Boise State vs. Michigan State: Grades for the Broncos

Michael LaffertyCorrespondent IIAugust 31, 2012

Boise State vs. Michigan State: Grades for the Broncos

0 of 10

    Boise State, with junior redshirt Joe Southwick getting his first start, was unable to get untracked offensively and lost to Michigan State 17-13.

    The loss was Boise State’s first opening-game loss in six years and the first loss to a BCS foe on opening day in four years. Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell proved to be the biggest difference in the game, and though the Broncos held a 13-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter, a steady diet of Bell running the ball proved too much.

    The Bronco defense began to wear down, and MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell was able to connect on some big passes to keep drives moving down the field. Maxwell, held to only 96 yards passing in the first half, finished with 248 yards passing for the game. Bell carried the ball 44 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

    Let’s take a look at the Broncos final postgame grades and evaluations.


1 of 10

    Joe Southwick, in his first start as the Bronco quarterback, struggled to sustain drives and also struggled inside the red zone. He had a propensity to try to force the ball in to covered receivers. One of those, in the red zone, resulted in an interception. Another key was on the Broncos’ last offensive possession on fourth and 2, which resulted in a turnover and allowed MSU to run out the clock with the four-point lead.

    Southwick was 15-31 for 169 yards. His ability to scramble did help, and was a change from former BSU quarterback Kellen Moore, but Southwick didn’t appear to check off receivers as often as Moore did. On one drive he ran with the ball and slide too soon before picking up the needed first down.

    On the plus side, Southwick did spread the passing wealth around, hitting seven different receivers for completions.  Early in the game, when MSU was able to bring a lot of pressure, he did maintain his composure in the pocket, but his attempts at touch passes were often batted down at the line of scrimmage.

    Final grade: C-

Running Backs

2 of 10

    Boise State left the running game behind in Boise when it traveled to East Lansing. Granted MSU returned nine defensive starters from a team that was rated tenth in the nation defensively in 2011, but sixth-year senior D.J. Harper finished the game with 15 carries for 8 yards.

    Quarterback Joe Southwick was actually the leading rusher with four carries for 18 yards.

    Boise State finished with 37 yards rushing for an average of 1.5 yards per carry.

    Final grade: D

Wide Receivers

3 of 10

    Five different wide receivers caught the ball (one pass was caught by a running back and another by a tight end), which would be a plus, but Boise State only managed 169 yards passing for the game.

    The receivers had trouble getting separation from the MSU defensive backs, and while Kirby Moore, playing out the slot, was one of the leading receivers with six catches for 52 yards, most of the patterns were short outs. Moore’s longest reception of the game was for 12 yards.

    Super sophomore Matt Miller managed two catches for 54 yards, including a nice over-the-shoulder grab that put BSU inside the MSU five yard line. The Broncos, though, were unable to score an offensive touchdown and had to settle for a field goal.

    Final grade: C

Tight Ends

4 of 10

    Gabe Linehan caught one pass for 23 yards but was used more for blocking. The tight ends were just another element that seemed to be under-utilized during the game. But then Boise State only ran a total of 55 offensive plays to Michigan State’s 90 offensive plays.

    Final grade: C

Offensive Line:

5 of 10

    The Spartans big defensive front was able to penetrate early in the game, but the Bronco offensive line was able to give quarterback Joe Southwick time to throw the ball as the game moved into the second quarter and second half. The Broncos were not, however, able to open holes or lead block to establish any kind of running game.

    The Broncos’ split of passing plays to running plays was 31-24. The O line also seemed to benefit from having a more mobile quarterback behind them.

    Final grade: C-

Defensive Line:

6 of 10

    For most of the game, the Bronco defense came with four down rushers and were able to pressure MSU quarter Andrew Maxwell into some errant passes. As the game wore on and the Broncos got a steady diet of Le’Veon Bell bulldozing through tackles, the linemen began to wear down.

    Demarcus Lawrence was quick off the ball and the Broncos were able to hold Bell down to reasonable yardage through the middle quarters, evening pinning him for losses on a couple of occasions. This was an excellent test for BSU, and the defensive line did a solid job.

    Final grade: C+


7 of 10

    The corps of linebackers were solid in taking away underneath patterns by the MSU receivers, and only struggled in shutting down Bell when he went wide. Like defensive line, the linebackers were solid for most of the game. Tommy Smith make a couple of big plays, and the Bronco linebackers were part of the first half riddle that plagued MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell and caused errant passes.

    Maxwell only had 96 yards passing in the first half, but managed to put up 248 total passing yards for the game.

    Final grade: C+

Defensive Backs:

8 of 10

    The secondary was credited with three interceptions. Jeremy Ioane’s pick six was the lone Bronco touchdown of the game. Lee Hightower and Jamar Taylor also pulled off interceptions.

    There were times where the MSU receivers were able to find holes in the BSU coverage, and late in the game, the Broncos were playing a little soft. BSU did have an uncanny knack of forcing a turnover, getting the three interceptions and one fumble recovery.

    Final grade: B-

Special Teams:

9 of 10

    For the most part, BSU had decent starting field position during the game. D.J. Harper averaged 23.7 yards per kickoff return and Chris Potter returned one punt for 17 years. Michael Frisina was 2-2 on field goals, hitting from 23 and 19 yards.

    Trevor Harman ended up with a 40.6 yard average per punt, but that was aided by a great roll that gave him a long punt of 56 yards. Overall, the Bronco kicking game did not pin MSU deep in its end and while the final score did not reflect that as an overall problem, this is an area that needs some improvement.

    Final grade: C


10 of 10

    Boise State was only penalized three times for 35 yards and that is indicative of a well-disciplined team. The Broncos’ coaching staff should be lauded for trying to establish a running game, but BSU held on to the attempt to use it too long.

    Boise State pulled out some of its ‘trick’ plays at the right time, but the BSU offense’s inability to sustain drives and Joe Southwick’s continued attempts to force passes into coverage were breakdowns in communication.

    Boise State just didn’t seem to adjust or adapt to exploit what was given to them. True, it was the first game of the season and with so many new players in starting roles, there are changes that will have to be made as BSU moves into the season.

    Final grade: C+