coaches said: Vallejo was trying to fix someone else’s mistake.

“Tanner was just reading pass very quickly and got out of there and was trying to help,” linebackers coach Andy Avalos said. “In certain situations he was close, but not close enough to cover us up. I thought it was remarkable to see him go chase guys. His responsibility was to stop the run.”

Vallejo led the team with 15 tackles, including two for loss, and forced a fumble. Junior linebacker Ben Weaver recorded 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. Senior linebacker Tyler Gray added eight tackles.

Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates singled out that group as performing at a high level in both losses to option teams.

“The one thing that I asked those guys leading up to this week was when we turn on the film, make no mistake whose effort on that field is the greatest,” Avalos said. “... I told the linebackers, I’m proud of them for how hard they played, how they were prepared, but at the end of the day even for us there’s one or two mistakes here or there that we need to clean up. You never know, that can be the difference in the game.”

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Players this week have echoed coach Bryan Harsin’s opinion about what ails the Broncos: a lack of execution.

“There’s definitely no issues with culture or chemistry,” junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said. “Everyone is putting in the work, too. It’s more executing what we have in, making critical plays. ... It’s definitely not our standard to lose this many games. I think from a culture standpoint and team mentality, I think it’s as good as it’s ever been.”

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