First-year offensive coordinator Robert Prince has taken some of the blame for what has transpired on offense this season so far, and for good reason. After all, he is the man in charge of the Broncos offense.
The biggest area of criticism seems to be in the area of play-calling. However, early in the BYU game, the play-calling seemed to be solid—at first.
The Broncos were mixing it up early with screens, sweeps, runs between the tackles and even deep passes. While they didn't hit it deep, on their second series, the Broncos earned a pass interference call that helped them get in position for a field goal—which went painfully wide right.
The real problem came at the end of that second series, when the Broncos went into a wildcat formation. Joe Southwick was moving the ball well and finding a rhythm, but then on a 3rd-and-6, they took him out of the game. Chris Potter came in, and on a wildcat option play the Broncos were stifled.
It seems that if the Broncos want their young quarterback to improve, they need to allow him the best available situation to succeed. Taking him out of the game when he is on a roll just doesn't make a lot of sense to many.
The next real big question mark was a 4th-and-2 on the Broncos' own 22-yard line. Instead of punting, Boise State decided to fake a punt—seriously? They didn't get it, and it put a lot of pressure on the Broncos defense. However, as they did all night, the defense responded and got the ball back on an interception.
Southwick then did some things to give the Broncos some space. He hit a huge first-down pass to Matt Miller. But on that series following the BYU turnover, the Broncos had to waste a timeout because the play wasn't quick enough from the sidelines to Southwick. That was a problem against Michigan State as well.
If Boise State wants their new quarterback to succeed, they must give him every opportunity. Getting the plays to him late won't help the process.
Southwick led the Broncos down the field again, but holding on the offense hurt Boise State and put Joe in a third down with 17 yards to go.
What happened next? Another wasted timeout because of a substitution problem. Again, if the Broncos want to get their young quarterback a rhythm, they need to clean up some of these coaching issues.
At that point in the game, the Broncos made another questionable call. Southwick hit a screen to Matt Miller for a gain of 13. However, instead of lining up for a field goal, the coaching staff decided to go for it on 4th-and-4.
Yes, the kicker missed the first one, but if a team wants their kicker to improve, they should probably give him some game experience. After all, the only way a person can succeed is if they are given the power to fail. That is how lessons are learned, and in this case, a second field goal try would have been prudent.
After several decent drives led by Southwick, the Broncos came away with nothing. You can't blame that on the quarterback, the running back or any other player. All of that rests at the feet of the coaching staff.
Southwick then was allowed to run the no-huddle offense, and he looked great. However, on fourth down in field goal range, what do the Broncos do? They called a pass into the end zone. Huh? Kick a field goal! Or, at the very least, try for the four yards and a first down. But a low-percentage pass into coverage in the end zone?
It was puzzling that the coaching staff chose to destroy the work Southwick and the rest of the offense had produced. At this point in the game, the score should have been 6-0 at least. But at the half it was tied, 0-0.
That tie was broken when the Broncos scored their only touchdown of the game. It wasn't on offense. Defensive lineman Mike Atkinson intercepted a ball and rumbled in for a 36-yard touchdown.
In the second half, the Broncos' players hurt themselves several times with penalties in key situations. On a few occasions those penalties thwarted a first down or a big gain.
Joe Southwick did some good things, including a quick kick that pinned BYU on their own 1-yard line. However, the Broncos got the ball back and couldn't score starting with a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Here is where some serious play-calling issues were evident. It is easy to understand that coaches think they should just be able to run up the gut and get one yard. However, against BYU it wasn't happening.
How about a fake to Harper and a naked bootleg or quarterback roll-out with a tight end escaping into the end zone? Tackle eligible? Statue of liberty? Quick slant? Mike Atkinson at running back? Anything would have been better than what transpired.
It seems like there were far better options than to keep running between tackles when everyone in the stadium knew it was coming. The Broncos did try a screen out to Harper, but he came up just short. However, that probably should have come on first down and not third.
On fourth down, Boise State then tried a quarterback sneak. The line didn't move an inch, and BYU took over on downs.
At the very least, the Broncos should have tried a field goal. That would have made the game 10-0 and out of reach for BYU with the way their offense was being stifled by the Broncos' D.
After BYU scored and missed their two-point conversion, Joe Southwick led his offense down the field and ran down the clock.
In the end, the biggest factors that seemed to stifle the Boise State offense mostly come back to coaching.
Between late plays coming into the huddle, substitution errors, not allowing the kicker to kick, questionable play calls at crucial moments in the game, gambles like a fake punt deep in your own territory and stopping your quarterback's rhythm by replacing him for a wildcat package all contributed to the ineffective offensive production by the Broncos.